5 Hair Conditioners You Can Make at Home

Photo: Kara Allyson

You might think of beer, bananas, and coconut oil as the main ingredients to an awesome banana bread, but to use in a natural hair conditioner?

According to Cristi Nunziata — The Herbal Education Coordinator at City Market in Burlington, VT — there are many items from your kitchen that you can use to make natural beauty products. And aside from saving money, there are many reasons to make your own, including taking better care of your skin and hair.  I have picked out five easy recipes for homemade hair conditioners that treat dry or damaged hair, along with some excellent general advice from Nunziata's natural hair care workshops. (See also: 10 Budget Beauty Products You Can Make at Home)

While these are simple recipes, Nunziata does say it takes practice to get it right and that there are some important things to remember about using conditioners:

Conditioning lubricates the hair shaft, causing softness and preventing breakage and tangles. Most are applied after shampooing, but some are used prior and left on for 20 minutes or even overnight.

From "Herbal Hair Care" by Cristi Nunziata

Avocado Deep Conditioner

  • 1/2 mashed ripe avocado
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 drops lavender or rosemary essential oil

Combine ingredients and apply to hair, focusing on the ends. Leave on for at least 10 minutes, then rinse.

From Beauty By Nature by Brigette Mars

Cost: Around $10 for two to three treatments. The essential oil will be the most expensive item here (around $8.50). You can always buy a small amount of olive oil in bulk if you don't already have it on hand. Unless you plan to eat the other half of the avocado, keep the pit inside the flesh of the avocado and store it in a container in the refrigerator; this will keep it from turning completely brown when you are ready to use it again. Use the other half within 24 hours.

Oil Hair-Conditioning Treatment

  • Small amount of jojoba, olive, or coconut oil
  • Herb mixture of choice (optional)
  • Essential oils of choice (optional)
  1. Warm the oil to 100-105 degrees in a double boiler. If using, add herbs and essential oils.
  2. Dampen hair. For long or thick hair, use 1-2 teaspoons of the oil mixture, and for fine or short hair, use 1/4 teaspoon of the mixture. Massage oil into the scalp and work through the strands, covering all hair completely. Cover hair with a shower cap or plastic bag and if possible sit in the sun or by the woodstove. Heat facilitates the process. Leave the oil in for an hour or two, and then, shampoo and rinse.

From Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal

Cost: Less than $15 if you don't use jojoba or essential oils. This cost should include at least 20 treatments, since a jar of coconut oil lasts a long time if you use a moderate amount for each treatment. Same with the essential oils if you decide to use them, which will increase the cost to between $20 to $25, depending on which essential oils you choose (some are more expensive than others).

Vinegar Rinses

Vinegar rinses relieve itchy scalp, dandruff, and dull hair and restore the scalp’s natural acid mantle. They are best for normal and oily hair, rather than dry. Use white vinegar for blondes, apple cider vinegar for brunettes, and red wine vinegar for red-heads. Leave the rinse on for at least five minutes if you are going to rinse it out. You can, however, leave it on and any smell will disappear once the hair is dry.

From "Herbal Hair Care," by Cristi Nunziata

  • Herb blend: For blondes, calendula and chamomile; For dark hair, nettle and marshmallow; or make up your own
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • A few drops of essential oil
  • Distilled water

1. Fill a quart jar half way with herbs. Cover with vinegar and cap tightly. Place the jar in a warm spot for 2-3 weeks, shaking daily.

2. Strain the vinegar and add essential oils. Store in a plastic bottle.

3. Dilute the rinse with distilled water. For oily hair, dilute one part rinse with four parts water. For dry hair, dilute one part rinse with six parts water. After shampooing and rinsing, pour vinegar rinse slowly over hair, massaging it into the scalp. Rinse with water.

From Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal

Cost: Less than $15 to make the initial quart, which should provide 20 or more treatments. You can find many herbs in bulk at your local co-op or health food store, and possibly even vinegar. Even if you can't find vinegar in bulk, it is usually around $10 for a 32 oz. bottle, and it's a useful health-food staple to keep on hand. You can find really good prices online, such as this gallon of Bragg's at Amazon.

