Friday, June 22, 2012

What's Cookin': Flax-Free Hair Gel

This recipe is a curl-enhancing, super-thick gel which doesn't require straining like flaxseed gel does. It encourages waves and curls and adds volume, but leaves hair very soft and has medium hold. Xanthan gum and Guar gum can be found in the gluten-free baking section of large grocery stores, or in natural food stores (or online). Sometimes natural food stores have bulk spices and you can buy these products in small amounts. This is a good product alone for soft hair, or can be used under a strong-hold gel as a curl enhancer, or mixed with it for more hold. It's very much like my flaxseed gel recipe #1 (mid-page) - but without the flaxseeds.©Science-y Hair Blog 2013

Time to make gel: About 10 minutes. It must cool a little before adding the final ingredient.

Freshly made gel, cooling in the sink.
You need a double boiler for the best result - put a metal or glass bowl into a saucepan with water (water should touch the bottom of the bowl, bowl should not touch the bottom of the pan - it should rest on the rim). This prevents overheating and won't let your gel boil too furiously. If you want to leave out the aloe, just use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons distilled water
1/2 cup aloe vera juice
1/2 teaspoon each of Xanthan gum and Guar gum
1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or honey (use 1 teaspoon for more hold) optional, doesn't provide hold in high humidity
6 drops grapeseed oil for fine hair (use coconut or olive for dry hair - more oil can be used, especially if you use a full teaspoon of honey or agave).

Put distilled water, aloe, and xanthan and guar gum in the bowl and whisk to disperse. Place bowl in pan over heat and whisk as the water heats. When water in pan boils, turn it down and keep whisking until the mixture thickens and you don't see little granules on your whisk (or fork) - about 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat and take bowl out of pan (carefully - escaping steam is hot and will burn your fingers - use oven mitts or pot-holders). Add agave or honey now. It may smell a little odd - but that goes away when it's cool.
©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
After the gel has cooled to "warm," add the oil (if using) and mix well.

Freshly made gel in my hand - it thickens up a little more
when cooled completely.
Cool and refrigerate. This gel is very, very thick. It will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator. If this is more than you'll use in 2 weeks, freeze half or cut the batch in half when you make it.

For a thinner, less goopy gel try one of the following:
1) Use a heaping 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum only (no guar gum), all the other ingredients as listed
or
2) Use only 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan and guar gum

Apply liberally to wet or damp hair. Scrunch in well (more scrunching molds better curls), squeeze out any excess with a towel or old T-shirt. Also can be diluted with a tiny amount of water and scrunched into dry hair to re-activate waves and curls and add shine and hold.




31 comments:

  1. Oh, this sounds really good. Have you tried it with mag sulfate?

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  2. I have not yet tried it with magnesium sulfate (epsom salt). I think you'd use whatever one uses for flaxseed gel (anywhere from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon - maybe more, I don't usually use it). Mag. sulfate might give it a little more "oomph" for people who like that ingredient. I'm on the fence about it and probably will be until I find a way to use it that truly impresses me.

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  3. Update - I tried this gel with the equivalent of 1/2 teaspoon magnesium sulfate per cup gel. It worked very well. No change in the gel texture and it improved "clumping" of waves and curls.

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  4. Thanks for posting this. It looks much easier than fsg. Does it have to be aloe vera juice or would av gel work ok?

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  5. Sharon, it depends on what is in the aloe vera gel. I usually use an edible aloe juice (also sometimes called "gel") for recipes. These need to be refrigerated after opening and rarely have more than a few ingredients. If your aloe gal has thickeners such as carbomer or acrylates copoymer, those may not stand up well to heating, but you could try making the gel with the recommended amount of water, then stirring in the aloe gel when the mixture has cooled.

    The combination of guar and xanthan gums or xanthan and aloe is different than any of them alone. It also adds softness to the hair. Hope that's helpful. WS

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  6. I finally made this today with a little extra honey. As my kids would say, "Dude, this is AWESOME!" Good curls, shine, minimal frizz. I used it with Biotera gel and BRHG. It's easier to make than flax seed gel and I used a lot less. Thanks so much!

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  7. Hi!
    I wonder if Agar can be added-in? Although, I'm not sure whether it acts as protein or moisturizer.

