Creating hair conditioner from fully natural unprocessed ingredients is a job for the dedicated kitchenician. One of the main reasons why a kitchen product may not get you the results of a commercial conditioner is because the real power of a commercial product is in the inclusion of ingredients to smooth the cuticle after shampooing (cationic surfactants). As discussed previously, these surfactants are generally made by modifying coconut or palm oil so do have a natural origin. However, if your aim is to create something fully natural, here is a guide on what to consider adding in order to get a great result:
1. The Base : Yoghurt (plain) , Banana (baby food), Avocado (creamed)
The base of your natural conditioner needs to be thick enough such that it does not drip off your hair but at the same time be able to be spread easily enough to coat the hair strands. A major mistake people make when picking a natural ingredient like banana or avocado is that they do not blend it down to a complete pulp. If there are still pieces in the mix, there will be pieces to pick out of your hair. A simpler option is to use a thick plain yoghurt or purchase baby food. Avocados are rich in fat and this is useful if your hair needs softening during conditioning.
2. Ingredients for slip : Olive oil, jojoba oil
If you want to detangle your hair with your natural conditioner, then it would be a good idea to add some oil to the base of your choice. A more liquid oil e.g olive oil or a liquid wax e.g jojoba oil is generally a better option than an oil that is more viscous (e.g castor oil) or one that changes from solid to liquid with low heat (e.g shea butter or coconut oil). However, if you intend to use your conditioner warmed up, then it is perfectly fine to use any oil of your choice.
3. Ingredients for moisture — humectants: Glycerin, honey, aloe vera
Humectants purely for moisture are probably best used during the leave in process rather than during the conditioning process. However, there is no harm in using them during the conditioning process. Glycerin, honey and aloe vera are all natural humectants. You can add any of these to your base in a quantity of your choosing. As you will be rinsing off the hair conditioner, most of the humectant on the surface will also eventually be washed away. Therefore, even if you do not particularly like glycerin in a leave in, you may find that in the conditioner mix, it is perfectly fine.
4. Ingredients for strength — protein: Gelatin
If you would like to have some hydrolysed protein in your hair, then you have to slightly break the rules of non-modification and select gelatin to add to your base. I do know that there are people who promote eggs as a natural protein conditioner but it is not really clear if the size of the protein in eggs can really work as well as a hydrolysed protein.
5. Extras — fragrance (essential oils), increase fluidity (coconut cream/milk)
Finally, if the consistency of your final mix is too thick, consider adding coconut cream or milk to it. The liquid here contains some oils from the coconut and therefore adds both fluidity and slip. Plain water may cause some of the oils added to the base to separate (surfactants in commercial conditioners help prevent this, but we don’t have them in the natural options). If you would like some fragrance, do consider some essential oils.
Note: If you are going to go for a 100% natural conditioner, you ideally need to avoid a shampoo with surfactants that will raise the cuticle as the natural conditioner does not really have the same ability as commercial conditioner to fix this. Most commercial shampoos are ruled out but if you are ingredient savvy, you may be able to find a shampoo with non cuticle disruptive surfactants such as tween or cocobetaine (please do your research). Any of the previously discussed natural shampoo options would work. If you are a heavy oil user and want to go down the 100% natural route, you may find a commercial clarifying shampoo to be useful when used infrequently (once a fortnight/month) to prevent build up.
Ladies, do you have homemade fixes for slip, moisture and protein? Share in the comment box!