Shampoo lather in hair
Shampoo lather in hair
Bottles of shampoo and lotions manufactured in the early 20th century by the C.L. Hamilton Co. of Washington, D.C., United States
Bottles of shampoo and lotions manufactured in the early 20th century by the C.L. Hamilton Co. of Washington, D.C., United States

Shampoo (/ʃæmˈp/) is a hair care product, typically in the form of a viscous liquid, that is used for cleaning hair. Less commonly, shampoo is available in solid bar format. Shampoo is used by applying it to wet hair, massaging the product into the scalp, and then rinsing it out. Some users may follow a shampooing with the use of hair conditioner.

Shampoo is typically used to remove the unwanted build-up of sebum in the hair without stripping out so much as to make hair unmanageable. Shampoo is generally made by combining a surfactant, most often sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, with a co-surfactant, most often cocamidopropyl betaine in water. The sulfate ingredient acts as a surfactant, trapping oils and other contaminants, similarly to soap.

Specialty shampoos are marketed to people with dandruff, color-treated hair, gluten or wheat allergies,[why?] an interest in using an organic product, infants and young children ("baby shampoo" is less irritating). There are also shampoos intended for animals that may contain insecticides or other medications to treat skin conditions or parasite infestations such as fleas.


The word shampoo entered the English language from the Indian subcontinent during the colonial era.[1] It dated to 1762 and was derived from the Hindi word cā̃pō (चाँपो, pronounced [tʃãːpoː]),[2][3] itself derived from the Sanskrit root capati (चपति), which means 'to press, knead, or soothe'.[4][5]


Indian subcontinent

In the Indian subcontinent, a variety of herbs and their extracts have been used as shampoos since ancient times. The first origin of shampoo came from the Indus Valley Civilization. A very effective early shampoo was made by boiling Sapindus with dried Indian gooseberry (amla) and a selection of other herbs, using the strained extract.[citation needed] Sapindus, also known as soapberries or soapnuts, a tropical tree widespread in India, is called ksuna (Sanskrit: क्षुण)[6] in ancient Indian texts and its fruit pulp contains saponins which are a natural surfactant. The extract of soapberries creates a lather which Indian texts called phenaka (Sanskrit: फेनक).[7] It leaves the hair soft, shiny and manageable. Other products used for hair cleansing were shikakai (Acacia concinna), hibiscus flowers,[8][9] ritha (Sapindus mukorossi) and arappu (Albizzia amara).[10] Guru Nanak, the founder and the first Guru of Sikhism, made references to soapberry tree and soap in the 16th century.[11]

Cleansing the hair and body massage (champu) during one's daily bath was an indulgence of early colonial traders in India. When they returned to Europe, they introduced the newly learned habits, including the hair treatment they called shampoo.[12]


Swedish advertisement for toiletries, 1905/1906
Swedish advertisement for toiletries, 1905/1906

Sake Dean Mahomed, a Bengali traveller, surgeon, and entrepreneur, is credited with introducing the practice of shampoo or "shampooing" to Britain. In 1814, Mahomed, with his Irish wife Jane Daly, opened the first commercial "shampooing" vapour masseur bath in England, in Brighton. He described the treatment in a local paper as "The Indian Medicated Vapour Bath (type of Turkish bath), a cure to many diseases and giving full relief when everything fails; particularly Rheumatic and paralytic, gout, stiff joints, old sprains, lame legs, aches and pains in the joints".[13]

During the early stages of shampoo in Europe, English hair stylists boiled shaved soap in water and added herbs to give the hair shine and fragrance. Commercially made shampoo was available from the turn of the 20th century. A 1914 advertisement for Canthrox Shampoo in American Magazine showed young women at camp washing their hair with Canthrox in a lake; magazine advertisements in 1914 by Rexall featured Harmony Hair Beautifier and Shampoo.[14]

In 1900, German perfumer and hair-stylist Josef Wilhelm Rausch developed the first liquid hair washing soap and named it "Champooing" in Emmishofen, Switzerland. Later, in 1919, J.W. Rausch developed an antiseptic Chamomile Shampooing (pH 8.5)

In 1927, liquid shampoo was improved for mass production by German inventor Hans Schwarzkopf in Berlin; his name became a shampoo brand sold in Europe.

