Natural home-made hair tonics

Homemade haircare products
Hair tonics
Sun protection

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Please note that these home-made tonics are intended as part of the entire programme in this book, not as an alternative to it! In fact, they are not an essential part, but they do help in discouraging yeast, keeping the scalp cleaner between washes, improving the condition of the scalp, and, of course, hair growth. Given such a wide range of benefits, you will not be surprised to learn that essential oils are involved! As all but the heaviest oils are absorbed without leaving any residue, they can be used without washing out.

To make a tonic, simply combine 50ml liquid with 10 drops of essential oil.

Choosing an essential oil

As with the essential oil scalp massage, you should vary the oil(s) you use every few weeks. Since you will be applying the tonic every evening, you should use the astringent oils - those which cause contraction of tissues - only sparingly: these are

Mild astringency is useful to counteract oiliness, but over-use of astringents can leave the scalp very taut. Nor should you use the photosensitising citrus oils, as any traces remaining when you go out the next morning would cause an unpleasant rash.

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Choosing a liquid base

The choice of liquid will depend on the needs of your scalp: choose from cider vinegar, lemon juice, aloe vera juice or a herbal infusion (e.g. chamomile, marigold, yarrow, rosemary, nettle or sage), or a combination of these.

Cider vinegar treats dandruff and grease and corrects scalp pH, thus discouraging the yeast associated with seborrhoeic dermatitis, and leaves no residue at all on the hair; however, as it is astringent, it is not suitable for use neat except for brief periods on very oily scalps. Lemon juice has the same benefits as cider vinegar and has greater powers to dissolve follicle-clogging oils, but it does leave a sticky residue on the hair, so is more suitable for bald or sparse patches. It is also astringent.

Aloe vera juice has the same healing benefits as the gel, provided, of course, it is pure and cold-processed, not reconstituted from concentrate; it leaves more residue on the hair than herbal infusions, but much less than lemon juice, and can be used for long periods. It is particularly useful in summer, as it heals sunburn and halts the damaging processes triggered by UV radiation when applied after exposure (which, of course, you should avoid in any case).

Herbal infusions, provided they are well strained, leave no appreciable residue, and are very gentle to the scalp (sage, nettle, yarrow and marigold are all mildly astringent, but can still be used daily).

Making the blend

The oils do not strictly speaking blend with watery liquids; they blend rather better with cider vinegar or lemon juice. However, they do impart their scent and properties to water (hence the existence of flower waters, which can also be used as bases for tonics). Shaking the oils up with 3-5ml of cider vinegar or lemon juice before blending this with the remaining liquid helps to dissolve the oils, while also making the tonic more acidic and improving its keeping qualities. Blend the ingredients together in a liquidiser, store in a dark glass bottle, and shake vigorously before each use.

How to apply the tonic

Apply a little of the tonic to your scalp each evening, concentrating on areas of loss. The evening is the best time to apply the tonic as most cellular repair and regeneration takes place overnight; you should also be aware that the lightening effect of lemon juice on your hair will be increased if you go out into the sun before it is dry.

If you find that your hair goes greasy if you so much as comb it, let alone rub your scalp, you may be deterred from using tonics. Nonetheless, it is worth trying a tonic with a high proportion of lemon juice or cider vinegar straight away, at least on the areas of scalp that suffer most from loss, with an oil to treat the greasiness. The tonic can be simply dabbed onto the scalp without rubbing in hard (though a gentle finger-tip rub will be beneficial if your scalp will tolerate it). If your scalp is broken and bleeding, or very easily irritated, an acidic tonic may sting when you apply it or cause some itching; it would be better to start with a herbal infusion and/or aloe vera juice blended with Roman chamomile and lavender oil. As your scalp heals and becomes more resilient, you could add some cider vinegar to the tonic.

The ingredients for these tonics are considerably gentler than those in many commercial preparations, but there is always a risk that a sensitive scalp will become irritated by anything that is used on it regularly - and the tonic is used the most frequently of all the treatments in this section. If you find that the tonic is causing irritation, stop using it and give your scalp a week's break.

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© Copyright H.J.Barrett 2006