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DIY Hair Gel

I have been really getting into instagram stories lately for some weird reason. It’s weird to me because I still don’t “get” IG stories. Maybe it’s because I’m in my late thirties and I’m just now about to enter that period of an adult’s life where your comprehension and appreciation for technology starts to wane, but I just never understood the point of them. The allotted space you have to make a video is super short, so by the time I press the start button on my phone and begin recording with my requisite greeting, giggle, and a couple of “ummms” thrown in to get my juices flowing, I only have 5 seconds left to actually communicate what I wanted to share in the first place! Inevitably I end up having to produce, direct and star in these 7.89 seconds of video, recording take after take and rehearsing what I am going to say so that I am concise and don’t end up taking 9 instagram stories to say two sentences. On top of that, the stories disappear after 24 hours, so all your hard work goes unseen to anyone who hasn’t logged into the app within a day of it’s debut. This was particularly disappointing to me after I produced about 35 stories earlier this month to show the process of making a pair of flat, closed shoes from start to finish. Although the videos were completely unpolished (and often very silly, ’cause that’s how I roll), I was proud of all the work I had put into documenting the process and excited for people to see it broken down into manageable steps. Those stories were not a tutorial for shoe making by any means, but sometimes seeing an overview of ordinary people doing things with recognizable tools in their own homes makes complicated projects seem totally doable. But 24 hours later, the whole thing was gone- poof! Inspo on a timeline. (But if any of you missed my shoe making stories, I have a fairly in-depth blog post here documenting a pair I made last year).

As much as the format irks me and as much as I still don’t really get the point of them, there is something kind of fun and efficient about IG stories. You don’t have to bother with a youtube channel or using a special camera and uploading your content, which is something I have personally never been interested in doing. In comparison, IG stories are quick and easy; you can record content and share with the world in a matter of seconds. And without a limitless amount of time to record your video, it makes you think clearly about what it is you want to say so that you can say it succinctly. Instagram stories force you to get to the meat of what it is you want to communicate to your followers, and this is way more in line with the kind of content I like to see and use myself. That said, I still don’t really understand the point of having it disappear so quickly. I’m sure there are a hundred think pieces dedicated to unpacking the culture of millennials that dissects their ability to Latch On and Move On with a quickness unfamiliar to most people of a certain generation, so I won’t bother. I don’t think the function is necessarily a bad thing, it’s just not my thing. Or is it?

It certainly was when I used instagram stories to share my recipe for DIY hair gel a few weeks ago! I had recently run out of my last batch and was preparing to make myself more when I thought, ‘maybe it would be fun to share this on IG!’ The recipe and process for making hair gel are so easy that it’s a cinch to show in a few simple steps, and, as I said before, seeing someone do something you are unfamiliar with tends to make it seem a lot more possible if you aren’t an avid DIYer. Followers were WAY more interested in the recipe than I anticipated, and I got more than a few requests to do a blog post about my DIY hair gel both from people who did watch the video and people who missed out on it but saw that I referenced it in an IG post. So here it is!

A little backstory about how I came to start making and using this hair gel: I went natural on my hair journey about 5 years ago, meaning I was no longer using chemical straighteners on my hair, (this in and of itself is a looong story best reserved for a separate blog post) but it took another couple of years to start using all natural hair products. I had been a huge fan of Deva Curl products for years (I still think they are great and their no-poo shampoo method completely changed my hair life), but I wanted to see how healthy I could get my curls using completely natural products with no sulfates, alcohol, dyes, perfumes, or chemicals. I tried a bunch of natural hair gels that I hated because they either made my hair too heavy with product or they didn’t have enough hold or they were so oily that I couldn’t touch my hair throughout the day without having to wipe my fingers off afterwards. Then, while perusing the VAAAAST number of videos by natural hair vloggers on youtube to get some hair inspiration, I came across a Hey Fran Hey video where she talked about making her own hair gel. She was enthusiastic about the product and her hair looked amazing so I figured it was worth a try. I’ve been a convert ever since!

The most important qualities I personally look for in a hair gel are

  • medium hold (too little hold and the curls get frizzy- too much hold and the curls feel like sticks and have no movement)
  • easy to apply
  • no flakes, crispiness, or greasiness
  • price conscious
  • all natural ingredients

This hair gel hits all of those points for me, and it’s only real con is that, since it’s made of all natural ingredients with no preservatives, it must be refrigerated between uses. I thought this would be a major fail for me before I started using it but it has been totally manageable. I’ve left my hair gel in the shower or in a suitcase for a few days and it was totally fine, but anything longer than a week and it starts to get a funny smell.

