Inside the Bottle: Shampoo Then & Now

Since we’ve discussed what a shampoo is composed of, let’s talk about the history and innovation around the formulation of the product.

Shampoo Then (More than 100 Years Ago)

Shampoo as we know it today has only existed for about 100 years. Prior to 1903, the act of hair washing ranged from a head massage with fragrant oils to boiling pieces of “shaved soap” bars in water. There are a range of early methods, however let’s focus on the past hundred years or so.

Then to Now (~Past 100 Years)

Bars of soap were used to wash hair until 1903 when Hans Schwarzkopf invented a lavender powder soap. Yes, shampoo used to be in bar form and in powder form! That being said, they are much different than the bars and now powder (OWA) we are using to wash our hair today. Shampoo and soap are different. Think about it, would you use liquid hand soap to wash your hair? Probably not.

The first version of liquid shampoo (still “soap”) was invented in 1927 by Hans Schwarzkopf. Since 1927, liquid has been the most common form factor for hair cleansing. It was not until 1933 that Hans Schwarzkopf created a soap-free liquid. Shortly after in 1934, P&G introduced the first synthetic, detergent-based liquid. These developments were the most significant in terms of what we know as know as modern-day liquid shampoo.

Since then, innovation related to washing our hair has mainly dealt with the innovation of raw materials (ingredients) and packaging. The most recent change in the form factor of shampoo was in 1987 when P&G released the first conditioning and cleansing shampoo, also known as the original 2-in-1 shampoo. Liquid shampoo has remained the norm for almost 100 years.

Shampoo Now

Today major industry players have innovated around feature-driven haircare. We now have products that have been optimized to volumize, hydrate and moisturize. There are shampoo formulas that have been designed for thick hair, fine hair, curly hair and colored hair. In just the past couple of years, we’ve seen innovation in haircare come from startup beauty-tech brands like Function of Beauty and Prose, which use hair quizzes to customize shampoo based on a person’s hair type. An algorithm is then utilized to create a personalized formula optimized for that person’s hair.

The Future of Hair Washing

What’s next for shampoo and haircare in general? We think transparent environmental sustainability. Although the brands have commercialized biodegradable shampoos and made packaging more sustainable, they are only addressing certain areas of a product’s life cycle. The fact that these formulas aren’t considering the impact from start to finish leaves room for innovation. We see the future of haircare being delivered as lightweight, scientifically-advanced, concentrated formulas that decrease the product’s life cycle from beginning to end.

Read the Details:

Schwarzkopf: 120 Years of Innovation

P&G, A Company History, 1837 – Today

Then and Now: Shampoo Formulations through the Years