Follow TV Tropes


Never Trust a Hair Tonic

Go To

"M is for Minoxidil,
A hair-raising drug;
Takes a year to grow fuzz—
Give it up! Buy a rug!"
MAD, "The ABC's of Drugs"

It seems that a man's greatest fear is losing his, hair, and once it's gone, it's gone for good. Which is why a bald character is bound to try using some kind of product that promises to grow back their hair. This product never works. Or rather, it usually works too well, with way more hair sprouting than necessary, and often in places that it wasn't wanted. Other side effects may occur as well, including, but not limited to, the hair turning an unnatural color or what little hair was left falling out completely.

Truth in Television: most over the counter baldness remedies don't work or don't work well, especially when used once the condition is sufficiently advanced. Prescription systemic treatments are somewhat more likely to work (though they also come with bad side effects for men — namely, they work by reducing testosterone and/or its effects on the body in most cases). The gold standard of baldness treatment is hair transplant with ongoing maintenance, as it is the most likely to actually be worth the money spent on it with the least systemic side effects.

For similar forms of hair-related hilarity, see My Hair Came Out Green and occassionally Kaleidoscope Hair. See also All-Natural Snake Oil for the same principle applied to more serious ailments, not usually played for laughs. Compare Baldness Angst and First Gray Hair, which might make people turn to the untrustworthy hair tonics.


    open/close all folders 

  • In a fake ad that is interrupted by the Energizer Bunny (the actual product being advertised), a man hawks a hair tonic that's way too effective: it causes hair to sprout not just on his head, but also on his back when the excess spills and even on the concrete pool surface when the Bunny knocks the bottle over.

    Anime & Manga 
  • An early Inuyasha story has two demon brothers kidnap Kagome. She thinks they simply want to eat her, but it turns out one of them is severely balding and embarrassed about it, and he has heard you can get a hair growth potion by boiling down a human maiden. At hearing this, Kagome angrily insists they eat her instead. (Not 100% really this trope, since we never learn whether the potion works — but the kidnapping does lead to the demon losing his last few hairs — before he is killed.)
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi has a female variation, when short-haired Ako thinks she should grow her hair out to be more attractive. A (not so) helpful denizen of the magic world promptly gives her a magic hair-growth potion, which works perfectly for all of a minute before the hair begins to engulf her.
  • On Ranma ½ Genma is quite embarrassed about his baldness and has tried all kinds of cures. This doesn't stop him from trying new remedies. There was the one that only works when he's angry, the one that comes from a one-of-a-kind dragon's whisker, and so forth.
  • In the gag manga Urayasu Tekkin Kazoku, 43-year-old Daitetsu Osawagi has a bald spot and fearing of becoming completely bald like his father. A Running Gag had him losing hair by force, such as laying unconscious on an escalator and pulling off a glued wig. Chapter 51 in the Ganso series showed him losing faith in his hair tonic dumping every bottle in his hair-clogged sink. The tonics cause hair in the sink to grow out of control and start to consume Daitetsu and the house.

    Comic Books 
  • In an Achille Talon comic strip, Achille tries multiple ways to cure his baldness, all of which turn out to be ineffective. His last attempt is a hair tonic that is revealed to work very well — too bad he accidentally falls into it, covering him of hair everywhere except on his scalp.
  • In an Archie Comics comic, Professor Flutesnoot invents a hair tonic which apparently does a great job growing one's hair back. Though he stresses that he's still testing it, Mr. Weatherbee insists on secretly using it on himself. By the end of the comic, it's revealed that the tonic makes one grow a freakish amount of hair, with pouring water on it being the only way to stop the process.
    • In another comic, Jughead has created a hair tonic and tested it on a cue ball. Weatherbee gets it of course, and pretty soon has a headful of hair again. Flutesnoot then reveals that he analyzed Jughead's formula, and that a key ingredient is swamp muck; Weatherbee has a headful of moss.
    • An issue of the comic book adaptation of Archie's Weird Mysteries has it that bigfoots converts humans into more of them by convincing them to use an ointment that makes their hair grow before transforming them fully. The substance constantly replenishes, and compels them to both keep using it and convince others to use it.
  • An issue Bart Simpson has him stealing a powerful hair growth formula from Professor Frink to prank everyone with. This is after finding out that he's genetically immune to its effects, which he exploits both to handle it without protective gear and as part of the delivery mechanism.
  • A Disney Ducks Comic Universe comics story "Black Wednesday", written by Carl Barks, features Uncle Scrooge selling hair tonic to the "Chillyboot Indians", which actually causes baldness. Donald later returns with a hair tonic made by Gyro Gearloose; that one works too well.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy story "Nose No Bounds" (Cartoon Network Block Party #41) has Grim letting Billy use some otherworldly hair tonic. He inhales it, and it causes his nose hairs to grow and gain sentient life.
  • In The Smurfs story "The Great Smurfette", Gargamel was reported to have given a bald person a potion for growing a full head of hair, but the side effect is that it has given the person a chronic case of incurable hiccups.
  • One issue of Atlas comics had a balding man try out an experimental formula invented by his barber. It's successful, but with the unintended side effect of giving the man, a 90 pound weakling, super strength and invulnerability. Tiring of his newfound attention, he pretends to have lost his powers, then shaves his head and pretends to the barber that it didn't work.
  • Played with in Dollicious Lasagne and Bow by acident put Ramens hair tonic into a tomato soup... Since Ramen hair is made out of noddles, the noddles in the soup grows into Jack and the Beanstalk-style noddle stalk all the way to heaven.

