While shampoo as we know it is a relatively recent invention, our ancestors have been washing, cleansing and scrubbing their scalps since time began with DIY blends of ingredients. Ancient Egyptians developed an early hair and scalp cleanser from the appropriately-named soap-wort plant, mixed with water. Native Americans used it too, but blended with the chaparral plant for a shampoo designed to fight dandruff. We see similar developments and blends across the globe – with Chinese and Brazilian communities adding honey to their shampoo, and African countries adding ingredients including ash, papaya and fragrant oils for diverse, problem-solving cleansers.
Over the centuries dry shampoo was often favoured over liquid preparations; in eras and locations where running water was a luxury and general hygiene standards weren’t what they could be, shaving your head and wearing a powdered wig was often a better option and dry shampoo helped you keep it fresh between wears.
By the end of the 1800s, commercial shampoos were taking over from soap and powder as the preference – coinciding with the increase in home bathrooms with running water. Consumers could choose from fragrances they liked and solutions that appealed, and advertising came into its own with endless images of long, shiny, bouncy hair selling an image of beauty which went unchanged for decades.
As for the name shampoo, it’s derived from the Hindu word for massage (‘champoo’) – reminding us that a good head rub is always an important part of the cleansing process for the health of our scalps as well as a squeaky clean finish.