Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What's Cookin': Super Smooth Flax Curl Cream

If you have dry or tightly curled or coarse (hair that has a wide diameter) or kinking hair, you might like this recipe! It does wonders for gray hair too. Defines, softens, de-frizzes, holds gently, adds shine and enhances your hair's natural texture.

Warning, Version #1 has one (okay, maybe 2) Uncommon Ingredients. Version #2 does not.
It transforms husband's kinking, mind-of-its-own hair into shiny, soft, well-defined waves and curls that just get better as the day wears on. It makes my more silky hair a little heavy, I cannot use too much of it.
Here's a link to a stronger-hold recipe, if your hair demands more hold:  Flaxseed Curl Cream.©Science-y Hair Blog 2013

Ingredients for Super Smooth Flax Curl Cream:
- Flaxseeds
- Water (preferably distilled)
- Coconut oil for dry or porous hair, apricot kernel or grapeseed oil or a mixture of your favorite lighter oils for easily weighed-down hair.

Variation #1: BTMS-25 or BTMS-50 flakes (BTMS contains Cetyl alcohol and Behentrimonium methosulfate, an ingredient used in formulating hair and skin products. If you use this ingredient, make sure it does not contain ingredients other than the 2 mentioned - check with the manufacturer or supplier).
Variation #2: A creamy, thick hair conditioner of your choice, thin or runny conditioners may not work as well.

Both variations:- *Optional, not necessary: Add a tiny pinch - about 1/32 of a teaspoon citric acid or "Fruit Fresh" to make a lower pH product, Ideal for porous, dyed or highlighted hair.
- Hydrolyzed protein (optional, some hair types may feel too stiff or become dry and brittle with protein added) such as Colorful Neutral Protein Filler

©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
Step 1: Make the Flax Base (Variation 1 and 2)
Boil together 3 tablespoons (1/4 cup) flaxseeds and 1 1/2 cups distilled water, stirring occasionally, for about 5-6 minutes. The flax should be sinking and the gel should be starting to look like thin threads as it drips from your stirring spoon or fork, but it should not fall in thick strings. (Optional: soak the flaxseeds in the water for about 3-6 hours before boiling for a stronger-textured gel).
Strain the seeds out of the gel with a colander or wire strainer.
You should have about 3/4 to 1 cup of gel (if not, use more water from the beginning next time and for now, put the gel back in a pan, add enough water to equal 1 cup and re-heat and whisk).

Step 2 and 3Variation #1: Meanwhile, in a double boiler (such as a Pyrex measuring cup in a double boiler or in a pan on a rack) heat 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil (or other oils) and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon BTMS (Cetyl alcohol and Behentrimonium methosulfate - a cationic, emulsifying conditioner) just until it melts, lower the temperature on the stove and hold at 140° F (60°C) for 15 minutes (for example - while you boil the flax seeds).

After that 15 minutes is over, add the flax gel and optional citric acid if using to the double-boiler in which you have melted the oil and conditioner. Blend well with a stick (immersion) blender.

Steps 2 and 3, Variation #2: Directly to the strained flax gel add 1/2 teaspoon coconut or other oils so that it melts. Then let the gel cool until it's comfortable to touch. When the gel is cool, add 2-3 tablespoons conditioner, optional citric acid if using and whisk well, or use an immersion (stick) blender or an ordinary blender to mix gel, oil and conditioner.

Optional protein step: When cool enough to touch, add 1/2 teaspoon hydrolyzed protein such as Colorful Neutral Protein Filler, or hydrolyzed protein of your choice.

Step 4: Pour into a clean, sterilized bottle with a cap (it's still slimy, this is the best way to dispense it) and refrigerate - this should keep for 2 weeks. You can freeze part of the gel for a longer "shelf" life. Clean jars work well too - scoop the gel out with a clean spoon instead of your fingers to avoid contamination.
©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
Too thin and slippery? Need more hold? This recipe is rather thin and slimy. To thicken the gel and add a little more hold, do this before you add anything else to the gel.
Mix any of these thickeners with 1 tablespoon cool water to dissolve or disperse:
1/2 teaspoon pectin - the kind for making jam and jelly without sugar but watch that the pH doesn't go too low
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 to 1 teaspoon arrowroot starch (flour) or cornstarch

Return the gel to a pan over medium heat (or in a double boiler) and add the thickener-water mixture. Heat the gel while whisking or stirring until the thickener is dispersed and not lumpy - for the starches you want to see the gel get mostly clear and begin to thicken. Use an immersion blender for quicker blending.