    Comic Strips 
  • One Bloom County arc features a compound made from cat sweat, which Oliver originally intends as an underarm deodorant, but causes massive hair growth wherever it's applied. Oliver immediately turns it into a hair tonic instead. Sales are ridiculously, dangerously good for a while... and then customers start going "ACK!", presumably because it's made from Bill the Cat's sweat, this being his Verbal Tic. In a coda, Oliver's dad (a long-term user) sneezes one morning and causes all his hair to fall out instantly.
  • It's happened a few time in Curtis, often thanks to the titular character's misuse of a Flyspeck Island substance.
  • Dream of the Rarebit Fiend: A balding man has a dream where he's using a hair tonic to restore hair to his shiny dome. It winds up working too well, and the now extremely hairy man becomes a sideshow attraction.
  • The Yellow Kid once used a new miracle hair tonic to turn his robe into a fur coat.

    Film — Animation 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Body Bags: In the "Hair" segment, a balding guy goes to a new clinic to get an experimental hair transplant. It works, but then his hair keeps growing all over his body. At one point he even has to pull a new hair out of his tooth. It turns out the "hair" are really spindly aliens who want to eat his brain.
  • While demonstrating his experimental candies to the guests in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka brings up a gum intended to grow hair that he's working the kinks out of. We're shown an Oompa Loompa who tested a piece, who walks up looking like Cousin Itt.
  • In The Naked Gun 33 1/3, there's a flashback with the detectives in what's supposed to be the 1970s. Drebin has long hair, and when Nordberg appears, he has an Afro so huge he can't fit through the door. After the movie returns to the present, Ed says to Nordberg, "I do remember! You were one of the first cases for minoxidil." note 
  • In the Canadian family film The Peanut Butter Solution, a boy loses his hair after seeing ghosts, then grows it back with the titular solution. It works only too well. Unfortunately, he used too much peanut butter making it, so it won't stop!
  • In Pete's Dragon (1977), when Dr. Terminus comes to town, the townspeople confront him about his various medicines that didn't work the last time he was there, including one man whose hair turned from gray to pink, thanks to the doctor.

