Thursday, July 12, 2012

What's Cookin' - Easy, Humectant Wave/Curl Boosting Jelly

For this recipe, I was trying to keep what I like about Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Gel and leave what I don't like about it (the scent, too much glycerin and sorbitol, the silicate clay ingredient that is tricky to use).©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
A quick scan of the ingredients and I ruled out the things I didn't want to bother with and that aren't easy to get and formulate with. You can find all these ingredients at drugstores or grocery stores. This recipe is extremely simple, and very good for helping your hair form nice chunky waves and curls - it made mine less frizzy than usual. It has medium hold on its own. If you want more hold, layer some strong-hold gel over it.
©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
The ingredients:
Water: Solvent, dliutent
Xanthan gum: Creates a thick "gel," provides medium hold with humidity-resistance, may slow water loss.
Glycerin(e): Humectant, binds water, boosts curls (for some folks).
Acacia gum: Optional. Adds a bit of "crunch" for more hold. This is sold as a dietary soluble fiber supplement.

I use a double boiler (see my beat-up double boiler at right - it's a metal bowl set in a saucepan with water in the pan almost up to the level of the base of the bowl).
©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
The recipe:
  • 1 cup water (plus an extra tablespoon or 2 which will evaporate as you heat).
  • 1 1/4 heaping teaspoons xanthan gum (2% or 5g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon glycerin - make this a scant half-teaspoon; more than 1/4 teaspoon, less than 1/2 teaspoon (1% or 2.5 g)
  • a pinch (1/16 teaspoon) acacia gum (gum arabic) - optional but good. You can use more - up to 1/2 teaspoon, for example, but you'll need to add conditioner or oil to balance out that stiffness.

Put all ingredients in the double boiler over medium to high heat. When water boils, turn it down. Whisk the ingredients well. The mixture will thicken within a few minutes. Whisk until no more xanthan gum powder is visible. Remove from heat and cool.

Pour into a sterilized bottle and refrigerate immediately - or add preservative according to manufacturer specifications. THAT'S IT! SO EASY.
©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
What else can I add?

  • Magnesium sulfate (1/2 teaspoon) - this is also a humectant and curl enhancer but it can be drying to hair and cause friction.
  • Oil - avocado, grapeseed, coconut, shea butter, sweet almond, jojoba...
  • Gelatine or hydrolyzed protein such as Colorful Neutral Protein Filler (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Aloe. Replace up to half of the water with aloe vera juice - the edible/drinkable kind, not a pre-thickened gel.

What else can I do with this gel? Make a mild shampoo!
Mix a tablespoon or 2 of this gel with a half-teaspoon of shampoo for a milder shampoo which spreads easily in the hair. Get really fancy and add extra oils, protein, clay, herbal extracts, honey, aloe vera juice or whatever you like for a mild, detangling shampoo with lots of hair benefits.


  1. Thank you for creating and sharing this! :)

  2. sounds easy to make and i have some extra amount of xanthan gum with no idea what to do with it... so thank you for this recipe!:)

  3. Hi there! This blog really has tons of useful info. I was wondering, you often mention adding hydrolised protein or gelatin, since I only have gelatin sheets around here and not powdered gelatin, should I first dissolve the sheets in water and then add them to the mixture?

    1. Hi Erika,
      I think I would crumble up the gelatin sheets into the gel while it is heating so it is certain to dissolve completely and be well mixed in. You might try 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (about 0.75 to 1.5 grams) in this recipe.

    2. Hi again! That makes sense, I was thinking to do it the same way myself but I didn't want to risk ruining it. The jelly is cooling right now, I thought there was still some xantham gum powder floating around but turns out they are micro bubbles, it's almost cute.

      Thank you for all these recipes! I've been experimenting on them all the last few days, just for fun/learn more about DIY hair products, they're really nice and simple, but very useful.

      One last thing: I used a preservative called cosgard, have you ever heard of it? It's a mixture of benzyl alcohol and dehydroacetic acid. I haven't seen it around in any "English" forum so I was wondering if it was only an European thing or it has a different name. (:

    3. There are a number of preservatives used in Europe that are not available here. I wish they were available here! I hope the preservative works well with this gel for you.
      I happen to like the little bubbles too. :)

    4. Must be the only thing we have that you don't. ;)

      Supposedly, from its data sheet, cosgard works well at a very wide pH range so I trust it will. I read of people using it and having no sign of contamination for more than two months, which is way more than I need for the small batches of stuff I make anyway!
      The only weird thing about it is that after adding it to the mixture, it releases an almond smell that makes me think of benzaldehyde. And so I went on a mental rant about hydrogenation, LOL, looking at my jelly as if it was going to try and kill me. But turns out that benzyl alcohol smells mildly like almonds too. Dork moment of the day over.

