DIY Herbal Hair Detangler Recipe

Let me paint the scene for you…

There’s a little girl wincing and crying, a mom desperately trying to get her daughter’s hair to look decent, and a head of hair that is determined to make it as difficult at possible. Sound familiar? If you have any kids with longer hair then you likely have dealt with trying to brush out tangles. It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh out of the bath or fresh in the morning bedhead; tangles abound and there’s no way to be rid of them unless you brush.

I have three daughters and one of them has been blessed with a ton of hair. This girl was wearing hair clips at the rip age of 3 months! All that hair definitely gets everyone complimenting her but it also has her crying “cut it off” every so often. Why? Because with so much hair (or long hair) comes tangles and with those tangles come minutes of torture as I try to brush through her hair.

Why not just use a store bought detangler?

Most store bought detanglers contain ingredients that I’d rather avoid and I definitely want to avoid them on my children.

Ingredients like behentrimonium methosulfate, sodium benzoate, dimethicone, polysorbate 20, cetearyl alcohol, trisiloxane, hydroxyethyl, behenamidopropyl, dimonium chloride, ceteth-10, laureth-4, and of course parfum.

Most of those ingredients have body toxicity concerns and quite a few have eco-toxicity concerns as well! On top of that, these ingredients do more harm than good for hair by coating the hair so that it blocks moisture from reaching inside the hair shaft. You might get no more tangles but it could mean breakable hair in the long run. So store bought detanglers are out for us.

Most of the time, we are left with me trying to oh-so-carefully brush out her hair… or on bad days, me trying to get it all done and over with while muttering under my breath that we should just shave her head.

Then I discovered an herb called slippery elm. The name itself should give you a hint at why it is my new favorite hair product!

Slippery Elm for Herbal Hair Detangler
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Slippery elm is a mucilaginous herb meaning that when it’s exposed to water things get mucousy. Yeah, I know… not a pretty sounding word but mucousy (slippery) is just what you want when it comes to tangles. This mucous gives the slippery elm liquid the “slip” that you need to help brush through tangles. What’s more, slippery elm is fully of great nutrients for your hair such as procyanidins which help strengthen hair and heal damage.

Great “slip,” hair boosting nutrients… It was only natural that I use slippery elm in an herbal hair detangler!

This stuff works great! Now I won’t say this herbal hair detangler is a miracle worker. We still hit a few snags here and there, but overall using this herbal hair detangler has made hair brushing a much more pleasant event in our home.

Herbal Hair Detangler Ingredients
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4.0 from 1 reviews
Herbal Hair Detangler
  1. In a small pot, bring water to a boil.
  2. Reduce to a simmer and add the slippery elm bark.
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes. Liquid will reduce by about half.
  4. Allow to cool and then strain. I recommend using cloth (like a bit of muslin or cheesecloth) to strain because it is hard to press the mucilage through a mesh strainer as I discovered.
  5. Once strained, transfer your liquid to a spray bottle.
  6. Add in the drops of essential oil, place the cap on, and give a good shake. Your hair detangler is now ready to go!
  7. Spray onto wet hair and comb through.
Due to the lack of preservatives, you will want to store this detangler in the refrigerator and use within 2-4 weeks.

You can grab certified organic slippery elm bark from Scratch Mommy Founder Jess over at her online shop, Pronounce Skincare & Apothecary. Tell her I sent you! 😉

Comments 6

  1. Awww I could’ve used this product 2wks ago. My 13yr old daughter had a huge nest of tangles after washing it. My niece tried to help comb it out but it was too much for them that they ran out of patience and cut it out. The length of her hair goes past her buttocks and luckily the remainder was on the side. I was disappointed that they decided to cut it while I was in the shower.

  2. I need this for my daughters hair, very thin, tangles easily and is very hard to brush, her scalp is very tender. I was wondering if there was any other essential oil I could use other than lavender. I make a lavender deodorant and she hates the smell.

    1. Post

      Yes. You can use a different essential oil (cedarwood and tea tree are both kid safe options… cedarwood smells like campfire though…) You can also leave out the essential oils entirely.

      1. If your children are in school, tea tree and peppermint are great for warding off head lice. I think I will try that.

  3. Is the process the same if you only have the slippery elm bark powder? Would it still be necessary to strain it after boiling? I’m thinking the powder would just dissolve in the hot water, right?

    1. Post

      I would try to make it without straining but be prepared to strain it anyway. Spray bottles have small holes so it’s easy for them to get clogged. (although I’ve also been known to just pour some into my hands and apply to hair that way.)

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