American Leo Gerstenzang invented the first cotton bud in the early 1920s. He came up with the idea when he saw his wife cleaning their baby’s ears with cotton wool wrapped around a toothpick. Thus the ready-to-use cotton swab was born.
Leo founded the Leo Gerstenzang Infant Novelty Company to market his cotton swabs under the name ‘Baby Gays’. He changed the name to ‘Q-tips Baby Gays’ in 1926. Later, the swabs came to be known as ‘Q-Tips’. The ‘Q’ in Q-Tips stands for quality and the word ‘Tips’ describes the cotton swab at the end of the stick.
Over the course of time, Q-Tips entered the cosmetic market. The swabs began to be used for removing makeup and nail polish etc. In the 1950’s, Q-tips cotton swabs were recognized by Hollywood glamour and partnered with America’s top Hollywood makeup artist, Ern Westmore, to create the ‘Lesson in Loveliness with Q-tips’ booklet.
Although it is said that using cotton swab for ear cleaning or scratching is not safe, it is most commonly used.