Originally, soap and shampoo were very similar products; both containing the same naturally derived surfactants, a type of detergent. Modern shampoo as it is known today was first introduced in the 1930s with Drene, the first shampoo using synthetic surfactants instead of soap. Shampoo is also more beneficial for the hair roots.[15]


Early shampoos used in Indonesia were made from the husk and straw (merang) of rice. The husks and straws were burned into ash, and the ashes (which have alkaline properties) are mixed with water to form lather. The ashes and lather were scrubbed into the hair and rinsed out, leaving the hair clean, but very dry. Afterwards, coconut oil was applied to the hair in order to moisturize it.[16]


Filipinos have been traditionally using gugo before commercial shampoos were sold in stores. The shampoo is obtained by soaking and rubbing the bark of the vine Gugo (Entada phaseoloides),[17][18] producing a lather that cleanses the scalp effectively. Gugo is also used as an ingredient in hair tonics.[19]

Pre-Columbian North America

Certain Native American tribes used extracts from North American plants as hair shampoo; for example the Costanoans of present-day coastal California used extracts from the coastal woodfern, Dryopteris expansa.[20]

Pre-Columbian South America

Before quinoa can be eaten the saponin must be washed out from the grain prior to cooking. Pre-Columbian Andean civilizations used this soapy by-product as a shampoo.[21]


Typical liquid shampoo
Typical liquid shampoo

Shampoo is generally made by combining a surfactant, most often sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, with a co-surfactant, most often cocamidopropyl betaine in water to form a thick, viscous liquid. Other essential ingredients include salt (sodium chloride), which is used to adjust the viscosity, a preservative and fragrance.[22][23] Other ingredients are generally included in shampoo formulations to maximize the following qualities:

Many shampoos are pearlescent. This effect is achieved by the addition of tiny flakes of suitable materials, e.g. glycol distearate, chemically derived from stearic acid, which may have either animal or vegetable origins. Glycol distearate is a wax. Many shampoos also include silicone to provide conditioning benefits.

Commonly used ingredients

Benefit claims regarding ingredients

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that shampoo containers accurately list ingredients on the products container. The government further regulates what shampoo manufacturers can and cannot claim as any associated benefit. Shampoo producers often use these regulations to challenge marketing claims made by competitors, helping to enforce these regulations. While the claims may be substantiated, however, the testing methods and details of such claims are not as straightforward. For example, many products are purported to protect hair from damage due to ultraviolet radiation. While the ingredient responsible for this protection does block UV, it is not often present in a high enough concentration to be effective. The North American Hair Research Society has a program to certify functional claims based on third-party testing. Shampoos made for treating medical conditions such as dandruff[26] or itchy scalp are regulated as OTC drugs[27] in the US marketplace.

In the European Union, there is a requirement for the anti-dandruff claim to be substantiated as with any other advertising claim, but it is not considered to be a medical problem.[citation needed]

Health risks

A number of contact allergens are used as ingredients in shampoos, and contact allergy caused by shampoos is well known.[28] Patch testing can identify ingredients to which patients are allergic, after which a physician can help the patient find a shampoo that is free of the ingredient to which they are allergic.[28][29] The US bans 11 ingredients from shampoos, Canada bans 587, and the EU bans 1328.[30]

Specialized shampoos


Cosmetic companies have developed shampoos specifically for those who have dandruff. These contain fungicides such as ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione and selenium disulfide, which reduce loose dander by killing fungi like Malassezia furfur. Coal tar and salicylate derivatives are often used as well. Alternatives to medicated shampoos are available for people who wish to avoid synthetic fungicides. Such shampoos often use tea tree oil, essential oils or herbal extracts.[31]

Colored hair

Many companies have also developed color-protection shampoos suitable for colored hair; some of these shampoos contain gentle cleansers according to their manufacturers.


Shampoo for infants and young children is formulated so that it is less irritating and usually less prone to produce a stinging or burning sensation if it were to get into the eyes. For example, Johnson's Baby Shampoo advertises under the premise of "No More Tears". This is accomplished by one or more of the following formulation strategies.

