A Brief Hair Care History

When referring to gray hair, the famous English humorist named P. G. Wodehouse once said that there is only one thing in the world that would cure gray hair. That particular one thing was invented by a Frenchman and it is called “guillotine.” People in general and women, in particular, have always paid a lot of interest to their hair care especially because the glossy, thick and beautiful hair was a sign of good wealth and good health.

Ever since ancient times, plants have been the best sources for the making of good quality hair care products. In those times, people used herbal steeped teas to rinse their hair and give it shine and good resistance. Rosemary was the most frequently used plant for hair care, and many hair care products still have it as a basic ingredient. A cup of boiling water poured over some chopped rosemary leaves, which is then allowed to stand until it cools off, is a perfect hair rinsing product.

Chamomile was used for highlighting blonde hair nuances. A few tablespoons of dried chamomile must be added to a small cup of water, and both of them need to be put into a saucepan. It must be boiled for about half an hour, allow it get cold and take out the flowers in order to make the rinsing easier. Garden sage was used, on the other hand, for darkening light shades of brownish hair.

Back in the 19th century and perhaps even in more faraway times, women used black walnuts’ steeped hulls for darkening their hair. Because it can tone down the gray hair color, it may be considered to be a real hair dyeing product. Shagbark hickory, pecan, and walnut hulls were used in the old times for coloring clothes, baskets, leathers and yarns. Ancient Romans highly appreciated blonde hair. Women used mullein flowers in order to bring out the golden highlights in their hair. Middle Age people used marigold petals for rinsing their hair.

Yucca was used by the Southwest Native Americans for washing their hair. Apparently, the big roots of this plant contain certain mild saponifiers that have the quality of cleaning the hair without leaving residues or damaging the hair. The Natives used to dig up the roots, chop them smoothly and then steep them in water for about half an hour. Even after modern soaps became available, many tribal groups still preferred yucca because of its gentle way of cleansing one’s hair, without stripping or drying its structure. Because only the rich could afford cosmetics in the old times, a natural herbal cosmetics-based industry appeared. People did not use the plants and herbs solely for cooking, that’s for sure.

People have been using natural oils as hair conditioners for centuries. These wonders of nature are still used nowadays. These natural oils include essential oils like tea tree oil or some other carrier oils such as jojoba oil for instance. In the late Victorian age, there men used Macassar oil as a conditioner. The name of the product is due to the fact that its ingredients were manufactured and bought in the Makassar port in Indonesia. It is made of palm oil or coconut oil, or of Schleicher tri juga, mixed with ylang-ylang oil. Ylang-ylang oil is made of ylang-ylang tree flowers and some other perfumed oils. Because this oil was usually transferred from the fine gentleman’s hair to the back of his seat, the antimacassar was invented. It was a crocheted, embroidered or mass-produced small cloth which was pinned to the back of the chair in order to protect the upholstery from being tainted.

What we now call conditioner appeared in the 20th century. Ed. Pinaud, a reputed perfumer, came up with a new product called “brilliantine” in 1900, at the Paris “Exposition Universelle.” It was meant to make men’s hair softer, and it was also used for mustaches and beards. Hair conditioning industry has largely developed since then, and hair care products began to include ammonium compounds, silicon, fatty alcohols, and so on. Because of the use of these substances, hair conditioners no longer leave the hair heavy or greasy, but smooth and silky. It is however interesting to remark that the basic ingredients have remained the same since those old days to nowadays.

 

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