Shampoos? The Fascinating History Behind This Everyday Product Was Quite Surprising!

The creation and early use of our common day scalp shampoo is not well documented. Some suggest that the first shampoos were created by the royal herbalists for the Egyptian Mamluk Sultanate in the early 16th. Century. However documented evidence point to Northern India as the original “birth place” of the shampoo sometime in the early 18th. Century. These early shampoos were made by blending berries, herbs and plant oils (in most cases coconut oil) into a thick paste that was gently massaged into the scalp. This thick herbal concoction was called “Champo” a word most probably derived from the sanskrit word “capayati” meaning to massage and sooth.


These Champos served a dual purpose of massaging and cleansing the scalp in a single seating. This trend caught on quickly throughout India and with the ever expanding British East India Company in Calcutta, the idea would subsequently reach the British shores through enterprising Indian entrepreneur in the early 19th. Century. The most notable of these being Sake Mahomed, who together with his Irish wife opened up a chain of Turkish baths in London. By the mid 19th. Century the idea had spread throughout Europe and by the late 19th. Century the traditional “Champo” underwent further “changes and refinement” both in France and Germany.


By the early 20th. Century the Champo’s thick pasty consistency had gradually given way to bars and liquid forms. Herbal extracts too had now given way to laboratory created compounds for “added” benefits. Manufacturing had now shifted from traditional small home based businesses to machine run factories, helping cut costs while increasing market accessibility. The traditional scalp massage used for relaxation had now changed to a cleansing scalp massage which one could self-indulge in the comfort of their own bathrooms, rather then having to frequent the traditional public baths where such services had become exclusive and offered at high prices. This shift in paradigm created a sudden burst of awareness in the importance placed on the shampoo both as a health and beauty product. This sudden increase in demand created a massive chain of innovative ideas that would propel this once traditional village product to a global must have product.


Some of these innovations included the introduction of pH balanced shampoos, 2 in 1 shampoos that both cleanse and condition. More recent innovations saw the introduction of deep cleansing shampoos, moisturizing shampoo and anti-bacterial shampoos. With all this said, a sense of awe and appreciation has to be given to the initial creators of the Champo and a sense of wonder if they ever could have imaged the impact their creation would have on modern society.


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