Before Birchbox There Was Bonne Bell

I’ve been a subscriber to Birchbox for almost two years now, and delight each month in getting that box filled with cosmetic samples delivered. What can I say? I’ve been a beauty aid junkie since the late ’60s. And when cosmetics come in sample sizes, all the better!Β  I think this sample-size mania started for me when I was a teenager. Since I was an avid teen fashion magazine reader, I was especially engrossed by the advertisements. I loved when companies had special mail-in offers -so enticing! Of course you had to mail in the clipped coupon with your 50 cents or one dollar, and then wait five weeks for delivery; there was a lot of waiting around with resigned anticipation. Definitely not much instant gratification back then. But when the samples finally arrived it was fantastic! Kind of like the little thrill I get to this day when my monthly Birchbox arrives.

Bonne Bell samples ad vintage 1972In the late ’60s and early ’70s, Bonne Bell was pretty much the only company that offered a selection of sample sizes that you could order for $1.00. In fact I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they invented the product sampler pack. In this particular ad, the sampler kit contained Ten-O-Six lotion, Tinted Face Gloss, Ten-O-Six Shampoo, Hair Conditioner, and Super Shower 2000. I remember in other kits they contained Bonne Bell Lipstick and the (ubiquitous) White White eyeshadow. I know because I ordered several over the years. I can still remember twisting open that red, white and blue canister and catching a whiff of the signature scent of Ten-O-Six Lotion.

Bonne Bell Ten-O-Six Lotion ad 1970 Julie BellSpeaking of which, Ten-O-Six lotion pretty much ruled the skin care market during those years. “Skin – Let it be honest”. I remember washing my face with soap (Neutrogena, Cuticura, or PhiSoHex), and then pouring Ten-O-Six lotion on a cotton ball and scrubbing my face till it stung. Gawd that stuff was strong. And to add insult to injury, the label said to use it a second time with a new cotton ball until the cotton ball was absolutely clean. It was almost pure alcohol, with a tantalizing scent that made it seem like it was doing something. Looking back, no wonder I had trouble with my skin! I think I scrubbed it raw.

Julie Bell Ten-O-Six Bonne Bell ad 1972One interesting fact about ’70s Bonne Bell advertisements was that they often featured Bonne Bell’s daughter, Julie Bell. Julie was a natural beauty in her own right and seemed to be a perfect fit to showcase her family’s products. A little nepotism never hurt anyone I guess. Julie almost seemed shy and brooding in the ads, which appealed to most of us also shy and brooding teenagers. She had killer cheekbones though – and good skin – which caused a certain amount of envy (at least in me). That, and her having free access to any and all Bonne Bell products. It’s the beauty aid junkie in me. πŸ™‚


12 Responses to “Before Birchbox There Was Bonne Bell”

  1. Mjohns

    Thanks for thus post. I used to love those sample kits from BB. Seems they were offered in the January issue, so I’d order in December and get them almost in time for second semester. I am surprised, given all my vigorous scrubbings with Ten-O-6, that my skin is so unlined at 63.

  2. finnfemme

    Mjohns – Ah, the vigorous scrubbings with Ten-O-6 – know it well. However, having acne from a young age did propel me to pay dutiful attention to skin care all my life. I have very few lines or wrinkles too – thanks Ten-O=6!


  3. beachgal

    I was in love with the Bonnie Bell cheek stain back then – it was goof proof and I never looked right in that Indian pot earth all over color stuff

  4. Christie Womack

    Just found this while trying to find an original ad for face gloss…..I miss their products so much….I used ten-o-six forever! I had such oily skin…..I love vintage, thrift stores, old movies and everything old!! Haha….I feel like I have found a long lost friend!!

  5. finnfemme

    Thanks, Christie! There are a lot of us baby boomer kindred spirits out there. I’m just keeping the 60s and 70s spirit going!

  6. Marsha Alexander Groce

    Just thinking about Bonnie Bell today when I used my Neutrogena products and was just wondering what ever happened to Bonnie Bell? I always took time to keep my face clean and use as little makeup as possible. My mom taught me that but she was a Cosmetologist in Nashville, Tn. And I always enjoyed getting a little red and blue bucket of the Bonnie Bell cosmetics for teens. It was a really great treat just for me when we went shopping. It was in our Harvey’s Department store in Nashville. I really think that the company should bring it back and target the pre-teen age group so they look natural and clean in appearance. I have just turned 65 and my skin is still pretty and smooth. Sure I have a few wrinkles but I am 65. I still have good skin though. Come on Bonnie, you have to be at least 50-60 ish! Let’s see a comeback on these skin care products and a reasonable treat for teens! It is anniversary time for Bonnie Bell to re-start an new program for tweens!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Karen Ypung

    I looooved the b.b. sample container. I’m still looking for the scent of Super Shower 2000. It was the best!!

  8. Marybeth

    I was fortunate enough to work for the Bonne Bell Company, which changed, just before it was sold, to Aspire Brands. Great little company. We were all sad to see it go. The company that bought is still marketing a few products. So fun to see your ad of the old sample kit!! I actually still have one of those striped cardboard tubes πŸ™‚ …Could not use their Ten-0-6 though.. was an Oil of Olay girl most of my life – thank you for this post, and everyone for their comments. fun to read πŸ™‚

  9. finnfemme

    Hi Marybeth!
    That is so awesome that you worked for Bonne Bell! Did you ever get to meet Bonne or Julie Bell? It was such an iconic company for those of us girls of a certain age in the ’60s!

  10. Patty Stoller

    I have used shower 2000 for many years. I am trying to find some since I can’t find it anywhere. Thank you.

  11. Maureen

    I have been using Shower 2000 for the past 50 years. My most recent purchase was thru Aspire Brands in Ohio. I bought 3 bottles. I am just about out. Are they no longer selling it direct to consumer?

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