What Is Tonic For Hair?

While hair tonic might seem like an old timey product – and it is, by the way – many people still use it today for a number of different grooming purposes.

What Is Tonic For Hair

But what actually is hair tonic, and what benefits does it have? 

What Is Hair Tonic? 

Generally, hair tonics are liquid moisturizers often made from light oils or liquid petroleum – although not always. 

This is usually combined with alcohol, witch hazel, and other ‘astringents’ – which act to stop the oils from weighing and greasing down the hair like other gels, waxes, and products do.

They are often fragranced with light and refreshing scents, and are designed to give the impression of hygiene, cleanliness, and freshness to any length of hair. 

This is exemplified by how, in the early days of hair treatments in the 1800s, men would apply hair tonic as a quick and easy method of smelling clean when they didn’t have access to a bath. 

What Are Tonics Used For? 

There are many uses for tonics, and while some have changed over time, many remain the same. 


Historically, hair tonics were used by both men and women as a means of keeping their hair neat, tidy, and fresh smelling.

This was during times when barbershops were few and far between, and where men in particular wouldn’t have the chance to bathe for days at a time. 

This would mean that greasy, messy, or unclean hair could be nicely scented, smoothed, and flattened for situations that demanded a certain level of personal grooming and attention. 

Maintaining Moisture

A lot of hairdressers and barbers use hair tonics as a means of keeping the hair moist during a haircut.

After the initial wash, they might spray the hair with a combination of tonic and water, ensuring that it remains wet and easy to cut for a longer period of time. 

For Ease

During a haircut, they also make it easier for the scissors to glide through the hair, and reduce the risk of snags, pulls, and the hair getting caught between the scissor blades. 

Moisturizing The Scalp

Using hair tonic also provides moisture to the scalp, and can be useful for heads that are prone to dry skin, flakiness, or redness. 

However, they should not be relied upon alone, as the alcohol can also help to increase the dryness of the skin in large doses. 

What Are The Benefits Of Tonic? 

What Is Tonic For Hair?

Of course, there is a reason these hair tonics are still used by barbers and hairdressers to this day, and that is because there are several benefits to their use in both personal grooming and professional beauty treatments. 

Improving PH

Hair tonic can improve the scalps pH balance, helping to reduce flakiness, itching, and irritation. 

Restores Manageability

They are also a good way of restoring manageability to the hair, and making particularly wild hair easier to tame. 

This is particularly useful for people with thick and curly hair, which might otherwise go frizzy under high temperatures, humid environments, or when it gets rained on. 

Reduces Dandruff

Using hair tonics can help to reduce the amount of excess oil on the scalp, thanks to the presence of astringents like alcohol and witch hazel.

Improves Appearance

Hair tonics are also a good way to add shine and gloss to your hair, and improve the overall appearance by injecting some life back into it. 

This is particularly good for people prone to dry hair, or for those who have frazzled their locks with frequent dying, hair drying, or straightening. 

Hair Maintenance

It is also good for breaking down existing hair products, which might have become crusted into the hair.

This is true for people who use too much product, and the alcohol and other astringents in the tonics can help to separate and break down the various oils and gels. 


Using hair tonics will not only give your hair a clean, slick appearance, and provide it with a fresh odor, but it will also help to cleanse clogged hair follicles and pores on the top of the head, leading to less ingrown hairs and buildups of grime. 

Avoiding Split Ends

Tonics are quite good for general hair repair, thanks to their cleansing properties, and the fact that they add moisture to the follicles. 

Additional Benefits

Other benefits of using hair tonics are that it is a relaxing experience (similar to a scalp massage), is a guard against static electricity (thus avoiding fluffy hair), provides a pleasant scent, and is incredibly easy to use and wash out. 

Potential Downsides Of Tonics

What Is Tonic For Hair?

Of course, as with any product, there are some potential downsides that are worth noting. 


Of course, anything that is scented can come into direct conflict with other body sprays, perfumes, and colognes that the user might wear. 


Before you panic, this is only if you ingest hair tonics orally, and the degree to which they are harmful generally depends on how much you consume. 

Due to the high content of alcohol, it could give side effects similar to drunkenness, causing vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and dizziness. 

Prescription-Strength Side Effects

If you are using a prescription strength hair tonic (one prescribed by a doctor or pharmacist), then there might be certain side effects associated with continued use of the product. 

This is something that should be checked with a professional, especially if you are on other medications that might not react well to the tonic. 

Final Thoughts

And there we have it, everything you need to know about hair tonics, their benefits, and the ways they are used in modern hairdressing. 

Hair tonics have been around for a long time, and their continued popularity and use suggests they have been doing something right for all of these years. 

So if you suffer from wild, unruly hair, then why not give them a try?

Matt Park
Latest posts by Matt Park (see all)