DIY FLAX SEED HAIR GEL

So let’s get down to it- all you need are two main ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs whole flax seeds
  • 1 cup of water, more as needed

The remaining ingredients are optional:

  1. Boil your water in a pot.
  2. Add your flax seeds and turn the heat down to a light simmer.
  3. Constantly stir the flax seeds as they simmer; the water will thicken and in a few minutes you will see a light foam begin to develop. The amount of time that you need to simmer your seeds depends on what you want the consistency of your gel to be; less time means a more liquid gel which will give you lighter hold, and more time means a thicker gel which will give you a stronger hold. I like my gel right in the middle and usually simmer mine for around 4 minutes. You can test the consistency of your gel by placing a spoon in the liquid and slowly pulling it out of the water- if the water drips off quickly like water, it’s on the more liquid side, and if it drips off slowly like honey, it’s on the thicker side. I like mine a step past honey where it’s just barely starting to coagulate.
  4. Once you have the consistency you want, remove the pot from heat and carefully pour the contents of your pot through a strainer and into a bowl (if you don’t have a strainer I heard that a stocking works well). Your gel should yield a little less than a cup of product and be liquid enough to flow through the strainer with ease. If you have more seeds than gel and are finding it hard to ease the gel through the strainer, you might have cooked the seeds for too long or had the heat on too high, but it’s easy to fix! Simply pour your seeds back into the pot, add another cup of water, and start the process over again on lower heat.
  5. Let your mixture cool down in a bowl for a few minutes before adding your essential oils so that they don’t burn off. I use about 20 drops total of a combination of oils, but you can add more or less to suit your preferences.
  6. Next, stir in a few tablespoons of Aloe Vera gel, which provides moisture and protection for your hair without making the gel too oily. If your gel is very thick, the Aloe Vera can also help dilute it a bit and give it a smoother consistency.

I pour all of my gel into a large plastic jar that I keep in the fridge, and then I fill a smaller container to take to the shower with me, replenishing as needed.

The only important thing to pay attention to is the consistency. I mentioned above my own preferences, but here is the truth: this gel is like a giant ball of snot. YES, that is disgusting, YES I mentioned it SEVERAL times in my instagram stories because it’s also hilarious, but it’s important to know. If a comparison to snot is far too gross to you, you can instead think of it like it’s the white part of an uncooked egg- that super viscous texture that is almost impossible to break up with your fingers- which makes sense; flax seed gel is what many vegan recipes use as a substitute for eggs. The thicker the gel is, the harder it is to emulsify in your hands (you know, that thing you do when you put product between your palms and rub it together to distribute it evenly?) Once I made a batch of this hair gel that was too thick and I couldn’t get the “snot” to break up in my hands in the shower, so I ended up splattering a palmful on the side of my head and combing it through my hair to break it up. I do NOT recommend doing that! Adding aloe vera to the recipe has worked wonders for keeping my gel from getting too thick. Once you are happy with your consistency, you can use it like regular gel. I scrunch in my gel on wet hair, post leave-in conditioner, finger comb my curls, then scrunch in a little bit more before I let it air dry.

Another great thing about this hair gel is that you can’t use too much of it. When I used store bought gels, I would have to be careful to use just the right amount, because if I used too much my curls would dry hard and crispy, and there is nothing I hate more than crispy curls. But I haven’t had that issue with this gel- no matter how much I use, my curls stay defined, but never hard. It doesn’t flake either, but you have to make sure your gel is totally emulsified when applying it to your hair- if a small ball of gel dries without being spread out evenly, it will definitely look like flakes when you try to remove it, but they brush off easily and I haven’t had to deal with them very often.

Lastly, as I mentioned in a post prior to this one, nothing can be everything to everyone, and the same rings true for this hair gel. Some people love it, some people don’t, and that’s okay! If you don’t like it, it doesn’t mean you made it wrong or messed it up (although I will encourage you to experiment with the recipe to find that sweet spot that works best for you)! From what I have heard from friends, this hair gel seems to work well for a variety of hair types, from curly to straight, tight to loose curls, and the mothers that I have shared it with tend to love it because it works well on their curly-haired children while also being super inexpensive.

If you’re trycurious about it, I hope you give it a shot, and if you love it, share it with your friends! I am all for decreasing our reliance on the beauty industry; while it provides much needed inspiration, confidence and joy within our community, their success is also based on convincing us that we aren’t good enough as we are, and that we need every single new product that they come out with in order to maintain the beauty ideals that they themselves have created. My own relationship with the beauty industry is fairly complicated, but I am chipping away at it one product at a time, and for the past three years I have made all my own soaps, body butters, face lotions and sunscreens, and my skin is better for it! Sidenote: I recently decided to try a new brand of sunscreen made for people of color that is not mineral based like my own homemade sunscreen and doesn’t leave the slightly gray residue that zinc oxide tends to. The company, called Extrashade, is small and independently owned, and I was happy to support their business. Unfortunately, within three days of using the product, my face and neck broke out in hundreds of tiny, pink, dry bumps, and once I stopped using the product it took another 5 days to get better (it happened during my birthday week, too- just awful!) I wrote Extrashade and told them what happened, explaining that I didn’t blame their company for my reaction since I know that everyone’s skin is different and carries certain sensitivities (while their product has some natural ingredients in it, it also relies on several chemicals to protect skin from the sun), and that I would like to send the remaining product back for a refund. They flat out refused, saying that they had not had issues with any other customers and that they couldn’t be sure that my reaction was caused by their product. Aside from the fact that using their product was literally THE ONLY thing I had changed about my dietary and skin care regimen, I was incredibly disappointed by their poor customer service, and I told them so, but unsurprisingly I got no response. It was a terrible interaction that had me feeling frustrated for days afterwards (their 4 oz product cost $35! what a waste!), but it has also made me feel even more vigilant about making my own products. I know exactly what goes in them, I know how they are supposed to work, and they truly make my skin look beautiful. This week is all about a fashion revolution but I urge us to consider starting a revolution in all areas of our lives where we are reliant on a system that is not always transparent. VIVA LA TRYCURIOSITY!!!!