Chāmpo: The History of Shampoo

No, that's not a typo.

As anyone who’s ever browsed the hair care aisle of the grocery store can attest, nowadays there seem to be countless brands, bottles, and types of shampoo. You could spend hours reading labels, comparing prices, smelling products, and trying to figure out the actual differences among them — and maybe you have! But while shampoo is now a common staple in nearly everyone’s shower routine, it wasn’t always so widespread at all. Shampoo as we know it actually originated in India, thousands of years ago.

Ancient Indian Hair Care

India has the longest hair care history in the world. For over 5000 years, Indians have used a variety of plants, herbs and natural oils to wash their hair. Their early formulas were informed by Ayurveda, one of the oldest and most trusted medicinal systems in the world. Indians genuinely cared about their hair and keeping it healthy, so they used different botanicals for different hair needs to make it strong, shiny and beautiful.

One very effective early shampoo was made by boiling reetha, otherwise known as soapnut, with amla, the Indian gooseberry. Indians also frequently used a plant called shikakai, its name literally translating to “fruit for hair” in English. Though those “shampoos” didn’t come in decorative bottles like we’re used to today, they worked very effectively to clean the hair, soften it, and leave it shiny. They even created a full soapy lather, much like what we see in modern shampoos.

From “Chāmpo” to “Shampoo”

Now, those hair care remedies weren’t actually called “shampoo” way back in the day. But even the word “shampoo” itself can be traced back to those ancient practices. When Indians cleansed their hair, they’d do so by deeply massaging in those natural botanicals, a method called “chāmpo", meaning to knead or to soothe.

Fast forward to the 1800s, when British colonial traders came to India and were first introduced to chāmpo. Since Europe was pretty behind in the personal hygiene department, Indian hair care was nothing short of revolutionary to them. They saw how well it worked, then returned back to England and introduced what they called “shampoo” to Europe and abroad.

Modern Shampoo

Hair care started to become popular worldwide in the 1900s. Chemists started focusing their efforts on hair products, invented conditioner and introduced synthetic surfactants and other chemical ingredients in shampoo. Newspapers and magazines heavily advertised the many benefits of shampoo - first suggesting to use it monthly, then biweekly, and now multiple times per week.

Today, shampoo is a common element of personal care routines all over the world. But as the number of unfamiliar ingredients in shampoos increases, along with the amount of uncertainty about their safety, more and more people are starting to make a shift back to more natural, clean hair-care products.

Back to Hair Care’s Roots

While natural hair care is a new trend in the Western world, it's been around for thousands of years in India. Shampoo has been altered a great deal across history, but Ayurvedic expertise and principles remain as wise and trustworthy as before. The same plants, herbs and extracts that worked so well in “chāmpo” over 5000 years ago are still just as powerful today, and now their efficacy is backed by refined Ayurvedic wisdom and time-tested results.

At Sūun Haircare, we use trusted Ayurvedic principles and ingredients to provide a clean hair care line that’s natural, yet just as effective than conventional hair care brands.

Our plant-based formulas are 100% free of harmful chemicals and harsh ingredients that end up damaging the hair. Using reetha, amla, shikakai, and other trusted Ayurvedic botanicals, we offer clean beauty that will leave you with peace of mind and gorgeous hair - free of compromise. 

Discover the nourishing properties of our unique blend of time-tested botanicals.