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23Dec/13

Shampoo – Word of the day

The word shampoo originates in India from the Hindi champo which means massage. It was first used by Hans Sloane (of Sloane Square fame who introduced several words into English including samurai and vivisection, as well as being a great fan of cocoa). In 1698 he describes what he calls champing as a massage instrument used in China. This idea of shampoo = massage was in vogue continuously for 150 years, often with an exotic flavour as something done in Asia.

In its current sense relating to cleaning hair, the word was first used in Worcester’s A Dictionary of the English Language which was published in Boston in 1860. For 30 years, this was the benchmark for dictionaries in America. It was the first American dictionary to include many diagrams and to provide synonyms. But at the beginning, having a shampoo was not much fun. Only soap was used. Later herbs were added.

Cleaning one’s hair regularly with the accompanying shampooing has become a life-style decision. Today shampoo and conditioner are big business driven by botanical, herbal, moisturising and hydrating aspects. Consumers appreciate if products are dermatologically tested and pH neutral. Overall the market is being more specialised and fragmented with products catering for particular hair types (with dandruff, greasy or dry), styles (straight or curly). Even the best selling product sells only some 30 million bottles a year world wide.

In the hairdresser salons, the wheel has turned almost full circle now. It is not enough simple to have hair washed, cleaned and rinsed. A massage is part of the cleaning procedure, as it was originally. Maybe Hans Sloane would not be all that surprised if he heard the word shampoo today.

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