Since its creation in 1972, it has been shaping hairstyles that defy the force of gravity, but half a century after its birth, this hair spray of Valencian origin has become a bestseller in an atypical sector, that of 3D printers. .
At the Oscars in 1972, Jane Fonda received her Best Actress statuette for her performance in the film Klute. She no longer had her Barbarella blonde hair, but a medium-length haircut, with bangs and lots and lots of volume. The performer said she was looking to project a new image of her facet as an activist (that same year, her controversial trip to Hanoi took place in the midst of the Vietnam War). Of course, the haircut has become fashionable all over the world. Achieving this volume required not only skilled hands, but also a lot of hairspray. Already in the sixties, the famous puffy by Jackie Kennedy had put an end to straight hair and democratized the bouffant which still characterizes all great ladies today. This is why, when Nelly lacquer was launched in Spain in 1972, its success was almost immediate. Today, half a century after its birth, it is for many a cosmetic relic. However, in recent times it has been rediscovered by a sector far removed from the brand’s target audience: that of 3D printers, who use this fixing product during the printing process.
A revolution in hair aesthetics
The history of Nelly lacquer goes back a few decades before its creation. In 1951, Juan Ramón Belloch, a doctor of chemistry based in Valencia, founded Belloch Laboratories with the aim of entering the cosmetics industry. She started making other beauty products, but her star bet came in 1972, when the company launched Nelly Lacquer, a setting product in spray form. There is no official explanation for the choice of this curious name, although the brand believes it was the name of the font used in the logo. Aerosol lacquer as such had already begun to be marketed in the 1940s in the United States, by the Chase Products Company. In Spain there was also the famous hair spray Elnett from L’Oréal Paris, born in the 1950s and responsible for keeping perfect the hairstyles with which movie actresses defied the law of gravity. But there was plenty of room in the market for Nelly. Without becoming a completely unknown product, the launch of the hairspray was a revolution and very quickly it became a must for hairdressers and for women who had succumbed to the fever of frizzy and voluminous hair. From the company they explain that the cosmetic has transformed “the concept of fixing and hair aesthetics”, being a product with a loyal following that has passed from generation to generation. From grandmothers to mothers and daughters. “In recent years, its use has increased by the male public, who have seen the product as a great ally”, they point out.
Just like Gal’s pink vaseline or Heno de Pravia’s soap, Nelly hairspray is part of that category of cosmetics for life, endorsed by decades of history and by the habits and customs of much of the society. Even if we had never heard of Nelly, just by looking at its packaging we could conclude that it is a product with a long history. Its exterior has hardly changed over the years. It retains its signature electric blue background and orange logo encased in a white oval. This could definitely work as a prop in any chapter of the series Tell me how it wentno matter the decade.
The leadership of Nelly hair spray as the best-selling product in its category in Spain was a powerful claim in its advertising campaigns. Nelly arrives in the convulsive decade of the 70s, with a country eager for freedom which experiences a change in mentality so palpable at first glance. Fashion as a tool of expression began to assert its power in Spain and the image projected abroad became a means of reinforcing this individual freedom. Nelly’s audience was predominantly female, but already in the 1980s she hinted at an independent woman. “Always you. Always active. Always Nelly,” reads one slogan, where a woman in a suit jacket and slacks carried a purse and several bags after a day of shopping (a pass- time become cliché thanks to the cinema).The ad seemed closer to a fashion campaign than a beauty one, since the hair was hardly the protagonist.Thus, Nelly avoids limiting himself to the promotion of a known and s is committed to advocating a lifestyle identified with a modern woman, ready to face the change of millennium that is approaching.
The aerosol problem
At first glance, the Nelly hairspray used by our grandmothers is the same as that found today in supermarkets. However, its formulation has been modified in order to comply with the legislation in force on aerosols. For a long time, aerosols were used without taking into account the consequences that spraying hairspray, deodorant or any other cosmetic spray could have on the environment. “Previously, aerosols were made of ozone-damaging ingredients, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs),” says environmental activist and content creator Carlota Bruna. And he adds: “Since the end of the 1990s, the production of CFCs has almost completely stopped, thanks to the Montreal Protocol, promoted by Nobel Prize winner Mario Molina. He warned that CFCs were a serious environmental problem and that production should be stopped. Almost every country in the world has signed the protocol, so modern spray cans are safe for the ozone layer. However, this does not mean that they do not harm the environment in other ways”. This change in the formulation “still complies with the changes in the legislation, but the essence of the formula always remains the same”, confirms Nelly, a brand that is currently part of the Spanish Association of Aerosols.
Unexpected new uses
In addition to including men within its target audience, Nelly hairspray has become a flagship product in another sector far removed from the world of hairdressing. The one with 3D prints. The 3D World workshop, specialized in three-dimensional printing, reveals the new use given to this fixative in its community: “Nelly lacquer is mainly used to improve the fixing of projects on the printing platform, it is popular due to its low cost and good bonding results.” Specifically, they explain, it is used in machines that use FDM (Material Deposition Manufacturing, that is, the one used by 3D printers that build figures in layers.) “In this process, they use glue so that the first layer stays stuck together so that the part doesn’t move on the base or the bed. The lacquer does the necessary adhesive effect and since it is not very expensive, the community of manufacturers or 3D printing fans have spread the word that with Nelly lacquer the adhesion of the first layer was solved and thousands of users use it daily”.
Half a century of Nelly lacquer
This year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Nelly. Half a century later, it continues to be the brand’s most iconic product, although today its offer is much more diversified, with other styling, coloring and hair care products. They even have a line of children’s shampoos and hand creams. Like many other laboratories, they embarked on the manufacture of hydroalcoholic gels during the pandemic, a shift that allowed them to avoid losses. According to the specialized information portal of the Valencian Community, Valencia Plaza, in the first half of 2020 the company only decreased its sales by 5%, compared to the same year the previous year. They did not need to perform ERTE. Currently, the laboratory plant, located in the Valencian municipality of Paterna, employs around 80 people. Outside our borders, they are present in around forty countries. When Dr. Belloch finished formulating his famous hairspray in 1972, he dreamed it would be a hit. He may have fantasized about making the product a cosmetic icon, but what he never could imagine was that the 3D printing industry, which didn’t exist at that time, would swell the company accounts half a century later. Past and future coexist in a present where there is still room for Nelly.