DIY Natural Hair Gel with Gelatin – Frugal and Easy!

A super easy and frugal recipe for homemade hair gel that really works! It only uses two ingredients, with an optional third one. It’s also non-toxic and natural!

DIY Natural Hair Gel with only 3 ingredients (and 1 is optional!)

I have written a lot about my hair on the blog. Going no-poo in 2010 was the catalyst to leading a natural lifestyle for me and why I started this blog! I’ve perfected how I wash my hair without shampoo since that first post and wrote No-Poo Alternatives to Baking SodaMy Natural Curly Hair Regimen – How to Love Your Gorgeous Curls, and Oils and Other Natural Conditioner Alternatives. But until now, I have YET to find a hair gel that works with my thick, coarse, dry curls. I’ve been using Tigi Catwalk’s Curlz Rock hair cream and have always loved it, but lately I started noticing how whenever I used it on my hair, my hands would break out in eczema and start to itch. It gets a toxicity rating of 5 out of 10 on the EWG’s Skin Deep database, with the worst ingredient being the fragrance. Not a terrible rating, but it’s the pièce de resistance in my beauty regime as I’ve switched over to all-natural things in everything else!

DIY Natural Hair Gel with Gelatin - See the Consistency

The more gelatin you add, the stronger the hold. I like to use about 1/2 tsp. per cup.

Yet I’ve tried so many different natural concoctions like flax seed hair gel (it gunked up on my hair after a week or so and was as hard to get out as glue!), shea butter, coconut oil, a combo of those two, aloe vera, glycerine… you name it, I’ve probably tried it! I’ve pretty much given up on finding one that would work. Until I saw on DIY Natural that they use hair gel made with just gelatin and water. Awesome. Just two simple little ingredients. I’ve been drinking grassfed gelatin in my detox tea on a daily basis and have watched my nails grow and get strong, so I love gelatin.

DIY Natural Hair Gel with Gelatin

What I Love About It

  • It’s super duper cheap. Literally, pennies per batch. There are 96 teaspoons in this bottle of gelatin, and we’re only using 1/2 tsp. per batch. That’s 10 cents per batch!
  • The essential oils I use are lavender and peppermint or orange, lavender and rosemary. So I get whiffs of the scent all day long and it’s so nice! (where to buy high quality essential oils)
  • It’s easy to make.
  • It’s totally safe and natural.

Fun fact – my mom says synchronized swimmers back in the fifties used gelatin in their hair to keep the style!

The Different Holds

Normally my hair needs a lot of styling cream as it is so dry and crazy (it’s super thick, coarse and very curly). I was surprised as the light hold actually worked for me! I found the medium hold is best, though, for my hair, as it lasted for several days. The strong hold is really strong and a bit crunchy for my taste. I found that it is crunchy when drying, but soft once it’s totally dry.

DIY Natural Hair Gel - the results

DIY Natural Hair Gel with Gelatin

(My affiliate links to Amazon are included in this section for your convenience).

Pour the hot water into an 8 ounce container (but not plastic just yet since it’s so hot!) and pour in the gelatin. Stir to combine then refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until set. Drop the essential oils in once cooled and stir.

Store in the fridge and it lasts for 1-2 weeks. I find it’s easiest to use with a squirt bottle or else it gets messy. It’s jello for your hair, who would’ve thought?!

How to Purchase High Quality Essential Oils through My Merry Messy Life

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About Sara McFall

Sara is the owner and founder of My Merry Messy Life, which started in 2011 as a way to chronicle her journey to a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and to share her passions of mothering, real food, homeschooling and crochet. She is a mama to three precious and energetic little boys and wife to a university professor who loves to sing, dance ballet and ballroom, and live simply and naturally.


  1. Sounds like we have very similar hair…naturally curly, thick, and course…I just pinned this and will be mixing up a batch when I’ve used the gel I’ve got now…thanks for sharing this.
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  2. Hi Sara! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and love what I have stumbled across…so, thank you! I was wondering if you have any issues with flaking using this gel. I have very dark hair and most gels (even if I don’t use too much) get noticeably flaky in my hair. For the last few years I’ve been using Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera gel (crystal clear) and it works like a dream as a hair gel (with no flaking!), but even so, I wouldn’t mind trying something even more natural (and cheap), as it is not pure aloe vera and has quite a few added ingredients. Any advice on the flaking front would be appreciated. Thanks a bunch!

    • I always like to hear from my longtime followers, Stephanie, so thanks for writing! I have not noticed any flaking at all, but I haven’t been purposefully looking for it, either. I know which aloe vera you’re referring to and haven’t ever bought it because of all the additives. My hair is on the darker side, too, so I think I would’ve noticed flakes by now but haven’t!

