The use of hair gel can be traced as far back as the ancient Egyptians (source) and has been used for decades to define curls, hold a style in place and help create dynamic styles. However, the many commercial hair gels on the market can cause dry hair issues and ultimately lead to breakage. Some also leave unattractive flakes behind once dry or creates a hold as stiff as a starched shirt. In some extreme cases, some have been known to cause hair loss.
In recent years, many natural companies have introduced gels free of synthetic ingredients making life easier for curlistas. My personal favourite is Kinky Curly Curl Custard. However, at nearly $18 for an 8 oz jar, I can’t always invest in it all the time. In between jars of your favourite hair gel or curl defining cream, you can craft your own perfect hair gel at home with a combination of most of the 20 ingredients below:
INGREDIENTS FOR STRENGTH, CONDITION & SHINE
This plant is rich in iron, silica, calcium and vitamin A, D & K. It strengthens the hair and also helps to control dandruff. It can also help prevent hair breakage from over manipulation. It is usually available as dried tea leaves. Try Frontier Organics Stinging Nettle Leaf.
This herb is also commonly known as shavegrass. It contains many minerals and nutrients including iron, tannins, phytosterols, selenium, cysteine and silica. Horsetail is an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent. The silica, selenium and cysteine contained in it help strengthen the hair and prevent split ends. Try Starwest Botanicals Organic Horsetail.
This herb is cultivated in several countries worldwide. It has tiny yellow flowers surrounded by white petals. The yellow flower is the active ingredient used in gels. The flowers are plucked and dried before being sold. They impart shine on the hair and can also lighten the hair over time. Skip this ingredient if you’re not interested in lighter hair. Try Frontier Organics Dried German Chamomile Flowers.
This flower is also known as kardake in the Middle East. The petals are dried for use and are a culinary delicacy in some parts of the world. Back home, we made a refreshing drink out of it known as zobo with water and honey or sugar. Hibiscus helps prevent hair fall and makes the hair glossy. Try Frontier Organics Dried Hibiscus Flowers.
This tree grows in India and produces a tiny green fruit. The fruit is dried and then ground to yield the herb commonly known as amla powder in ayuverda. The powder can prevent premature greys and also conditions hair. Try Feel Good Organics Amla Powder.
INGREDIENTS FOR SLIP & EASY DETANGLING
Irish moss is an algae, which grows in rocky areas. It contains protein and is rich in iodine and sulphur as well as beta-carotene, iron and zinc. It provides lots of slip and makes it easier to manipulate hair with minimal breakage. Try Divine Organics Raw Wildcrafted Irish Moss.
They are aka linseeds and contain significant amounts of omega-3, vitamin B1, selenium, manganese, copper, and dietary fibre. Flax seeds are a good source of phosphorous, magnesium, and selenium. It provides slip but not as much as Irish moss. It also helps to combat frizz. Try Bob’s Red Mill Whole Golden Flax Seed.
Okra is a green pod like edible plant prepared in many ways around the world. Back home, we use it to prepare a soup like meal to go with other dishes. The dish is very slippery like gel. Okra is high in fibre and vitamin C. Try Native Forest Organic Okra or grow your own with these SEEDS.
Marshmallow root grows in moist sandy areas. The root contains starch, pectin and mucilage making it a perfect ingredient to use in hair gels. The root is dried and is available as is or as a powder. There is no evidence that one works better than the other. Try Florida Herbal Pharmacy Marshmallow Root.
The inner bark from the branches of this tree is collected and used for various purposes including medicinal. Slippery elm can be consumed as a tea. This is also available in bark or powder form. Some people believe the powder form works better than the bark form. Try Starwest Botanicals Slippery Elm Bark Powder.
Aloe vera is a short-stemmed plant that can be grown in most areas of the world. It is produced in many forms including as a liquid juice for use. For the purposes of a hair gel, I recommend purchasing the fresh leaf, opening it up and scraping the gel out of the middle. You can also grow your aloe vera leaf at home. Try Hirt’s Gardens Aloe Vera Leaf Plant.