Hair is something that nearly everyone has, and pretty much everyone wants their hair to look its best. Yet, most of us don’t really know that much about caring for hair. We tend to trust the experts whether it’s a stylist or the chemist who formulates our favorite shampoo. Hair care at home can yield benefit though. It can keep our hair colors brighter, our ends unsplit, and our manes looking thicker and fuller.

In the following excerpt from the book Household Magic authors Joan and Lydia Wilen discuss hair care at home and provide tips for everything from brightening your hair color to removing gum from hair.  


A little less than 70% of the American population have dark hair…and only 15% have blond. About 65% of us have straight hair, while 25% have wavy hair, leaving only 10% with hair that’s curly.

On average, hair grows 1⁄2 inch each month —a little less in February, of course. Your hair grows fastest when you’re in love…probably because your hormones are jumping for joy.

The average person loses about 70 hairs a day—more if you are sick, anemic, malnourished…or the love of your life leaves you.

Statistics like these are interesting, but they aren’t going to help you take care of your hair. However, these suggestions may…

Hair Color and Dye

◆ Joseph Caron, colorist at the Mark Garrison Salon in New York City, adds two packets of Sweet ’N Lowe to hair dye. The artificial sweetener neutralizes the acidity of the dye’s ammonia, which helps prevent scalp irritation.

The sweetener can also be used with any at-home dye as long as it contains ammonia—read the label carefully.

◆ The standard advice to prevent hair coloring from getting on your face is to apply petroleum jelly near your hairline. Our experience is that the jelly gets in your hair. So while it prevents the dye from staining your skin, it may also prevent the dye from coloring some of your strands.

So forgo the jelly. If dye gets on your skin, wipe it off immediately with a moist paper towel. For hard-to-remove dye stains, rub a little non-gel toothpaste on the spot, then wash with soap and water.

The Color Boosters…

To boost your hair color, try an all-natural, homemade enhancer. First, boil one quart of water. Fold over a piece of cheesecloth—it should be large enough for you to add the ingredient that matches your hair color—and tie the cheesecloth closed with the ingredient inside. Remove the boiled water from the fire, add the cheesecloth and let it steep for 10 minutes.

Blondes: Three tablespoons of dried chamomile

Brunettes: Three tablespoons of fresh, bruised rosemary sprigs (bruise them by crumpling in your hand)

Auburn redheads: One chopped beet

Orange redheads: One chopped carrot.

While the cheesecloth is steeping (and cooling), shampoo and rinse your hair as usual. Discard the cheesecloth bag and use the warm, color-enhancing liquid as a next to-last rinse over your hair. The last rinse should be one quart of cool water.

Use this treatment once a month to add vibrancy to your hair color in a healthy, non-chemical way.

Redhead and Brunette Luster

After shampooing, rinse your hair with one cup of cool, brewed black coffee, then rinse with plain water. It should make your red or brown hair more lustrous.

Solutions for Chlorine Damaged Hair

Try these remedies after you hit the pool…

◆ If your blond hair tends to turn green after swimming in a chlorinated pool, wash the chemicals out of your hair with club soda… lots of it.

◆ Dissolve one adult aspirin (325 milligrams) in one cup of warm water and massage it into your hair. Let it sit for five minutes, then shampoo. Rinse thoroughly.

Fresh Water Protection

Before you expose your lovely locks to the harsh chemicals in a pool, saturate your hair with fresh water from a shower, hose or faucet. Drenching your hair with plain water helps to block the absorption of chlorine.

Dry Shampoo

Sprinkle cornstarch or baby powder in your hair, massage it into your scalp and then brush it out thoroughly and completely. Your hair will be cleaner than it was, and it will smell nice, too.

Hair Volumizers

Use a hair volumizer after shampooing and towel-drying your hair…

◆ In a spray bottle, dissolve one teaspoon of table salt in eight ounces of warm water. When the water is room temperature, spray your entire head of hair. The salty water adheres to hair strands and increase their diameter, making your hair fuller and ready to be styled.

◆ Combine ¾ cup of water with ¼ cup of beer. Dip a cotton ball into the mixture and dab it on your hair, starting at the roots. The yeast in the beer is said to expand each strand, giving the appearance of a fuller head of hair.

◆ Mix equal amounts of Epsom salt (available at drugstores) and deep hair conditioner in a pan and warm it. Then when the mixture is still warm but cool enough to touch, work it into your hair. Let it stay that way for 15 minutes, then rinse.

Hair Thickener

A deficiency in mineral salts is believed to be a common cause of thinning hair. Studies show that mineral-rich apple cider vinegar improves the overall health and volume of hair. Drink three teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water right before a meal or first thing in the morning. Do this daily for a few months, and you should see your hair thicken up.

