[Updated January, 2017] Hair tonic is an “old school” hair styling product. It makes the hair look glossier (though some say greasier), something which many people viewed as a sign of healthy hair. The oils in the hair tonic also help hold the hair in place, making it easier to style, much like mousse or hair spray. They differ from other hair styling products in that they are almost always a liquid (except for “pomade,” a hair tonic that comes in a gelatinous or other semi-solid form), with mineral oil or liquid petroleum jelly being the primary ingredient. Some types may also include ingredients like ethanol and something to give the product a scent. In the 1950s and 60s, hair tonics were in widespread use but fell out of favor with the introduction of styling gel, mousse and a variety of other products. However, with a return to traditional barbering and grooming techniques, hair tonics are enjoying something of a revival.
Hair Tonic Benefits
Historically a variety of claims were made on the packaging for hair tonic, including that it could reverse baldness or would make the hair grow longer and thicker. In fact, like most hair care products, the main function of hair tonic is to hold hair in the desired style. But it can also add moisture to dry hair and lubricate a dry scalp, helping reduce split ends, broken hair, and dandruff. In addition to an oil which coats the hair (though there are oil free tonics as well!), many hair tonics are also scented. Hair tonic is for men who want their hair to be styled in one particular style, and to stay that way for as long as possible.
At the barber, hair tonics are also often referred to as “friction lotions” because they can be used to give clients an invigorating scalp massage. Massage helps to stimulate blood circulation to the hair follicles, while the tonic itself moisturizes and conditions the hair and scalp.
Using Hair Tonic
To use hair tonic most people brush their hair out and massage the tonic into the hair and scalps. Massaging helps to stimulate circulation to the scalp, promoting scalp health, while the tonic moisturizes the hair and scalp. Once the tonic has been applied, the hair can be styled, with the tonic holding the hair in place and giving it a shiny appearance. Though the main purpose of hair tonic has always been to use as a hair styling aid, it can also be used to style beards, sideburns, or other facial hair.
Cautions and Warnings
Hair tonics should be applied in moderation to prevent a greasy buildup in the hair, and some hair tonics may need to be washed out at the end of the day, or they will stain bedding and attract dirt.
Do you use hair tonic? Any words of wisdom for those who want to try? Leave a comment below!