Those of us who are conscious about the chemicals we use on our bodies like to make our personal care products. Commercial hair care products are often filled with toxic chemicals. When we make our own, we can choose exactly what goes into it.
If you’re making your own shampoo, consider DIY conditioner as well. You can create a formula that works perfectly for you and have strong, healthy hair without any carcinogens or endocrine disruptors.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to DIY conditioner formulas. Everyone has individual hair care needs, as well as preferences for scent, texture, etc. The key to choosing the best ingredients for your conditioner is to understand what works best for your entire body.
For example, I have thick, type 2B waves that are prone to dryness. In contrast, my sister’s PCOS makes her naturally oily 3C coils very thin and brittle. As you can imagine, a conditioner that replenishes my hair would weigh hers down, while her lightweight, frizz-reducing formula would wreak havoc on mine.
The list of potential ingredients below are some of the main ones used to create homemade conditioners.
See if you can get small amounts of the ones that are best suited to you, and try them out. This way, you can discover whether you’re allergic or sensitive to them.
The base of pretty much any conditioner is an oil of some kind. These can vary between regions, and each is best suited to a different hair type. Some of the most common oils used in conditioners are:
- Jojoba: close to natural skin sebum and ideal for fine hair
- Coconut: all-purpose, great for almost any hair type*, combats psoriasis and dandruff)
- Olive: ideal for dry hair, or curls and coils
- Argan: great for damaged and dry hair, as it reduces frizz and adds beautiful shine
- Avocado: also wonderful for damaged hair, especially from chemical processing or over-styling with irons
Some people find that coconut oil dries their hair out a bit too much. Try out different oils in various ratios to determine what your hair likes best.
This is the type of ingredient that will add moisture to one’s hair. People with dry or damaged hair will need richer humectants than those with naturally oily hair. Some commonly used humectants for DIY conditioner include:
Glycerin isn’t just a humectant but is also used to thicken conditioner. It assists with binding all the ingredients together, so it all pours smoothly, rather than separating into runny and clumpy bits, respectively.
When using a thick butter such as shea or cocoa, they need to be melted or softened before blending with the other ingredients.
You can do this in a microwave on ultra-low heat, in a double boiler, or with residual heat inside your oven. I often make skin and hair products in the evening, so I take advantage of a warmed oven to soften butters, waxes, and the like.
These can be proteins or other ingredients that bind to hair strands. They smooth out cuticles, thus reducing frizz or flyaway wisps. Egg whites (e.g. in mayonnaise form) work tremendously well for this purpose, as does argan oil.
Depending on the ingredients you’re using, your DIY conditioner may already have a notable fragrance. For example, coconut oil and shea butter both have a mild sweetness to them. If you’d like to add a scent to your conditioner, aim for an essential oil (EO) that’s complimentary to the ingredients you’re using.
Nutty, lush scents like sandalwood, cedar, patchouli, chocolate, and vanilla work well with those oil bases mentioned. Certain florals, such as jasmine and ylang-ylang, can be complementary as well. If you’re using avocado and/or argan oils, aim for citrusy scents like bergamot or sweet orange.
We’re not getting into stabilizing ingredients here, as that would require several articles about chemistry, chemical safety protocols, etc.
You only need stabilizers if you need your DIY conditioner to remain shelf-stable for long periods of time. The conditioners we’re making here are fresh small-batch quantities that can be used up completely in a single use, or within a week or so.
If you’re keeping your DIY conditioner in a standard squeeze or pump bottle, you’ll need to add water to your conditioner so it can be used more easily. Omit it if you’d like to make a thick conditioning mask instead.
Remember that bacteria thrive in watery conditions. As a result, you’ll need to use water that’s rather inhospitable to bacteria. This means you’ll need to boil or distill your water before mixing it with the other ingredients.
You can buy distilled water to make this process easier, or even use hydrosols. These are liquids left over from making essential oils, but you can also make your own by steaming various herbs and collecting their condensation.
1. Avocado and Olive Oil Conditioning Mask
This is my go-to when my hair is in dire need of deep conditioning. It’s wonderfully nourishing and leaves my hair incredibly soft and shiny.
- 1/2 a ripe avocado
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp shea butter, softened to room temperature
Use a whisk or stand blender to whip the olive oil into a cream. Reduce the speed and add the shea butter, combining until it’s all mixed together. Puree the avocado in a blender, and then add that to the butter/oil mixture to combine it well.
Then slather onto dry or damp hair, pop on a shower cap, and let it sit for a few hours. You can even leave it on overnight if your hair is severely damaged.
Rinse off with warm water and pat dry.
Double the amount of the ingredients when making this DIY conditioner if you have very long or thick hair.
2. Jojoba Daily Conditioner
Since jojoba is as close to natural human sebum as you can get, it’s an ideal base to make DIY conditioner for people who wash their hair daily.
In a blender or stand mixer, combine 1/2 cup jojoba oil with 1/4 cup other oil(s) of your choice, and 1/4 cup shea butter (softened to room temperature). Blend these together on low, add in 1 tsp glycerin, and then increase speed to med-high.
When the oils start to go opaque, add in 1/2 cup room-temperature distilled water or hydrosol a tablespoonful at a time, so it emulsifies. If you find that the mixture is still too thick for your liking, add more hydrosol, a spoonful at a time, until the consistency feels right to you.
If you’re adding fragrance, reduce the speed down to low again and add 20 to 30 drops of essential oil(s). Just be sure that the fragrance(s) you’re adding don’t conflict with the hydrosol you used.
For example, if you used a floral hydrosol, try to stick to complementary floral or woody essential oils. For example, one of my favorite blends is orange blossom hydrosol with 20 drops of jasmine EO and 5 drops Palo Santo EO. In contrast, my partner loves fir or pine hydrosol with cedar or sandalwood EO.
Once everything is combined to your satisfaction, decant into a bottle or jar. Work this through clean, damp hair after washing, and rinse with warm water.
3. Yogurt and Egg Conditioning Mask
If you have fine to medium, moderately dry hair (and you aren’t vegan), this might be a great DIY conditioner option.
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt that’s at least 4% milk fat
- 1 egg white, separated
- 1 generous tablespoon of mayonnaise
Whip all of these ingredients together by hand or in a blender. Once it’s a thick, goopy mess, apply it to clean, damp hair and work it through thoroughly. Let sit for about five minutes, then rinse thoroughly with cool water.
Note that if you rinse your hair with hot water, you’ll cook the egg white and will then have to comb cooked egg bits out of your hair for at least an hour afterward.
4. Honorable Mention: Apple Cider Vinegar Spray
While this isn’t a DIY conditioner per se, it’s an effective de-tangler and shine enhancer.
Simply mix equal parts distilled water and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle. Shake gently to combine well, and spray onto clean, damp hair. Let sit for a couple of minutes before de-tangling with a wide-toothed comb.
Rinse well, and then towel dry or allow to dry naturally, rather than adding heat. This spray might leave a faint vinegar scent in your hair, but it should dissipate significantly once dry.
Find What You Like
As with all other recipes, it’s important to play around with different ingredients when making your DIY conditioner to see what formula works best for you.
Additionally, you might want to do allergy tests on your skin before slathering your head in an ingredient you’ve never used before. Some people can react badly to coconut or argan oil, while cocoa or shea butter can also cause hives or other rashes.
Try to use high-quality, organic ingredients if possible. What you put on your skin and hair is just as important as what you eat. Nurture your entire body with healthy, nourishing ingredients, and you’ll be sure to notice a massive difference in your overall health and well-being.