Have you ever had one of those happy accidents where you create something you expect to be a total flop, and it somehow turns out to be amazing?
This was one of those. Initially, I was going for a conditioner that was both deeply moisturizing and incredibly easy to rinse out of your hair. I also wanted it to be something I could apply to my scalp to help with dandruff and not worry about turning into a grease monster for the ensuing week. I got both of those things, and I love it for that.
What I didn’t expect is that this stuff is actually capable of cleaning my hair. Yes, you heard me. I can slather this stuff on my whole head, roots to tips, and just rinse it out. My hair is both cleaner and softer than it’s been in a very long time. I’m on my second batch and I think I’m in love.
Here’s a bit about some of the cool ingredients in this recipe.
Emulsifying wax is some pretty weird stuff, but generally in a good way. No, I can’t point to the Emulsifying Wax Tree that grows Emulsifying Wax to be harvested and sold through some sustainable fair trade organization. Would I prefer something like that? Yes. But emulsifying wax does a very specific thing which is hard to achieve in nature.
It emulsifies. What’s that, you say? Essentially, it’s convincing oil and water to mix, and you may recall from elementary school science that these two substances aren’t exactly best friends. And yes, it’s POSSIBLE to create an emulsion without e-wax, but it’s a huge pain in the you-know-where and will probably separate if you let it sit for too long.
I don’t know the exact chemistry involved in what e-wax does (Note to self: future research topic) but as far as readily apparent observations, it essentially makes the oil want to grab onto any nearby water like its been lost in the Sahara for weeks on end. This essentially renders the oil somewhat water soluble.
Now the cool thing in this recipe is that there is enough emulsifying wax to emulsify more than just the oil in the conditioner. This means that once it comes in contact with the oils on your scalp, it makes those water-soluble too. That makes it so you can just rinse those oils away with plain water, and your scalp and hair will be nicely moisturized to boot. Cool, eh?
I chose castor oil because it’s rumored to help encourage hair growth. I recently lost a lot of my hair after a long unnoticed case of vitamin D deficiency, and even though it’s coming back now I’m all for encouraging it to get a move on. Castor oil is also incredibly thick, and very nourishing for your hair. I quite like it in this recipe, but if you don’t have any on hand you could easily switch it with more olive oil, or else some other oil that your hair might like.
The other things in this recipe are pretty flexible. You can’t really make this without e-wax, but the oils, essential oils, and glycerine could easily be swapped for other things. The main thing I will stress is that the oil:water:e-wax ratio must be kept the same, or you might end up with a much greasier end result on your hands. (Though you could possibly up the e-wax for more cleaning power if you wish.)
A quick note on measurements: I measured this in grams because grams are far more useful for the math involved in creating lotion and conditioner recipes. Maybe that’s un-American of me. Too bad. I highly recommend that you consider using grams as well, but if you’re metric phobic and/or afraid of using a scale I’ve also included volume measurements. Note that these measurements may not translate as well if you are substituting ingredients.
- 2g (1 1/2 tsp) Castor Oil
- 4g (1 1/2 tsp) Olive Oil
- 1g (1/4 tsp) Vitamin E Oil
- 4g (1 1/2 tsp) Emulsifying Wax (I use this kind)
- 80g (1/3 cup) just boiled water
- 10g (2.5 tsp) Vegetable Glycerine
- 6 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
- 15 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
- Broad Spectrum Preservative*
- Measure out all the oils and e-wax into a small heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl over a small saucepan with an inch or two of water in it. (This effectively makes a double boiler.) Heat on low until the wax is completely melted.
- Remove from heat, and add water and glycerine, whisking constantly until a creamy emulsion is formed. It will stay quite thin until it cools.
- When slightly cooler, whisk in the essential oils. Pour into a pump bottle or squeezy bottle and refrigerate to set. Depending on the kind of emulsifying wax you use, it may continue to thicken over the next few days, so don’t worry if it seems runny at first. You may still use it immediately.
You can of course squirt this into wet hair in the shower as one does with any other conditioner, but personally I like to massage it into my hair and scalp while it’s dry and let it soak in for an hour or two or overnight. (However much I have time for, really.) I find this beneficial for extra moisturizing power as well as for fighting dandruff, which was my main goal. If you don’t have dandruff however, you will probably still love this conditioner!
*Note on Broad Spectrum Preservatives: Depending on your preservative, you will need to add different quantities at different points in the recipe. Some should be added to the water part before emulsifying, others go into the oil, and still others are added at the end. Read the usage instructions for the preservative you are using and follow those.
Before you ask, yes, preservatives are necessary. Bacteria and mold grow incredibly quickly in recipes containing water, and you need something to keep them at bay. Before you run away in protest, however, there are thankfully some relatively hippie-friendly options. Personally I use NataPres, which is a mixture of plant extracts and fermented radish roots. It seems to be decently effective, though you should do your own research. If you’d like to learn more about nature-derived preservatives, the Nerdy Farm Wife has an excellent article here.