If you have curly hair, or have a loved one or friend with curly hair, this might interest you. If you like making stuff, this might interest you. If making a slimy, snotty hair gel from flax seeds doesn’t sound like fun, this might not interest you.
I first found out about flax seed gel over on the NaturallyCurly.com CurlTalk message boards. For the past year, I’ve been playing around with different things to try to make my naturally curly hair healthier and less frizzy. I’ve been learning about my hair type and what ingredients work well in my hair, so that when I pick out hair products (cleanser, conditioner, stylers) I know what to look for and what to avoid.
When I started all of this last year, it was March and we were just entering spring in Illinois. Temperatures were going up, humidity and dew point were rising…all good things for my hair. Humidity really makes my curls pop! So I had a fairly easy time of it, going into summer (which was one of the hottest, most miserable summers I can remember in recent times…ugh) and most of the products I tried worked fairly well. About the only ingredient that can make my hair look frizzy and unruly in summer weather is aloe, so after trying straight aloe vera gel as a styler, I never tried it again.
But flax seed gel really appealed to me…something I could easily find at the grocery store and make at home. I already lean towards the ‘make it yourself’ camp and I’ve dabbled in making my own soaps and lotions, so this was right up my alley.
What recently brought me back to flax seed gel after a long hiatus (while I tried various store-bought stylers) was my experience with these stylers during winter. I learned that my hair doesn’t do well with lots of humectants – if they are high up in the ingredient deck (i.e., in larger quantity than other ingredients) I will end up with frizzy, flat, nasty-looking hair.
This means glycerin, panthenol, honey, propylene glycol…if I see those ingredients listed in the first few ingredients of my gel, curl cream or conditioner (I don’t use shampoo), then I most likely will not like the results if the humidity and dew point are low. Unfortunately, the majority of curl creams and gels out there use these ingredients. But flax seed gel is one humectants-free styler I found that works really, really well for me in the winter. I learned my lesson and will make sure I always have a bottle of this stuff waiting for me in the fridge!
I use this after my leave-in conditioner – I use quite a bit of flax seed gel (I’ve found that I can’t use too much, really) and rake it through or comb it through at first, to make sure all of my hair is saturated. Then I lean over and scrunch, scrunch, scrunch with both hands…each side and then flip my head to scrunch my hair upside down. After this I add gel, because I need a little extra hold…even though this is called flax seed gel, the consistency is really more like slime/snot! I use either LA Looks Sport Gel (very cheap, at most stores), EcoStyler Gel (another cheapy, I get it at Sally Beauty Supply), Biotera Gel (Sally Beauty) or Kiss My Face Upper Management Gel. I scrunch in the gel, let my hair dry, and once it’s dry I scrunch out any ‘crunch’ from the gel.
So that’s how I style my hair, and this is how I make flax seed gel…it’s really fun!
First, I take ¼ cup of flax seeds. This is what they look like:
Set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl that is deep enough so the gel can get through without the strainer touching the bottom. Also have a small wire whisk handy, and any additives you plan to use. (I use ½ tsp of vitamin E for preservative, and a few drops of mint essential oil to add a nice scent.) You’ll also need a container for the final gel – one that will hold 4-5 oz should be fine.
Measure 1 cup of water. (Note: this picture is of half a cup, because I was making a half-batch when I took it.)
You can use tap water or distilled, or you can do what I did and use water that has ¼ cup of marshmallow root steeping in it. You absolutely do not have to use marshmallow root!! I like it because it adds some slip and I happened to already have it from my lotion-making days. If you do infuse your water with marshmallow root, make sure to strain all the marshmallow root before you start making your gel. (This is why my water is not clear, and why my flax seed gel ended up an amber color.)
Add the flax seeds to the water in a small saucepan and turn the heat to high.
Stir every now and then, to keep the seeds moving around so they don’t stick to the pan.
When your water starts to boil, start stirring continuously.
You really need to keep an eye on the gel because the next steps happen pretty quickly. When you start seeing foam and the consistency of the water turns to a thin jelly, turn the heat down a bit and keep stirring. When you see the seeds suspended in the liquid instead of sinking down, turn off the heat. It will still look pretty liquidy, but believe me, you don’t want to cook longer than this or you will never be able to strain your gel!
Give your seeds a final stir and immediately pour the gel and seeds through the strainer.
I use the spoon to kind of stir and push the gel through (you can also scrape the bottom of the strainer, because gel will collect there). It won’t look like a huge amount of gel but you can easily double the recipe if this isn’t enough for you. This recipe gives me enough gel to last for a week or two, using it every other day or every few days.
While your gel and seeds are straining, soak your pot with some water…you don’t want the gel to dry in there because it can be a pain to wash! You can either dump your seeds into the trash or you can put them into a Ziploc bag and reuse them – I can get one or sometimes even two more uses out of a batch of seeds this way. Just pop them into the freezer until you need them again.
At this point, you can add any additives (you don’t need to add anything, but you should keep your gel in the fridge to help it last longer if you don’t use any type of preservative). Give your gel a good whisk and then pour it into your bottle or container.
And that’s it! It sounds kind of convoluted but it’s a fast process…definitely less than 10 minutes.
Once you get past the squick factor because of the consistency (it really is kind of slippery and snotty-feeling), you may find that you love flax seed gel as much as I do!