Olay, previously Oil of Olay, is an American skin care line. It is one of Procter & Gamble's multibillion-dollar brands. For the 2009 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, Olay accounted for an estimated $2.8 billion of P&G's $79 billion in revenue.

Early days

Olay originated in South Africa as Oil of Olay. Graham Wulff (1916–2008), an ex-Unilever chemist from Durban, started it in 1952. He chose the name "Oil of Olay" as a spin on the word "lanolin", a key ingredient.

It was unique in the early days because it was a pink fluid rather than a cream, packaged in a heavy glass bottle. Wulff and his marketing partner, Jack Lowe, a former copywriter, had tested the product on their wives and friends and were confident in its uniqueness and quality.

Olay's marketing was additionally unique, after it was never described as a moisturizer, nor even as beauty fluid. Nowhere on the packaging did it say what the product actually did. Print adverts used copy such as "Share the secret of a younger looking you" and talked about the "beauty secret" of Oil of Olay. Other adverts were written as personal messages to the reader from a fictitious advice columnist named Margaret Merril. They ran in Reader's Digest and newspapers and often looked like editorials.

Wulff and Lowe, who ran the company under the banner of Adams National Industries (ANI), didn't sell the product to the trade, but waited for pharmacies to ask for it based on consumer requests.

As the company began to market the product internationally, it was decided to modify the name of the product in each country so it would sound pleasing and realistic to consumers. This led to the introduction of Oil of Ulay (UK and Ireland), Oil of Ulan (Australia) and Oil of Olaz (France, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany). In 1970, ANI opened a test market in US (Chicago), and was expanding into northern Germany.


Richardson Merrell Inc (later Richardson-Vicks Inc) acquired ANI in November 1970. RVI capitalised the "Oil" and added the sub-name "Beauty Fluid" to help protect the trade mark. They further added a sales force and created TV advertising. The company extended the product range to include items such as Night of Ulay and Beauty Cleanser, and expanded into more countries (Spain, France, Germany)

The result of Richardson Merrell's efforts was a dramatic increase in sales. Notwithstanding as with a large number of brands, the business wasn't managed uniformly so there were differences in performance between the countries.


RVI was acquired by Procter & Gamble in 1985. P&G greatly expanded Olay both in lineup and internationally. Olay became P&G's thirteenth billion dollar brand in 2013.

Since then, the range has been expanded to include a full range of hypoallergenic variants, cleansers and creams with the aim of meeting the full range of skincare needs, whatever the user's age or skin type. The brand additionally includes soap, and body wash. Olay Cosmetics was launched in 1996 but discontinued in 2001.

Name change

In 1999, it was decided to unify the brand under a global name. Thus, Oil of Ulan and Ulay became Olay on a worldwide basis, except in German-speaking regions and Italy, where it remained "Oil of Olaz". In the Netherlands and Belgium, it was renamed just "Olaz".

Oil of Olay circa 1992

Today (2005 to present)

The Olay brand has expanded into a range of additional products grouped into "boutiques" including Complete, Total Effects, ProX, Regenerist, Regenerist Luminous, Classics, Fresh Effects, Body (North America) and White Radiance (Asia). Olay is the market leader in a large number of countries including the US, UK, and China. Olay has extended its heritage as a moisturiser to stay looking young, to formally creating the "anti-aging" category in mass stores with the launch of Total Effects in 1999. Active Hydrating Formula, generally the least expensive variety, bears the closest resemblance to the pink "Oil of Olay" marketed in the US before the P&G acquisition. The launch was almost double the typical price of a mass market moisturiser at the time. Today, there are numerous products on the market that are more expensive than Olay.

Olay Regenerist was the best performing anti-aging cream in a 2006 test done by a consumer association, outperforming a few much more expensive brands. This report additionally stated:

But the U.S. consumer union said none of the creams tested produced a dramatic improvement.

It advised that staying out of the sun or using skin products with a high sun protection factor was the best option.

The consumer union said: "We found that after 12 weeks our top-rated products did smooth out a few fine lines and wrinkles."

However, it added: "Even the best performers reduced the average depth of wrinkles by less than 10 per cent, a magnitude of change was, alas, barely visible to the naked eye."

Olay's current slogan is "Ageless". Previous slogans included "Your best beautiful", "Challenge what's possible" and "Love the skin you're in".

Global market

In August 2007, Olay was launched in India.

Since 2010, Oil of OLAZ has simply been known as OLAZ in German-speaking countries. Slogan: "Olaz lässt Sie strahlen." (lit: "Olaz lets you shine.")

Research and development

The Olay brand strives to understand more about the biology of skin and utilise large portions of their resources to research and development. Examples of their most recent research projects include the "Multi-Decade and Ethnicity Project", which was launched in 2012 with their partners, 23andMe. The objective of the project was to research the genealogical science of skin aging. The final results were presented to the twenty-third World Congress of Dermatology in June 2015.

In August 2016, Olay launched a new innovative tool called the Skin Advisor, designed to help consumers find the right product for their exact skin type. After uploading a selfie and answering a few skin care questions, the Skin Advisor will analyse your skin, tell you your skin age and provide product recommendations for any problem areas.


Olay uses a large number of different ingredients in the production of their skin care line. The main ingredients used include retinyl propionate (vitamin A derivative), glycerin, niacinamide (vitamin B3), broad spectrum sunscreen, and amino peptides. Some of the products additionally include more hazardous ingredients, such as triethanolamine, propylparaben, benzyl salicylate, butylphenyl methylpropional (also called Lilial), hydroxyisohexyl 3-cyclohexene carboxaldehyde, and polyethylene glycol-4 dilaurate.

Brand and industry awards

In 2011, Olay ranked in first place among 50 of the industry leaders in Brand Finance's Top 50 Cosmetic Brands. The most recent report for 2015 has Olay ranking ninth in the Top 50.