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More than shampoo: a history of hair care

Everybody dreams of clean, naturally beautiful hair – and humans have tried almost everything to get it. Ancient civilizations used herbs and natural oils. In the 17th and 18th century, wigs gained popularity as a low-maintenance alternative to hair. Then blocks of soap made from animal fat became common in the 19th century, even though these hard-to-rinse products actually damaged hair.

Around 100 years ago, the first shampoo products revolutionized hair care. Since then, innovations have kept pace with the latest fashions and trends.

Shampoos and different hair treatments are now supporting the global focus on sustainability. They are helping consumers to reduce their environmental footprint, while also making life better for people worldwide. That’s what many consumers dream of today. And modern hair care products are making that dream come true.

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Our hair care products combine great performance with a strong commitment to sustainability – to improve the livelihoods of people and do our do our bit for the planet.

The roots of sustainable hair care

People have always wanted clean, naturally beautiful hair. For thousands of years, humans tried expensive oils and coarse soaps that damaged hair. In 1903, Hans Schwarzkopf offered a groundbreaking alternative by introducing the world’s first water-soluble shampoo. Ever since that historic moment, hair care products have evolved to reflect changing expectations about how products should be made, how they should perform, and how they should impact the environment and society.



Schaumpon was the first water-soluble shampoo developed by Hans Schwarzkopf.  It was easier to use and cheaper than oils and coarse soaps that had been used up to then.

Schaumpon was the first water-soluble shampoo developed by Hans Schwarzkopf.  It was easier to use and cheaper than oils and coarse soaps that had been used up to then.


In 1949, tubes of cream shampoo replaced powder products and helped to establish the mass market for shampoo. During the flower-power revolution in the 60s, products like Schauma’s “7 Herbs Shampoo” marked a switch to natural ingredients and offered consumers a deeper connection to the planet.

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Tapping into the power of nature

This trend for natural hair care continued. Consumers wanted to know more about how ingredients affected people and the environment. By 2011, 80 percent of ingredients in our shampoos and soaps were biodegradable, while still achieving great performance. Products based on up to 99 percent ingredients of natural origin were widely available by 2019, including our Nature Box and N.A.E. brands.

A smaller footprint from root to tip

The last 30 years has also seen a growing focus on CO2 emissions that are generated when heating up water to wash hair. Dry shampoos and leave-in conditioners help consumers to reduce their CO2 footprint, while offering the same beautiful results. Bars of solid shampoo from Nature Box also cut emissions during transport because they are lighter and more compact.



In 2020, Henkel’s natural cosmetics brand, N.A.E., launched an eCommerce pilot project in cooperation with Amazon. The completely plastic-free N.A.E. “solid item box” consists of a solid shower care product and face wash, a solid shampoo and a reusable soap sachet. The boxes are made of 100 percent FSC-certified paper and they are ready for shipping, eliminating the need for secondary packaging from Amazon.

In 2020, Henkel’s natural cosmetics brand, N.A.E., launched an eCommerce pilot project in cooperation with Amazon. The completely plastic-free N.A.E. “solid item box” consists of a solid shower care product and face wash, a solid shampoo and a reusable soap sachet. The boxes are made of 100 percent FSC-certified paper and they are ready for shipping, eliminating the need for secondary packaging from Amazon.

Hair care with a conscience

Today, many consumers want products that reflect their ethical and environmental beliefs. Schwarzkopf, for example, empowers women and girls to build a successful future through its Million Chances initiative. Henkel also works with the social enterprise Plastic Bank to lift people out of poverty while removing and recycling plastic waste from the environment. In this way, modern brands help consumers to create a connection between caring for the planet, caring for people and caring for their hair.

Explore the history of hair care and learn how shampoo became more sustainable

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1903

Schwarzkopf – a pioneer in hair care

The first powder shampoo that can be dissolved in water – “Shampoo with the black silhouette” – offers an alternative that is easier to use and cheaper than the expensive oils and coarse soaps that had been used up to then.

1924 Schaumpon
1933

World’s first alkali-free shampoo

Onalkali, the world’s first alkali-free shampoo, is now regarded as the prototype of all modern shampoos.

1933 Onalkali
1952 Schaum Schaumpon
1949

First cream shampoo

Powder shampoo is replaced by the first cream shampoo in tube form – a revolutionary product innovation that establishes the mass market for shampoo in Germany.

1962

7 Herbs Shampoo

Schauma develops shampoos with natural ingredients, such as the “7 Herbs Shampoo.”

1962 Schauma
1991 Igora
1991

Plant-based coloration

Schwarzkopf Professional launches the plant-based coloration Igora Botanic, thus meeting the trend towards natural products.

1996
1996 Poly Natural Colors

Poly Natural Colors

Launch of Poly Natural Colors, an innovation based on 80% natural care ingredients and 20% high-quality cosmetic agents.

2016 BeSmarter Save Water
2016

Raising consumer awareness for water consumption

Beauty Care launched the “Be smarter.” initiative. Information on the product packaging, as well as an informative website and additional measures at the point of sale, explain how consumers can contribute to conserving resources.

2018
2018 Nature Box

Launch of body and hair care brand Nature Box

Nature Box contains, among other ingredients, cold-pressed oils from fruit seeds or stones and nuts. The oils used in Nature Box products are vegan and free from silicones, artificial colors, sulfates and parabens.

2019 N.A.E. Moodboard
2019

New organic certified cosmetics brand N.A.E.

The certified natural cosmetics brand N.A.E., launched in 2019, has its origin in Italian herbalism. A minimum of 97 percent of the ingredients in skin and body care products are of natural origin. The formulas are also vegan.

2019 Nature Box Fest-Shampoo
2019

Launch of first solid shampoo bar under Nature Box

Due to its concentrated formula, the Nature Box solid shampoo is as economical as two liquid shampoos and has a lower weight and volume. This results in lower CO2 emissions during transport.

2020 Nature Box
2020

Cooperation with Plastic Bank

Since 2020, all Nature Box bottle bodies are made of 98 percent Social Plastic® – plastic which is collected from the beach and countryside.