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Pine Tar Rules

Brandon Adamson

No, I’m not talking about baseball, in case you were thinking of the infamous George Brett pine tar incident from the 1983 game between the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees. Rather, I’m referring to Packer’s Pine Tar Shampoo. As I’ve mentioned before, I love classic grooming products (where they can still be found.) Like coal tar, (the active ingredient in Neutrogena T-Gel) and sulfur, pine tar was a common drugstore remedy for skin conditions such as dandruff and dermatitis. Packer’s has been around forever, and though the brand has changed hands multiple times over the years, the product is still made in USA and contains adequate levels of the useful active ingredients in a simple formula.

Anyhow, I’ve struggled with scalp inflammation and dandruff for most of my life, mostly due to my raging sex hormones but probably also a result of stress, environmental factors (lack of sunlight, etc) and underlying autoimmune issues. I’ve used tons of different shampoos with varying degrees of success: T-Gel, Nizoral, Head & Shoulders 2% Pyrithione Zinc (now discontinued) Jason’s, Biolage (with piroctone olamine) just to name a few. Lately I’ve been using Alpecin’s Double Effect shampoo which works very well, but I was looking for something mild to alternate it with and perhaps approach things from a different angle.

Originally I planned to use Grandpa’s Pine Tar Shampoo (I had used their bar soap several years ago) but I was dismayed to discover they had changed the shampoo formula and added a bunch of trendy ingredients like Tea Tree oil, which you can already find in almost any contemporary shampoo. The whole point of seeking out these vintage products is to use the same time tested products that were effective for people in the 1940s-50s, but which have since been forgotten in favor of those with sexier sounding and more fashionable ingredients.

I picked up a bottle of Packer’s Pine Tar shampoo instead, and man this stuff is great. Used in conjuction with Alpecin Double Effect, Packer’s Pine Tar almost completely elimimated my scalp inflammation. It definitely contributes to improved scalp health. For more detailed information on pine tar’s mechanism of action in treating skin conditions, feel free to peruse this paper. I’m not going to get into the technical aspects here.

Packer’s Pine Tar Shampoo isn’t harsh or overly drying. Thanks to the pine tar oil it contains, I don’t even need to use conditioner with it. As fas as the smell, as you might guess it has a vague “pine tree” scent. However, caramel is also listed as one of the ingredients, and a caramel scent can be detected as well. It’s tough to say which is more prominent. I use other hair products shortly after showering anyway so I (unfortunately) only get to experience the pleasant “pure as the pines” aroma for a very brief period of time.

I’m going to snag a few more bottles of this stuff while it still exists in its current form. I hope the manufacturer sticks with the current formula. The reason I decided to give Packer’s Pine Tar shampoo a write-up, is because I believe it deserves to be much more popular than it is.

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