  1. dilution, in case the product comes in contact with eyes after running off the top of the head with minimal further dilution
  2. adjusting pH to that of non-stress tears, approximately 7, which may be a higher pH than that of shampoos which are pH adjusted for skin or hair effects, and lower than that of shampoo made of soap
  3. Use of surfactants which, alone or in combination, are less irritating than those used in other shampoos (e.g. Sodium lauroamphoacetate)
  4. use of nonionic surfactants of the form of polyethoxylated synthetic glycolipids and polyethoxylated synthetic monoglycerides, which counteract the eye sting of other surfactants without producing the anesthetizing effect of alkyl polyethoxylates or alkylphenol polyethoxylates

The distinction in 4 above does not completely surmount the controversy over the use of shampoo ingredients to mitigate eye sting produced by other ingredients, or the use of the products so formulated. The considerations in 3 and 4 frequently result in a much greater multiplicity of surfactants being used in individual baby shampoos than in other shampoos, and the detergency or foaming of such products may be compromised thereby. The monoanionic sulfonated surfactants and viscosity-increasing or foam stabilizing alkanolamides seen so frequently in other shampoos are much less common in the better baby shampoos.

Sulfate-free shampoos

Sulfate-free shampoos are composed of natural ingredients and free from both sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium Laureth sulfate.[32] These shampoos use alternative surfactants to cleanse the hair.


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Shampoo intended for animals may contain insecticides or other medications for treatment of skin conditions or parasite infestations such as fleas or mange. These must never be used on humans. While some human shampoos may be harmful when used on animals, any human haircare products that contain active ingredients or drugs (such as zinc in anti-dandruff shampoos) are potentially toxic when ingested by animals. Special care must be taken not to use those products on pets. Cats are at particular risk due to their instinctive method of grooming their fur with their tongues.

Shampoos that are especially designed to be used on pets, commonly dogs and cats, are normally intended to do more than just clean the pet's coat or skin. Most of these shampoos contain ingredients which act differently and are meant to treat a skin condition or an allergy or to fight against fleas.

The main ingredients contained by pet shampoos can be grouped in insecticidals, antiseborrheic, antibacterials, antifungals, emollients, emulsifiers and humectants. Whereas some of these ingredients may be efficient in treating some conditions, pet owners are recommended to use them according to their veterinarian's indications because many of them cannot be used on cats or can harm the pet if it is misused. Generally, insecticidal pet shampoos contain pyrethrin, pyrethroids (such as permethrin and which may not be used on cats) and carbaryl. These ingredients are mostly found in shampoos that are meant to fight against parasite infestations.

Antifungal shampoos are used on pets with yeast or ringworm infections. These might contain ingredients such as miconazole, chlorhexidine, providone iodine, ketoconazole or selenium sulfide (which cannot be used on cats).

Bacterial infections in pets are sometimes treated with antibacterial shampoos. They commonly contain benzoyl peroxide, chlorhexidine, povidone iodine, triclosan, ethyl lactate, or sulfur.

Antipruritic shampoos are intended to provide relief of itching due to conditions such as atopy and other allergies.[33] These usually contain colloidal oatmeal, hydrocortisone, Aloe vera, pramoxine hydrochloride, menthol, diphenhydramine, sulfur or salicylic acid. These ingredients are aimed to reduce the inflammation, cure the condition and ease the symptoms at the same time while providing comfort to the pet.

Antiseborrheic shampoos are those especially designed for pets with scales or those with excessive oily coats. These shampoos are made of sulfur, salicylic acid, refined tar (which cannot be used on cats), selenium sulfide (cannot be used on cats) and benzoyl peroxide. All these are meant to treat or prevent seborrhea oleosa, which is a condition characterized by excess oils. Dry scales can be prevented and treated with shampoos that contain sulfur or salicylic acid and which can be used on both cats and dogs.

Emollient shampoos are efficient in adding oils to the skin and relieving the symptoms of a dry and itchy skin. They usually contain oils such as almond, corn, cottonseed, coconut, olive, peanut, Persia, safflower, sesame, lanolin, mineral or paraffin oil. The emollient shampoos are typically used with emulsifiers as they help distributing the emollients. These include ingredients such as cetyl alcohol, laureth-5, lecithin, PEG-4 dilaurate, stearic acid, stearyl alcohol, carboxylic acid, lactic acid, urea, sodium lactate, propylene glycol, glycerin, or polyvinylpyrrolidone.

Although some of the pet shampoos are highly effective, some others may be less effective for some condition than another. Yet, although natural pet shampoos exist, it has been brought to attention that some of these might cause irritation to the skin of the pet. Natural ingredients that might be potential allergens for some pets include eucalyptus, lemon or orange extracts and tea tree oil.[34] On the contrary, oatmeal appears to be one of the most widely skin-tolerated ingredients that is found in pet shampoos. Most ingredients found in a shampoo meant to be used on animals are safe for the pet as there is a high likelihood that the pets will lick their coats, especially in the case of cats.

