What Was The First Hair Conditioner?

In terms of organic hair care products, conditioners are one of the most important to use in a regular routine alongside a cleansing shampoo.

Shampoos help to keep the hair clean and free of irritants and dirt, whilst conditioners serve to make the hair more malleable, easier to style and can give your hair a boost and bounce that shampoo on its own sometimes cannot provide.

However, despite often being thought of as a modern addition to our hair styling routines, conditioning our hair has a surprisingly long history. In fact, in Britain, conditioners actually pre-date the introduction of shampooing by Sake Dean Mohamed in 1814.


Macassar Oil

The dawn of conditioners as we know them begins with a highly popular concoction known as Macassar Oil which was typically made with a mix of coconut oil and fragrant oils like ylang-ylang.

It was initially developed by London barber Alexander Rowland in 1793. At the time, the standard procedure for barbers was for them to prepare their own concoctions to use on hair, and Mr Rowland’s speciality was the Macassar Oil.

The name came from the Port of Makassar, now in Indonesia but at the time part of the Dutch East Indies where A. Rowland & Sons aggressively advertised that the ingredients had come from initially, as part of increasingly elaborate claims of its effectiveness.

This made it one of the first products that received national advertising through mediums such as newspapers and postcards as national travel became increasingly accessible throughout the 19th century.

It was a very effective way to style the hair, given that it was effectively rubbing oil into the scalp. However, it also had the major problem oil has of getting everywhere and leaving quite permanent stains on nearly everything it touches until it dries.

This led to the development of the antimacassar, a strip of cloth on the back of a chair that protected the fabric itself and is still sometimes seen today on public transport.

However, the antimacassar would start to disappear in interior design at the start of the 20th century, and the reason for that was that Macassar Oil had been replaced with a far more effective, less messy solution.



The first hair condition that more closely resembles the conditioners we use today was developed in 1900 by the perfume company Ed. Pinaud, although it was often sold under the name Clubman.

It was a perfumed, coloured oily liquid that softened men’s hair, giving it a glossy appearance and making it far easier to style without the residue left over that Macassar Oil had become known for.

It was first showcased at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, and since then, a range of different developments have taken place to change the consistency and ingredients to help reduce the heavy feel common with the earlier, oil-based conditioners.

In the modern age, there are several types of conditioners with different uses and application requirements. Whilst most are applied for a short amount of time before being rinsed out, some hold hair in place, some need to be left in and others are deep conditioners designed to boost hair moisture.

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