Who Invented Hair Products? From Soap To Shampoo – A Look Back Through History

Who Invented Hair Products?


Hair care was not always as trouble-free and full of individual possibilities as it is today. At the turn of the century, hair washing alone was considered to be a cumbersome and uncomfortable procedure. Water needed to be warmed on the stove, and for a washing additive, there was only basic soap. This was difficult to distribute throughout the hair and hard to rinse out. After drying, hair appeared quite dull and thus unattractive.


The First Hair Washing Powder

The light at the end of the hair care tunnel came in 1904. Upon the suggestion of a customer, Berlin druggist Hans Schwarzkopf developed a hair washing powder that dissolved in water. Prompted by high demand, the resourceful druggist expanded his offer in the following years to include several kinds of powder that were already specialized for different hair types.

From Hair Washing to Hair Care

A liquid “shampoon” eventually followed in 1927, which made hair washing even easier; it could be applied directly to wet hair. The word shampoon, incidentally, comes from the Indian word that means “to rub,” or “massage.” Though this shampoo was practical, it still contained soap substances, whose alkaline reaction prevented the shine longed-for in hair. But a solution to this problem was found in 1933 when the first non-alkaline shampoo was sold under the name “Schwarzkopf extra mild.” With this, “hair cleaning” finally became true “hair care.” After World War II, the hair care sector experienced a rapid increase. More improved products and a variety of new innovations captured the market.

By 1949, the first “Schauma-Crème-Shaumpon” was sold in shops- the first shampoo in a tube- which made for easy application. This was the birth of a classic brand, which in 1999 celebrated its 50 year anniversary. Today, everyone can choose from a large variety of high-quality brands, which leaves virtually nothing to be desired.

The History of Coloration

For centuries, hair color has played a significant role in humans. Already in antiquity, it was a symbol of social status, dignity, and courage, and it represents youth and beauty still today. Throughout history, people have tried to demonstrate eternal youth by using many optical tricks.

Hair Coloring in Egypt and the Roman Empire

Ancient Egyptian women, for example, mixed indigo leaves and henna, which gave their black hair an alluring reddish or bluish black shimmer. Roman women during the time of Caesar preferred instead a light blond color, as this corresponded to the hair color of heroes and the gods. To achieve this ideal hue, dark haired Roman women applied fragrant plant essences to wet hair and then bleached it for hours in the sun.

Color throughout Time

In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I made a bold red socially acceptable. While the natural hair color of “Her Majesty” was a red tone, other women colored their hair with henna. Black and blue were sought after hair colors during the baroque, and in the rococo period, even blue and pink came into fashion, which was applied in the form of a fine powder to ubiquitous, towering wigs. Finally, our grandmothers swore by yellow gold chamomile extract for blondes, walnut shells for brunettes and henna for redheads. With this help, hair color was not drastically altered; rather, the natural tone was replenished and enhanced.

The First “Real” Blond- A Revolution

In 1867, a small revolution was experienced the Paris World’s Fair. Three percent hydrogen peroxide was presented as the fountain of youth and could bleach hair to the lightest blond in a short amount of time. In 1888, the first modern coloring method was patented by a German chemist. Eventually, Poly Color Cremehaarfarbe came on the market, which was the first liquid hair coloring and blonding for home use. Poly became the pioneer and leader in at-home hair colorations. Research is performed in the field to this day so that increasingly high-quality products are made available to meet almost every need.

Perms- A Historical Perspective

Next to the wish of changing hair color, people also tried to adapt the form of their hair to current fashion in order to attain the beauty ideal of their respective epoch.

Ideas from Antiquity

Ancient Egyptian women plaited their hair and adorned it with jewelry. To give their hair more structure and hold, they used mud and plant-based creams. The Greeks of antiquity curled and waved their hair after the archetype of their ancient gods. They rolled moist strands of hair around sticks and exposed them to the sun. Water and heat ensured a relatively lasting shape. Roman women, who were strongly influenced by the Greeks, created even more voluptuous curls. They wound their hair around thin tubes that had been heated in glowing hot coals.

And so it continued…

The concept of shaping hair with the help of heat continued throughout the centuries and was continually improved. In the 17th century, hair was treated with cauteries, and corkscrew curls which fell over the ears were particularly popular.

The 18th century was characterized by the voluptuous towering wigs and extravagant hair creations which can still be admired today in historical representations.

At the turn of the 20th century, permanents also eventually became “industrialized,” and the first permanent apparatuses came on the market. The heating principle continued to be the basis for reshaping the hair.

The Triumph of the Cold Permanent

In 1936, the English scientist J.B. Speakman revolutionized the permanent wave business. He discovered that thioglycolate (a salt of thioglycolic acid) can change the structure of the hair, thus making heat no longer necessary. On the basis of this discovery, the triumphal procession of cold permanents began, whose functional principle is still relevant today.

The first cold permanent for home use was put on the market by Poly in 1961. The application was made simpler, and increasingly, hair was permed at home.

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