Homemade Natural Hair Gel

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My hair has always given me headaches!

At my last job – as an elementary counselor – I once had a student walk by, glance at me, and whisper to a friend:

“Wait, is today crazy hair day?”

My Hair History

My hair can be nice at times, but historically, it’s been mostly embarrassing.

It seems my whole life has been full of hair woes. Frizzy hair, styling products, tears about my latest hair disasters, and many hats to cover it all up.

Here’s my hair at three years old.

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See? I’ve had hair woes my entire life!

If it wasn’t for the brazen confidence of a three year old, I’d say I was only smiling about the sucker.

Here’s my hair when I was nine.

Homemade Natural Hair Gel 2

begged my mom for a perm – in my bangs only. Boy, did that one backfire.

When I was 18 I longed for sleek, blonde hair. Something that would turn heads and make people say:

“My, how your hair is like golden flax!”

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It turned heads alright. It was like a bright light people couldn’t stop staring at.

I had threatened to give myself a buzz cut since middle school.

At 21 I followed through on that threat with this short, spiky ‘do that almost made my mother cry.

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The spike was a result of sheer hair frustration.

A late night left alone with some sharp scissors, and constant peer pressure from a college roommate to put my scissors where my mouth was. My motto during the college years…”You can never wear too much lipstick or use too many styling products.” (Because boy, did that new spike ever need some styling products.)

There was even a period of three solid years when I wore a pony tail every day. I couldn’t bear to deal with my hair each morning, so I slicked it back out of my face and pretended to like the look. And although the tight pony tail kept me looking youthful (as it pulled the skin on my face taut), I’ve worked hard to expand my hairdo horizons.

Whatever my ‘do, this unruly head of hair required some serious styling products. In my younger years, I settled for products that were full of synthetic, chemical-filled materials, which only contributed to my hair and scalp problems.


The new standard is a great, simple, homemade hair tamer.

So for those of you like me – sporting an untamable lion’s mane – but looking for a natural styling product…{drumroll please}

Homemade Herbal Styling Gel

This homemade styling gel contains no harsh, drying chemicals or synthetic materials.



Heat water and mix together with gelatin in a small bowl. Stir well to combine and refrigerate for about 3 hours, or until set. Once cooled and set, add essential oils if desired, and stir to combine. Using a funnel, transfer to a small squeeze bottle for easiest dispensing. Keep styling gel refrigerated between uses. Gel will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Use this homemade product on wet or dry hair and style as usual. I have had great results with both.

Here’s a picture of my hair with the homemade natural gel.

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See that mop of hair?

My desire for a styling product that enhances my natural texture has finally been fulfilled!

Best of all, those are not crunchy, stiff curls you are seeing. My hair is left soft, shiny, and flexible with this natural styling gel that washes out easily, never leaving residue.

If you desire a thicker, stronger holding gel, use more gelatin.

**UPDATE: If you’re looking for a vegan/vegetarian alternative to gelatin, agar powder (also referred to as agar-agar) can be purchased here. I have not tried it, but read that it dries fairly clear and a little less is needed in recipes compared to regular gelatin.

**Looking for a gelatin substitute that’s more readily available? Check out this video tutorial for making natural gel from flax seeds.

Other Herbal Alternatives

Want to get fancy with your homemade styling gel and customize it for your hair type? Here are some suggestions for utilizing dried herbs or essential oils to create your perfect formula:

Lavender: The most versatile oil for hair care, lavender is good for all hair types. Bring about 1 cup water to a boil. Steep 1-2 tablespoons of dried lavender flowers in your water for about 15 minutes, strain, and measure out ½ cup of the hot water for your recipe. Or for an easier method, use the original gel recipe and add lavender essential oil. (where to buy lavender flowers)

Chamomile: Great for light hair, chamomile will add shine and enhance natural highlights. (Since chamomile can have a lightening effect over time, it’s not recommended for dark hair.) Chamomile can also improve the texture of hair that is dry and brittle. Brew a strong cup of chamomile tea, and measure out ½ cup to use as the liquid in your recipe. (where to buy chamomile tea) Alternately, chamomile essential oil may also be used.

