The strange history of shampoo

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Shampoo is probably my top beauty product.

It gets rid of that two-day grease, boosts volume and makes my mane smell amazing. 

But where did this hair miracle come from? Well, here’s where it was invented, and how it evolved to become the hair must-have…

1. Who created shampoo?

While we have the ancient Egyptians to thank for a lot of our beauty staples, shampoo was actually invented in India. As early as the 1500s, India’s innovators used the pulp of soapberries (which contains a not-so-sudsy detergent) combined with herbs and hibiscus flowers to keep their hair looking fab. 

They were clearly onto something with the herbs. These are some of our fave herby shampoos:

2. It starts catching on…

At the same time, British colonial traders were going back and forth between India and England. They caught wind of the mysterious shampoo (and loved it, obvs) and brought it over to Europe. Prior to this, hair in the Western world would have been pretty rank. Just sayin’. 

The word ‘shampoo’ entered the English language around this time. For those who’re interested, it dates to 1762 and is derived from the Hindi word ‘chāmpo’ (which is itself derived from the Sanskrit root ‘capayati’, which means to press, knead, soothe). That’s your fun fact of the day, sorted!

3. European expansion (of shampoo)

Initially, shampoo wasn’t available to the mass market. Only professional hairstylists got to use it, and it came in a solid form, a lot like a bar of soap! 

Thankfully, by the 1800s, the rest of society was happily lathering up at home. But not regularly, mind you: shampoo was a luxury product, so they were only using it about once a month. 

4. “How often should you shampoo?”

In 1908, the New York Times announced it was fine for shampoo-lovers to wash their hair every couple of weeks (hey, it’s an improvement). Unfortunately, this only applied to those with unhealthy hair:

“…specialists recommend the shampooing of the hair as often as every two weeks, but from a month to six weeks should be a better interval if the hair is in fairly good condition.” 

White castile soap or tar soap were both recommended as good shampoos. They weren’t exactly luxe, though…

Image credit: iherb.com

5. Liquid shampoo is invented

Liquid shampoo was invented in the 1920s (yay)! As a result, shampooing became a LOT easier. Fast forward to the 1930s, and the first pH-balanced shampoo was developed. 

6. Today’s shampoos

We’ve definitely improved on the original formula, with hair scientists creating specialised shampoos (and conditioners) to meet specific hair needs.

Some of us are keen to wash our hair every day, but dermatologists and beauty experts say it’s a bad idea. They suggest aiming for two to three times a week. 

7. Co-washing 

It’s shampoo, but not as you know it. Co-washers are scrapping the usual two-to-one ratio of shampoo and conditioner, and using just one product to clean and condition their hair. 

Devotees of this method say it’s great for curly, textured or frizzy hair, as it nurtures locks and controls oil. 

While the no-poo movement is becoming more popular, I’m still a big believer in shampoo!

Did you know any of these facts about shampoo? What other beauty products would you be interested in learning the history of? 

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