Pet shampoos which include fragrances, deodorants or colors may harm the skin of the pet by causing inflammations or irritation. Shampoos that do not contain any unnatural additives are known as hypoallergenic shampoos and are increasing in popularity.

Solid shampoo bars

Solid shampoos or shampoo bars can either be soap-based or use other plant-based surfactants, such as sodium cocoyl isethionate or sodium coco-sulfate combined with oils and waxes. Soap-based shampoo bars are high in pH (alkaline) compared to human hair and scalps, which are slightly acidic. Alkaline pH increases the friction of the hair fibres which may cause damage to the hair cuticle, making it feel rough and drying out the scalp.[35]

Jelly and gel

Stiff, non-pourable clear gels to be squeezed from a tube were once popular forms of shampoo, and can be produced by increasing a shampoo's viscosity. This type of shampoo cannot be spilled, but unlike a solid, it can still be lost down the drain by sliding off wet skin or hair.

Paste and cream

Shampoos in the form of pastes or creams were formerly marketed in jars or tubes. The contents were wet but not completely dissolved. They would apply faster than solids and dissolve quickly.


Antibacterial shampoos are often used in veterinary medicine for various conditions,[36][37] as well as in humans before some surgical procedures.[38][39]

No Poo Movement

Main article: No poo

Closely associated with environmentalism, the "no poo" movement consists of people rejecting the societal norm of frequent shampoo use. Some adherents of the no poo movement use baking soda or vinegar to wash their hair, while others use diluted honey. Further methods include the use of raw eggs (potentially mixed with salt water), rye flour, or chickpea flour dissolved in water. Other people use nothing or rinse their hair only with conditioner.[40][41]


In the 1970s, ads featuring Farrah Fawcett and Christie Brinkley asserted that it was unhealthy not to shampoo several times a week. This mindset is reinforced by the greasy feeling of the scalp after a day or two of not shampooing. Using shampoo every day removes sebum, the oil produced by the scalp. This causes the sebaceous glands to produce oil at a higher rate, to compensate for what is lost during shampooing. According to Michelle Hanjani, a dermatologist at Columbia University, a gradual reduction in shampoo use will cause the sebum glands to produce at a slower rate, resulting in less grease in the scalp.[42] Although this approach might seem unappealing to some individuals, many people try alternate shampooing techniques like baking soda and vinegar in order to avoid ingredients used in many shampoos that make hair greasy over time.[43]

There is no known mechanism in the body that allows the sebaceous glands to detect oil on the scalp and react accordingly, as such these claims are unsupported by current science.[citation needed][contradictory]

Whereas the use of baking soda for hair cleansing has been associated with hair damage and skin irritation, likely due to its high pH value and exfoliating properties, honey, egg, rye flour, and chickpea flour hair washes seem gentler for long-term use.[44]

