Curls Eagerly Drink Up Flaxseed Gel: Here's Why + How To Make One At Home
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Curl community, gather. If you're on the hunt for soft, bouncy strands, allow us to introduce you to the common ingredient that may be missing from your vanity: flaxseeds. You might be familiar with sprinkling them over a cozy bowl of oatmeal or as a vegan egg substitute in baking recipes. But for hair care? Not so much.
Lo and behold, these superfood seeds can do so much for our strands. Here's why hairstylists love a good flaxseed gel, plus how to make one yourself for shiny, hydrated curls no matter your type.
What is flaxseed gel?
Flaxseeds are abundant in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants, making them a great plant-based addition to any breakfast. And the benefits persist in gel form: Flaxseeds yield a natural, strong hold gel that provides your strands with plenty of good-for-you nutrients. "It's an ingredient that the curl community really loves," says Michelle O'Connor, texture specialist and artistic director at Matrix.
What are the benefits?
For those with curly or natural hair, you'll want to have a flaxseed gel in your hair care arsenal. Why? Because it offers the perfect balance of moisture and definition. "The biggest concerns for curly hair are dryness, lack of growth, and frizz," explains O'Connor. Flaxseed gel targets each hair care woe, without any fear of flaking or becoming too stiff.
That's because flaxseeds are rich in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which can nourish dry, damaged hair. Fatty acids have been touted for their ability to provide moisture (for your hair and your skin, it turns out). Check their molecular makeup: Fatty acids have a hydrophilic end that aids in moisture retention and a hydrophobic end that boosts shine.
Vitamin E, on the other hand, plays a significant role in fending off damage; a popular antioxidant, the vitamin can combat free radicals as well as reduce scalp inflammation. When used topically on the hair shaft, it can "create greater elasticity in the hair while adding shine," Austin-based hairstylist Sarah Lund tells us about vitamin E in hair care.
So for those with damaged curls practically screaming for moisture, a flaxseed gel can quench those strands and give them just the right amount of bounce. Celebrity hairstylist and Biolage brand ambassador Sunnie Brook agrees: "It will give your curls allover definition," she tells mbg.
How to make your own DIY gel at home
While there are plenty of flaxseed gels on the market, it's just as easy to whip up your own mixture at home (really!). To start, here's what you'll need for the recipe:
- 1½ cups purified or distilled water
- ¼ to ½ cup aloe vera juice
- 3 to 4 Tbsp. flaxseeds (depending on how strong of a hold you're looking for; the more flaxseeds, the stronger the hold)
- Fine-mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or pantyhose (work with what you got)
- Measuring cup
- A jar with a lid
- Essential oils (optional, but recommended for a sensorial experience)
Once you have your supplies, follow the six-step guide:
- Place the water and flaxseeds in a small pot on medium-high heat, stirring often. You'll want to be vigilant here, "otherwise, the flaxseeds will stick to the bottom," explains product formulator and founder of LOLI Beauty, Tina Hedges.
- Keep stirring until the mixture forms a gel-like consistency (it usually takes just a few minutes).
- Remove from the heat when the liquid starts to boil and a film of thick, white foam comes to the surface.
- Filter the mixture through your cheesecloth or strainer (or pantyhose), saving the liquid in a bowl. You can discard the flaxseeds after you've strained all the liquid. "There should be about ½ cup of liquid left over," Hedges explains. If you have more liquid, that's fine! Just measure out ½ cup and either save or discard the rest. If you have too little, you can add aloe vera juice to bring it back to ½ cup.
- At this point, you can add in 9 drops of the essential oils of your choice (we love rosemary for its antifungal properties or lavender for its calming sensation). Shake or stir the mixture super well, then pour it into a clean glass jar.
- Store the gel in the fridge, and allow to completely cool for a few hours before using.
How to apply flaxseed gel
Have your gel at the ready? Don't just slide it through your hair and call it a day. Rather, mind the prep work: Because the gel works best for curly-haired folk, you may want to begin with a deep conditioner in the shower. After all, coarser hair may require heavy conditioning to keep the texture soft and frizz-free. You also want to make sure your hair is super clean—you may want to go the extra mile and remove any buildup or product residue on your scalp. (Here are some great physical and chemical scrubs to choose from.)
Once you step out of the shower, use your fingers to rake the product through your hair in sections. Make sure your hair is thoroughly coated, says O'Connor, as using too little product won't maximize the moisturizing benefits. "It should have a slimy feel to the touch," she notes. Then just style as you please, or let your curls air-dry.
Hairstylist tips and warnings
First things first: Always apply flaxseed gel on wet hair. That way, it'll be much easier to work with and render the best results. "It'll glide through your strands and deliver an ease of application. This will give your curls all over definition," Brook adds. While you can totally use the gel for precise edging or styling needs, for that all-over moisture you'll want to use it post-shower.
And on that same note, don't run your hands through your hair after you've applied the gel. As with all air-drying products, trust that the flaxseed gel is working its magic. "The more you touch your curls, the more likely your hair will frizz," Alicia Miller, hairstylist and national master trainer for Davines North America, tells us about a stellar air-dry game. Of course, you can use hot tools if you so choose—O'Connor is partial to a diffuser in order to set the curl.
In terms of layering products, be mindful of what you pair with flaxseed gel. Using it alone is best, but if you wish to layer, O'Connor recommends only using water-based products to avoid flaking.
To preserve your style while you sleep, feel free to wrap your hair in a silk or satin headscarf at night. There are tons of benefits to sleeping on silk anyway (outlined here, for your viewing pleasure), one of which is waking up to shiny, frizz-free locks. Especially if you wash your hair at night, "you'll get the most benefit from your application," Brook says.
Flaxseed gel is perfect for all varieties of curl: Coiled, coarse, even wavy-haired tresses can fare well with a little light hold. And the best part? This all-natural gel is DIY-friendly and super easy to use. Consider flaxseeds another breakfast item making its way to the bathroom shelf.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.