I’ve been experimenting with simple DIY hair care for about three years now. I’ve even done more research than I thought possible. I’ve had moments where buying store bought products gave me a much needed reprieve from trying different DIY formulations, yet also helped me understand more about ingredients and the results that those ingredients give hair care products.
The one thing that I’ve learned over the years is that you can have beautiful healthy hair with simple affordable all natural ingredients.
Most natural and organic skin and hair care lines contain synthetic ingredients such as cetyl alcohol, betremonium methosulfate, emusifying wax, and hydrolized wheat protein. Not all of these synthetic ingredients are considered toxic to the body, yet they do have a big impact on our water supply and the environment. The cosmetic industry has come a long way with becoming more conscious about the ingredients in products, yet there is so much more room for growth in order to really make a difference on the planet.
With internet access almost anyone can buy cosmetic chemicals and synthetic ingredients to create their own “natural” products from home. When you learn that synthetic ingredients are used in even the natural and organic lines, it can be frustrating when you desire to make healthy conscious choices for yourself and the earth. Just know that there are simple ingredients that you can use to maintain healthy hair, and also grow long beautiful hair if that is what you desire.
To my own surprise bananas are a ridiculously moisturizing and softening hair conditioner. I was blown away the first time I blended up a banana with coconut milk and applied it to my hair. It is extremely important that this blend is very smooth so that rinsing it out won’t be tedious. After one experience of rinsing my hair for what seemed like forever, I see why others have turned to organic banana baby food. Still I wasn’t able to truly see the results of adding a banana to my deep conditioner until my hair fully dried. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
There seriously is no need for any plastic bottled “natural” conditioners when such things like bananas exist.
One of the greatest hair conditioners that I’ve used on my hair consistently for the past three years is body art quality henna. Nothing has created long lasting strength and shine for my hair like henna. The benefits of henna can’t be washed away from hair as the henna deposits into the hair cuticle. My favorite henna is Godrej Nupur Mehendi Henna.
I honestly believe that it has been my henna treatments that have allowed me to grow out my hair so well since cutting it all off a few years ago and starting over. Read all about how I use henna in my hair care regimen here. Henna does deposit a natural red dye to hair which does not show strongly on dark hair tones, yet should not be used for blonds or lighter hair colors that do not want red hair or highlights. On the other hand there is cassia which is referred to as “neutral henna” and can also be used for conditioning and strengthening treatments. Cassia will provide golden highlights to lighter hair and be completely neutral on darker hair.
Henna is my #1 natural long lasting conditioners to any deep conditioner on the market especially when mixed with coconut milk.
Know that henna, cassia, and indigo can be mixed to create various shades for different long lasting beautiful hair colors. So not only will you be able to dye or tint your hair in a healthy and safe alternative to traditional hair dyes, yet they make your hair so much stronger while doing it. These natural dyes will cover greys if you are curious, and my mother loves henna too.
Coconut milk is the base of my henna treatments. I’ve also used coconut milk as a deep conditioning treatment with ceramide oils such as hemp oil and wheat germ oil, and bananas which I mentioned earlier. For those with naturally oily hair, coconut milk alone may be too moisturizing, yet it is still inexpensive to try so can’t hurt. If you have normal to dry or damaged hair, you can use coconut milk with or without oil before or after cleansing hair based on preference and hair needs. I usually deep condition hair prior to washing it to help melt tangles away. I use organic canned coconut milk that I purchase from the grocery store. Learn more about coconut milk for hair conditioning here.
Hot Oil Treatments
Hot oil treatments are wonderful for deep conditioning prior to cleansing your hair. I believe one of the best carrier oils to use for hot oil treatments is coconut oil. Coconut oil does not change under high heat, and completely penetrates and conditions the hair cuticle. Another great oil to use is olive oil. Simply warm the oil on the stove top or in the microwave and apply to dry hair. Cover hair in a conditioning hair cap and/or a microfiber towel for warmth. Wash and style hair as usual.
Aloe vera is amazing for sealing the hair cuticle, adding shine, reducing frizz, enhancing curl definition, and pH balancing hair. You can use aloe vera juice as a simple spritz for hair like in this simple conditioning spritz aka the DIY Leave-In Conditioner, or in a serum like the DIY Curl Conditioning Serum. Many of my DIY hair recipes include aloe vera to add more moisturizing properties as well as pH balance. You can read more about pure aloe vera here.
Aloe vera alone makes the perfect conditioning leave-in for fine and straight hair and can be added to other leave-ins ingredients for curly, coily, and coarse hair types.
Herbal Hair Rinses
Herbal rinses are as easy to create as making tea. You can use any hair loving herbs that you like. Herbal rinses can be used after cleansing hair to help with pH balance as well as gently conditioning hair without heavy oils that will weigh hair down. I make one of my favorite herbal hair rinses with catnip leaf and flower which contains a natural pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). Catnip is extremely helpful with preventing split ends while conditioning hair. I usually spray my hair with this tea, yet some with longer hair soak their braids in catnip tea either before or after washing their hair. Catnip is all natural goodness with no synthetic panthenol here! Learn more about making a catnip hair rinse in this article.
