Hair tonic of some type has been used for centuries. It may have been something as simple as grease or oil that had been collected from an animal that had been killed, to one that was food-based, such as olive oil. It has been commonly used on both facial and scalp hair.
Men have always been the primary users of hair tonics.
They differ from other hairstyling products in that they are almost always in liquid form (except for hair "pomade"), with mineral oil or liquid petroleum jelly being their primary ingredient. Some types may also include such ingredients as ethanol and something to give the product a pleasing aroma.
Pomade is hair tonic that comes in a gelatinous or other semi-solid form. It is commonly used by both men and women.
Users of "old-fashioned" hair tonic (the liquid form, especially) want their hair to be styled in one particular fashion, and to remain that way for as long as possible. And, while the main purpose of hair tonic has always been to use as a hairstyling aid, it has been used to style beards, sideburns, or other facial hair.
Although hair tonic is no longer used as much as it once was, it does have benefits. It holds hair in the desired style, but it can also add moisture to dry hair, and lubricate a dry scalp. This helps reduce dandruff.
Hair tonic, especially any that contains ethanol, can be poisonous if taken internally. Symptoms of hair tonic poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, intoxication, increased urination and coma.
Poison Control should be immediately contacted for anyone who has ingested hair tonic. The victim should not be induced to vomit unless Poison Control personnel give instructions to do so. Their directions should be followed, and medical attention sought immediately.
Although hair tonic has lost popularity, there are some tonics being introduced to the market as remedies for hair loss and restoration. One specific hair tonic product is currently in testing phases, in an effort to have it listed as a hair restoration product, and a patent is being applied for to protect the ingredient unique to its formula, which is said to cause the hair restoration.