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6 weird and wonderful hair loss remedies from history

The thinning of hair, for both men and women, is nothing new. This has been occurring for thousands of years, but for those who do not find their bald patches or thinning regions overly dignified, ways to combat the problem have only relatively recently become viable.

Sutherland Sister Hair Cleaner
Sutherland Sisters Hair and Scalp Cleaner

Treatments and preventions have always been available, as far back as 400 B.C., but of course, they have all had very ‘interesting’ levels of success, as you might expect. Fortunately, for those who are looking to hair thickening sprays today, there are wonderful options available to overcome the issue at hand. This got us to thinking about the weird and wonderful remedies that have arisen through the ages. We have listed six of them below, so why not take a look and see how it used to be done…


Tea. Yes, the quintessentially English beverage that is enjoyed in the thousands of cups-full, daily, was, in 19th-century England used as a hair loss treatment. Tea was used by people suffering from thinning hair by rub “cold India tea”, teamed with wedges of lemon, into their scalps. Did it work? We’re pretty sure you can guess the answer, which was a resounding no!

The Ancient Egyptian Solutions

For those enduring hair loss during the times of the Ancient Egyptians, there were, believe it or not, remedies on offer. The Ebers Papyrus, a medical text that dates as far back as 1550 B.C., highlights a host of recommended ‘cures’. A mix of fats from a tomcat, snake, hippopotamus, crocodile, and ibex was on option. Another was to use the leg of a female greyhound which had been sautéed in oil with the hoof of a donkey. Thirdly, they had the option to try a mixture of porcupine hair which was boiled in water then applied to the scalp for four days! Again, none of these were overly successful.

Hippocrates’ Theory

Hippocrates, a renowned historical figure, who was an ancient Greek physician born around 460 B.C., is regularly considered as the father of Western medicine. He personally suffered from male pattern baldness, and so prescribed himself, along with others with the same issue with a topical blend of spices, beetroot, opium, horseradish, and pigeon droppings. And guess what? Hairlines did not stop receding, post-potion.

Julius Caesar

When the famous dictator of Rome started losing his hair, he gave everything a go in order to try and reverse the effects of his balding. To begin with, he grew his thinning hair long at the back of his head and brushed it over his scalp in what was an early version of the comb-over. Following the failure of this idea, his lover Cleopatra suggested a home remedy consisting of horse teeth, ground-up mice, and bear grease. As you would expect, this did little for hair recuperation, and so the Roman dictator took to covering his scalp with a laurel wreath, which is widely seen in historical pictures of the leader.


Popular in ancient times, hairpieces were revived during the 17th century by royals. King Louis XIII of France was one such royal who sported a toupee in order to hide his balding scalp. Massive wigs, often featuring elaborate curls that had been peppered with white powder, soon became all the rage among the noble figures in England and France. Wealthy American colonists took on the trend of donning this accessory as a status symbol up until the American Revolution, which killed off fashions with monarchy-inspired roots.

Snake Oil

In the United States, the 19th century witnessed the emergence of so-called “snake oil” salesmen. These people were, to every intents and purposes, swindlers masquerading as doctors who peddled sham potions that promised to treat all that ails you. A number of these tonics were cited to be formulated to reverse hair loss, including an ointment called Seven Sutherland Sisters’ Hair Grower, inspired and promoted by a family of sideshow performers with cascading locks.


Image: Joe Mabel under Creative Commons.