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Bag Balm & Dry Skin

by
author image Jean Jenkins
Jean Jenkins has been writing professionally since 1994. She has written medical research materials for the American Parkinson's Association, the Colorado Neurological Institute and the Autism Society of America. Jenkins has specialized in neurology, labor and delivery, high-risk obstetrics and autism spectrum disorders. She holds a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Colorado.
Bag Balm & Dry Skin
Woman putting lotion on her elbow Photo Credit KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Bag Balm has been used for over a century to help heal, soothe and soften dry skin. The thick, gooey salve contains lanolin as its chief ingredient for treating skin that has become dry and cracked. First designed for farm animal use, Bag Balm is now used for head-to toe-skin irritations and severe dryness for people of all ages.

A Century of Sales

The salve was conceived over 100 years ago by an unknown druggist in Vermont. John L. Norris bought the formula in 1899 and named it Bag Balm. Norris began a small factory in Lyndonville, Vermont, to re-create and distribute his new product. Marketed primarily to soften chapped, sore cow udders, this product began to be used for everything from squeaky bed springs to severe dry and wind-chapped, human skin. In the product's long history, its only advertisement has been by word of mouth. As of 2010, Bag Balm was still being made and distributed from the original Vermont factory, and sold worldwide.

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Farm Stores and Drugstores

Norris designed a container for his salve, and both the product and the can are virtually unchanged. The square, metal Bag Balm can has a dark green background, dotted by red clovers and a cow on the lid. The yellowish, gooey ointment has three ingredients: petrolatum, lanolin from Uruguay and the antiseptic 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate. You can find it in farm supply stores, drugstores and in many supermarkets. It’s not just for cows anymore.

For Paws and For Hands

Animals can suffer from dry skin, especially in the drier, winter months. Bag Balm can be used on pets to soothe skin irritations and moisten dry, chapped paws. For cows, the ointment heals dry, itchy rashes and treats chapped teats. Farmers also use it on their horses to soften hard, dried, contracted hoofs.

The most common places for dry skin on humans include the hands, feet, face and elbows. Bag Balm can be used on these hard-to-treat areas. For your hands and feet, soak them in warm water for five minutes, towel dry, and apply the balm. Rub it into your skin until it is well absorbed. Cover your hands with cotton gloves, your feet with socks, and wear them throughout the night as you sleep. For severe cases, repeat this process for several nights.

Salve For All Seasons

Certain occupations and medical conditions can cause extreme drying of the skin. Nurses and doctors who must continually wash their hands can use Bag Balm on their off hours. "Bicycling" magazine tells its readers to use Bag Balm for dry, chafed skin, saddle sores, abrasions and chapped lips. According to "USA Today," Bag Balm is the “problem-salving for all” ointment. The newspaper recommends the soothing ointment for psoriasis, cracked fingers, the dry, peeling skin of sunburn and the freezing wind rashes of winter. Ron Bean, Bag Balm's product manager states, "the colder the weather, the better our business."

Don't Dress Your Tresses With It

Bag Balm is still made in a one-room plant: The company consists of six employees and two officers; there are no sales force or advertising personnel. At the plant, petrolatum is blended with lanolin from Uruguay, and both are heated to 95 degrees. After the product has cooled down sufficiently, it is placed in the metal cans, sealed and ready for shipment. The product is for external use only. An important tip from the company's accounts-receivable clerk, Shawna Wilkerson, is to "never put Bag Balm in your hair, because you will not get it out."

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