  3. I will definitely be trying this!! I went No Poo almost 2 years ago & have been making Flax Seed Hair Gel. I definitely know what you are talking about with the build up, but did not know what else to try since I love how it makes my curls very defined & has great hold.
    Do you have any ideas on how to make the gel last without refrigeration? I normally keep my gel in the fridge, which is fine when I am home, but when I travel to visit family, I have had the gel go bad on me since there are times refrigeration is not possible. I am just wondering if there is a natural type of preservative that can be used to prolong the shelf-life of the gel?
    Thanks again!!!

    • Hi Ann! I don’t, sorry to say. The other reason it needs to be refrigerated is because when it’s room temperature, it goes back to being more of a liquid state and is no longer like jello. I can appreciate there will be times that refrigeration will not be possible…would you be able to put it in a lunch bag cooler with ice packs or ice? Or better yet, bring your gelatin and you can make it anywhere! It doesn’t have to be refrigerated constantly, so you could make it ahead of time, then store it in your luggage, and refrigerate once you reach your destination.

  4. I want to Thank You for this wonderful product. I am a old hair dresser an if I had this year’s ago it would have made my work a lot nicer. Thank You again for sharing.
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  5. My husband is the gel user here, and I just told him he needs to find something other than what he’s using. I know that he’d never agree to taking it out of the fridge so if you do find a way to extend the shelf life, we would appreciate hearing.
    Now, my little gal, 10 mos old, has a beautiful head of hair. Clips, barrettes, and headbands still can’t keep the tingly little flyaway off her face. What are your thoughts on the safety of using this on a baby? Keeping in mind that she rubs her face a bit. Thank you.

  6. Sara,
    I love your blog! I just found it and I’m going to try making the gel tonight. Have you ever added any conditioning agents into it? I’ve seen other recipes that have jojoba, evoo, coconut etc., just wondered if they add shine or would they make it too sticky?

    • I haven’t added any conditioning to it. I find that oils start to leave buildup on my hair and make it unmanageable, so I’d try aloe or glycerine first. Coconut especially was terrible for my hair, and I even have very dry hair! Great question, Carrie.

  7. Not sure my hair would like all the protein, but the flax seed gel is fairly easy to make and is awesome. A lot of us curlies make our own.

  8. Why do you recommend putting the essential oils in after the refrigeration period and not all at the same time?

    • Great question! Because when you first make it, you’re adding the boiling/hot water to the gelatin so it will dissolve. Heat destroys the therapeutic properties of essential oils, so I suggest you add it in the end if you want your gelatin to have some oumph. 🙂

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  9. I have thinning hair that is processed (colored) on an ongoing basis and decided to try the gelatin as a thickener and setting gel when nothing else worked. Guess what, it works great on my hair. So, I guess it works on thick as well as thinner hair. I love the results and it is a phenomenal money saver!!!

  10. I love the gel I use, It’s curling custard by Kinky curly. But 8 oz. is $17.00 Yites! I would love to make my own, but what is grassfed gelatin? Where do I purchase it?

    • Great question! Grassfed gelatin is gelatin that comes from the bones of grassfed cows, so it’s much more nutritious than the store-bought gelatin that comes from cows who are pinned and never roam outside or eat grass and are given antibiotics and hormones. It’s more important when using in cooking and as a dietary supplement that it be from grassfed cows. Here’s the link! (It’s also in the post)

  11. Love this idea, but I’m wondering, once the gel goes on your hair and is in warmer temperature, doesn’t it turn to liquid in your hair? How long does it last working as a gel in your hair?

    Thanks so much,

    • Hi Linda! It lasts about two days for me before it needs to be rinsed or washed out. I started making it in the summertime and I live in Georgia where it gets very hot and it did not melt! I never even thought about that, but that is a logical conclusion :).

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  12. i must have done something wrong. After 6 hours in the fridge, my concoction is still only partially congealed. Any thoughts?

  13. I’ve made this hair gel several times now, and it is a great (and cheap!) product that works pretty well for me. I do have a question, though. Every time I use the gel, there is a liquid layer on top of the gel in the jar – like it is somehow melting from the top down in between uses. So I have to pour off the liquid before I can get to the gel. Any suggestions?

