Alfred Woelbing, like many people, suffered from cold sores. Unlike many people, he had an entrepreneurial spirit and a knack for kitchen chemistry.
Alfred decided to solve his painful condition for himself, and concocted a remedy for his cold sores. In 1937, he began making Carmex by hand, pouring the lip balm into the familiar yellow-capped jars in his kitchen.
His sales method: visiting pharmacies one by one. If they weren’t interested, he gave them a dozen jars for free—along with a postcard to reorder. In no time, the pharmacies sold the free samples and the reorder forms starting coming in.
Alfred produced Carmex from home for many years, moving into a full production facility in the 1950s, and then to their current manufacturing site in 1975. About 100 people (including Alfred’s grandsons Eric and Paul Woelbing) continue to produce our original formula in its trademark little jars, and have expanded the line to include ultra hydrating Carmex Moisture Plus® as well as soothing skin care products.
Alfred Woelbing lost his job as a buyer for a Milwaukee department store and began producing Lyptone, a lip protection product that he eventually sold the rights to for $2,500—a lot of money in those days. Next, he created a silver polish, Shynebright, which he sold to stores in Milwaukee and Chicago. In 1937, Alfred Woelbing invented Carmex and incorporated Carma Laboratories; lip care has never been the same.
Alfred sold Carmex® lip balm from the trunk of his car, with popularity growing through word-of-mouth.
During WWII, Uncle Sam needed all the lanolin for the Army to grease equipment and prevent rust. This limited production possibilities for Carmex lip balm, since lanolin is a key ingredient.
After the war, Alfred continued to produce Carmex lip balm from his home, using only a kettle and a hot plate, pouring the mixture by hand into glass jars.
Positive word-of-mouth helped Carmex® lip balm grow in popularity, and production demands quickly became too much for the Woelbing home. In 1957, Carmex moved from the Woelbing home to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a suburb west of Milwaukee.
Carmex continued to grow, and added a budget for advertising: $10 a year for the “CARMEX” vanity plate on the family car.
Alfred, now in his 70s, retired from making sales calls, but continued to play an important role at Carma Laboratories.
In 1973, his son Don joined the business and established assembly-line production. Three years later, Carma Labs outgrew the Wauwatosa, Wisconsin facility and relocated to Franklin, another Milwaukee suburb. The factory is still located there today.
In 1988, Carmex lip balm became available in squeezable tubes, marking the company’s first significant packaging change.
In 1999, pharmacists ranked Carmex the #1 recommended over-the-counter lip balm, according to a survey done by Pharmacy Times magazine, kicking off a 14-year winning streak that continues unbroken to this day.
Our Click Stick applicator with SPF 15 was introduced to the public in 1999.
In 2001, an era ended as Alfred passed away. He worked 8-hour days well into his 90s, driving over 40 miles to get to the factory.
A year later, Carmex Labs adds mint flavor, with our products becoming available in all 50 states as well as throughout North America, Australia, Europe and Asia.
New products this decade included Carmex Moisture Plus® ultra hydrating lip balm, as well as new cherry and strawberry lip balm flavors (selected via internet voting).
A new distribution center opened in 2004, ensuring that our lines of lip-saving balms were always arriving in the right place at the right time.
In 2006, Carma Labs hired its first executive team, bringing new life to a 70 year old company and ushering in an era of increased distribution and expanded product offerings.
A 2008 appearance on Oprah puts the Woelbings and the whole Carmex family in the spotlight, proudly spreading the news that Carmex had sold more than a billion jars.
In 2009, company chairman Don Woelbing passed away. Carma Laboratories continued its family-owned and operated legacy, led by Alfred’s grandsons, Paul and Eric Woelbing.
Carma Labs kicked off the decade by expanding its line outside of lip balm for the first time, creating Carmex Healing Cream and Carmex Hydrating Lotion. We also added some color to countless puckers with Carmex Moisture Plus ultra hydrating lip balm in sheer tints.
A year later, Carmex Healing Ointment was released to the relief of folks who suffer from chronically dry and chapped skin.
Eight-time NBA All-Star LeBron James is a leading scorer, generous philanthropist and Carmex fan. In 2011, we partnered with LeBronJames.com, offering exciting promotions as well as support to the LeBron James Family Foundation.
In 2012, the governor of Wisconsin marked Carmex’s milestone year by declaring a 75th Anniversary Day across our home state. We also celebrated the occasion by adding a Pomegranate flavor to the Ultra Smooth Lip Balm line, perfectly complementing our Vanilla and Lime Twist flavors.