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What's in Gold Bond? A powder by any other name …

December 21, 2009 |  6:16 pm
Paris-based drug giant Sanofi-Aventis made waves today when it announced the $1.9 billion acquisition of Chattem Inc., humble maker of Selsun Blue shampoo and Gold Bond medicated powder. Business pundits wondered what a high-end international pharmaceutical company was doing buying the Chattanooga, Tenn., maker of hair products and powders for itchy heads and feet. But here at Booster Shots, we're wondering: What's so special about Gold Bond powder anyway?

Gold Bond uses menthol to cool the skin, and zinc-oxide as a skin protectant. It’s a pretty simple formula – essentially the same one used when the Rhode Island Medical Assn. developed it in 1898.
But aside from the menthol, it's not that special. Like other baby or body powders, Gold Bond is mostly made up of talc with a little bit of zinc oxide (and other herbal-sounding things, like acacia and eucalyptol) thrown in. Other brands, like Johnson & Johnson, also offer "medicated" versions of their own, with ingredients like aloe and vitamin E. 

Yet J&J is better known for its baby products, not its adult offerings. And Gold Bond has tried to stay ahead of imitators by releasing new products (most recently in its "ultimate" series.) So in spite of its simple ingredients -- menthol, zinc and talc -- Gold Bond has turned into a winning formula. Consumers, especially men, swear by the stuff, citing its effectiveness at beating back that old foe, “jock itch.”

And the product line, which includes lotions and sprays, is still growing: Along with Cortizone-10 and Balmex, it helped bring in nearly $142 million in net sales in Chattem's "medicated skin care" category. Gold Bond powder sales rose 8% in 2007 compared with 2006, according to SEC filings. Guess nothing says relief like a respectable brand name.

-- Amina Khan