Sunday, July 31, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week (for hair): Homemade flax seed gel

I'll make this a fairly frequent entry. The true "keepers" will be in the "Recipes and Projects" page. I have a preoccupation (note I did not say obsession) with making homemade hair products. Shampoo and detergent-free hair wash, conditioner, treatments, and of course, hair gel! Sometimes these are made with easy-to-find items, sometimes not. I'll post 'em and you can try them out if you like. And of course, please share your results so we can get a little dose of happy.

Here is an all-natural hair gel which is a work in progress. I'm looking for the right mix of curl enhancement, hold, shine, and softness because I hate crunchy, tangly hair.

Metric conversion: 1 teaspoon = 5 ml, 1 1/2 teaspoons = 7 ml, 1 tablespoon = 15 ml

The Base:©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
Boil in 1 1/4 cups water (almost 300 ml) for about 5 minutes (if it is thick now, it won't strain, boil only until thin threads* hang from the fork you're stirring with:
2-3 (30-45 ml) tablespoons whole flax seeds

* I do mean Thin Threads. If your gel hangs in thicker "strings" - it won't strain well. The gel thickens slightly as it cools.

>>>If you love a really thick gel, boil longer, but you're going to need to strain through cheesecloth or the foot of pantyhose and squeeze really hard.

Strain through a metal mesh strainer (it should strain mostly through, use the back of a spoon to press out the gel sticking to the seeds as best you can).
Note: Strain into a glass measuring cup if you have one so you know how much gel you have! If it measures less than 3/4 cup, you may need to reduce the amount of things you add.
©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
Things to Add after the gel has cooled enough to touch (mix and match):

To hydrate and slow water loss:
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon (7 to 15 ml) aloe vera gel (the edible kind if you can get it) - aloe moisturizes, adds shine, enhances curls.
- 1/2 teaspoon panthenol (2.5 ml) (available through soap and lotion making suppliers) - see below for an alternative (protein)
- 3/4 to 1 teaspoon hydrolyzed protein (3 to 5 ml) (an easy-to-find form is Colorful brand Neutral Protein Filler, available at Sally's Beauty Supply) - good for fine/medium hair or damaged hair, highlighted hair, dry climates, defines and enhances curls and waves, promotes clumping (to avoid stringy hair), holds moisture, adds shine.
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon glycerin (0.6 to 1.5 ml) (humectant - preserves water, may work best when it's neither too dry/arid nor especially humid)
-1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon gelatine (0.6 to 1.5 ml) (dissolve in hot water first, or add to strained gel, re-heat and stir vigorously - protein to hydrate, boost curls - not for coarse or protein-intolerant hair)

Emollients to soften, lubricate and slow water loss:
- 1-5 drops (or a lot more) oil of your choice (coconut oil, grapeseed, sunflower, castor, avocado, olive, canola oil, the oil from a vitamin E capsule), oil holds in moisture, gives a softer, smoother finish
-Hair conditioner, either a leave-in or a rinse out conditioner: from 1/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon or more

To thicken:
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (1.2 to 2.4 ml) (available at many grocery stores as a gluten-free binder). This makes a thicker gel, prevents "stringy" hair and promotes plump clumps of waves or curls. You must re-heat the strained gel after you add xanthan gum and mix well until the gel thickens when adding this ingredient.
-1/2 to 3/4 (2.4 to 3.5 ml) teaspoon corn starch or tapioca starch, mixed with enough cool water to dissolve - then add it to strained, hot gel and re-heat to thicken
- 1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon (7.5 to 15 ml) powdered fruit pectin (for making low sugar jam or jelly). This must also be added to strained gel and then re-heated to thicken

To add hold:
- 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons (7.5 to 10 ml) acacia fiber (a.k.a "gum arabic," available at health food stores as a soluble fiber supplement) - this doesn't thicken, but it does add "hold" close to what you get from a commercial gel. Can feel drying, especially with continued use - use with some oil or conditioner.
- fragrance if you like it
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (1.2 to 2.4 ml) honey or agave nectar (or more) - provides strong hold, may cause a "wet" look in silky hair. Honey and agave are very poor hold-providers for humid weather.
- In place of 1 tablespoon flax seeds, use 1 tablespoon whole psyllium seeds for a thicker gel

Blend these into the gel very well in with a whisk (or fork) or an immersion (stick) blender. If you get lumps, walk away and come back later - some will have dissolved. Refrigerate immediately and use within 1 1/2 to 2 weeks. Throw out if the gel changes color or gets cloudy, changes odor, or gains or loses thickness (viscosity).
©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
This gel gives wonderful, plump clumps, defined waves and curls, rinses out easily and refreshes with just a spray of water.

A good mix for the beginner/the tentative:
Just use flaxseeds and water, and a small amount of oil and use it as a "curl enhancer/definer" under a stronger-hold product.