Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Johnson Products Co.
Johnson Products Co.

Johnson Products Co.

George Johnson, a former door-to-door cosmetics salesman, formed this company in Chicago in 1954. At a plant on the city's South Side, Johnson manufactured hair care products for African Americans. The company's first product was a hair straightener called “Ultra Wave”; in 1957, it introduced its successful “Ultra Sheen” brand. Johnson responded to cultural shifts in the 1960s by creating a new line of products called “Afro Sheen.” Meanwhile, Johnson Products was becoming one of the largest African American–owned manufacturing companies. Annual sales grew from about $4 million in 1967 to $40 million in 1976. By that time, Johnson had about 500 employees in Chicago, and it invested in a factory in Nigeria. But the company's profits declined in the late 1970s, as large cosmetics companies such as Revlon and Avon began to target African American consumers. In 1993, Johnson Products was purchased by the Ivax Corp. of Florida, a large drug and personal-care products company. At the end of the 1990s, Johnson became part of Carson Inc. of Georgia, a smaller company that specialized in cosmetics for African Americans. In 2000, Carson became part of L'Oreal USA. The Johnson Products division maintained its headquarters in Chicago but adopted the L'Oreal name.