this thing's incredible

Everyone in the Art-Dealing Zwirner Family Uses This Swiss Shampoo

The author even keeps a bottle in his outdoor shower, seen here. Photo: Lucas Zwirner

Rausch shampoo has been a staple in Zwirner family bathrooms for as long as I can remember. I suspect it originated with my grandfather, Rudolf, who is responsible for many of the more “European” conventions my siblings and I adopted as children (like bathing nude, even at American beaches). But it was my father, David, who passed the habit of using Rausch on to us kids. He must have started using it when we were infants. Reassuringly, almost nothing about the shampoo has changed since then.

In my 30 years of using it, the shampoo’s formula, judging by smell and feel, has stayed exactly the same. The bottle has become slightly rounder — they changed it a few years ago — sloping a bit more from the neck down to the body. The original was more angular (I have to say I liked it better). But no matter what packaging it comes in, Rausch is an extremely powerful shampoo.

The version I use comes in a brown bottle that notes it is formulated to be particularly effective at preventing dandruff (or schuppen, as it’s called in German). To be honest, I’m so attached to the stuff that I’d use it even if it encouraged the production of dandruff, but it has never been an issue. A hazelnut-sized drop will create more lather than you know what to do with. If you were to squirt a handful of it, you’d mummify yourself in foam and might not have to wash your hair for a week — maybe longer. Or your body, for that matter. The Rausch I like has a fragrance that’s herbal and floral; one whiff is like stepping into a damp forest that smells sweet, fresh, a little tangy, and pleasingly unfamiliar. It has this lovely, warm, honey-like color and is darker than honey, but with a similar viscosity.

Judging by the (growing) number of people I know who swear by it, Rausch shampoo works for everyone. My father still uses it. My sisters Marlene and Johanna use it. Boyfriends and girlfriends who started buying it because our family uses it have kept on with Rausch long after those relationships ended. The company makes several shampoos in addition to my favorite, each with a slightly different formula. Every few years, whenever one of us is in Germany or France, we buy a whole carton and bring it back in our luggage so we can distribute bottles to the rest of the family. That works because a bottle could last a year or more — you need so little of this stuff to get your hair clean. Recently, my father got a new carton and proudly told us he thought it would last him the rest of his life.

More Rausch shampoos