Ivan DeBlois Combe, 88, the developer of Clearasil, the acne cream that helped millions of pimply faced baby boomers get through the awkward teenage years, died here Jan. 11 after a stroke.
Mr. Combe made a career of helping to ease embarrassing health and beauty problems. After developing and later selling Clearasil, his company acquired Grecian Formula 16, the men's hair color product, and Lanacane, the itch cream.
In the 1970s and '80s, he went on to introduce Odor-Eaters foot care products, Vagisil feminine care products and Just for Men, another product for coloring gray hair.
He began working on Clearasil in 1949 after talking to teenagers and pharmacists about the need for an acne cream that worked. He asked a chemist to create a formula that would dry up pimples and cover them with a flesh-colored cream.
Mr. Combe named the cream Clearasil to capitalize on every teenager's dream of having clear skin.
At the time, store owners were reluctant to buy another acne product when so many others had failed. Mr. Combe, who was selling Clearasil himself, offered to give the stores free tubes in exchange for a promise to order more if the product sold. It did.
Sales skyrocketed after Mr. Combe began advertising Clearasil on the teenage dance show "American Bandstand" in 1957.
Dick Clark, the rock-and-roll show's host from 1952 to 1989, remembers reading dozens of different Clearasil advertisements in the early years of the show.
"We became sort of synonymous: Dick Clark, `Bandstand' and Clearasil. We were tied together," Clark said Friday.
Clearasil tapped into a huge market of teenagers eager to try something new to get rid of pimples, he said.
"As adults we say, `Don't worry, your face will clear up,' but it really is an emotional and sometimes stressful thing for kids," Clark said.
Chris Combe, now president of Combe Inc., in White Plains, N.Y., said his father received hundreds of letters over the years from grateful teenagers.
"They'd say, `I became a cheerleader because of Clearasil' or `I got invited to the prom because of Clearasil,' " he said.
In 1960, Vicks Chemical bought the Clearasil business from Combe Inc. Procter & Gamble bought Clearasil in 1985. Today, there are 25 Clearasil products on the market, including the traditional acne cream.
Ivan Combe was born in Fremont, Iowa, and raised in Greenville, Ill. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1933.
Survivors include his wife, three children and seven grandchildren.