A close up of a horse's mane and eye

Is horse shampoo actually the secret to epic hair?

Over the years, I’ve indulged in a fair few wacky solutions in search of the perfect mane. First, there was glitter gel and purple hair mascara, then there were dodgy clip-in extensions, then the $30 serum that promised to make my hair grow faster (spoiler: it didn’t) - and this isn’t even to mention conditioners you need a small mortgage to afford, haircuts you end up hating and vat upon vat of dry shampoo. Yes, most women will know that taking care of your barnet can be an expensive and thankless process.

But could a cheap bottle of shampoo designed for horses actually be the answer to all of our desperate hair prayers? A growing number of women certainly think so. Among the most well-known horse shampoo brands is Mane ‘n Tail, who describe their product as: “horse to human crossover shampoo that helps to maintain and achieve fuller, stronger, longer, healthier-looking hair.” Curiously, Amazon lists the product in both their “Luxury Beauty” and their “Dog Grooming” sections - does this mean they’re calling you a pampered pooch? Anyway.

Promising to give you the kind of long, shiny hair that would make the cast of My Little Pony jealous, Mane 'n Tail is being sold for around $6 a bottle by an ever-increasing number of British and US retailers, who spotted its cult beauty status online after years of word-of-mouth recommendations. It comes in a bottle that looks like it literally came straight from a pet store, so it’s definitely not going to be the sleekest addition to your shower shelf, but if it works, do we really care?

Not if the stats are anything to go by: with hoards of positive reviews from beauty bloggers and on drugstore websites, the product has now all but established itself as one of the top-selling shampoo brands on Amazon, as fans rave about its ability to revitalise tired and lank hair, and make it appear thicker. A number of celebs have also reportedly joined the ranks, with Jennifer Aniston, Kim Kardashian and Sarah Jessica Parker all said to be fans - it's good to know that the great and good are just as keen for good beauty bargain as we are.

If you’re anything like me, you’d probably imagine horse shampoo to be too harsh and heavy work on human hair. So how does it work? Well, according to the makers of Mane 'n Tail, it is “micro-enriched with a protein formula”, and fortified with moisturisers and emollients - all confusing techy words for good stuff, basically. FYI, protein is what keeps your hair strong, while the emollients keep it soft and shiny.

 And just like normal shampoo it lathers and foams, although apparently doesn’t smell quite as delicious as your normal stuff; to be fair, it’s unlikely the horse cares much about a sweet, strawberry aroma. You don't need as much as you would normally, as horse hair is five times stronger than human hair. 

However, not everyone is so impressed, with some reviewers complaining that the wonder-drug left their hair dry, brittle and unmanageable. Among the most touted benefits of this kind of shampoo is that it promotes hair growth, but there appears to be little basis for this claim: genetics and nutrition both play their own part in determining how quickly our hair grows, with some even claiming that our frequent hair washing culture slows the growth process down by stripping it of essential oils. So if you’re longing for long locks and looking for a quick-fix, you might be disappointed.

But can it be that a product designed for an animal that spends all day in a stable can be safe for humans? Although shampoos, like many other costmetics, do not need to be FDA certified in the USA, the fact that it’s been okayed by the UK’s tight approval system would indicate that yes, it is. But that doesn’t mean that this applies to every type of horse shampoo, so dodgy eBay knock-offs or anything that comes in a bottle that looks like car wash are probably best avoided. It's also worth noting that humans and horses have different PH levels when it comes to their hair and scalp, so in that respect horse shampoo still has the potential to cause irritation. 

It seems that beauty - or hot hair - is in the eye of the beholder, and while horse shampoo might work for some, it definitely won't work for everyone - like most things in life really. At the end of the day, we've got to see it for what it is - another in the long, long, (very) long line of the hair products we wish would be miracle fixes for whatever imperfection were obsessing over that day. But hey, at least this one is affordable.