Since, for me, being vegan means not only cruelty-free foods in the body as well as cruelty-free products on the body, it has been challenging to keep an array of hair care products that fit the bill, actually work, and that I can afford on hand.
Shampoo and conditioner was challenging. I tried the no 'poo method where you wash every few days with baking soda (BS) and then rinse with apple cider vinegar (ACV), and had great results for a while (after the first two weeks of crazy oily hair adjusting to not being stripped by junk). Then, however, my curly hair was too dry from BS and too oily from ACV and I could never get the proportions right without my hair being either too flyaway and brittle or two oily. So I went sulfate-free and silicone-free this year and only 'poo the roots and condition the ends every 2-3 days. I use Dessert Essence's Coconut Shampoo, massaging only on my scalp. I condition with Kinky-Curly Knot Today Conditioner (stocked in the ethnic hair section of my local retailer) on just the ends, rinse, and massage in a drop more of conditioner that I don't rinse out. My hair is happy, and I'm happy that I don't have to do anymore research for no sulfates, no silicones, AND cruelty free ingredients and companies.
This left styling products. I really only wanted one to help hold my curls in check, and maybe one to smoothe fly aways. Already spending about $7 on my shampoo at my local mom & pop health food store and $11 on my conditioner at Target (tho they do last me for months, it still feels like a hefty expense for your hair), I wanted something super cheap, with no drying alcohols, no animal by products, and cruelty-free to help keep my hair on the curly side of unruly. It seemed like a tall order.
Enter a YouTube video that changed my life. And my hair.
I was led to that video by a curly hair community forum. I didn't know before watching it that making my own styling gel was even an option! To think that, for pennies, I could make the gel and be sure of exactly what was in it and nourish my hair like it needed was pretty exciting. I crossed my fingers that it would not be anything like my up and down no 'poo roller coaster ride.
I'm happy to report that it only takes me 10 minutes to make, requires very few ingredients and supplies, and works like a dream.
Naptural 85, the creator of the above video, is amazing and I found that while, yes, I am a white girl with kinda curly, kinda just plain unruly hair, her proportions and method do work best for me. It's a testament to how great this gel is. It works for many textures and types of hair. (And to be honest, I have had better luck with cruelty-free ingredients and companies when shopping in the ethnic hair section than in the chemical laden big brand name one). You may have to tinker with amounts or, more likely, boiling time and discover the essential oils you like best, but the flax/water recipe and method is the perfect starting point for anyone interested in spending a mere ten minutes in the kitchen to whip up an awesome, effective, affordable vegan hair gel.
|DIY Easy, Affordable Vegan Hair Gel, What You'll Need|
You will need:
1 med-sized sauce pan
1 tall container that holds at least 10 oz.
one nylon stocking (I buy the cheapo pack at my local pharmacy that comes with six pair for a couple dollars)
Spoon, for stirring
smooth tongs or chopsticks (not having tongs that glide smoothly, chopsticks work perfectly)
1/4 c. flax seeds, whole (can be light or dark)
2 c. water (I use filtered)
essential oils of your choosing (I use a couple drops of orange* and about 10-12 drops lavender**)
1. Stretch nylon across tall container. You will use this to catch your mixture and separate the cooked seeds from the newly made gel (I have tried a fine mesh strainer instead of the nylon. It was a complete mess. I don't recommend it).
|Nylon stretched across catch container. Ready to go!|
2. Pour water into sauce pan. Add flax seeds. Stirring often, heat mixture to boiling on med-high heat. You don't want the flax seeds to clump up so stirring is essential.
3. Boil seeds in water until your water becomes the consistency you want. The thicker the gel you make, the more hold you get. I like mine to boil for about 6-7 minutes, achieving a consistency that I can only liken to snot. :) It is not as firm as typical, store-bought gel, but has stretch when I pour it off the spoon, the last part pulls back up toward the spoon. It will also firm a bit more as it cools.
|Boil flax seed approx 6-7 minutes, or until gel pulls back to spoon when pouring.|
4. Pour gel onto nylon stretched across catch container. Most of the gel will run right through to the bottom.
5. Carefully pull the nylon off of the catch container and, with your tongs or chopsticks, squeeze out as much gel from the seeds as you can. Altogether, you should get approx. 10 ounces. I get 8-10 every time. There will be some left that you can't get off the seeds. that's okay.
|Pour gel through nylon, squeeze out as much gel from seeds as you can. Makes approx 8-10 oz.|
6. Place the seeds in a storage container and store in the refrigerator. It's okay that they are a giant glob of gel-y seeds. They will break up again when you cook them next time. Yep, you can use them at least 1-2 more times. I find that I have to cook for another couple of minutes with already used flax seeds to achieve the same consistency that I get when they are fresh.
7. Set your newly made gel in it's container somewhere to cool. I rinse out my nylon and stretch it back across the container while it cools, but that's just because I have five cats and a dog in and out of the kitchen all day and it's the best way to keep my gel from containing hair. :)
8. Once the gel has reached room temperature (do not add when hot, you can destroy the essential oils and they will not be effective or can spoil and smell awful), add your essential oils and stir. I first made this gel with only lavender and had to keep it in the refrigerator so that it would not spoil. I kept forgetting to put it back in the 'fridge after using every time so it went rancid after about a week and a half in the hot, hot, humidity of my Florida shower.
9. Carefully pour cooled, mixed gel into storage container. I use a funnel because I'm not so steady-handed. I also use a pump bottle for ease of distribution when in the shower.
|Add essential oils to preserve gel and nourish hair|
Note: I have mentioned earlier that I have read that it will need to be refrigerated. Adding a citrus oil, for me, has made that not so. I also use quite a bit at a time so it may be that I just use it all up before that happens. If it ever starts to smell bad, then refrigeration may work best for you. One perk of using the gel straight out of the refrigerator is that when cold, it helps seal the hair shaft, making for even shinier, smoother hair.
*I read that a couple drops of citric acid or a citrus essential oil would assist in that not happening. Typically people named grapefruit as their go-to for this. I had orange on hand and it's worked like a charm.
**After some internet searching I found that the lavender oil that I keep on hand already is a great curl promoter and hair nourisher so I use that, too. My gel lasts without spoiling with just 3 drops of the orange essential oil and 10-12 lavender that I like to use for helping to promote and refresh curls. It also smells amazing.
Depending on how often in any given week I wash my hair, this gel lasts me about a month. I use quite a bit. Storing it in a pump bottle, up cycled from an old body wash, I pump three pumps at a time and apply liberally to very wet hair sections and scrunch and squeeze in the gel and out excess water before wrapping it in an old tshirt to dry some. I will typically blow out a tiny bit of the hair framing my face and let the rest dry as it will.
|L to R: Hair without gel, some humidity, Newly showered/gelled hair, Air-dried gelled hair, high humidity.|
This is what my hair looks like when dry. I believe this was even the second day.
Using this type of gel won't make your hair crunchy or dry. It actually makes it soft and shiny. I am still using a pound of flax seeds that I bought in January, 2013 in bulk at a reasonable price. Lavender I have to buy often because I use it for other things. Orange, I feel like I've had forever from an old car sachet I made. With the ease of this method and the affordability of the ingredients? I don't think I'll ever be reading a hair styling product ingredient list ever again!
I've also started making my own vegan deoderant, facial toner, body moisturizer, and will be making laundry detergent very soon. Check back for those posts when I'm busy chowing on lots of Vegan MoFo post leftovers!