All plants, due to their nature, produce some sort of mucilage, but by definition, mucilage plants are those which consist of 15% or more mucilage. When boiled down in hot water they produce this thick, slippery substance that can be utilized for its gel forming properties as an ingredient in your DIY styling aids.
One of the most popular mucilage producing plant for DIY recipes are flax seeds. These little seeds are popular because they can be found almost anywhere; most grocery stores carry them and when boiled down they can produce an extremely thick gel which gives incredible hold. Making flax seed gel can be tricky though because the consistency and viscosity will affect the results that it has on your hair.
Getting precisely the right consistency can be kind of difficult and the first time that I tried this gel I was anxious about not getting it to be thick enough.
In my cautiousness about not getting enough of a gel consistency, I over boiled it, resulting in an extremely thick gel, which when applied to my hair turned it into a stiff helmet overnight.
Don’t do that. With flax seeds it’s better to under boil rather than over boil it because what I didn’t realize was that as the gel cooled, the more it thickened. Being a newbie I prepared it in the pot, so when it cooled it resembled setting cement.
Another popular plant, though not as well-known as flax seeds, is okra. If you live in the South, you’re probably more used to eating okra than you are putting it in your hair.
If you’re West African you know it is used to make a delicious, but notoriously slimy dish paired alongside fufu or gari. However, it is exactly this slippery mucilage that makes okra a great addition to your all-natural styling products.
This slip aids in detangling the hair and also gives the hair great natural shine. For this reason it is perfect to use in a deep conditioning* treatment as the slip makes it easier to spread the product throughout your hair ensuring equal distribution to each hair strand.
The mucilage produced is nowhere near as thick as flax seed, no matter how long you boil it, so it isn’t really effective as a styling gel on its own. In fact, over boiling will simply result in evaporation of the mucilage; that knowledge comes from accidentally acquired experience. (I’m never one to under-do anything).
If you’re on the lookout for a mucilage plant that hits right in the middle of these two extremes, I’ve just recently discovered that Irish Moss, also known as carrageenan, creates a gel with a thick, slippery consistency that makes it useful as both a detangler as well as a styling aid.
When it cools it forms a thick gel that is closer to jello than it is to the setting cement I experienced with flax seed gel. When applied to dry hair it creates medium hold, definition and shine.
My only warning is that irish moss is a seaweed, therefore, it smells like seaweed. Before putting it in your hair make sure to mix in your favorite essential oils* or your hair will smell like the inside of your roommate’s Nikes. Ask me how I know.
I would recommend playing around with a mixture of these three mucilage bearing plants to create a styling aid that offers just enough hold, shine and definition to suit your own personal preferences.