Rosemary: An excellent choice for dry hair. This herb will keep dark hair glossy. It has been used historically to help stimulate hair growth, and has antioxidant properties that aid in protection against cell damage. Use rosemary essential oil or steep dried rosemary leaves in hot water for 15 minutes, strain, and use in your gel recipe. (where to buy rosemary leaves)

Horsetail: This herb can improve the condition of your hair due to its mineral content. It contains the mineral silica, which strengthens hair and adds shine. Steep 2 tablespoons dried horsetail herb in 1 cup hot water, strain, and measure out enough for your gel recipe. (where to buy horsetail)

Enjoy the benefits of the above herbs or just choose an essential oil that is pleasing to your senses! I encourage you to do more of your own research to find other herbs that are beneficial for hair.

You can purchase pure essential oils at your local health food store. You can also find great quality essential oils online at Mountain Rose Herbs.

Note: Essential oils are highly concentrated pure plant extracts that can benefit the condition of skin, hair, and body. Always use caution when handling these powerful oils, and label all products well that contain essential oils. Consult your health care provider before using if you are pregnant or nursing, and use half the suggested amount of oils if making a product for children.

Want natural, but don’t want to make your own?

If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own (or DIY hair products just aren’t working out for you), you’ll be happy to know DIY Natural has finally found a hair care company they can get behind. We have used (and absolutely LOVE) the hair gel from this company, and we highly recommend checking it out.

**UPDATE with reader feedback and photos**

After the initial publishing of this article, DIY Natural community member Toni had some reservations about using the gel on her silver hair. She wrote back after trying the homemade gel to share her feedback and show some comparison pictures. Check it out!

“I was concerned that it might leave my silver hair dull or discolored, as happened with many products I’ve tried.  But I LOVE this hair gel and would like to post a comment to that effect on the blog.  However, pictures speak so much louder than my words could!”

Amazing results Toni! Thanks for taking the time to share with all our readers!


References and Recommended Reading:

About Betsy Jabs

Betsy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling, and for nearly a decade worked as an elementary counselor. In 2011 she left her counseling career to pursue healthy living. She loves using DIY Natural as a way to educate people to depend on themselves to nourish their bodies and live happier healthier lives. Connect with Betsy on Facebookand Twitter.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for us to support our website activities, we may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for our endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this website.

DISCLAIMER: Information on DIY Natural™ is not reviewed or endorsed by the FDA and is NOT intended to be substituted for the advice of your health care professional. If you rely solely upon this advice you do so at your own risk. Read full Disclaimer & Disclosure statements here.


  1. victoria says

    Why not?! I think I would try to dissolve it with some hot water instead, but, I just used tap water that I had boiled, then added the other stuff.

  2. victoria says

    I stir this into my coffee in the a.m. and into my mother’s water, and into the oatmeal after it’s cooked…..

    • Betsy Jabs says

      We recommend using distilled or filtered water. Water from the faucet contains impurities that will reduce the shelf life and promote bacterial growth in your hair gel. However, as always, you’re free to use whatever you’re comfortable with in any of our recipes. 🙂

        • Betsy Jabs says

          I haven’t tried it that way, but you should give it a shot! Of course, the gelatin has to be dissolved in something hot before setting up in the fridge. So you may want to heat a small amount of water to dissolve it in, then add your aloe vera juice.

  3. Angi says

    Both are such great ideas! Thanks for sharing! I used (borrowed? stole?) the labelmaker at work and made pretty little tags for all my new DIY toiletries. Ssssh! Don’t tell the boss! 🙂 lol

  4. Angi M says

    As Uncle Sam decides every week that I can live on less and less of MY money, I am slowly but surely dipping my toe into Lake DIY. It’s not only fun, it’s saving me a ton! I’ve also become more cognizant of what chemicals I don’t want to ingest or put on my skin, no matter if Uncle Sam says it’s safe. I found your website and just love it. Great job! I made this hair gel last weekend and couldn’t wait to try it. I also made up a batch of a chammomile face wash I found on another website. I put them into identical plastic bottles, not writing the contents on the bottles (in case I someday want to repurpose them). So the other night I grab a bottle and start washing my face with its contents…and realize, belatedly, that I am washing my face with the hair gel! I didn’t think it smelled like Lavender EO, which I put into my face wash to calm and soothe me in the evening! OOPS! I put Rosemary EO in my hair gel to “enhance mental clarity and concentration”…boy do I need THAT during my long days at work!