To use: Apply to damp or wet hair as you would any hair gel. Top with a stronger-hold gel if you prefer. The flaxseed gel (and protein) provide moisturizing, shine and light hold. The conditioner adds softness and light hold as well as frizz control. The coconut oil provides softness, pliability and shine and helps trap moisture near the hair.

Application tips: For the absolutely smoothest result, comb this gel (with a wide-tooth comb, or your fingers) into your hair or smooth it over small sections, making sure all strands are well-saturated. Then scrunch if you like (slowly and gently let hair fall into your palm and press upwards towards your head so that the hair can form it's waves and curls in the palm of your hand, then give a gentle squeeze for 3-5 seconds once it's all up near your scalp. Just as slowly, release the hair). Blot out any excess moisture and air-dry or lightly diffuse-dry.
To elongate curls: Apply the product to dry hair to style or to refresh.

Trial size: Assuming you already have some flaxseed gel.
1/4 cup of strained, homemade flaxseed gel (thickened or not)
1/8 teaspoon coconut oil or grapeseed oil
1 1/2 teaspoons conditioner

Mix together in a clean container (if the coconut oil has solidified, warm it first). Refrigerate the "leftovers" if you want to use them later.



  1. The recipe looks pretty good. Thanks for posting :)
    I always face some issue with spreadability of flax seed gel. It is hard to apply on hair. I want to make the flax seed with the consistency like the jessi curl rocking ringlets. Could you please help me with this?

    1. Kavya, Jessicurl Rockin Ringlets contains these ingredients (from the website): --Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed/Flaxseed Extract), Glycerin, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder, Magnesium Sulfate, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate--

      First of all, for the flax seed extract, I don't know if this actually means they're boiling flax seeds to extract the gel or if this is a commercial extract. Commercial extracts would be more shelf-stable.

      To make your own, this is a simple flaxseed gel recipe like my "Basic Flax Seed Gel" recipe on this page: http://science-yhairblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-cookin-this-week-for-hair.html

      You can add the magnesium sulfate before your strain the gel (to the simmering seeds and water) or to the strained gel. A good starting amount for the other ingredients is (per full cup of strained gel or per batch) from 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon magnesium sulfate, 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon glycerin, 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon jojoba oil and 1 tablespoon aloe vera juice. Adjust as necessary.

      This makes a very viscous gel - rubbery and stringy, but that's just the flaxen goodness coming through. You can put it in a blender or blend it with a stick blender (immersion blender) to break up the stringiness. Storing the gel in a haircolor applicator bottle with a squeeze-top makes application much easier.

      You would need to refrigerate this gel or freeze part of it unless you plant to use a commercial preservative to prevent bacteria and mold from growing in the gel. Freezing in ice cube trays is a really easy way to portion out the gel.

  2. Thanks a lot WS!! :) I read more articles from your blog and I must say your blog is very informational. I will try the recipe for sure. Lets see if the blending helps in spreadability. But I am still wondering how linseed extract can provide the hold? As extract are made using solvent extraction.

    1. I have seen 2 different sources - one for industrial applications - that recommend soaking as the correct method for extracting gums/mucilage from flax seeds. If the oils or proteins are extracted, that is a more elaborate process. But to get the whole gum, you soak the seeds. I boil them, but if you pre-soak the seeds overnight before boiling, you get a more moisturizing gel. When you see "flax extract" on other products, you may not know what the ingredient consists of. But Jessicurl's products are based on a homemade recipe that became her business, so one would imagine the product needs to be fairly close to the result from homemade.
      The hold comes from the complex sugars, the plant mucilage. The films it forms helps stick hairs together and acts like other hold-providing polymers, but more moisturizing. With no additives, plain flaxseed gel has very light hold. When you add magnesium sulfate (epsom salts) and glycerin, it increases the hold slightly under some weather conditions.
      For the most spreadable gel, use a shorter boiling time as well as blending the gel up. Blending helps some - but it's still stringy after blending too.

  3. Hi WS,is there an alternative to "BTMS" that's more easily accessible, like a food alternative?

    1. No, no food-like alternative. It's an emulsifier as well as a cationic conditioner.