I was so excited to share this recipe for homemade hairspray that I had a hard time conducting an adequate test phase! I’m happy to report that after using it every day for over a month, I’ve been thrilled with the results. (UPDATE: I’ve been using this formula for over two years now, and won’t ever go back to store-bought!) Here’s how and why I make my own hairspray.

Homemade Hairspray

My Issues with Commercial Hairspray

Nowadays I have very thick, curly, long(ish) hair and need to use a generous amount of hairspray no matter how I style it. (My hair scares Matt if I don’t tame it with at least a little bit of hairspray.) I used to be a fan of maximum hold hairspray, but it left my hair so crunchy my 4 year old nephew wanted to touch it every chance he got. The chemicals and cost of keeping my coif looking good frustrates me. I cringe when I think about the chemicals I inhale with cheap hairspray, not to mention that is sits on my hair all day. The cost of natural hairspray tends to make me cringe too.


It’s time for something different.

To my delight, Matt received a basic recipe for homemade hairspray from a DIYNatural reader named Charli. I. Was. Giddy!

I tested the recipe, made a few tweaks, and came up with this wonderful recipe.

Citrus-Lavender Hairspray

Homemade Hairspray 1


Step 1

Cut a whole orange or lemon into wedges and combine with 2 cups water in a small pot. Boil over medium high heat until liquid is reduced by half.

Step 2

Strain liquid through cheesecloth into a measuring cup. If you boiled too much liquid out add water until you have 1 cup. Allow citrus juice to cool.

Step 3

Combine alcohol and essential oils in a small bowl, swirl to mix, then add to the cup of citrus juice. (Feel free to experiment with your favorite essential oil or leave them out altogether.)

Step 4

Use a funnel to pour into a spray bottle with a fine mister and shake to combine ingredients. Shake before each use.

A Few Things to Note

This is not a maximum hold hairspray that will freeze a prom up-do or 80′s bangs. I can say with confidence that it’s a flexible hold formula. I was a loyal user of firm hold hairspray for years before trying this formula, now I PREFER this to my old sprays.

This formula has been tested on my brunette hair. Use an orange for darker hair, and lemons only if your hair is light-colored. There is a chance the lemon can lighten your hair when exposed to sunlight.

Grab the orange or lemon sitting in your fruit bowl and give this hairspray a whirl!


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Comments

  1. Michele says

    Thanks for this recipe! When I was a teenager, I would put lemon juice in my hair before going outside so it would lighten in the sun. My hair is really dark so by the end of summer I’d have brassy highlights. Will this hairspray make your hair lighter? And is it better for brunettes to use oranges than lemons?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I suppose it’s possible that using the lemon could lighten dark hair…I would recommend using the orange if you’re worried about this. I used a lemon in my current batch, but there’s not much sun here in the midwest lately to know if it will have a lightening effect. :)

  2. Walker says

    You guys are fantastic! This is the one product I’ve been having a hard time justifying my use of. I recently switched hair products because I realized the one I had been using since I was a teenager had gelatin in it (I’ve been vegan 5 years). Switching out my toothpaste, deodorant and other cleaners has made me feel guilty about using neon-colored hair holding products. Thanks for the recipe! I too have some pretty curly hair that loves to frizz in New England humidity, I’ll keep you posted on how this works for me!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I hope it lives up to your expectations! It is such a relief when you finally find a good substitution for the products you want to ease out of your regimen. Good luck with this new one!

  3. says

    i’ve been (lazily) on the hunt for a natural hair spray recipe so i was super excited to see this post. whipped up a bottle and after one use, i’m really pleased. i’ve only ever used flexible hold varieties so this was an easy replacement. thanks :-)

  4. says

    I make quite a few of my own beauty products, but I’ve yet to see a recipe for hairspray. So simple, and I the aroma must be heavenly, too. Thanks for sharing!

  5. says

    Oooh, I’d love to try this! Out of curiosity… Is the orange needed for the hold or just as a scent? Could I just do water and alcohol? Or is it way too stinky?

    Thank you!!

  6. jackie denucci says

    Betsy,
    DIY Natural is my new favorite site. Love all your homemade products, I’m known in my circle as the bag lady because of my frugality. Although, my sons and daughter-in-laws are catching on. Why not save and then have more money to spend on quilting fabric!!!
    You did talk about curly, thick hair and the hairspray; but your picture shows you with straight hair. I wanted to pass this on to a friend of mine that has natural, very curly, unruly hair.
    jackied

    • says

      Yes Jackie, the picture used on this site for me is 2 yrs. old…I’m no longer fighting the curls & have grown my hair out. :) Suppose I should have a more current picture of myself.

  7. Another Jackie says

    Should this be kept in the fridge? If not, how long should I expect the hairspray to stay good?

