Who invented Hair Gel? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Humans have always been conscious about their crowning glory- their hair. Hair has become a status symbol, a reflection of power and identity. For instance, golden locks or blonde hair represented beauty, youth, prestige, and money during the Victorian era. Long hair symbolized wealth and privilege during the time of the Greeks and Romans. Even nowadays, we can’t deny our deep and personal connection with our hair. How often have you cut your hair short because of heartbreak or a stressful change in your life? I’ll leap and say, way too many.

Different companies have launched many hair products over the years, so we can consistently achieve a “good hair day.” One of the most popular hair products is hair gel. It is used by many (mostly men) to keep every hair strand in its desired place. I bet you or someone you know can’t leave the house without hair gel. Well, behind every great product is a good story. This article will talk about the people behind this popular hair styling product.

Who invented hair gel?

The ancient Egyptians are credited for the invention of hair gel. Archaeologists found fat-based hair gel in some Egyptian mummies, which they used to ensure they looked stylish and fabulous even after death.

Hair gel’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • Ancient Egyptians
    Good Hair Day Until Death

    Natalie McCreesh and her team studied hair samples from ancient Egyptian mummies. They found traces of fat-based hair gel, which ancient Egyptians used to keep their hair looking good even in the afterlife. The oldest mummy was around 3,500 years old.

  • The Irish
    From Pine Tree Resin

    Archeologists found traces of hair gel from the remains of an Irish Clonycavan man. After examining the hair gel, they found it was made from the resin of pine trees, which were abundant from 392 to 201 BC.

  • Jose Antonio Brancato

    In 1914, Jose Brancato (a veterinary student) experimented with Persian tragacanth, gum Arabic, and other chemicals to produce a hair fixative. He successfully created a mixture he called “gomina.” He marketed the product to men.

  • Chemico Works

    Chemico Works, a British company, invented Brylcreem in 1929. It became one of the most famous and leading hair styling products in America and Britain for many years. Actually, their products are still out on the market.

  • Luis Montoya
    Modern Hair Gel

    Luis Montoya is the man behind the invention of modern hair gel in the United States. He branded the product “Dep” after diethyl phthalate, a chemical substance used to make hair gel’s unique consistency.

When was hair gel invented?

The first known use of hair gel dates back to the Ancient Egyptians 3,500 years ago. Traces of fat-based gel were found in their mummified bodies.

A brief history of hair gel

Humans have a deep and emotional connection with their hair. As a result, hair has been a status symbol and a standard of beauty from the beginning. Because of our desire to keep our hair healthy and beautiful, we invest in various hair products. One of the most popular is hair gel.

The invention of hair gel dates back to the ancient Egyptians. A research team headed by Natalie McCreesh analyzed the hair of Egyptian mummies. They found fat-based gel in their hair used by the Egyptians to style the hair of their deceased to ensure that they looked fabulous and beautiful even in the afterlife. The oldest sample was taken from a 3,500-year-old mummy.

Samples of hair gel were also found in the remains of the Irish Clonycavan Man. After close examination, scientists identified that the gel was made from the resin of the pine tree. Pine trees from South-west France and Spain were abundant between 392 BC to 201 BC.

The journey of the modern hair gel started in 1914. A veterinary student named Jose Antonio Brancato worked in a small pharmacy in Argentina. He experimented with tragacanth, Arabic gum, and different essences to create a fixative for hair. He successfully made a product called “gomina,” which he registered and marketed as a hair fixative for men. 

In 1929, Brylcreem was invented and produced by Chemico Works (a British company). Brylcreem became the leading hair product in America and UK for many years. Brylcreem was known for being gentle to the scalp and harmless to the hair, so many people love its products.

Then, in the 1960s, Luis Montoya invented the modern hair gel. He named his brand “Dep,” which was derived from the chemical substance diethyl phthalate. Montoya used diethyl phthalate to make modern hair gel non-greasy.

Hair gel timeline

  1. 3 500 years ago
    Fabulous in the Afterlife

    A team of scientists found hair gel in ancient Egyptian mummies. Since ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife, they ensured that their hair still looked amazing and stylish even after death.

  2. 392 BC
    Bog Body

    Hair gel from the resin of pine trees found in the bog body of an Irish Clonycavan Man.

  3. 1914
    The Start of Modern Gel’s Journey

    Jose Antonio Brancato combined Persian tragacanth, Arabic gum, and other essences to create a hair fixative.

  4. 1929
    Chemico Works

    Chemico Works, a British company, produced Brylcreem. It became America’s and Britain’s favorite hair product for years.

  5. 1960
    Diethyl phthalate

    The modern hair gel was branded as “Dep” by Luis Montoya.

Where was hair gel invented?

The first use of gel for hair styling dates back to the ancient people of Egypt.

The importance of hair gel

  • Nutrients for the hair

    Not all hair gels can negatively affect your hair and scalp. Some hair gels can nourish your hair because it contains vitamins that can make your hair strands firmer and smoother. 

  • Very efficient

    When we talk about hair styling, hair gel is number one on the list since it can easily hold and maintain your hairstyle. And it works for any hair, even wavy or curly hair.

  • Adds volume

    Hair gel is also suitable for those with thin strands because it can help your hair look thick. In addition, styling your hair with gel can give it more volume.

  • Fresh look

    Using hair gel will leave you with a permanent after-shower wet look. But, on the other hand, it’ll make you look and feel fresh throughout the day.

Hair gel by the numbers

  • 19In general, there are 19 different types of hair gel. Some of them are used for shaping or curl defining. At the same time, others are designed for dry hair, oily hair, or chemically treated hair.
  • 3Although hair gel is not harmful, experts advise limiting the use of hair gel 3 times a week to give your hair time to breathe.
  • 3-4An average hair gel bottle should last about 3-4 years. Unopened bottles of gel can last up to 5 years.
  • 1300One thousand three hundred years ago, the fat extracted from animals was used as hair gel. Women then boiled lizards in olive oil and used the concoction as a hair conditioner.

Five facts about hair gel

  • Prone to dandruff 

    Hair gel can make your hair look shiny. However, using hair gel daily may make you prone to dandruff. So, ensure that you wash your hair thoroughly after using gel. 

  • Different types

    There are different types of hair gel according to your taste and style. For example, you can check on hair gels you may use for shaping and sculpting, hairstyle controlling, or curl defining.   

  • Hair loss issues

    Since hair loss has been associated with the excessive use of hair gel, manufacturers created milder and organic hair gels to remove or lessen this side effect.

  • Women can use it too

    Although men popularly use it, hair gel is also beneficial for women. Especially for those who need to maintain a specific hairstyle for an extended period of time (e.g., models, brides)

  • Natural alternatives

    If you are hesitant to use commercial hair gel products, you can also try using natural alternatives like coconut milk, sugar hairspray, or rose water.

FAQs about hair gel

  • What does hair gel do?

    Primarily, the purpose of hair gel is to style your hair in a particular style that you wish to. 

  • Is hair gel good for your hair?

    Hair gel may be good, especially in styling your hair. However, it is not healthy for your hair and scalp if you apply it daily. It may lead to hair loss, dehydrated scalp, and dandruff. 

  • What can I use instead of hair spray?

    You can use hair wax instead, but if you want healthier hair and scalp, you may use coconut milk or coconut oil for shiny and oily look hair.

  • Do you put gel in wet or dry hair?

    If you are for the best results, try to apply hair gel when your hair is dump, it is between not too damp and not too dry. 

  • Which is better, hair gel or hair wax?

    There is no better for these two because the look you want will always depend on your hair. However, wax and gel present consequences you must face once you apply them to your hair. 

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