When it comes to hair hacks, TikTok is the ultimate hub of knowledge. This year, we've been schooled on how to nail heatless curls and fashion DIY curtain bangs at home but we've also learned a thing or two about hair health. From whipping up hot oil treatments to investing in colour depositing shampoos, it makes sense that we're on the lookout for smart tips and tricks in lieu of time with our hairdressers. Lately though, one hack is going viral for transforming dry hair and scalps in need of urgent attention: making aloe vera hair masks from scratch.
Aloe vera is easy to come by. Head to any health food or personal care store and you'll likely spot tubes of aloe gel, typically used to soothe sunburn and dry skin. But the TikTok trend is a little more rustic than adding a squeeze to your hair products. TikTokers are cutting open the aloe plant itself, harvesting the natural gel and whisking it up into a natural hair mask. Applied directly to the scalp and lengths, it supposedly soothes itchy skin, promotes hair growth, moisturizes dry hair and enhances hair strength.
Granted, the process looks a little messy, with some TikTokers using blenders or even tights (yes, really) to turn the gel into a whipped consistency. But judging by the thousands of comments and likes, it works. Of course, just like skin icing and slugging, I had to give it a go, and the results surprised me.
How do you make a DIY aloe vera hair mask?
I started with a large stem of aloe vera, cut from a plant I've had for a while. Admittedly, I'm not a very good plant mum but the best thing about aloe plants is that they require very little care. I cut the stem into three sections to make it easier to extract the gel and sliced through the middle with a sharp knife to separate the leaves. Once they were separated, I considered cutting away the inside, which should come away in a gelatinous wedge, as the TikTok videos show. Unfortunately, I was not prepared with a blender or a pair of tights, so I considered using a pestle and mortar to smush the gel into something that resembled a white pulp. But I found that you can also simply rub the leaves over your hair for the same results.
The sliminess didn't bother me much but the smell did. I've used pure aloe vera gel products in the past and they've not smelled of anything at all but this had a very pungent aroma, like raw onions. I don't know if it was my plant or if all natural aloe vera smells like this but it wasn't pleasant and it filled the entire bathroom. Even though it was pretty awful, I was swayed by the videos and proceeded to rub the gel all over my dry roots, lengths and ends. The idea is that you let it work its magic for 30 minutes and then wash your hair as normal. So far, so simple. One thing I would recommend is keeping the leaves away from anything white as the bright green slime stained my new, fluffy towels!
What are the benefits of an aloe vera hair mask and can it make your hair grow faster?
As I rinsed away the mask, the smell disappeared and my hair felt squeaky clean, like I'd just used a detox shampoo. I panicked that my hair might feel dry and brittle but I followed with my usual Pureology Hydrate Sheer Shampoo, $37, and Pantene Hair Biology De-frizz & Illuminate Conditioner. After towel drying, I applied a pump of Undone by George Northwood Moisturizing Cream, which works as my styling product and heat protector. My hair felt twice as thick and much stronger than usual. At first, I didn't notice an immediate difference in how my hair looked but judging by the pictures taken of the back of my lengths, my hair does look a little shinier after I used the mask. It looks a tad longer, too, but I'm pretty sure that's just the angle, as it's impossible for hair to grow in 30 minutes...
Interestingly, the DIY aloe vera hair mask worked best on my scalp. It's a little sensitive and sometimes flaky thanks to a combination of cold weather, central heating and switching up my hair routine lots. The gel really helped soothe and calm my skin, and I noticed fewer flakes. There was a nice cooling sensation, too, so I locked into the spa-like experience and used a scalp massager to help dislodge dry skin and product build-up. Try the No Knot Co. Give Me A Hand Shampoo Brush, £10.
In terms of hair growth, the jury is still out and I'm sceptical. A natural remedy like aloe vera might boast anecdotal evidence to back it up but I didn't notice any immediate effects and doubt that this would work for me in the long run. Having spoken to many hair experts as a beauty editor, I know that only one ingredient can encourage hair to grow and that's over-the-counter treatment, minoxidil. Otherwise known as Rogaine, says hair expert Dr. Nilofer Farjo, it comes in the form of either a foam or lotion and can be purchased at many pharmacies, including Boots.
Overall, the DIY aloe vera hair mask wasn't as much of a faff as I thought it would be. I can't forget the smell, though, so it's not one I'm willing to try in future for scalp concerns like dandruff and itchiness. When it comes to strengthening hair and adding shine, I'll stick to actual hair products. Right now, I like the Garnier Ultimate Blends Hair Food with Aloe Vera & Coconut, for making hair super soft; Briogeo Scalp Revival, $42, for soothing an irritated scalp; and Maui Moisture Thicken & Restore + Bamboo Fibers Fortifying Mask, for looking after brittle strands. All three contain aloe vera extracts among other moisturizing ingredients such as glycerin and coconut oil.
If you're sold on the effects of aloe vera but would rather avoid the mess (and the stench of the raw stuff), you could always use aloe gel as a booster ingredient in your chosen hair products. Try Holland & Barrett Aloe Vera Gel, or Holika Holika Aloe Vera 99% Soothing Gel, $11.72, which aren't as slimy and won't offend your nostrils.
This story was originally published on Refinery29 UK. Some products mention may only be available in the UK.
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