  8. Heather Edick says

    I’m confused, I am omitting the alcohol, wouldn’t I be spraying my hair with just diluted orange or lemon juice? I ask because I would prefer an alcohol-free hairspray as I find alcohol to be drying on my person. Thank you :)

    • Betsy Jabs says

      The benefit of boiling the whole fruit is that it releases not only the juices the hairspray will need for hold, but also oils from the fruit that can benefit your hair. You can dilute fresh-squeezed lemon or orange juice with water and I’m sure it would work. (You wouldn’t want all the extra stuff that is in commercially-prepared juices to be in your hair.) Just be sure to refrigerate and it will last for a few weeks. :)

  9. Kristy says

    I really want to thank you for this recipe. I have long, thick red hair that either forms loose curls or is one big mess of frizz depending on the products I use on it. I have for years only used natural products on it as I have found the other commerically bought ones just wreck my hair. I am currently living in Paraguay doing voluntary work and have run out of the store bought natural hair moisturiser I would normally use back home to tame my hair. After trying different products available here, I thought I would look for something natural that my hair liked instead of the chemically laced bought ones which have just destroyed my previously healthy hair. Not having an income and relying on very meager savings which are vanishing quickly, and knowing in four months time when I return to Australia I also will be short on cash for awhile, was another major factor in my wanting to be able to make something myself. I have used your shampoo and hairspray twice now and it works just as well as the very expensive natural products I would use back home. My curls are defined and my hair is shiny (I also added a tiny bit of olive oil to the spray to add moisturisation) I have looked for homemade products before but normally the recipes are complicated and use things which aren’t readily available. Citrus trees line the streets here and even in the shops oranges are very cheap so I will be able to make this for next to nothing. Thank you, thank you. My hair is very hard to look after and so for me to get these results after just two uses is amazing.

  10. Heather says

    This is great! I’ve seen another recipe if you want that ‘extra-hold’ feeling that just adds some sugar, which would also help if you want alcohol free to act as a preservative. Thanks for the tips!

  11. Melissa says

    I’ve been searching to see what’s all out there for homemade hairspray and this is one of the more popular…I haven’t use it so i have no idea if it really works….
    Sugar-Oil hair spray
    The ingredients required to make this hair spray are 1-tablespoon sugar, one-cup hot purified water, one-tablespoon vodka (optional) (i’m assuming rubbing alcohol would work too), and three to five drops of oil.
    In a pan add sugar and water. Boil water and make it sure that the sugar dissolves in water. Add oil and vodka.
    TIP:
    Store the liquid in a cool and dry place.
    Use the ingredient in a week.
    Wash the nozzle of the bottle to avoid any clogging after use.
    Do not run your fingers in your hair until the solution of sugar dries.
    Spray the hair spray on the hairbrush and then comb your hair. This will prevent your hair ends from flying.

    Just another one for people to try :)

  12. Lauren says

    Hi, Betsy,

    I love the citrus-lavender scent and how totally easy this formula is! One question though–when do you use the spray? When your hair is still damp from towel drying, once it’s mostly dry, etc.? So far the spray has done alright for me, but maybe it would do better if I sprayed it at a different time.

    -Lauren-

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Since I have long, thick, curly hair, I use it more as a styling spray. I spray generously when my hair is still damp, then again after drying to set the curls a little better. Definitely experiment with spraying at different times to see if you get better results!

  13. Maryam says

    I am so eager to try this! :) Thanks for sharing! I do have a question though. If I do not add alcohol, how long will this mixture last? Do I put it in the refrigerator?

  14. Hannah says

    Hello!
    I love this idea…do you think I could use another fruit like an apple instead of an orange or lemon?
    Thanks! I can’t wait to try this!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I haven’t tried non-citrus fruits, and I’m assuming you might not get the same amount of juice and “stickiness” with an apple that you can get from citrus fruits. If you do try this be sure to write back and let us know how it works!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Some of our favorite essential oils are Lavender, Tea Tree, Peppermint, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Sweet Orange, Lemon (and the list goes on)!

      If you’re new to essential oils, these are some that I would suggest starting with (especially lavender and tea tree) because most of these are good for body care AND cleaning!

  15. maggie says

    Love the idea…question: would this draw flies and mosquitoes etc. to my hair????

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Great question Maggie. I have really thick, long hair now, and I use a LOT of this hairspray. I have had absolutely no issues with extra bugs flocking to my hair. :)

    • Kim says

      One way to repel insects is to rub lemon (or was it orange) rind on your skin. I think this would probably repel them as well.

  16. Taryn says

    Can you just use the orange and just the achol instead of the rest of the ingredients and doea it hols

    • Betsy Jabs says

      The essential oils are optional, and the recipe will turn out the same without them. I have not tried making the hairspray without boiling the oranges to extract the beneficial oils, but you could certainly give it a shot! I’m sure it would still hold… let us know if you try it out. :)

  17. Connie says

    Thanks for this recipe…can’t wait to try it. I am always on the search for natural beauty products, so this find is definitely a treasure! Do you have any plans to create a HAIR GEL (firm hold) recipe? I really would like to find a more natural substitute that would be a healthier alternative to the currently popular brands that are mass produced.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Connie…no firm hold hair gel yet. :( I use pure aloe vera gel (NOT the green stuff for sunburns) on my hair currently, but it’s definitely only a flexible hold hair gel. I have heard of natural hair gel you can make using flax seeds, but I’m not sure what type of hold it provides.

