DIY Hair Gel Test
To my surprise the number one reason people are dropping by at Style4Men is to read the homemade pomade test I wrote almost a year ago. Sadly, I have not explored the DIY thing any further. That being said, I felt it might be time to reconsider this
Over the past year I have researched the pomade making process more than I ever imagined I would. What has come of that is that a number of people are having good success making oil-wax based pomades, but as mentioned in the Style4Men “About” page, oil-based products are not what we are after.
I might take off on an tangent here, but there is value in clarifying the different “users” of pomade. Generally speaking it seams that ladies use pomade to add texture to their hair as well as a hair treatment solution. The pomades they seek are typically oil based products. If you look up some of the homemade or DIY recipes the results are meant for these objectives. On the men side of things. Pomades are used as a styling solution. The hair treatment aspect are obviously appreciated, but they are not the main reason for using pomade. The point I am getting too is that many DIY recipes are targeted as hair treatments as opposed to hair fixatives or hair styling solutions. In other words if the DIY recipe contains mostly oils it will be a great conditioning treatment for your hair but it wont necessarily hold in place all that well.
To date all of my tests with commercial oil-based pomades have had mixed results. On one hand my hair felt great to the touch. Very silky and healthy. On the other hand, these products could barely hold a style in place.
With many oil-based DIY recipes, you will more or less replicate the equivalent of the commercial pomades of the 30’s-40’s or 50’s. Assuming you are using vegetable oils, your resulting product will be slightly different than the more common petrolatum based pomade which was typically the No. 1 ingredient in these older pomades. But the “hold” quality of these vegetable oil based pomade is very short lived. You will be restyling every hour. I am more interested in something that will last at least 4-6 hours.
This brings us back to trying to make a water-based pomade. There isn’t that many ingredients, but there is a bit of chemistry and timing. As mentioned above, about a year ago I had tried a promising water-based pomade recipe. It was fun to do but the resulting pomade was not a usable product.
In this quest for a proper homemade or DIY water based pomade, I came across this very simple gel recipe from Scratch Mommy on Pinterest. Yes, this is a gel and not a pomade, but since pomades and gels have a good deal of commonality I figured it was worth a try. The main difference between gel and pomade is the introduction of wax and/or oil in the pomade recipe. The wax and oil prevent the hair from drying and becoming crispy, the common side-effect of gel.
Finally, here is the recipe:
¼ tsp. Unflavored Gelatin (Not Jello®! This grass-fed gelatin is the bees knees)
½ cup Hot Water (distilled H2O gives a longer shelf life)
Mix your gelatin and hot water together in a bowl. Stir for a few minutes until full dissolved.
Transfer your mixture to a clean jar (or your preferred hair gel container). Place in the refrigerator for an hour or two to thicken up.
Store in the refrigerator between uses. This mixture should last about 2 weeks. It lasts longest when you avoid getting your fingers in the mixture.
It is important to use distilled water as opposed to tap water or even bottle water, because distilled water does not contain any impurities or minerals. Tap water for example contains chlorine and possibly fluoride. These elements could impact the desired output.
If you want to make your own distilled water, it is simple and quick. I did a small batch with my son as a fun little project. I used instructions found on Instructables.
For the gelatin, you can go two paths, vegetable or animal. I opted to go to my local health food store and purchased a little batch of vegetable gelatin. This is very inexpensive product. 6$ for perhaps 3 cups.
In making this very simple recipe, I took one liberty: I added a few drops of tangerine essential oils in hopes of giving this gel a nice fragrance. The vegetable gelatin has a slight beige shade to it and the concoction became beige’ish right away. By adding a few drops of the tangerine essential oil the shade became a bit more orange.
The recipe is clearly very easy to make but the results I got where different than the what you can see on the Scratch Mommy page.
In this first picture, you see the results of the mixed hot distilled water, gelatin and essential oil. It looks quite nice, but it’s not transparent.
This is what things look like after 2 hours in the refrigerator. The mixture has solidified and looks like a very decent firm gel. The surprise came on contact.
The product is like jello. Spongy and firm. So firm in fact that I could not scoop any product out. Using my finger nail I was eventually able to scratch some off, but this is certainly not a workable hair fixative and it does not resemble a gel.
I want to believe that this is a good recipe and that the folks at Scratch Mommy we successful with it. My failed results could be caused by using a vegetable based gelatin and the addition of the essentials oil. If that is the case, I should simply follow the recipe before taking off in my own direction. I will try again using animal based gelatin and not adding any essential oils for fragrance. We’ll see what results that will give.
For now, this test did not produce a usable gel.
ADDENDUM: August 27, 2017
Wanting to give this recipe another chance, I got an animal based gelatine from Knox and used commercially distilled water. Well, gents, the results are exactly the same as above. Except that this second batch did not have that nice tangerine aroma. This second batch has no odor whatsoever. The resulting product is a firm block of gelatine. It is nearly unbreakable using your fingers. The only way I was able to break a piece off was by taking the whole thing out of the can and twisting it until it finally broke. In other words this is NOT a suitable hair gel recipe. I am sad to report that there is no point in trying this recipe as is.
I will admit that there is a lesson learned here, gelatine is a good ingredient to get to that known water pomade feeling, but not in these proportions. My gut feeling is that half of the suggested quantity of pomade might make more sense. In my next test I will use half the the gelatine and include some bees wax and maybe some shea butter as well.