Super Cool Homemade Hair Styling Gel Treatments

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

With some very simple and very safe natural ingredients you can make your very own hair gels at home.

You get the benefits of no more chemicals, no plastic tubs or tubes adding to the garbage flow destined for landfill, no sticky residues in your hair, a little more money in your pocket, and a lush fragrance that you create.

In addition to making variety of gels, you can expand your homemade cosmetics skill set by trying your hand at making a simple hair wax, pomade and hairspray.

When you see how easy these hair styling products are to make, you’ll never go back to store bought synthetics, and as they make great gifts, you can steer your family and friends over to natural hair care products too.

What’s So Bad About The Ingredients In Commercial Hair Styling Gels?

This is a typical ingredient list:

Water, Sorbitol, VP/Methacrylamide/Vinyl Imidazole, Polysorbate 20, Carbomer, Pantolactone, Isopropanolamine, Benzophenone-4, DMDM Hydantoin, Iodopropynyl-Butylcarbamate, Tromethamine, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Hydrolyzed oat protein,  Fragrance, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Butylphenyl Methylpropional

Water makes up over 90% of a commercial hair gel. The ingredient that actually holds your hair in place is called a polymer. Polymers can be natural or synthetic. A polymer is simply a large molecule made up of many repeating units. Greek poly – many, mer -parts. Two polymers that you’ll be familiar with are synthetic polystyrene and your 100% natural DNA.

In the above list of ingredients, the polymer is VP/Methacrylamide/Vinyl Imidazole which is a synthetic polymer with low toxicity concerns.

More concerning is Polysorbate 20. This is used as a surfactant and emulsifying agent. It starts off as sorbitol which is a natural sugar usually obtained from corn. Then it’s treated with ethylene oxide which is a carcinogen. The 20 in the name comes from the fact that each part of sugar is treated with 20 parts of ethylene oxide.

Carbomer is the thickening agent that makes the gel, it has low toxicity concerns.

Pantolactone is a humectant which helps to prevent moisture loss from your hair.

Isopropanolamine acts as an emulsifier and it also helps to control the pH of a product – its level of acidity/alkalinity. It has moderate toxicity concerns.

Benzophenone-4 is included in the product to prevent deterioration when exposed to UV rays from sunlight. Research has found that it is a potential contact dermatitis allergen. Some sources also suggest that this ingredient is a carcinogen, endocrine system disruptor and reproductive system disruptor. The California EPA’s Proposition 65 list, identifies benzophenone as a possible human carcinogen

DMDM Hydantoin is a formaldehyde releasing preservative that prevents products from developing mold. It has moderate to high toxicity concerns and is linked to cancer and allergies.

Another preservative is Iodopropynyl-Butylcarbamate, this is a suspected gastrointestinal and liver toxin, and has also been linked to the potential for reduced fertility and an increased risk of pregnancy problems. It’s a suspected teratogen, which means that it may increase the risk of birth defects. If you’re pregnant you really need to check all of your product labels for this one!

Tromethamine is a pH adjuster, it has low toxicity concerns.

C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate is a skin conditioning agent with low toxicity concerns.

Hydrolyzed oat protein is a natural ingredient that adds softness and shine to hair, it has no toxicity concerns.

Hexyl Cinnamal is a fragrance masking compound that has moderate toxicity concerns as an allergen. It’s banned in the European Union as a possible human immune system toxicant or allergen.

Linalool is a naturally occurring fragrance compound in plants. It’s commonly used in many products – soaps, lotions, styling products, household cleaners, etc. It’s use as a fragrance ingredient is banned in the European Union where it is listed as a possible human immune system toxicant or allergen. The Skin Deep database lists Linalool as having moderate toxicity.

Butylphenyl Methylpropional is a fragrance ingredient with moderate to high toxicity concerns. It is considered a high risk for bioaccumulation – it remains in your body – and a moderate risk for allergies and organ system toxicity.

There are certainly some ingredients on that list to be worried about. They won’t just be in your hair gel or other styling products either. You’ll find them in moisturizers, shampoos, sunscreens and cosmetics.

To get a better idea of how risky our habitual use of a wide range of commercially produced hygiene and cosmetic products is, you can take a look at great little video from Annie Leonard, (creator of the Story Of Stuff) called the Story Of Cosmetics.

Some very useful sites to check out ingredients include:

The Skin Deep Database –

Safe –

European Union Databse –

Environment Canada Domestic Substances List –

So, let’s turn our attention toward something that’s a whole lot more fun than nasty ingredients, and find out how we can style our hair with toxin free products instead.