  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of the works-in-progress in the Inventing Room is Hair Toffee, which gives its eater a full head of hair plus a mustache and beard, a half hour after it's consumed. It's still a work in progress because currently it's too powerful — when an Oompa-Loompa tested it, "In the end we had to use a lawn mower to keep it [the hair] in check!" according to Willy Wonka. Also, it apparently has the same effect on men and women, and even works on children — which is his intention, in order that "there'll be no excuse any more for little boys and girls going about with bald heads!"
  • In The City Of Silent Revolvers, the main character is blackmailed into switching identities with a conman, and ends up getting in trouble for all of his earlier scams. A faulty hair tonic called Probatbicol is one these scams.
  • In the Discworld short story "The Sea and Little Fishes", when Granny Weatherwax is experimenting with being nice to people, she gives one bald farmer a bottle of hair tonic. He decides to test it on the dog; unfortunately he's too worried to read the instructions and gives it a overdose. When a group of peasants petition Nanny Ogg to tell Granny that We Want Our Jerk Back!, they report that the entire family is currently spending all their time shearing the dog.
    • A variant in Jingo with the character "Snowy" Slopes (who's not an assassin; he just kills people for money) and his terrible dandruff, which he resorts to various forms of All-Natural Snake Oil to cure and ends up being identified as a suspect because of them. None of them ever worked.
  • In Hair Raising, Dr. Victor is determined to invent a hair tonic that will subvert this trope. He succeeds in creating one that grows hair, but it won't stop growing it ... even when the hair in question is clogging up the shower drain.
  • Crocodile tears in the book Huberts Hair Raising Adventure by Bill Peet. The zebra notes that crocodile tears might help Hubert regrow his mane. Getting them proves enough of a problem...and then the tears cause the mane to grow so long so fast that it winds around Hubert and the other animals. They have to call a baboon with some shears to cut them loose.
  • The title character in The Witch's Son by Vivian Van Velde goes through several variations on regrowing a girl's golden hair, none of which work.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Better Off Ted episode "Father Can You Hair Me?", Ted tests an experimental hair tonic (packaged as an aerosol) on his arm, causing massive amounts of hair to grow not only on Ted's arm, but also on his desk.
  • In (what turned out to be) the final episode of The Brady Bunch Bobby gets some mail-order hair tonic to sell, which turns Greg's hair orange. In the memo attributed to Robert Reed about how weak the show's internal logic had become, he complains about this in particular:
    Why any boy of Bobby’s age, or any age, would be investing in something as outmoded and unidentifiable as “hair tonic” remains to be explained. As any kid on the show could tell the writer, the old hair-tonic routine is right out of Our Gang. Let’s face it, we’re long since past the “little dab’ll do ya” era.
  • In a Dream Sequence on The Dick Van Dyke Show Rob's hair turned into lettuce, because he was given a baldness preventativenote  that was basically oil and vinegar — aka salad dressing.
  • Doctor Who: In "Planet of the Ood", Mr. Halpen, the balding head of Ood Operations, is constantly drinking hair tonic given to him by his personal Ood servant, Ood Sigma. It's actually Ood graft which eventually transforms him into the very species he had been enslaving.
  • A Good Eats episode on celery has a sketch of a celery drink just made regrowing hair, then shows Alton paying the man whose hair supposedly grew back in private.
  • One early episode of Married... with Children had Al and Steve freak out about their baldness and try an experimental "tonic" to reverse it. Not only did it not work, but Al's dog Buck took to the stuff better than their hair did (they were actually using some kind of dog food in their hair, and the doctor who sold it to them was a quack).
    • Another episode features an accidental hair tonic made by the daughter experimenting with paint. It works wonders, but has the nasty side-effect of making the users horny for their wives.
  • My Wife and Kids: In "The Sweet Hairafter", Michael's friend Jimmy has a hair-growth pill that makes him paranoid. Once Michael starts to take the pills, he displays the same symptoms.
  • Seinfeld: George Costanza's Chinese baldness cure. We never find out whether or not it actually works, because it smells horrible and he recently developed a crush on Elaine, so he rushes to wipe it off whenever she comes around.
  • Two and a Half Men feature 'Captain Terry's Spray On Hair' as well as pills, both of which Alan try before going on dates. The first ends up running down his face when warm and the pills cause bizarre follicle growth.
  • The Two Ronnies did a skit at an inventors' conference, one of the inventors had created a hair tonic with two problems. First it makes the hair grow pink and second is that it falls out if the drinker has a shock.


    Video Games 
  • LISA: The Painful RPG: Hair tonics can be equipped as headgears for bald characters. Their descriptions say they never work "but it helps to dream".
  • Phantasy Star Zero: One of the first sidequests available comes from Major Dairon. He asks the hunter to retrieve some special flowers found in the Gurhacia Valley. It is later revealed he plans to use them in a tonic to stop his thinning hairline from getting worse. It didn't work and the concoction stank to high heavens.
  • Conroy Bumpus of Sam & Max Hit the Road uses so much hair tonic that his pillow is completely drenched with the stuff. He also wears a toupee all the time, so it seems the tonic doesn't work on him.

    Web Animation 
  • Used for squick factor when Disco Bear from Happy Tree Friends dunks his head in hair tonic after burning his afro. His hair grows back... but in his eyes. Cue Eye Scream when he cuts his eyes off with a razor as he tries to remove the hair from his eyes. He slips on a bottle of hair tonic and falls to the tub of hair tonic and grows more hair.
    • And not just Disco Bear, Cuddles coughs out his hairy organs before choking to death after mistakenly drinking a bottle of the formula that fell into his soda cooler and a bottle bursts open on Flaky while driving, causing her spines to impale her passenger, Handy.