    Just thought you’d get a chuckle out of my little mistake. BTW, I LOVE the hair gel as a hair gel. As a face wash…not so much. 🙂

    Blessings! Thank you for a great site!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      That is absolutely hilarious Angi!!! LOL! I’ve had similar experiences when I was just being lazy about labeling. 🙂 One good trick if you don’t want permanent labels is to stick blue painters tape on your bottles and label with a permanent marker. The tape can be ripped off without leaving any sticky residue behind when you want to repurpose the bottles later.

      So glad you love the hair gel! Thanks for returning and sharing your great story. 🙂

    • toriLynn says

      Oh, Angie, sooo funny!
      My sister says to use dry erase markers! LOL She’s been there, done that!

  5. Brandi says

    I’ve considered trying a concoction of marshmallow root and distilled or spring water with some added essential oils. You can get whole marshmallow root and marshmallow root powder from Mountain Rose Herbs. I came up with the idea after noticing one of the ingredients in my organic hair gel (Kinky Curly Curling Custard) is marshmallow. I think I would probably try to modify the detangler recipe found here to have more marshmallow to make it thicker. Just an idea :).

  6. tori says

    Did Toni ever get back to us? I am waiting. Also, I have straight fine hair and am gonna try it, but I hate having to wash my hair everyday, because it dries it out and makes my gorgeous hair look like straw. When I use my home made shampoo, it’s not as shiney as usual…
    Ahhhh, we all have our dilemnas, eh?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Thanks for asking Tori! Toni actually DID send me some pics and feedback that I just updated the article with…check the end of the article to see what she sent. (I needed a nudge to get these pics up…thanks again!) 🙂

      Also, if you use this hair gel it doesn’t leave residue like commercial hair gels so you can get away with washing every other day.

      • tori says

        Wow. It gave Toni’s hair the perfect finish.

        I tried it today and it didn’t weigh it down like the store bought stuff. I LOVE new recipies and love the savings and not having the toxic ingredients. THANK YOU.

  7. Stacy says

    I made this mainly for my son’s hair which is crazy in the mornings. We are IN LOVE!!!!!! I even used it on mine and it worked great and doesn’t leave that nasty residue like the store bought kind. Love the fact that my fingers don’t stick after applying it and water is enough to wash it off. I added tree oil and it smells kind of like a swamp but other than that it is awesome!!!!! Thank you so much!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yaaaaay! It’s definitely more gentle and less gunky than commercial hair gels. I’m laughing at your swamp comment! Maybe try a lighter scent or just leave it unscented. Lol. Tea tree can be a bit musty smelling without the addition of another balancing scent.

  8. Liz says

    I tried making this but I either used the wrong gelitan or something. It never set up. Is it really a 1/2 cup water and 1/4 teaspoon gelitan?
    Thank you for posting this!!!!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      You got the measurements correct…that’s a bummer it didn’t set up for you. I’m assuming you did everything else correctly? Used hot water, refrigerated it for several hours, etc.? The great thing about this recipe is that you can play around with it and if one batch doesn’t work out you’re only wasting a tiny bit of gelatin and water. 🙂 Keep trying!

  9. Sacha says

    I love this hair gel!!! It works great for my very fine (but lots and lots of it) curly hair. I was using a very expensive brand and I can’t believe how much money this is saving me! It’s so easy to make too.

  10. Jess says

    Thanks a bunch for this,my hair is out of control curly as well. most days it has its own zip code.

  11. Estie says

    I am SO IMPRESSED with this !! It is working wonderfully. I used lavender essential oil. At last something to tame my wild hair. Thank you !

  12. Amy says

    I have fine, straight, flat hair which is also thinning. I wash my shoulder length hair, spray with strong styling gel, scrunch it up, and let it air dry. This makes it crunchy but it has to be crunchy to be stylable. Then I have to use a curling iron all over it. As if that’s not enough, I then have to use the dreaded hairspray or it all falls flat. I also have the type of face shape that needs some volume. (not 80’s style lol) Do you know of a way to make this recipe strong enough to handle this challenge? Maybe also homemade hairspray? (btw I use a very experienced stylist and get the best cut that I possibly can even though I can’t afford it)

  13. Rebecca says


    I have to say I love this idea and will be trying it out. I have also found a simple tool for taming my curly hair. I use coconut oil as an after bath moisturizer, and always run a tiny amount through my hair. It has worked miracles. I’m so glad I finally found your recipe for a gel that doesn’t make you hair “crunchy”