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Sudocrem: The cream of the crop


Cheryl Cole. Photo: PA

Cheryl Cole. Photo: PA

Cheryl Cole. Photo: PA

Humble Sudocrem is enjoying a new lease of life thanks to Cheryl Cole and the TOWIE gang,writes Louise Byrne

WE IRISH are often associated with pints of the black stuff but we sometimes forget about the pot of the white stuff that no self-respecting Irish family would be without.

Sudocrem is the spuds and bacon of skincare creams, the Guinness of gentle nappy rash reliefs and the Tayto of topical ointments. They've come up with an Arthur's Day to celebrate the founder of the Guinness Brewery but maybe we should have a Thomas's day to honour Dublin pharmacist Thomas Smith, who invented Sudocrem in 1931.

Certainly anyone who's ever suffered with pesky spots or needed to calm a baby afflicted with nappy rash would raise a plastic tub of Sudocrem to mark the man whose product has soothed Irish skin for so long.

It's now available in 42 countries and every tub of it is still manufactured in Baldoyle, Dublin. The company is now owned by the US healthcare giant Forest Laboratories.

"It was first made in Dublin in 1931 by pharmacist Thomas Smith and was first called Smith's cream. He made it in his pharmacy and it quickly became a cult product," says Sudocrem marketing co-ordinator Kevin Lillis.

But the original name, Smith's Cream, proved to be a bit of a barrier to increased sales, so it had to be changed.

"Other pharmacists wouldn't stock it because they thought it was advertising his chemist. Then they changed the name to Sudocrem."

It became particularly popular with midwives and parents in Ireland during the 1960s but it wasn't until the 1970s that Sudocrem's manufacturers dreamt of conquering other territories.

"It was solely sold in Ireland up until the 1970s and was then partly launched in the UK and only launched fully in the 1980s," adds Kevin.

The Netherlands was the first country outside Ireland and England to sell the cream, back in 1995. Saudi Arabia and Poland also began importing it in the 1990s. Now Egypt is the latest country to get Sudocrem, following successful recent launches in Austria and Serbia.

While this most Irish of creams has been sorting out stuff like sore bums for eight decades in a solid if unspectacular way, it's now beginning to show up in some unusual milieus.

This is the product that has barely changed in appearance from day one and has quaint phrases like 'napkin rash' on its label. The only real concession to modernity is the plastic tub, as it was originally dispensed in glass bottles.

First there was an endorsement from singer Cheryl Cole, pictured left, and now the cast of reality TV show 'The Only Way is Essex' (TOWIE) are regular users. Cheryl said she used the cream to draw out spots because "it really works."

The UK pharmacy chain Superdrug has reported a 150pc increase in sales since February last year, as recession-hit punters hunt for bargains.

Kevin Lillis really can't believe his luck. "It's phenomenal. First Cheryl Cole said she used it and then the TOWIE gang use it for their spots."

But what about the science bit? Why is it so good at healing everything from nappy rash to chilblains? It's made up of four main ingredients: zinc oxide, benzyl cinnamate/benzoate, lanolin and benzyl alcohol. The zinc oxide aids in the healing process, the benzyl cinnamate has anti-bacterial properties, lanolin softens skin while benzyl alcohol is a local anaesthetic.

"It's primarily a baby nappy rash cream but it's a licensed medical product meaning we're allowed to say it heals other things like eczema, minor burns, spots, sunburn and cuts," Kevin Lillis says.

I freely admit to being a Sudoholic with tubs stashed in drawers all over the house. They've even recently introduced a squeezable tube so there are a few of those in my handbag as well.

My four-year-old innocently calls it 'bum cream' and he has a point. Nappy rash prevention has to be the main use for it, as it's estimated that between seven per cent and 35pc of babies can suffer from nappy rash at any given time.

Anne-Marie O'Connor once wrote a book called 'Everyone's Got a Bono Story' but in Ireland everyone surely has a Sudocrem story.

Geraldine Kelly from Letterkenny, pictured below, has been trying to live down an unfortunate association with Sudocrem since she was two.

"I have this photo from 1982 that I've never lived down. What happened was, my mum had just given me a bath and came back and I had got stuck into a large and small tub of Sudocrem. First thing she did was run and get the camera!"

Thirty-two-year-old HSE administrator Geraldine managed to do maximum damage with the sticky cream.

"We had just moved into the house and there were brand new carpets. She came into the room and I was looking in the mirror eating it! I had even stuffed the cream down the holes of my babygro into my feet. I got it on the bedspread, carpet and chair," she says.

Even with that introduction to Sudocrem, it hasn't put Geraldine off. "There isn't a home in Ireland that doesn't have a tub! I still use it for blemishes -- I just don't eat it!"

One of the big issues with Sudocrem is the pronunciation of the name. Its spelt Sudocrem but the time-honoured Irish way of pronouncing it is 'Sudocream'.

Geraldine Kelly has strong views on the subject.

"I have always pronounced it Sudocream! The other way is too posh for Irish houses."

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