The best thing about the following home made hair styling treatments (with the exception of the fragrance oils) is that you can eat the ingredients. If you can put it in your body, then you can put it on your body.

DIY Hair Gel With Gelatin

DIY Hair Gel With Gelatin

This is a versatile hair gel with good hold.

You will need:

  • ¼  – ½  teaspoon gelatin
  • ½  cup very warm filtered or distilled water
  • 3-5 drops essential oil (optional)

Lime essential oil is helpful for balancing oily hair.

Peppermint and rosemary essential oils stimulate hair growth and add shine.

Basil, thyme, patchouli, tea tree and lemongrass have astringent properties which are beneficial for oily hair

Chamomile, lavender, sandalwood and rosemary are good to use with dry hair.

Clary sage, tea tree, eucalyptus, and patchouli give good results with dandruff

How to make:

  1. Dissolve gelatin in warm water, using ¼  teaspoon for light hold and ½  teaspoon for stronger hold.
  2. Add essential oils if using.
  3. Store in a covered container in the fridge.

To Use:

Apply just like regular hair gel.

Shelf Life: 1 to 2 weeks.


Vegan Friendly Hair Gel

This gel is good for defining curls and controlling flyaway hair. You can also use it to create a sleek look or messy, textured look. It won’t flake, and it leaves your hair shiny and soft.

Makes 5 to10 applications, depending on your hair length.

You will need:

  • ¼  cup flax seeds
  • 2 cups filtered or distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel

How to make:

  1. Soak the flax seeds in water for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Soaking reduces cooking time and increases gel yield.
  2. Add the flax seeds and water to a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Check if your gel is ready by using a spoon test. Scoop a little gel onto a spoon and watch how quickly it drips off. You want to see it cling for a bit, rather than run straight off the spoon. If it needs more cooking, keep a close eye on it so that it doesn’t get too thick.
  4. When ready, the mixture will look thick and gel like.
  5. Remove from the heat and strain the mixture into a clean container.
  6. Stir in the aloe vera gel.
  7. Wait for it to cool before you use.

To Use:

Take a small amount and rub it between your palms. You can apply it to damp hair or dry hair. Use a small amount to add shine and volume, or more for a firmer hold.

Shelf Life: About one week stored in the fridge. If you make a large amount you can freeze it in ice cube trays and take cubes from the freezer every few days so that they are ready to use when you need them.

DIY Pomade Styling Wax

This will moisturize your hair, give it shine and keep it under control.

You will need:

  • 1 organic beeswax
  • 1.5 ounces shea butter
  • 2 ounces jojoba oil
  • ⅛  – ¼  teaspoon of your choice of essential oil

How to make:

  1. Melt beeswax in a small bowl in your microwave, or in double boiler over low heat.
  2. When the beeswax is melted, mix in shea butter.
  3. Once the shea butter has melted into the warm beeswax, add the jojoba oil and stir well to combine.
  4. Pour mixture into a clean container and allow to cool slightly before mixing in the essential oil.

To use:

Warm a small amount between your fingertips, then work through your hair and style.

Shelf life: this has a long shelf life because it has no water in the recipe.

Aloe Vera Hair Gel

Aloe Vera Hair Gel

This is super simple to make and gives your hair a light, conditioned hold. The addition of essential oils can give your hair gel some therapeutic benefits too.

  • ½ cup organic aloe gel
  • 4-5 drops vitamin E (from a capsule is fine)
  • 5 -10 drops essential oil

For specific problems, use the following essential oils:

  • For psoriasis, add 10 drops of lavender essential oil to the aloe vera gel.
  • For eczema, add 5 drops of lavender and 5 drops of geranium essential oils to the gel.
  • For seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff, add 5 drops of lavender and 5 drops of tea tree essential oil to your aloe vera gel.
  • For an itchy scalp, use 5 drops of  rosemary and 5 drops of tea tree essential oil.

Mix the aloe gel with the vitamin E and your chosen essential oils.

When you use this hair gel, massage a little into your scalp and then distribute it through your hair before styling.

For a slightly stronger hold use:

  • ½  teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • ½ cup warm water
  • ½ cup aloe vera gel
  • 10 to 20 drops essential oil
  • 4-5 drops vitamin E

How to make:

  1. Mix gelatin with warm water until dissolved.
  2. Use stick blender to incorporate aloe vera gel into gelatin mixture.
  3. Add vitamin E and essential oils.

