What you’ll need
1 sanitized jar or container
Coconut oil or Palm Kernel oil (any grade)
Kaolin clay or Bentonite clay (dry powder)
Optional: Fragrant essential oils or cologne
Where to get supplies
Most grocery stores sell coconut oil, and some ethnic markets carry palm kernel oil (Just make sure it’s a solid, not a liquid).
It might be more convenient to go to a health food store though, as their sizes will be smaller and they will usually carry kaolin and bentonite clay as well.
A health food store will also carry fragrant essential oils, they’re likely to be the most expensive ingredient in this recipe.
Nature’s Way Extra Virgin Coconut Oil ($8.97 for 16 fluid ounces on Amazon)
OKONATUR 100% Organic Extra Virgin Red Palm Oil ($14.00 for 16 fluid ounces on Amazon)
Starwest Botanical’s Bentonite Clay ($7.75 for 1 pound on Amazon)
East and West’s Kaolin White Clay ($6.99 for 1 pound on Amazon)
How to make it
This recipe will take a little trial and error on your part, to get the proper ratio of clay and oil.
Make sure the coconut oil or palm kernel oil you’re using is solid at room temperature.
Kaolin clay is generally white whereas bentonite clay is a bit darker, and turns grey when wet. Those with lighter hair may want to use kaolin, and those with darker hair may want to use bentonite. However, I’ve used kaolin clay on my black hair and never had an issue.
Start off by mixing equal parts of the clay and oil together and applying it to your hair. The oil will help give your hair texture and a bit of hold, while the clay will keep it matte (not shiny) and give it a “grungy” and slept in texture.
If you find that the mixture is too oily, reduce the amount of oil. If it’s too dry and pasty for you, reduce the amount of clay.
When you have a good idea of the ratio that you like, melt the oil over a double boiler (Fill the bottom pot with water, and put the coconut oil in the upper pot or bowl). Once the oil is melted, mix in the clay and fragrant essential oils or a few sprays of cologne, take it off the heat, pour it into your container and stir occasionally as it solidifies.
You can also skip melting the oil and just mix it together directly, but the mixture will not be as uniform.
If after a little while you find it too oily or too drying, simply melt the hair clay using the double boiler method again and add in more oil or clay.
(Write down the ratio you use, so you can make it again!)
How to use it
This is essentially the same as commercial hair clays, if you look at the ingredient list of many popular brands you’ll see the first ingredient is petrolatum and the second is usually clay. With this recipe we’ve replaced the petrolatum with an oil that can penetrate the hair shaft and provide conditioning benefits as well.
The length and bulk of your hair will determine how much product you need, always start with a little bit as you can always keep adding more.
Rub the hair clay in the palms of your hand to warm it up a bit, and brush it through your hair with your fingertips. Try to avoid getting too much on the hair closest to your face, as it may look greasy.
Play around with your hair style and experiment, there’s absolutely no right or wrong way to style your hair – despite what others may tell you.
How it works
A lot of us have experienced the phenomenon where our hair looks better and is easier to style a few days after not washing it. This is because of the build up of sebum in the hair, which gives the hair more texture, shine and for some manageability.
The oil (coconut or palm kernel oil) actually has similar makeup with the sebum of your hair. This allows it to also penetrate the hair shaft, increasing it’s strength and flexibility. A study found that coconut oil was able to penetrate in to the cortex of the hair shaft, unlike some other oils and petrolatum. Coconut oil and palm kernel oil have almost an identical triglyceride make up, so they will function the same for your hair. They do smell different though.
Coconut oil (and by extension palm oil) was also found in a study to reduce damage caused by bleaching, brushing and boiling.
So this gives you the benefits of having unwashed hair, without the downsides…like that particularly pungent smell of dirty hair.
The clay helps absorb a bit of excess oil, and will also give your hair a bit more texture and “grunge”. It will keep your hair from looking overly shiny. Some people may prefer to have a lot of clay, and some a little. When I had long hair (about down to the cheek), I found I needed less clay in my recipe.
Thanks to Matt for inspiring me to write this post!