Real talk for a second. How many of you have gone to your medicine cabinet or bathroom drawer to reach for some of your favorite organic hair styling gel when you realize either A. the bottle is empty or B. the bottle isn’t even there? I, for one, can vouch that this has happened more than once. But thanks to having a relatively stocked kitchen (or um, at least a grocery store nearby), you can whip up your very own organic styling gel in a pinch right in the confines and comfort of your very own home.
And given the nature of the pandemic (and hopefully soon, post-pandemic) world, not having to go to the store or salon to restock on your favorite product is just one less place to go, and one trip saved—resulting in keeping everyone safer. And don’t forget that the best organic hair gel made at home also happens to be extremely affordable option, particularly if your pantry or fridge is already flush with one of our hero ingredients.
1. Flaxseed Hair Gel
Flaxseed hair gel has a kind of cult status: Search its hashtag on social, and you’ll find a slew of devoted fans preaching the seed’s benefit on their strands. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed hair gel is particularly well poised to nourish and hydrate even the tightest and frizziest of curls. (My postpartum hairline can personally vouch for this as well.) Plus, unlike many store-bought gels, a flaxseed formula doesn’t harden or get crunchy, leave any flakes or white residue behind. It also doesn’t dry strands out, but provides store-bought level hold.
How to Make It: The process here is pretty simple, thankfully. All you have to do is fill a medium-sized pot with two to three cups of water. Stir in two to three tablespoons of flaxseeds, and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Then, immediately remove from heat and let cool—if you have the space, transfer the pot to your fridge to speed things up. Once it’s cooled and has a gelatinous appearance, it’s good to go.
2. Olive Oil Hair Gel
Here’s the thing about olive oil hair gel—you can’t just use olive oil and turn it into gel. But when used alongside more gelatinous products such as flaxseed gel, agar, and aloe vera, olive oil adds a dose of cuticle-smoothing fatty acids to help seal split ends and give hair an extra shot of shine.
How to Make It: Regardless of the base you’re working with, adding just one teaspoon to the mix will smooth frizz, tame flyaways, and help enhance shine while the organic styling gel holds hair in place.
3. Aloe Vera Hair Gel
Despite my preoccupation with sunscreen application, I always make sure to have a fresh bottle of aloe vera gel on hand in case of sun burns—or worse, stove or toaster burns. (IYKYK.) And so long as you don’t have cats in the home, it’s a great idea to keep an aloe vera plant—a hearty, low maintenance succulent—in the kitchen for easy access for burns and boo-boos. However, if you’re looking to use the hydrator on your hair for light hold, it’s best to apply organic aloe vera gel straight into your strands (with your hands, obvi).
How to Make It: Got a plant? Simply snap off the edge of a leaf, squeeze, and boom: you’ve got yourself some fresh aloe vera. But if you’re using store-bought aloe vera gel, you literally don’t have to do anything. If you’d like, you can add a few drops of essential oil to a bottle’s worth and mix thoroughly—I personally love the way it mixes with heady florals like jasmine or earthy herbal notes like rosemary. Place the mix in an air-tight container (hello, Tupperware), where the concoction can last at room temperature for at least three months.
4. Gelatin Hair Gel
This isn’t the time to bust out a packet of flavored gelatin—the last thing you’d probably want to do while using DIY organic hair styling gel is to add some bonus color dye. But the unflavored, dye-free variety of gelatin makes for an excellent at-home product. Not only is it crazy affordable, but you can formulate your hair gel to your own specifications. Depending on the exact prices at your grocery, I believe you can make an entire batch of hair gel for about a dollar total.
How to Make It: Again, the beauty of gelatin hair gel is the precise fact that it’s customizable. Start with one cup of hot water and add 1/2 tsp for light hold, 3/4 tsp for medium, and a full teaspoon for strong hold. Stash in some Tupperware in the fridge for several hours until set. If you’re looking to add some fragrance, you can also toss a few drops of an essential oil into the mix before setting. Think of something energizing, like sweet orange or peppermint for an invigorating boost. Alternatively, oils including lavender, clary sage, and chamomile are perfect to include if you style your hair before you get your beauty sleep.
5. Drugstore Dupe: SheaMoisture Papaya & Neroli All Day Frizz Control Milk Gel
6. Drugstore Dupe: Suave Professionals Castor Oil & Mango Butter Defining Gel
7. Drugstore Dupe: SheaMoisture Papaya & Neroli All Day Frizz Control Styling Gel
The Bottom Line on Organic Hair Styling Gel, Homemade or Otherwise
The beautiful thing about making your own organic styling hair gel is that you can pick and choose the exact ingredients that work for your hair type, the style you’re going for, and the particular amount of hold you’ll need. While aloe vera offers that sexy, light-touch look for waves, those with tighter curls are best off with the gelatin or flaxseed styling gels. And if you do end up purchasing a fresh bottle, the above editors’ picks will be sure-fire successes for all hair types and styles.