The first hog bristle toothbrush was found in China between 619 and 907. In 1223, it was written that Chinese monks were cleaning their teeth using horsetail hairs attached to ox-bone handles.
Europe adopted this method during the 17th century. William Addis of England is believed to have first mass-produced a toothbrush in 1780. He thought the current method of rubbing a rag with soot and salt on the teeth could be improved. He tied some bristles in tufts, passed it through holes in an animal bone, and sealed it with glue (sounds like what the Chinese were doing centuries before). By 1840, toothbrushes were being mass-produced in Europe and Japan. Pig bristle was used for cheaper toothbrushes, and badger hair for more expensive ones. During the 1900s, celluloid handles gradually replaced bone handles and natural animal bristles were replaced by synthetic fibers, usually nylon (developed by DuPont in 1938).
Broxodent was the first electric toothbrush. It was invented in Switzerland in 1954 by Dr. Philippe-Guy Woog for Broxo. Electric toothbrushes were originally created for patients with limited motor skills. By the 21st century, handles were usually molded from thermoplastic materials.
Another relatively recent development is called an interdental brush or a proxy brush. This is a small brush (usually disposable) inserted into a reusable plastic handle at an angle used to clean between the teeth or between the wire of dental braces and the teeth.
A Lot of Hot Air
Hairdryers are more complicated but the original way to dry hair was to sit near a source of heat or outside in the sun and comb or brush the hair until it was dry. Long hair, of course, took more time than short hair. In 1888, a French salon owner named Alexandre Godefoy invented the first electric hair dryer. The contraption sent hot air through a pipe to a dome surrounding the woman’s head. It had a large and noisy motor that included an escape valve for steam so her head would not cook.
But Godefoy’s invention, and the gas dryers that followed, lacked the second element of modern blow dryers: airflow. To achieve this airflow, in the early 20th century, women were advised to attach a hair-drying hose to their vacuum cleaner’s exhaust in order to get both heat and air flow.
Domed-shaped electric helmet dryers were used with the curly hairstyles popular in the 1940s and 1950s where women applied curlers and spent hours under these models which circulated warm air to set their curls.
In the late 1950s, a portable version of the helmet dryer was introduced allowing women to curl and dry their hair at home. This had the same electric motor and hose but used a bonnet (similar to a shower cap) that went over the head.
Much More to Come
Later, in the 1950s, a hand-held dryer was developed. It had a plastic or Bakelite exterior that made it lighter and easier to handle. With modern handheld dryers, drying hair is not a long-term process and can take from 5 to 15 minutes, depending upon the length of the hair.
With so much interest in high-tech, at-home beauty devices these days, it’s interesting to see how plebeian items such as toothbrushes and hairdryers, got their start. Perhaps one day, not-to-far in the future, LED skin therapy devices and contouring tools will be found in every bathroom or bedroom.
Harvey M. Fishman
Harvey Fishman has a consulting firm in Wanaque, NJ, specializing in cosmetic formulations and new product ideas, offering tested finished products. He has more than 30 years of experience and has been director of research at Bonat, Nestlé LeMur and Turner Hall. He welcomes descriptive literature from suppliers and bench chemists and others in the field.