Anti-Dandruff Herbal Hair Rinse

  • 1 quart water
  • Large handful of rosemary, nettle, thyme, and lavender
  • 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Use vinegar if your hair is dry or lemon juice if it is oily.

Bring water to a boil and add the herb mixture. Stir, cover, and steep for 30 minutes. Strain and add either vinegar or lemon juice. After shampooing and conditioning, squeeze out excess water, then pour the liquid over your hair and don’t rinse it out.

From Beauty By Nature by Brigette Mars

Cost: Less than $10 per treatment, if you can find the herbs in bulk or grow your own herbs.

Disappear Dandruff Treatment

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 tsp tea tree oil

Combine ingredients, massage into scalp before bed and cover head with a breathable shower cap.

From Beauty By Nature by Brigette Mars

Cost: Between $10 and $15 for 20 or more treatments (see note about coconut oil in second recipe from above).

For more information on general hair care, here are some additional tips from Herbal Ed Coordinator Cristi Nunziata:

  • Hair is made up of protein (95-97% protein and 3% water), so be sure you are getting enough of it. Other hair essentials include: biotin (eggs, organ meats, dried fruit, molasses), iron, iodine, B12, and Omega 3s.
  • Teas for hair health include: alfalfa, burdock root, ho shou wu, horsetail, nettle, and oat straw.
  • Seaweeds are said to keep hair healthy and dark.
  • Rinsing hair with cold water will flatten hair and make it better able to reflect light.
  • Scalp massage can prevent hair loss, stimulate sebaceous glands, and increase circulation. Add a few drops of rosemary essential oil to fingertips.
  • Brushing hair distributes hair oils. Natural bristles are best because they absorb and distribute the oils and trap dirt and dust.
  • Minimize blow dryers, hot rollers, curling irons, and chlorinated swimming pools. If you use a blow dryer hold it at least 6 inches away from the hair and use a low setting.
  • Ditch stress, which can cause hair loss and lackluster hair. Try yoga, meditation, massage, or a cup of calming tea.
  • Get your hair trimmed every eight weeks to remove frizzy, split, or frayed ends.
  • Wear a hat to protect your hair from sunlight, which can be drying or color-altering especially for color treated hair).


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5 Hair Conditioners You Can Make at Home

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Guest's picture

In microwave, warm 1/8 c. of coconut, olive or mustard oil (available at Asian/Indian stores) for about 15 seconds. Massage into scalp for about 5 minutes. Leave on as long as possible or at least an hour and shampoo as usual. This simple home treatment has been used by South Asian women for centuries and keeps the hair soft and beautiful. Do this weekly and your hair will bounce back from damage from heat and styling products.

Guest's picture

The best conditioner I have ever used is Pro Naturals Moroccan Argan Oil Conditioner, the argan oil hydrates and strengthens my hair making it nice and healthy. Plus the extra shine is appreciated! Thanks for the informative article :)

Guest's picture

This is very interesting! I'll be sure to keep this in mind! My hair has the tendency to become very dry and damaged with any little thing, even if the weather is too hot or too cold. :/

I'll be trying some of these, although I've been having plenty of luck with this Cocoa Keratin system, it's really complete and has been wonderful on my hair so far! :)

Guest's picture

olive oil, honey, banana and some stawberries. Blend.
put on hair leave on for 30 min to an hour shampoo.

Awesome hair mask!

Guest's picture

Hi, I am new to this. For the first recipe of this article, can I just use the everyday olive oil for cooking or is it another kind of *olive oil* you are talking about?

Guest's picture
Logan Anderson

Any Olive Oil would do, I use extra virgin, unfiltered, and works fine.

Guest's picture

I have been doing this for years now which really works on
dry hair or dry coloured hair .On damp hair apply warm Cold pressed olive oil/cold pressed almond oil /macadamia oil and massage on scalp
and rub well on ends of hair and all over on hair and keep over night
it gives v good results and leaves hair soft supple and moisturized

Guest's picture

I'll have to try those out someday, For now I nrecommend the pro naturals hair repair mask, made with real argan oil. It's super effective!