      Also, . :D
      (I swear the link is harmless)

    5. I use benzyl alcohol preservative rarely - I have also noticed the smell. Faintly of almonds and chemistry laboratories. :) Some people don't notice it at all. I looked up Cosgard too - it doesn't seem to have any exclusions which is great. Some preservatives don't work well with anionic ingredients like xanthan gum, or need protection from light.

    6. Erika, that link made me laugh!

    7. Definitely of chemistry labs. We used to be paired up for our experiments back in school, and the guy who worked with me LOVES almonds - and amaretti, if you ever get to try them, they are an Italian cookie thing made with them - so whenever we worked with benzaldehyde he would stain a sleeve of his lab coat with it so he could smell it whenever he wanted. (: it was such a penetrating smell that I had nausea after half an hour, I don't know how he could take it!
      Cosgard seems like the best "wide" preservative for doing these kind of simple things. I trust I'll have to keep different ones eventually if I decide to cook more complicated things, but as of now, I'm happy.

      Haha, glad it did. :D I love Finding Nemo.

  4. What ingredient would you add into this jelly to make it creamier? I'm looking for a creamy moisturizer for my hair & this comes close.

    1. Hello Therline,
      If you want something creamy-smooth like conditioner (vs. oils or butters) you could add some conditioner *after the gel has cooled.* Even if you plan to add a lot of conditioner, mix it in a little bit at a time to be sure the conditioner doesn't overwhelm the texture of the gel.
      If you want a more butter-y product, add some shea butter or cocoa butter or whatever seed butter you like while the gel is still warm to melt the butter so it can be mixed in well.
      You could add both conditioner and a seed butter or a liquid oil - add solid fats and liquid oils to the warm gel and conditioner once the gel has cooled.
      My preference is to add some conditioner and an oil-butter blend for a really nice texture in the gel itself and in the hair. Good luck!

    2. Thank you for the suggestion. I really appreciate it! I have one more question. Is there a more natural option or ingredient besides condioner. I guess a natural emulsifier like acacia gum?

      Thank you again for your help.

    3. Acacia gum add "crunch" and hold to the gel. With acacia, hair can get a little dry feeling, so you need something to counter that.
      I think a more natural option to make this a moisturizing product would be to use oils...
      For a creamy look and feel, blend a solid-at-room-temperature oil like shea butter, cocoa butter, or mango butter with some liquid oil (like avocado or grapeseed or jojoba) first - use as much of the butter and liquid oil as you need to get a texture you like. At least on the first time around, measure the oils, melt the butter and blend, then let it all cool so you can check the texture. If it's creamy enough - warm again and blend into the gel. It should be spreadable and not too stiff. If you get build-up easily, err on the side of less butter and more liquid oil. An oil-butter blend will give you a creamy look and feel and a very nice texture. Depending on how your hair does with oils, you can use quite a lot of oil-butter blend in the gel, or just a little. Mix an oil-butter blend into warm gel.

      If you use coconut oil, you might use a little coconut oil in the blend - it will create a different texture in the oil-butter blend.

      Xanthan gum tends to suspend oils fairly well and the addition of acacia gum is a benefit for oils too - so those ingredients should work well together without needing anything else for emulsification. You can increase the acacia when you use oils too - which will increase the hold of the gel.

    4. Hi, will the oils mix well with the gel? I mean, once it's cool, will it be an homogeneous mixture? Because I've tried to mix oils in my flaxseed gel and unless I whip it with my blender (which ruins the gel consistency, making it liquid) it doesn't mix very well. TIA

    5. Hello Eli,
      Oil should mix in well and stay suspended when xanthan gum is in the mixture. Acacia gum adds an extra oil-suspending quality to the gel. I have made this gel with rather large amounts of oil or oil and butter and it has stayed stable. For that matter, if you want oil to mix in your flax gel and not have it turn liquid on you, you might try using 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum per cup of flax gel. One-fourth teaspoon won't make it terribly thick, it helps suspend the oil and maintain the gelled quality through being whipped with a blender.
      Good luck!