  • Doc Rat featured Mr Pigg complaining to the chemist that the tonic he'd purchased which promised to "add body to your hair" had caused him to sprout hair everywhere. Turned out he'd read the label upside down; it actually said "adds hair to your body".
  • Pv P had a storyline where Brent cuts off his ponytail to prove that he's just as confident and hip without it. Obviously, this quickly backfires, and he desperately tries to get his hair back, leading to Skull giving him a hair growth potion. Unfortunately, Brent uses up most of the bottle, which was supposed to be diluted in water first, and he immediately grows hair so long he looks like Cousin It, including on his hands.
    Brent: My scalp feels tingly...

    Web Original 
  • Gaia Online has an item called Gro-gain: "New and improved, all natural formula guarantees DRAMATIC new hair growth, or your money back!" It can give you a huge mustache on your crotch, "Coiling Pit Hair", "Unforgivable Leg Hair", "Evil Hair" on your head, and more. It can even turn you into a "Fearsome Hairy Beast". It even caused a child character to develop a Casanova Wannabe alter ego and experience Rapid Aging.
  • The SCP Foundation had a hair tonic which caused its users to be "completely torn apart from the inside by torrential amounts of internal hair growth."
  • Hazmat of the Whateley Universe is cueball-bald due to his failed hair tonic. Aquerna arranges for Phase to look at it and plans are put into place to sell it as a hair-removal application for women.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, a prank gone wrong causes Krumm to lose his armpit hair, and Ickis, looking to help out his buddy, comes across some Super Grow Hair Tonic (thrown out in the dump by a scientist who thought the tonic was useless since he didn't grow hair on his bald head the second he rubbed the tonic on it) and uses eleven bottles of the chemicals to regrow Krumm's armpit hair, which ends up growing longer to a point where it is now grown all over the dump.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog:
    • In the episode, "Hothead", Eustace applies for an experimental hair tonic, with the warning that the recipient not be angry when in use. Little does Eustace know, is that every time he uses the tonic, it amplifies his anger to the point that he can cause explosions (and to add insult to injury, he doesn't grow any hair other than one long strand at the end of the episode, which immediately wilts again, making him so angry he blows up the house with himself inside it, Courage escaping with Muriel at the last moment.)
    • Another episode has Eustace's mother be involved in human experimentation for various hair related products. The twist here is that their method DOES work, extremely well in fact, causing people to grow huge amount of hair to be used in experiments. At the end, after Courage has freed Muriel from her unwilling participation, Eustace returns to the farm, now covered in a thick head of hair, and holding fistfuls of cash for his participation. This is pretty much the high point of Eustace's life on the show.
  • In Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter makes a hair tonic for Dee Dee after she accidentally cuts off one of her pigtails. Despite repeated warnings to use only one drop, Dee Dee uses the entire bottle. Three guesses what happens next.
    Dee Dee: I did use one drop, just... a very big drop...
  • A Freaky Stories story involves a boy inventing a hair tonic that, while capable of growing hair on any surface, doesn't seem to work on him. After dousing himself with it in a panic, he realize all to late that it takes longer for the tonic to grow hair on a human, and it turns him into a werewolf.
  • Gasp!: In "Hair of the Fish", Gasp buys a Peruvian hair tonic online in an attempt to cure the bald patch he accidentally created on Catflap. After he is doused in the tonic, Gasp ends up growing hair all over his body. Gasp, it should be pointed out, is a fish.
  • Get Blake!: In "Get Hairy!", Blake and Mitch use an experimental hair growth formula invented by Mitch's dad to grow moustaches so they can get in to a see a scary movie. The next morning, they try to shave off the moustaches only to discover that Mitch had not read the label and it was actually a 'Never-Ending Hair Growth Formula'. Their entire bodies end up covered in hair, causing them to be mistaken for sasquatches.
  • An episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy has Billy purchase a hair growth product because he wants to have a beard. Nothing happens at first so Grim uses his scythe to supercharge the product. Unfortunately, not only does he overuse the potion on himself, he drinks it as well! He soon grows a large beard, which turns into a Bigfoot pelt. Billy is fine with this... until he grows hair on his tongue as well.
