We Invented the Perfect Cure for Dry Skin
New Englanders are confident enough to take a product intended for cows’ udders and slather it on their skin to relieve chapping. The story goes that when farmers’ wives began noticing how soft their husbands’ hands were, they demanded answers and equal treatment. And so an unexpected dry-skin remedy for humans was born: Bag Balm, rubbed on udders since 1899.
Produced in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, the epicenter of the dry and cracked, the yellow ointment is whipped up in a converted railroad building in Lyndonville by the family-owned Dairy Association. It’s then smooshed into a nostalgic-looking green tin decorated with rosy red clover, a cow’s second-best friend if she’s in udder distress. From there, the lanolin- and petrolatum-based salve spreads out across the country, where it’s used to soothe cracked fingers and toes, sunburn, diaper rash, hooves, paws, and, yes, udders.
This quirky do-it-all ointment has even achieved its fair measure of fame. Charles Kuralt was a fan, and Oprah gave it a shout-out. Admiral Byrd took it to Antarctica and, more recently, it was rubbed into search dogs’ paws at the World Trade Center site in the wake of 9/11. Publications such as the New York Times and Bicycling magazine (saddle sores) tout its virtues. We’re just happy to get softer skin and a winter’s glow that doesn’t involve stoking the woodstove.