  14. I have been making my own hair spray which is similar for years. Because my hair is fine and straight I use a small amount of gelatin and water in a misting bottle. Although I didn’t know I could buy grass fed gelatin, I was using one envelope of regular gelatin with 3 cups of water. I cook it until it is disolved and starts to boil, cool it and pour in bottles and keep in the refridgerator. When I need to use it I warm the bottle in a small glass of hot tap water and use. Then the bottle goes back in the fridge. One thing about cleanliness. The bottles and any utensils should be very clean. Gelatin will make any mold, fungus, bacteria, viruses etc. grow. It is the same as a petri dish. If it gets in your ears when you apply it you can get an ear infection. If you have thinner hair more is getting on your scalp and face. In the summer I shower in the morning and do my hair before work. But if it’s been a realy hot or messy day I would wash this out of my hair before bed. I find that if I don’t my face will break out. It will melt a little if the humidity is very high and it’s very hot out, or you get wet in the rain.
    Because I am a vegetarian and I didn’t want to be using gelatin because it is an animal product I did some experimenting with using pectin that is used for canning. It is more expensive than gelatin and I remember that I had to use much less water in the recipe. I stopped using it even though I liked it better because it was harder to find year round where I live. I also experimented with using essential oils for using as a preservative but when I did it made the gelatin or pectin melt. With all the prep and measures to keep everything clean people always ask why I bother to make my own. I am one of those people that would look terribe without something helping my thin hair, regular hairspray makes me break out and the smell bothers my lungs, I don’t like all the toxic ingredients in the store bought stuff or that it hurts the environment, it is a snap to wash out with castile soap, it doesn’t dry out my hair, It is so worth the few minutes a week to make.

  15. Thank you! I use to use Jam conditioning gel. I started living naturally, but I was extremely worried about finding something to hold these edges down. I’ve been using this for about 3 weeks and it holds great. The only hard part was waking up, going downstairs to grab it from the frig, and getting back upstairs to get ready in the mornings. Now it’s a breeze though. I’m still using my first batch and have little lumps, but it works so well I don’t care. I believe as I make it more, I will figure out how to combat the lumps. Right now I just rub it in my hands over the sink to let most of the lumps fall in there for a quick clean up.

  16. Hi Sara!
    I tried making the gel for my Undercut hairstyle (men).
    I am using the strong hold and my hair are holding very well.

    But I got a problem.

    Whenever I would touch my hair to restyle it later in afternoon or evening, and also, when I wake up next morning to go to jog, There would be too much residue on my hair.
    It looks like dandruff and the gel just starts pealing off. It looks horrible the next morning, just like I got dandruff.

    Why do you think this happens?


    • Hi! Hmm, that’s probably the product breaking back down into the gelatin, which is powdery. That’s a shame! I didn’t experience that, but I could see it could happen.

      • Hi Sara!
        That’s great if that doesn’t happen with you.

        But can you provide me with a solution to prevent the product breaking back down into the gelatin?
        That would be incredible help, believe me.

        Could it be the quality of Gelatin or something else?
        Fire as many possible answers you can think of and I’ll try all.


        • Hi there! Are you keeping it in the refrigerator? It only lasts 1-2 weeks, and then it will break down and get moldy. Are you using grass-fed gelatin? The one I link to here in the article is excellent and works very well for me.

        • Hi Nikhil,

          I learned a long time ago that gelatin should be hydrated before dissolved to ensure it dissolves smoothly. Perhaps this will give you better results. I add enough cool water to gelatin and let sit at least 5 minutes (you can see how the gelatin expands) and then I just add hot water (not boiling) to dissolve. I have not noticed any flaking but I also wash it out every evening. I hope this helps.

  17. thank you, thank you, I have very fine straight hair, slightly thinning. I am anticipating eye surgery – know I will be put in a hosp, gown, go without makeup, remove my teeth and use no hairsprays. BUT I can use your hair gel recipe with no harmful ingredients and retain just a smidgen of dignity. No I will not be a raving beauty before or after surgery but I will appear to look somewhat like myself. I have already tried it, slept on it and retained most of my curly “do”. I palmed it on very slightly damp hair, then a little on my fingers and used a curling iron – works great! As an added benefit, I feel better knowing I am not using all those chemicals on my fragile hair. Hope this may help someone else. Thanks again.

    • I am so glad to hear it worked for you, Jean! I hope you heal quickly and can bounce back to your old self. So glad this recipe can help you retain some dignity, that is so important.

  18. jean green says:

    am now on day three of my hairdo – still have some semblance of curl, good amt of body and not flat. I will never use anything else – may try the diluted form in a hairspray but don`t feel pressed to do so. thank you again.

  19. Will this work on straight hair for blow drying and curling?

  20. tried this, had flaking as well, Is there a way to combat this

  21. I’ve made a few batches but when I use it, it is in globs and doesn’t blend well to go on my hair. A lot of it falls off my hands before it even touches my hair. Any suggestions? Thank you, I am forever searching for the perfect gel for my curly hair. And all natural is such a bonus!

  22. Does it hold the hair vertically..for having spikes..using if gek made my hair thin..please..reply me fast..i want to know whether this gelatin gel can hold the hair firmly..for having spikes all the day..thanks in advance..please reply me

  23. hey will gelatin harm my hair when used in a regular basis

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