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A collage of several past and present photos throughout Kao's history including buildings, people, products and packaging.

A collage of several past and present photos throughout Kao's history including buildings, people, products and packaging.

A collage of several past and present photos throughout Kao's history including buildings, people, products and packaging.

Our History

Built on more than a century of integrity and innovation

In 1887, pioneering business man Tomiro Nagase founded the company that would later become the Kao we know today. The Americas Region found its start five years earlier when the Andrew Jergens Company was founded in Cincinnati, OH. Since the creation of the first Jergens® product in 1882 coconut oil soap formulated to perform in hard water—we have been built on a strong foundation of integrity and innovation, and the entrepreneurial spirit that started everything nearly a century and a half ago still inspires everything we do today.



Mr. Tomiro Nagase starts Nagase Shoten, a Western sundry goods dealer that would later become Kao.


Kao USA opens the Jergens Research facility.


Company invests $15M to increase the capacity of the Cincinnati plant.


Manufacturing adds Line-25 high-speed lotion line, removing three low-speed lotion lines.


Manufacturing expands hair care production capacity with additional making and filling equipment.


Kao Mass Brands integrates business activities with Salon Professional Brands and Molton Brown. Kao USA expands to downtown Cincinnati at Plum Street.


Kao acquires Washing Systems, LLC (WSI). Kao Professional Services (KPS) grows to No. 2 player in Japan with sales of $316M.


Kao launches new ESG Strategy “Kirei Lifestyle Plan” to support consumer lifestyle changes.


Kao is recognized by the Ethisphere Institute, a U.S.-based think tank, as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies 2021 – 15 years running.

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Kao Consumer Care Business


Andrew Jergens Sr. and Charles H. Geifus found the Andrew Jergens Company in Cincinnati, OH. The first product is coconut soap, specially formulated to perform in hard water.


Jergens® classic cherry-almond lotion, now known as Jergens® Original Scent, becomes the best-selling hand lotion in America.


Kao Corporation acquires Jergens® making them part of the Kao family.


The John Frieda® Frizz Ease® Hair Serum is launched and lands a spot in Allure’s Cosmetic Hall of Fame and is named InStyle’s Product of the Decade.


Kao launches Bioré® in the US. Their Pore Deep Cleansing Nose Strip is introduced and becomes the top-selling skin care product.


Kao acquires the skin care brands Curél® and Soft Sense from Bausch & Lomb Incorporated.


Kao acquires the Ban brand from Chattem, Inc.


Kao acquires John Frieda Professional Hair Care, Inc.


Kao introduces Bioré® Warming Deep Pore Cleanser, one of the first warming cleansers in the Mass category to mimic the spa at home.


Jergens® Natural Glow, a revolutionary daily moisturizer, is invented. It sells out during the first week of advertising and becomes the largest new product launch in the history of its category.


Kao launches Jergens® body washes.

Kao launches John Frieda® Go Blonder, a breakthrough product tailored to deliver what blonde hair desires most.


Kao introduces Bioré® Charcoal products to the marketplace. They become a top-selling innovation and reshape the Mass skincare category.


Kao launches two new Jergens® products—Wet Skin Moisturizer and Natural Glow Instant Sun.


With diversity and inclusion in mind, Kao looked to various Historically Black Colleges and Universities for fresh, intuitive perspectives. Wakati (Swahili for “time”), a new hair care brand designed for people with natural hair textures was launched—a groundbreaking collaboration with Florida A&M University.


Kao launches John Frieda® Violet Crush to help blondes neutralize stubborn brassy tones for cooler, brighter blonde.

Kao launches Bioré® Rose Quartz, one of the first products to promote self-love for your pores in the marketplace.


Kao also launches SOL by Jergens® sunless tanning launch

Kao launches MyKirei by Kao, the first new brand developed and launched specifically for the U.S. market that incorporates Kao’s unique film packaging technology, using significantly less plastic than traditional bottles.

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Kao Salon Division



Hans Erich Dotter, 27-year-old businessman, founds Goldwell, building a company that focuses exclusively on hairdressers as business partners. Its first product is an innovative cold perm.



Goldwell creates a shampoo system that’s economical in terms of dispensing and professional in terms of handling as well as Sprühgold—still the no. 1 salon hairspray in Germany to this day.


Goldwell moves into the fast-growing permanent color category.


Biochemist Jamey Mazzotta uses his passion for creating innovative haircare products to establish KMS California in Redding, California.


Goldwell creates the first color lotion depot system for convenient and consistent results with 100% accuracy.


KMS introduces Control, one of the first heat styling products on the market.


Kao acquires Goldwell in 1989, making them part of the Kao family.


KMS introduces FLATOUT, known today as THERMASHAPE Straightening Cream, the first professional non-chemical relaxer.


KMS introduces breakthrough product HAIRPLAY Molding Paste.


In a true breakthrough with new technology, Goldwell introduces its expert color range with a Kao patent, Elumen.


Goldwell acquires KMS California.


Renowned editorial and celebrity hairstylist, Oribe Canales along with Daniel Kaner and Tevya Finger create Oribe Hair Care. Their 20-product launch in salons was featured in Vogue Magazine.

KMS introduces two innovative products—HAIRPLAY Makeover Spray, one of the first modern dry shampoos, and HAIRPLAY Dry Wax, a styling product developed to create a matte look that has been a best-seller since its launch.


Goldwell® introduces new Kerasilk, the first long-lasting and customizable Keratin treatment service with an additional home care program.


Oribe launches its Gold Lust Repair & Restore Collection and is named in Forbes’ list of Most Promising Companies in America.


Oribe launches best-selling Bright Blonde for Beautiful Color Collection.


Oribe launches its Bodycare Collection.


Kao adds Oribe to its family of brands.

KMS introduces STYLE COLOR, the first temporary hair color giving people around the world the opportunity to change their hair color like they change their clothes.


Oribe launches the Moisture & Control for Highly Textured Hair Collection.

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Molton Brown


Caroline Burstein co-founds Molton Brown, blending haircare products by hand above a salon on London’s south Molton Street, Mayfair.


Molton Brown launches its first collection of body products, starting their love affair with exotically scented skin-conditioning body washes, body lotions and bath oils.


Molton Brown launches MB Men, a full skincare, haircare, fragrance and shaving line-up.


Molton Brown launches its instantly-bestselling Black Peppercorn Body Wash.


Kao acquires Molton Brown making it part of the Kao family.


Molton Brown named winner of Cosmetic Executive Women’s “Best British Brand” award and is granted Royal Warrant for the supply of toiletries to the royal household.


Molton Brown® wins awards for “Best Men’s Grooming Product” for Post Shave Recovery Balm and “Best Bath & Body Product” for its Rhubarb & Rose Body Wash.

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