  • Grojband: In "Hair Today, Kon Tomorrow", Kon uses a hair tonic (intended for dogs) that causes him to become completely covered in hair. A blow to the head then gives him Delusions of Doghood.
  • An episode of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi had Kaz ordering a hair tonic to overcome his male pattern baldness, and it ends up frequently turning him into a werewolf who terrorizes the girls' cats. The cats later take the tonic themselves to use it against Kaz, and when Yumi finds the smashed tonic bottle she points out these kinds of products usually have side effects; in this case, Kaz and the cats have all of the hair on their bodies fall off.
  • Johnny Test has this happen due to a couple of Susan and Mary's inventions. The Zoomer Groomer could create mustaches and worked as advertised, but Bling-Bling Boy overused it, became very itchy, and grew thick hair all over his body. Another episode had Susan and Mary use a hair tonic which worked too well, eventually leading to them looking like a woolly mammoth.
  • In the Looney Tunes short "Rabbit of Seville" Bugs Bunny rubs and sprinkles a number of tonics (including fertilizer) on Elmer Fudd's scalp, only for flowers to sprout from his head instead of hair. On the other hand, the hair tonic he used earlier in the same short to grow him a beard worked perfectly.
  • The Mother Goose And Grimm cartoon had a hair tonic which could grow hair on billiard balls, as advertised...but it couldn't grow hair on anything else.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: In "It Isn't the Mane Thing About You", when Rarity loses most of her mane in an accident involving misuse of a powerful magical cleaning product and tries to grow it back, it turns out that hair magic is ridiculously hard to use. When Twilight Sparkle and Starlight Glimmer (two of the setting's most powerful magic-users) try to use magic to restore Rarity's hair, the first spell they try takes the hair from another pony and transfers it to Rarity (before said hair simply shatters), the second creates wooden hair from a chunk of a door, and the third causes long hair to appear on the castle's walls.
  • Phineas and Ferb has a female example in "Bad Hair Day", when Candace uses a machine her brothers built for her in order to fix her hair after a botched attempt to cut it herself. Of course, she can't wait the designated time and decides to turn 30 mins into 10 seconds by cranking up the power level. Cue Candace getting covered in hair and being mistaken for a tangerine orangutan.
  • Regular Show episode "Bald Spot" depicts this straight. Muscle Man purchases a hair tonic that supposedly hides his bald spot, which is later revealed to be an accidental haircut near the end, only for said substance to leak off of it.
  • The Simpsons uses this trope twice.
    • In the episode "Simpson and Delilah", "dimoxonil" actually does grow hair on Homer's head, but the Snap Back to baldness comes because Bart spills Homer's bottlenote  and he can't afford any more (mainly because the dimoxonil cost Homer 1000 dollars, which he could only afford by lying about his medical insurance). There's also the affordable tonic the doctor offers Homer because he can't afford the 1000$ dimoxonil, which the doctor even states that any hair growth Homer would experience while using it would be purely coincidental.
    • At the end of the episode "Barting Over" Homer acts in a commercial for Viagra-gaine, a drug that "gives you hair and what you need down there" and has side effects including loss of scalp and penis.
  • Gargamel and Brainy learned this lesson the hard way in The Smurfs episode "Symbols of Wisdom" when they both try to grow their own beards, since it caused their beards to grow so long. Also, Papa Smurf had Hogatha's hair spell in "Smurfette's Golden Tresses" purposely altered by giving her bear fur dyed in the color of Smurfette's hair, which caused the hair to grow so long on Hogatha's head that it covered her face and immobilized her.
  • A running gag subplot in an episode of Totally Spies! involved their balding boss Jerry experimenting with hair growth potions. They work in making hair grow but fail in making it grow anywhere but the top of his head where he wants it. At one point he excuses being late because one variation sprouted long locks on the soles of his feet.
    • Eventually, Jerry would later find success in The Amazing Spiez! A villain of the week was part of a trial for a hair growth formula, and ended up covered in hair. Seeking revenge, she weaponizes the formula, which can grow hair on seemingly any surface to similarly disfigure those who ran the trial. Jerry gets some and uses it to give himself a voluminous pompadour at episode's end.
  • In the Victor and Valentino episode "It Grows" an envious Victor steals a hair growing tonic that Maria Teresa uses to reset a haircut she doesn't like to have it redone so he can grow a mustache. The mustache is alive, prehensile and independent, and it wants more of the tonic to grow a lot more.