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Pantry Products

In the beginning I was amazed to discover I could groom my daughters' hair easily-- from shampoo to deep conditioning---with products I have sitting around in my pantry. I've never tried the entire process from start to finish solely with these items, instead I alternate pantry items with commercial ones. However, there's no reason it shouldn't work if the hair is responding well.

I started trying pantry items out of concern for all the chemicals we find in commercial hair products. We hear so much about things being carcinogenic. Some of us are so overwhelmed by the information we put it all
on ignore, figuring we may as well just enjoy life, because everything causes cancer. Others of us go completely organic, and spend a small fortune. Personally, I'm somewhere slightly past the middle, inching towards more natural items. I'm ever cognizant that the skin, our largest organ, absorbs so much. My girls are young, and I want to expose them to as few synthetic chemicals as possible. I found my pantry to be an easy and affordable resource. I've been really pleased with how well our hair responds to pantry products. At times, the results are superior to what I've experienced with commercial products. There are so many things to try, but the following is a list of things I've actually experimented with. Some of the recipes offer a range of concentration. I encourage experimentation to discover which concentration works best for you.

Pantry Pre-wash Treatments

olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, castor oil

In my experience, any or a mixture of these oils are great for hot oil treatments. Experiment to see what your child's hair likes best.

Spritz the hair with plain water until damp. Mix 1/4 cup of oil through the hair. Cover with a plastic cap, or recycle a plastic grocery bag. Wrap head with a towel. Your child's head will generate enough heat for the treatment.

Pantry Conditioners
When using these foods to condition I often do a quick wash (no detangling), sudsing once, to remove product build up. I have also done a direct application to dirty hair if the build up is light. If the pantry conditioner I'm using is greasy, I follow up with a second wash, sudsing once, to remove all traces.


Quick Wash hair. Apply 1/4 cup mayonnaise. Cover with plastic cap and towel for 30 minutes. Wash (one sudsing), and rinse profusely.

coconut milk

I can get several treatments out of one can of coconut milk from the grocery store. I remove the portion I need and measure the rest in equal amount to freeze for future use. I often find it in the international section, near the Thai food.

Quick wash hair. Apply 1/4 cup coconut milk to 3/4 cup water. Spritz throughout the hair. Cover with plastic cap and towel for 30 minutes. Since coconut milk isn't greasy, I simply rinse it out profusely with plain water.

Pantry Clarifiers

apple cider vinegar (ACV)

1tsp-1tbsp ACV to 8oz water. Spritz throughout hair as a final step and rinse profusely. You will have plenty left in the bottle to use again and again.

I use ACV as a final rinse every time I wash my daughters' hair (except the baby). It restores the hair's ph balance, softness, and leaves a nice sheen.

baking soda

1tsp-1tbsp baking soda to 8 oz water. Spritz throughout hair as a final step and rinse profusely. You will have plenty left in the bottle to use again and again.

Pantry Sealants

olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, castor oil, shortening

In my post, Making Oils Work for Nappy Hair, we discuss the important role oils play in locking moisture into the hair shaft. Any of the oils mentioned for hot oil treatment may be used in this way. I was surprised to also experience success with
shortening. It melted easily into my daughters' hair and left it very soft.

Apply to damp hair as you would any pomade or oil during styling.


  1. This is really good information. My wife and daughter have benefited tremendously from your advice. Keep up the good work.

  2. Natacha, This is great! Will this work on just plain curly hair? also, my curly-haired girl is very picky about "smells". She despises ACV, could you add a fragrance and do you have any thoughts about where to find them? Thanks!
    My girls have been known to use shampoo periodically and use conditioner on a more regular basis.

  3. Hi Karen,
    I have a Caucasian friend with corkscrew curly hair who says a lot of these principals work really well for her.

    ACV does stink--no doubt about it. My girls complained at first, but we turned it into a silly game. You can try adding an essential oil like lavender or peppermint--but truth be told, nothing will completely mask the scent. It's strong. We've gotten so accustomed to it, we don't even think about it anymore.

    You can find essential oils in health food stores--or even order it online. When I lived in NY on Long Island I got mine from Health Nuts. I would imagine Whole Foods has them too. A couple of drops is all you need, so that little bottle goes a long way.

    The good thing about ACV is that once you rinse the smell is gone. I have a friend who doesn't even rinse it out, and she says the smell disappears as soon as the hair dries. I've never tried not rinsing.

    Hope that helps!

  4. Thx Coach D, I'm glad this info is helping mothers and daughters enjoy their grooming sessions.


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