See also


  1. ^ M. J. Campion, Hobson-Jobson: The words English owes to India. BBC News, 11 July 2012.
  2. ^ cā̃pō (चाँपो) is the imperative of cā̃pnā (चाँपना, pronounced [tʃãːpnaː]), 'to smear, knead the muscles, massage the head and hair'.
  3. ^ American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition, See Shampoo; Also see Shampoo. Hobson-Jobson (1903), University of Chicago.
  4. ^ Sanskrit Lexicon, University of Koeln, Germany, see चपयति (2008).
  5. ^ Shampoo, Etymology Dictionary (2006).
  6. ^ kSuNa, Sanskrit Lexicon, Monier-Williams Dictionary (1872)
  7. ^ phenaka, Spoken Sanskrit, University of Koeln, Germany
  8. ^ Rahman, History of Indian Science, Technology and Culture at Google Books, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195646528, page 145
  9. ^ "Tamil Nadu Medicinal plants board" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 21, 2011.
  10. ^ "Forestry :: Nursery Technologies".
  11. ^ Khushwant Singh, Hymns of Guru Nanak, Orient Longman, ISBN 978-8125011613
  12. ^ Virginia Smith (2007), Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199297795
  13. ^ Teltscher, Kate (2000). "The Shampooing Surgeon and the Persian Prince: Two Indians in Early Nineteenth-century Britain". Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies. 2 (3): 409–23. doi:10.1080/13698010020019226. S2CID 161906676.
  14. ^ Victoria Sherrow, Encyclopedia of hair: a cultural history, 2007 s.v. "Advertising" p. 7.
  15. ^ "From Pert: Do You Wash and Go?". Company Science Behind the Brands. Procter and Gamble. Archived from the original on 2007-02-16. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
  16. ^ "Agar RAMBUT Selalu Sehat". Kompas Cyber Media. 2004-04-11. Archived from the original on 2007-03-12. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
  17. ^ Diaz, Eden C. (1990). Home Economics, Practical Arts and Livelihood Education for College: Book Two. Rex Bookstore, Inc. p. 75. ISBN 978-971-23-0795-9. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  18. ^ Salas, Kinny (21 March 2014). "Thick, lush, sexy hair from drugstore products". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  19. ^ Gonzales, Lucas L.; Quimio, Marcos J. Jr.; Calinawan, Rogelio. "Response of gugo to differing potting media" (PDF). Canopy International. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 27: 3. ISSN 0115-0960. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 June 2021. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  20. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Coastal Woodfern (Dryopteris arguta), GlobalTwitcher, ed. N. Stromberg Archived 2011-07-11 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Quinoa – March Grain of the Month". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
  22. ^ Robbins, Clarence R., Chemical and physical behavior of human hair, 4th ed (Springer Verlag: New York) 2002.
  23. ^ ChemViews (2012). "Shampoo Science". ChemViews. doi:10.1002/chemv.201200149.
  24. ^ "Latest innovations" (PDF). Retrieved September 4, 2019.
  25. ^ "How To Make Clarifying Shampoo – Dermatologist Explains – Clarifying Shampoos". 10 June 2022. Retrieved 2022-06-20.
  26. ^ "Dandruff".
  27. ^ Research, Center for Drug Evaluation and (May 20, 2019). "OTC (Nonprescription) Drugs". FDA.
  28. ^ a b "Shampoos".
  29. ^ "Patch tests | DermNet NZ".
  30. ^ Schlanger, Zoe (27 June 2017). "Will your shampoo make your hair fall out? The US government isn't sure". Quartz. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  31. ^ Aburjai, Talal; Natsheh, Feda M. (November 2003). "Plants used in cosmetics". Phytotherapy Research. 17 (9): 987–1000. doi:10.1002/ptr.1363. PMID 14595575. S2CID 19327387.
  32. ^ Suhira, Munshi. "Sulfate-free Shampoo Recipe". Shebegan. Shebegan Mag. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  33. ^ "Dog Shampoos: The Function of Common Ingredients". Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  34. ^ "Common Canine Skin Irritants". Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  35. ^ Gavazzoni Dias, Maria Fernandareis; Pichler, Janine; Adriano, Andrericardo; Cecato, Patricia; De Almeida, Andreiamunck (2014). "The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality?". Int J Trichology. 6 (2014 Jul-Sep, 6(3)): 95–99. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.139078. PMC 4158629. PMID 25210332.
  36. ^ Guaguere, E. (1996). "Topical treatment of canine and feline pyoderma". Veterinary Dermatology. 7 (3): 145–151. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3164.1996.tb00239.x. PMID 34644989.
  37. ^ Mueller, R. S. (2004). "Treatment protocols for demodicosis: an evidence-based review". Veterinary Dermatology. 15 (2): 75–89. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3164.2004.00344.x. PMID 15030556.
  38. ^ Williams Iii, E. F.; Lam, S. M. (2003). "Midfacial Rejuvenation Via an Endoscopic Browlift Approach: A Review of Technique". Facial Plastic Surgery. 19 (2): 147–156. doi:10.1055/s-2003-40001. PMID 12825156.
  39. ^ Raney, J. P.; Kirk, E. A. (1988). "The use of an Ommaya reservoir for administration of morphine sulphate to control pain in select cancer patients". Journal of Neuroscience Nursing. 20 (1): 23–29. doi:10.1097/01376517-198802000-00004. PMID 2963870. S2CID 23825496.
  40. ^ "How to Wash Your Hair Without Shampoo: 11 steps". 2012-03-20. Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  41. ^ tubular (2008-03-19). "How to Go No Poo". Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  42. ^ "When It Comes To Shampoo, Less Is More". Retrieved 2012-04-25.
  43. ^ "How to Quit Shampoo Without Becoming Disgusting". 2011-04-20.
  44. ^ "Clarifying Shampoos – Big, glossy, bouncy hair!". Retrieved 2022-06-20.