      • Connie says

        Thanks for your reply, Betsy! While I’ve not seen a hair gel RECIPE made with flax seeds, I have seen a commercially produced hair gel somewhere (likely Whole Foods several years ago). However, in lieu of an actual recipe for a flax-seed version, I wonder if combining the pure aloe vera gel with the homemade hair spray would possibly work to produce the flexible hold of the gel as you describe, yet also have more holding power that the hair spray gives. Think that might be a possibility?

  18. Connie says

    Thanks, again, for your digging and reply back to me on this! Now that I think it through more clearly, I realize that you’re right about the probable “watering down” of the gel. (I was thinking that the spray would be a strong-hold, which it isn’t.)

    I checked over the link for the flax seed hair gel, and THIS looks very promising, indeed. THANKS! Now….to get my ingredients ordered online since they’re not available on the shelf here in my small city. I do have a question regarding the instructions in this formula. It appears something is missing either within the list of ingredients or the actual instructions — “…pour the gel through the stockings into the mixing bowl.” What stockings? Do you have any idea what is meant here?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I’m assuming they’re referring to a pair of old nylons that you cut the feet off…to use as a strainer for the flax seeds. (They definitely did not clarify that part, so it’s my best guess.) The nylons will work as a very fine strainer without losing any of the tiny flax seeds. I’m very interested to hear how this recipe turns out for you! :)

  19. Connie says

    Thanks for your reply…makes sense. When I find and order all of the ingredients and put this formula together to make the hair gel, I’ll let you know the results. :) Thanks, again, for your research and sharing your discoveries with me! Much appreciated!!

  20. tahnee says

    What if you have black/brownish hair? I am worried that it may lighten my natural dark color that I have hopes not to change. Will it highlight my hair if I’m in the sun pretty often. And what if you live in a humid bug attraction area, am I going to have a swarm around me if I use this recipe?

  21. Sara says

    I too plan to omit the alcohol, but I will replace it with Apple Cider Vinegar for preservative and conditioning effects. Thanks for this!

  22. Terrie says

    I suspect that one of the reasons this recipe works is that there is a lot of pectin in citrus fruits (in which case maybe grapefruit or tangerine would work?). Pectin would be in the boiled-out product, and that would definitely give it a hold. Pectin is also often used instead of gelatin to thicken things, so it makes sense to me! I wonder if you could get a firmer-hold spray by adding actual store-bought canning pectin to it? I might have to experiment a little.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Great thinking Terrie! I’m the first to admit, I’m not very science minded, but it all makes sense when you break it down like that. Please let us know how it turns out if you do some experimenting!!!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Thanks Brian! We actually don’t recommend using rubbing alcohol in our recipes anymore…I need to update this article to reflect that. You just reminded me of this. :)

  23. Jenni says

    Thanks for all the extra tips! I made the recipe and loved the way it works, but it is making my hair really dry and brittle. I’m going to try AC vinegar next, then maybe vodka.

      • beebee says

        hey thanks for this! cant wait to try it out! but since an orange is a lot bigger than a lemon, can we use it with the same quantity of water? or should i use more water with the orange?

        • Betsy Jabs says

          I have made it with both lemons and oranges, and always just used the same amount of water. When you mix up your first batch with an orange you can see if you like the “stickiness,” and add more water if it’s too sticky for you. Hope you like it!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Use it up within two weeks. If you want to extend the life of the hairspray, keep only a small amount in your bathroom, and your “refill” supply in the refrigerator.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes, you can omit the alcohol and essential oil, but leaving out the alcohol will greatly reduce the shelf life of your hairspray. Be sure to store it in the refrigerator if leaving alcohol out.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      No, hair does not have to be washed the day after using this. I typically only shampoo my hair every other day so as not to dry out my scalp and hair (and I use the hairspray almost every day). It doesn’t leave buildup like commercial hairsprays.

  24. Elaine says

    I have been using the orange version of this recipe, with white rum as the alcohol, for a number of months. Unfortunately, I think I’ve narrowed down a skin issue to using this hairspray. I have never reacted to citrus fruit, so was reluctant to blame it, but having ruled out everything else, it must be so. I’ve tried sugar-water, and don’t like it at all. Are there any other hairspray recipes out there?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Hi Elaine,
      What a serious bummer! I’m not a huge fan of the sugar hairspray either. Unfortunately, I don’t have any other hairspray recipes. :( Have you tried this recipe using a lemon? If so, does it create the same problem for you?

  25. says

    I sprayed this on my hair and then curled it, I had the best curls ever you should really try spraying it on your hair than curling it.