Okay, so I was visiting my sister in Boulder, CO this past weekend and used her Avalon-brand rosemary conditioner. I loved the scent that followed me around for two days afterward (it was a kind of grungy trip, and the desert, so lay off.) When I went to pick up a bottle at my local organic market, I noticed it was $11-- or a dollar per ounce. I've got a job and everything now, but I still can't rationalize spending a dollar every time I condition my hair. A bottle of rosemary essential oil, on the other hand, cost about $5, so I picked that up instead.
I'd seen recipes before for flaxseed hair gel, so I scooped about a half-pound of brown flaxseeds from the bulk bins ($2 or so, also good in granola and smoothies if you're a hippie like me, apparently.) A quick surf of the invaluable instructables.com led me to a recipe for homemade conditioner/gel using just oil, water and guar/xanthan gum. Xanthan is god-damn expensive, so I just grabbed a jar of guar-- I'll have to see if it improves vegan baked goods too-- on my next jaunt to the Health Concern.
From what I've gleaned by reading people's wild ideas on the internet, it seems like the point of conditioner is to spread a thin layer of oil on your hair to replace the natural oil you strip off when you clean it with shampoo. I'm not sold on shampoo in general, but it's what I'm using now. Basically, what you need to do is to emulsify the right amount of oil in something, like water, that will deliver it evenly. In my conditioner, I used water and flaxseed goop because I liked the idea of flax proteins, and I thought I might try it as a leave-in conditoner, in which case the goop would give it more hold.
Here's what I did:
1 cup water + 1 tsp flax seeds + 1 tiny cast iron skillet
bring to a boil, simmer until reduced in half and gooey. strain out the flax seeds, play with the slime.
I would probably reduce this down a little more next time, since the conditioner ended up thin.
pour the flax goo, 1/2 cup water, and 1/4 tsp guar gum into the food processor, whir until thin. add a few teaspoons olive oil (what we had in the kitchen) and a teaspoon or so of the oil that separated off the almond butter in the cupboard (why not?) squeeze a little lemon juice in (I've heard acid helps smooth the hair shaft) along with some shakes of the essential oil and mix again.
The resulting goop was... less goop-like than I would have liked, so I shook in more guar gum (maybe 1/4 tsp more) until it thickened up to a good consistency. A stint in the freezer to cool it helped too.
I tried a couple of containers for this, including a glass jam jar and a hot sauce bottle (well-washed, don't worry) before remembering the emptyish hand soap pump kicking around the bathroom.
The verdict? Mr. Annie and I both used it in the shower, and for his shorter, thicker hair it worked really well. My longer, finer hair ended up kind of oily the next morning, although I kept touching it in the evening because it was so soft. The rosemary scent had all but disappeared the next morning too... maybe a result of cheap oils? I'll keep working on this one...