I’ve also enjoyed catnip mixed with calendula flowers (a refreshing toner for skin too) and used other herbal rinses such as the one in this recipe. Another great conditioning rinse to consider is with hibiscus flowers. Herbal hair rinses are great curl refreshers especially when a humectant such as vegetable glycerin, honey, or agave nectar is added. Some solely use herbal hair rinses for simple cleansing and conditioning hair care.
Vinegar rinses have natural cleansing, conditioning, and detangling properties while pH balancing hair. A basic vinegar rinse is mixing 1 tablespoon of organic white or apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of distilled/purified water. The best vinegars to use are raw unfiltered organic white or apple cider vinegar that still contains the incredible “Mother of Vinegar” which occurs naturally as strand-like enzymes of connected protein molecules.
If you’ve tried and loved vinegar hair rinses, why not infuse your vinegar with hair loving herbs? You can read all about it here!
Herbal Hair Gels with Mucilage Herbs & Seeds
I talked about mucilage herbs in Part 2–Herbal Hair Cleansers of this series and how wonderful they are for detangling the hair. Having a simple leave-in styler that also detangles the hair is a blessing for waves, curls, and coils which can form knots and tangles very easily. These herbs add much needed moisture to dry hair, and are wonderful for creating frizz-free definition to wavy, curly, and coily hair. There are a bunch of different mucilage herbs and seeds that can be infused in distilled or purified water to create a simple and very effective hair gel that give a soft to medium hold. Ingredients such as honey or pectin can be added to these gels for a stronger hold as well as aloe vera for extra moisture. Some mucilage herbs and seeds to consider as a leave-in are marshmallow root, slippery elm bark, fenugreek seeds, and flax seeds.
Flax seeds are one of the most popular ingredients to create a natural hair gel with, and can create a medium to hard hold depending on how concentrated your infusion is.
You can read more on mucilage herbs in Part 2 and learn how to make flax seed gel here. Flax seed gel has been a serious curl savor for my own hair when I’m at long dance auditions. When I haven’t used it, I’ve watched my hair balloon and frizz like crazy. For a simple and effective leave-in, try adding one of your favorite carrier oils or natural butters to your herbal extract for added moisture retention and to give the hair weight while preventing frizz and flyaways. It mainly depends on how much oil your hair likes to determine how much oil or butter to add to your leave-in styling gel. You can always start with 1 tablespoon to 1 cup of gel and decrease or increase the amount to see what you like.
No matter what your hair type is, a light oil can do wonders for your hair. Some of my favorite light oils are apricot kernel oil, grapeseed oil, and jojoba oil. They provide your hair with major shine and don’t feel oily at all. Another amazing heavier hair oil is coconut oil which conditions the hair by fully penetrating the hair shaft. Coconut oil also helps to maintain the moisture levels in your hair versus only sitting on top of the strands. You really don’t have to put a lot of oil in your hair to make a difference if you are not using drying hair cleansers/shampoos.
A few other oils that have made a tremendous difference in my overall hair care are ceramide oils: wheat germ oil, hemp oil, and sunflower oil. Ceramide oils are loaded with linoleic acid that keep the hair cuticle flat and intact. Keeping the hair cuticle bonded and strong is one way we prevent hair damage. I’ve noticed that wheat germ oil makes my hair the softest, yet it also has the strongest scent of the three. I usually mix in a few drops of essential oils with every application to counterbalance the scent. Learn more about ceramide oils here.
I’ve used mango butter, shea butter, and cocoa butter in my hair care regimen and have found that they help smooth the hair extremely well. I mainly use these natural butters when I feel that my hair is going through a big dry spell or for braid and twist outs. They also have the ability to weigh hair down, and should be used sparingly if you have fine hair which in that case may be best only for dry and damaged hair ends. For super curly, coily, and coarse strands, hair butters can make your hair love life again!
Mango butter is the lightest of the three and cocoa butter smells beyond yummy. You can mix your butter with your favorite carrier oils using the double boiler method. (A pyrex glass in a pot of boiling water works great.) Here is a recipe for a delicious vanilla hair and body body butter that is extremely easy to make.
I purchase most of my organic herbs, seeds, butters, and oils from Mountain Rose Herbs, yet you can also luck up on a few great organic finds at your local natural grocery store so keep your eyes open!
(Important Note: Any DIY recipe that contains water, aloe vera, or coconut milk needs to be refrigerated and used within a week or so. You can also freeze unused portions to use in the future as they do not contain preservatives. If you create oil and butter mixtures, no water, aloe or milk added, they do not need to be refrigerated and can last up to a year or more depending on the shelf life of the oils and butters used. Adding vitamin E, rosemary antioxidant extract, and other essential oils will help to extend the life of your DIY products, yet they are not full spectrum preservatives. Also if you are pregnant or have any medical conditions, please research the herbs and essential oils used in these recipes before trying any of them.)
I’d love to hear what natural ingredients are you using in your hair care and how do you incorporate them? Let’s keep the conversation going! Have a wonderful weekend!
(Image by Dawn Michelle)