hair Care Formulations

From Formularius to Product

I want long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, Knotted, polka dotted, twisted, beaded, braidedPowdered, flowered and confettied Bangled, tangled, spangled and spaghettied
— Writers & composers James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot

Influential on a lot of people, the whole idea of hair being a principal part of fashion, defining an individual was NOT new, indeed no. Hair, on the head or otherwise has defined status and health since Adam was a boy!And again it was men and women who sported fashionable hairdos along with other body adornments from as early as has been recorded. The people below are contempory africans, and their hairstyles still match those of their ancient Egyptian ancestors, obviously cannot improve on perfection.

So go some of the words to the iconic song of the 60’s and 70’s HAIR!  brown dye. Misery is described as a BAD HAIR DAY. get the desired modern look. Colour can be anything, and I for one make sure that I keep my grey locks hidden behind a good layer of reactive dark In the 21stC we can hardly do without a daily shampoo, condition and style. Cutting is an artform, and there are dozens of appliances one can use to 

Products used in hair treatment in Old Egypt: (


Ancient Egyptians used to wash their hair and their wigs regularly. They have a way to do it with a mix of water and citric juices. The citric acid dissolves the fatty oils from the hair and leaves the follicle sealed, so it keeps it dry. The hair results smooth and brilliant. They used almond oil as a conditioner after washing the head.


Methods of hair removal included preparations like a paste made of lime, starch and arsenic. They also used a mix of sugar and beeswax to remove superfluous hair. They had razors made of copper or bronze with sharp edges, and efficient tweezers.


Along the centuries, their favorite colors were black or orange-reds. Since 4,000 years before the Christian Age, the henna was the most common dye; it gives orange or red variations to the hair color. They mixed it with cow’s blood and crushed tadpoles, to obtain different tonalities. The henna plant (lawsonia inermis) grew abundantly in the banks of the River Nile. To make black dyes they used the indigo, extracted from the plant indigofera tinctoria. Those who became gray-haired colored their hair with a recipe of blood of ox boiled in oil: it was a magic solution, because it was believed that the darkness of the animal was transferred to the hair. After 1500 BC they started to use wigs of vivid colors, like blue, red or green.

Treatment for baldness:

As it always has been, those who became bald because they lose their hair, were not happy and they wanted to recover it. The recipes were based in several preparations, with fat of different animals: goats, lions, crocodiles, snakes and hippopotamus, and also cats. Another cure was a patch made with leaves of lettuce, or the application of fenugreek’s seeds.


To set their hairstyles, they applied an ointment of beeswax, letting it dry exposing the head to the sun, until it hardened.

Hair growing stimulation:

Different oils were used to strengthen the hair: almond oil, rosemary oil, or castor oil.

Plinius the Elder used to say: “How tedious and boring is the time dedicated by Roman women to those endless sessions of hairdressing...” Roman Patrician women, who had a better social status, adorned their hair assisted by servants or slaves called “ornatrix”, who made their hair ornaments. Complex and sophisticated styles were indicative of a high social status, while the simple ones were considered a sign of barbarism. To curl their hair they use a tool called “calamistrum”, (a curling iron) which was a hollow iron tube that was heated on the ashes and the hair was rolled around it. They wore wigs to augment the size of their hair. As some of them were very sophisticated, the Roman poet Juvenal said: “The more important is the matter of their beauty, more stores piled one on each other like a building”. The common name among the Romans for a wig, was “Galerus”.Wigs were usually made with human hair; blond hair came from German slaves and black hair from India. Dyes were made with different formulas, mixing henna with other herbs for reddish hairs, saffron flowers for blond hair and a weird recipe recommended by Plinius the Elder to dye the hair of black color: “applying leeches that have rotten in red wine for 40 days, and, with the juice obtained of that, to colorize the hair”. They also used potassium water and hydrogen peroxide, or bleach, to decolorise it.

So if rotten leaches are not your thing, modernish methods of creating a good hair day didn’t really improve by the middle ages with Nostradamus giving recipes for becoming blond, obviously Blondes have always had more fun.

Here we come to a short sample of modern formulas to keep hair nicely spruced and up to date. They will be found on the following pages.Otherwise there are so many versions of “product”, muddy, sticky, shiny , waxen, they start to sound like the verse in HAIR!Now in the last 100 years and much in the memory of this little black duck, there is “Maccassar oil” (a blend of coconut and palm oils scented with ylang ylang and not Argan oil as we have been told) which was a fave for a long time with the blokes in the early 20th C way before “Brylcream” (pretty similar in appearance and greasiness), “cedel shampoo bar” or dog soap for washing hair before fancy shampoos like “Blue Clinic” hit the shower shelf. I read that it was in the ‘70’s ads with Farrah Fawcett and Christy Brinkley that washing ones hair became a daily event, and looks like when that happened and we lost all the oils needed to keep our hair looking wonderful, came the need for all the conditioners, treatments and “product” to style it. The lads nowadays either shave their heads, not for the lice and fleas in days gone by, but because that too now is a “do” that has a cachet. 

Otherwise there are so many versions of “product”, muddy, sticky, shiny , waxen, they start to sound like the verse in HAIR!

Here we come to a short sample of modern formulas to keep hair nicely spruced and up to date. They will be found on the following pages. 

Part 1, Chapter XXIV: How to make the hair golden blond, no matter how black or white it is, making it pale yellow without losing its colour for a long time, and retaining it in its entirety, and making it grow in such a way as to be that colour right down to the root, just as it is to the very tip.

Take a pound of twigs of the wood called fustet, ground to a fine powder, half a pound of box-wood shavings, four ounces of fresh liquorice, four ounces of nice, dry, yellow orange-peel, four ounces each of celandine root and papaver, two ounces of the leaves and flower of glaucium or guelder-rose [?], half an ounce of saffron, and half a pound of paste made from finely ground wheat flour.Boil it all up in some lye made with half pounded ashes and then pour it all out [through a strainer?].Next, take a large earthenware pot or jar, and make ten or twelve little holes in the bottom.Then afterwards take equal quantities of sacred ash [?] and pounded wood-ash and put them in some large wooden mortar or something of the kind, as you please, and sprinkle them with the said concoction while pounding them vigorously for the best part of a day.Keep doing so until the ash is fairly hard, and while pounding it add a little rye- and wheat-straw, continually pounding it so that it soaks up most of the concoction.Then take the said pounded ashes and put them in the said pot or jar, and in each of the holes in the said pot stick an ear of rye that passes out to the exterior and make alternate beds of straw and ashes until the said pot is full, but leave a little room for the rest of the concoction.Then, towards evening, position another pot or jar to collect the lye that dribbles out of the holes along the ears of rye.When you want to use it in the morning, go and see what has oozed out, sponge it up and apply it to the hair by wiping.And at the end of three or four days you will have hair that is as golden-blond as a golden ducat.But before you put it on your head, wash it with another good lye, because if it were greasy it wouldn’t take so easily.And you must understand that the contents of the present recipe are sufficient for one or two years, and are sufficient, if used properly, for the needs of ten or twelve women, for only a little of the liquor is sufficient to colour the hair quickly and easily, and there is no need to wash with anything other than this for a woman whose hair was black as coal to become quickly blond, and for a very long time.
— Traité des fardemens et confitures, English translation by Peter Lesmesurier,