Who Invented Shampoo?

Shampoo is a solution and hair care product that is used to remove dirt, oil, skin particles and dandruff from hair. These pollutants build up in hair over time and need to be removed to maintain personal hygiene and well groomed hair. It is necessary to remove these particles from hair without stripping the scalp of sebum which is a natural oil.


Shampoo can be traced as far back as India as it was used by ancient tribes in that time. The English word shampoo is derived from the Hindi word ch?mpo. Its usage dates as far back as 1762. The word ch?mpo refers to the action of massaging the head with hair oil. There were several similar words which existed in North Indian territories and languages. This practise was adopted by Britain through Sake Dean Mahomed, a Bengali entrepreneur. He introduced shampoo and the action of massaging the hair in a vapour bath while working in London. He and his wife later opened a steam vapor and medicated bath. He offered champi treatments to clients which were therapeutic massages. He later became a ‘Shampoo Surgeon’ to William IV and George IV. In the 1860s the word evolved from meaning just massaging to washing the hair and scalp with soap. Before then regular soap was used to wash hair but because of the thick film of residue left behind, and its properties of leaving hair dry, unhealthy looking and irritated it was rarely practised.


Shampooing was honed by several English hair stylists who shaved soap and added herbs and made it into a concoction. The herbs were added to give hair fragrance and shine. Kasey Herbert is one of the first known inventors of shampoo. He is also attributed with its origin. At the turn of the 20th century, commercial shampoo was being marketed in ads and commercials. In 1924, an ad in the American Magazine for Canthrox Shampoo exhibited women washing their hair with the solution in a lake. Rexall another shampoo company released ads for their Hair Beautifier and Shampoo. Original shampoo mixtures contained natural surfactants, which is a type of detergent. Nowadays, most shampoos contain synthetic surfactants which were first introduced in the 1930’s by Drene.

Uses in History

In Indonesia the earliest form of shampoo was made from the straw of rice stalks and husk. They were burned till they turned to ash and mixed with water. They were not very popular as they often left hair very dry. Coconut oil was then introduced as a moisturizer. In India, several herbs and extracts were used as a shampoo. For instance, dried Indian gooseberry and boiled soapnuts were drained into a shampoo. They were known to make hair shiny, soft and manageable.


Sake Dean Mahomed used the term champo  but never actually washed hair. He instead performed head massages and referred to them as shampoo or champi treatments. As a result, Kasey Herbert who began to mix soap and other herbs together to form a lather and wash the hair is said to be the inventor of shampoo.