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    1. You could add agar, but I'm not sure you'd want to. My experience with agar is 1) microbiology and 2) vegetarian gelatin. In all cases, agar requires heat to liquefy and once it cools, it returns to a rubbery mass. It may work in hair, but I am certainly not inclined to try it because it does dry so stiff. My aversion is partly due to my association with the odors of the stuff when bacteria are growing in it in an incubator.
      Let me know if you try it!

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    2. LOL. Alright, I understand your aversion then. Agar is commonly used for dessert in my home country, so I always associate it with something smelling nice. It does set very rubbery, though, and only a small amount is needed. I wonder if you can write about thickeners? Why use xanthan & guar gums combo, or just one, or any other thickeners available out there. Would love to read that!

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  8. Hi, can this be made without guar gum?

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    1. Hello Nasstassia,
      Yes, this can be made without guar gum. Use 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum per cup of liquid for a less-thick gel or 1 teaspoon per cup liquid for a thick gel. The recipe on this page is a guar-gum free gel: http://science-yhairblog.blogspot.com/2012/07/what-cookin-easy-humectant-wavecurl.html

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  9. I like using glycine betaine in my products for moisture enhancement. I use this one: http://ingredientstodiefor.com/item/VegeMoist_/894?category=29

    Could I add it to this recipe? If so, before or after heating?

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    Replies
    1. This is one of my favorite ingredients for my cream rinse and it's also great in shampoos. It was in the old formula Burt's Bees hair products. It is also in some of the "As I Am" brand products. In my experience, it should not be heated because sometimes there will be a change in product texture once it has cooled - although not every time.
      Best to add it after the gel is cool enough to touch. It may take some stirring to incorporate it and if you're in a hurry, you might dissolve the "VegeMoist" in the smallest amount of distilled water you can and then mix that solution into your gel. Good luck!

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  10. is it ok if i use just guar gum in this recipe? do you know how the hold would be?

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    1. Alana,
      The hold would be very different with guar gum only. My experience is that guar gum, used alone, is less flexible and doesn't have as much hold. Somebody else may have a different experience, but I never use guar gum in gels anymore because I didn't like the end result. Guar makes a great gel in the bottle, but not so great in the hair.

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  11. Hi, I was wondering if it would be possible to make the juice from the plant leaf? I was thinking of scraping out the gel and liquidating it in a blender. Do you think this would work? Thanks! Nikki

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    1. That should work very well, though I wonder if you might be able to use a bit less when it's fresh from the plant. Not that you'd have to - I'm just thinking of the aloe vera plants I have grown. Fast-growing but never very large. Good luck!

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  12. I mixed the guar gum with clay to add slipp, that stuffs was stock in my hair for days. Wash, wash, never come out. I have to use a comb . Hope it will not do the same if I mad e a gel. what is the major difference between the xanthan gum and guar gum?

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    Replies
    1. Guar gum makes a sticky gel that is thick (rubbery if you get it too thick) and doesn't really "flow." It doesn't have great hold in the hair on its own, but it adds a "stiffer" hold when you pair it with xanthan gum. The hold from guar gum alone is stiff and not flexible.

      Xanthan gum is the better gum (in my opinion). It makes a thick gel that is less sticky and flows a little better. It is less likely to flake in hair - though it will if you use too much gel or too much xanthan gum in a gel. The hold from xanthan gum gels is more flexible in the hair.

      If you want to make this recipe and you don't like very thick gels, just leave out the guar gum and use a heaping 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum. Good luck!

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  13. Hello! Thanks again for the great info. I am having the worst time finding an all natural gel that wont make my kinky-curly hair look wet or stringy (sometimes it looks like webbing). Can I make the gel with room temperature distilled water instead of heating the water? Do I need to refrigerate it, if it is only 1cup of distilled water, 1/2 tsp of xanthan gum and 6 drops of jojoba oil? Can I preserve it with vitamin C or Vitamin E and leave it in my bathroom?

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    1. Hello Sue,
      You do need to heat xanthan gum in order for it to be smooth and not flake in your hair. It will thicken at room temperature, but that won't necessarily be a stable or desirable product to use in your hair.

      It will need refrigeration (or freezing) because micro-organisms will start to grow in the gel in a very short amount of time without refrigeration or freezing. Vitamin C and Vitamin E are not strong enough to allow you to leave the gel out. Vitamin E can prevent rancidity of the oil you used and Vitamin C can lower the pH - but some bacteria or molds will be happy to grow in those conditions.

