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The History of Shampoo

Ever wondered how shampoo came to be? The word itself comes from the Hindu word champo, which means to massage or knead. The first known mention of shampoo dates back to the 4th century B.C., when the Greek historian Strabo wrote about India’s practice of shampooing. But while India seems to have a long-standing tradition of shampooing, the grooming practice didn’t come into fashion in Western society until the 19th century in England. There, hairdressers began offering patrons various kinds of hair-washing and scalp massage options. The first commercially-available shampoos weren’t introduced until the 1890s in Germany. In America, the introduction of shampoo took even longer.

Until the early 1900s, Americans washed their hair with the same bar of soap they used on their bodies. Then, in 1898, John Breck, a fireman who worked for the Fire Department in Chicopee, Massachusetts, began taking classes at Amherst College in the hopes of finding a cure to his early-onset baldness. He wasn’t able to find a cure, but he did open a scalp treatment center in 1908. At his center, he used a liquid shampoo of his own creation. His shampoos soon became popular with local beauty salons. By the 1930s, the practice of shampooing had caught on and Breck had become a national shampoo manufacturer.

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