For even stronger hold, use one teaspoon of gelatin in the above recipe. You can also add more gelatin in ¼ teaspoon increments until you get a consistency that you like.

Shelf life: about one week in the fridge.

Lemon And Glycerin Conditioning Hair Gel

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon of gelatin
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil
  • 4 tablespoons of aloe vera

How to make:

  1. Mix the water and gelatin in a saucepan over a medium heat until the gelatin dissolves.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Leave to cool.
  3. Add the coconut oil and aloe vera after the gelatin has set.
  4. Place everything in a blender and mix on low until creamy. You can also combine this by hand, but you will need to melt the coconut oil first.

Flaxseed And Honey Hair Gel

The sugars in the honey give this gel a firmer hold.

You will need:

  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup whole flaxseeds
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of raw honey
  • ½ teaspoon of vitamin E oil
  • A few drops of your favorite essential oil

How to make:

Bring the flaxseeds and water to a boil in a pan.

Stir continuously for about 5 to 10 minutes until slightly thickened.

Sieve the mixture with clean panty hose into a container.

Mix the essential oil and honey into the gel.

Shelf life: About one week in the fridge.

Tame Frizz With A Simple Hair Oil

Using gel is a little bit of a heavy handed approach when it comes to frizz. All you need is hair oil.

You will need:

  • 5 tablespoons of apricot oil
  • Filtered or distilled water
  • 1 teaspoon vodka (to allow the water and oil to mix)
  • 12 ounce spray bottle

How to make:

  1. Add water to your spray bottle. Not all the way to the top though, you need some room to allow the ingredients to mix when you shake.
  2. Add vodka.
  3. Add oil
  4. Shake hard to mix.

Shelf life: several weeks in the fridge (the vodka inhibits bacterial growth.)

Simple Sugar Hairspray

Since you’re opting for a natural hair gel, you might like to try a natural hair spray too.

You will need:

  • 1.5 cups filtered water
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of a high proof alcohol like vodka
  • 10 -15 drops of your favorite essential oils

How to make:

  1. Boil the water in a pan and add the sugar. Stir for a minute while the sugar dissolves.
  2. Let cool to room temperature then add the alcohol and essential oils.
  3. Pour into a clean spray bottle and use in place of your regular hair spray.

Once you use the hairspray, you can asses how the hold works for you. Next time if you want more hold or less, adjust the amount of sugar in the recipe. If you want to make a texturizing hair spray, use half of the amount of sugar and add the same amount of magnesium flakes.

Shelf life: this stores really well. The sugar naturally inhibits microbes as does the vodka.

Flexible Hold Hair Spray

This hairspray smells good enough to eat!

Citrus and Lavender Hairspray

You will need:

  • 1 whole orange (for dark hair) or lemon (for light hair).
  • 2 cups distilled or filtered water
  • 2-3 tablespoons high proof vodka or other clear grain alcohol
  • 6-8 drops of lavender essential oil

How to make:

  1. Cut the orange or lemon into wedges, place in a pan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium high heat until liquid is reduced by half.
  2. Strain liquid through cheesecloth or a very fine sieve into a measuring cup. You need one cup of liquid, if your mixture lost too much water, just add more filtered water to make the amount one cup. Allow the liquid to cool.
  3. Mix the alcohol and essential oils in a small bowl, use a small spoon to stir, then add to the cooled citrus juice.
  4. Use a funnel to decant into a spray bottle with a fine misting head.
  5. Shake to combine all of the ingredients.
  6. As you would with any hairspray, shake before each use.

This hairspray is a great way to use up any old citrus fruit that is going soft in your fruit bowl.

Shelf life: last a couple of weeks in the fridge.

Fabulous Homemade Hair Mousse

This is a lovely light mousse with good hold.

You will need:

  • ½  cup shea butter, warmed slightly to soften
  • ¼  cup coconut oil, at room temperature
  • ¼  cup olive oil
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil
  • 20 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 40 drops eucalyptus essential oil

(or your choice of essential oils)

How to make:

  1. Add the shea butter and coconut oil to the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Beat on medium high for 10 minutes until light and fluffy..
  3. Add the essential oils then turn the mixer back on to medium high, slowly drip in the olive oil until fully incorporated.
  4. Mix for another 2 minutes.

Store your mousse in a cool, dark place. It has a good shelf life because it doesn’t contain any water.

And there you have it, simple recipes with simple and safe ingredients. It’s fun to experiment with homemade hair care products. Test out the recipes and see how you like them!

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.