Shampoos are cleaning agents that have a variety of applications. We would normally think that shampoos are only meant for washing hair and pets. Not so. They are even used to wash carpets and vehicles.
Like soaps, shampoos are made from surfactants that are able to surround oily materials, helps water spread and clean them away.
Shampoo was invented after soap, and in the early days people used to wash their bodies and hair with only soap.
The word “shampoo” is taken from the Indian word champo, and dates back to 1763 because shampoo’s roots go back to the Mughal Empire.
The negative think about washing hair with soap is that it leaves hair looking oily, and often gets into the eyes leaving them itchy, smarting, red, and tearing.
The first shampoo in America was invented in the 1930s but was not very good. It took another thirty years before detergent technology improved enough to produce safe shampoos.
As technology improved the quality of shampoos, the newer ones are easier on the eyes and were better for the hair.
Producing shampoo is quite a task. Cosmetic chemists (the main people experimenting with formulas and chemicals to come up with the best shampoo, in the laboratory) have to decide on how thick the shampoo should be, what colour, smell, how much it foams, if it irritates the eyes or skin, and if it actually cleans the hair as it should.
Once they come up with what they feel is the best solution, they run tests to see if it actually works. These tests are called ‘consumer testing’.
Depending on the results of this testing, they would either improve the formula some more, or send it for large-scale production.
Shampoo is a mixture of water, and surfactants. Water is its main ingredient and makes up about 70 – 80% of the formula.
The type of water that is used is called deionized water, which is water with all the particles and ions removed.
If the water is not deionized, these particles react with the surfactants, which can be dangerous and damaging to the skin and hair.
Surfactants are made from animal and plant fatty acids and ammonium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and sodium lauryl ether sulphate are some of the most commonly used detergents in shampoos.
Foam boosters are a different type of surfactant that makes the shampoo bubble up when it is applied. They are also made from water and fatty acids.
There are other agents that go into making shampoo like thickeners (which increases the shampoo’s thickness, so it is no watery), and conditioning agents (which soothe the sometimes strong effect of the chemical surfactant detergents on the hair and scalp).
Preservatives are included to make sure that bacteria and other microbes do not grow (because there are organic materials like water in the shampoo), and modifiers which are little agents that are included to specially act on different types of hair.
So when you see shampoo for dull hair, oily hair, normal hair, damaged hair, and treated hair, you know that there are different ingredients and modifiers in these shampoos.
Today there are a range of shampoos in the market for all types of hair, as well as for infants, kids, adults, and even animals.