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  14. Hi! I LOOOVVVVVE your blog!! I've learned soooo much! I was wondering if this recipe might give me similar results to the product I'm currently buying which works awesome in my hair. Lottabody Shape Me Custard Gelee.
    Ingredients:Aqua (Water, Eau), Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Pectin, Panthenol, VP/DMAPA Acrylates Copolymer, Calcium Lactate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Parfum (Fragrance), Coumarin, Limonene, Benzyl Alcohol, Diazolidinyl Urea

    Any thoughts?

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    1. Hello, I think this recipe would work better, using glycerin: http://science-yhairblog.blogspot.com/2015/03/whats-cookin-easy-humectant-curl.html

      It wont' be a total match. VP/DMAPA Acrylates Copolymer gives good hold and some humidity-resistance.

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  15. Hi there, not sure you will see this comment since it is a long time after you first posted it. I have been making gel with xanthan gum only, gives great curl enhancement when diffuse drying with good "crunch". However, once I scrunch out the crunch,or the gel softens naturally, my curls lose most definition. I have fine, 2b hair. It is as if the gel just disperses altogether. Although it leaves my hair soft I would like to solve this problem as really want the curl definition to stay. Any ideas on how this could be achieved please?

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    1. Hello Kerliz,
      Xanthan gum provides good support, but tends to lose hold in high or ow humidity. It is not especially strong hold. Adding a humectant - a protein additive like Neutral Protein Filler in the U.S., panthenol, or honey (except in high humidity) may help. Pectin can provide more strength of hold, about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon "No sugar needed" pectin powder per cup of gel, added to water when you add the xanthan gum. You have to be careful of flaking when you add more thickeners, though.
      Otherwise, using a strong-hold gel or mousse or styling foam over the xanthan gum gel might be your solution to get a firmer hold. Good luck - WS

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  16. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me. Your work is really awesome, have just signed up to Instagram and lots of people are benefiting from what you do.

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  17. Actually, please could I ask another question? I have been through your product list (amazing!) but am not sure what would be the strongest hold gel for fine, medium porosity, 2b hair in a humid environment. So far I have tried Jessicurl Spiralicious and a VO5 mega hold gel as well as the homemade xanthan, both of which provided insufficient hold for me. I live in NZ so getting some of the international products is tricky, but I have ordered some Kinky Curly Curling Custard and Curlkeeper Original to use together for frizz control and hold. Any other recommendations? The hold factor is definitely the biggest challenge for me. Thank you (in anticipation).

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    1. Hi Kerliz,
      The strongest hold will some from ingredients like PVA/VP Copolymer, or an "acrylates copolymer" ingredient. The latter tend to have especially good humidity-resistance, see this post (copy the URL and paste) for more about that: http://science-yhairblog.blogspot.com/2017/05/humidity-resistant-hair-styling-products.html
      Spiralicious is not a super-strong hold product. V05 Mega Hold Styling gel should have some humidity-resistance and fairly good hold. With glycerin and PEG-Hydrogenated Castor oil (If I was reading the photo of the bottle correctly) - it might not have the best lasting *strong* (as in: Gravity-defying) hold in some people's hair. Curlkeeper has ingredients to provide some light to medium hold - it is especially for definition and to reduce frizz. Kinky Curly Custard can provide curl definition and support, it is not likely to have strong hold in high humidity. Taft Mega gel is a possibility, and at least it's inexpensive, but it might fail the same as V05 did. Taft Full On Glued gel is also a possibility, I've seen mixed reviews for this product. Taft "Spike" seems to be their strongest-hold product, I would expect this one to have a good "crunch" to the hold. You might experiment with Curl Keeper or Kinky Curly under one of these stronger-hold gels to see if you get better support with a combination of products. I hope that helps! -W

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  18. Thank you! You are awesome. I appreciate all the time you put in to that reply.

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  19. So excited that I found this blog!! You've re-awakened my zeal for experimenting! I'm hoping to diy a gel that gives great hold in high humidity (tropics) on dense 3c 4a curls. So far only KCCC has given me what I really need but its just so pricy. Any tips?

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    1. Hi Crissidoll - Irish moss gel comes to mind. Flaxseed gel thickened with a little pectin (or add 1/2 to 1 tsp. Irish moss powder). None of these are quite as thick as KCCC, but they can work extremely well. Agave nectar can add some crunch and hold, but it tends to fail in higher humidity.

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