Thicker Hair Bonus

In addition to thicker hair, don’t be surprised if weight control or even weight loss seems easier while using the vinegar remedy.

Freeze Frizz

◆ If you wake up with out-of-control frizz and have no gel to tame it, take an ice cube and run it over your hair. It’s a cool way to calm down frizz.

◆ Buy great-smelling fabric-softener sheets to run over your hair from top to bottom. Cationics, the softening ingredients in the sheets, lubricate hair and counteract the static that causes fly aways and the frizzies.

A Nutty Way to Care for Hair

Coconut oil (available at health-food stores) contains lauric acid, which helps do wonderful things for hair—it moisturizes, detangles, deflects the sun’s damaging UV rays and pre vents color-treated hair from fading.

Rub a dab of coconut oil between the palms of your hands, then smooth it over your hair. It’s been used by women in tropical areas throughout the world for ages.

Shine On

Add one tablespoon of baking soda to your regular portion of shampoo—your hair will have a natural-looking shine and bounce.

Combat Oily Hair

◆ Add two tablespoons of Epsom salt to a bottle of your regular shampoo. Shake it thoroughly to dissolve the salts. Then, every other time you shampoo, massage your roots and scalp (the oiliest areas) with the Epsom salted shampoo. (Yes, this means you’ll need to rotate between two bottles of shampoo— one plain and one salted.)

◆ Bend your head over the sink, and massage a handful of coarse (kosher) salt into your scalp. Let it stay there for about five minutes, then stand on newspaper or in the bathtub or shower, and shake or brush the salt out of your hair. The salt absorbs excess oil and destroys bacteria.

◆ Combine equal parts of plain water and apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and keep it in the shower. After shampooing, spray the solution on your hair and comb it through. Wait two minutes, then rinse.

Vinegar’s acetic acid is said to boost your hair’s ability to stay oil-free, plus it will restore fullness and shine.

Soften and Moisturize Dry Hair

◆ Put a dollop of sunscreen on your palm, rub your hands together, evenly distributing the lotion, and then massage it into your hair. The lotion in the sunscreen will moisturize and soften your hair and, as a bonus, the sun protection factor (SPF) will protect your hair against the sun’s damaging UV rays.

◆ Cut a leg off an old pair of clean pantyhose, and turn it into a cap. Pull it over your head with your hair tucked in, and knot the top of the hose to stop it from dangling around.

Leave the cap on for about 30 minutes …enough time for the nylon to smooth the waves and for your body heat to tame the dry ends. When you remove the cap, your hair should be calmer and softer looking

Herbal Dandruff Remover

Dandruff may be caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the scalp. Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties that can neutralize that yeast, doing away with the dandruff.

Add five drops of tea tree oil (available at health-food stores) to your regular amount of shampoo—but not dandruff shampoo. (Dandruff shampoo may actually remove protective oils from your hair and skin.) Some prepared shampoos made with tea tree oil are also available.

NOTE: Tea tree oil has a pungent anti septic scent that may take getting used to. When you open the bottle and take your first whiff, keep in mind that it will be diluted in your pleasant-smelling sham poo. And, after shampooing with it, you should rinse thoroughly.

Mouthwash Stops Dandruff!

Twice a month, rinse your hair with antiseptic mouthwash to help prevent mild cases of dandruff.

Do not use this remedy if you have cuts or abrasions on your scalp—it may be irritating.

Combat an Itchy Scalp

Before you shower, work 3⁄4 cup of lemon juice into your scalp. Wait five minutes, then rinse and shampoo as usual.

The lemon’s citric acid helps slough off dead skin cells and kill the bacteria that clogs sebaceous (oil) glands, allowing the release of moisturizing scalp oils that will put an end to the itching.

Homemade Conditioners

◆ A classic conditioner is real mayonnaise— about ½ cup—massaged or combed into damp hair. Wrap your head in a towel and stay that way for 20 minutes. Then shampoo your hair as usual and wash the towel.

◆ If your hair seems damaged from commercial products…or the sun…or just neglect, you may want to try this deep conditioner— mash ½ avocado (which is rich in vitamins A and E) into ½ cup of real mayonnaise, and massage or comb the mixture into your damp hair.

Cover your hair with plastic wrap and stay that way for 20 minutes. Then sham poo, rinse and know that you did something good to help restore the health of your crowning glory.

Restore Bounce and Highlights

Add one teaspoon of champagne to two tablespoons of your regular amount of shampoo. Work it into your hair, washing and rinsing as usual. (You can also rinse with a bit of champagne after shampooing.)

The bubbly should help give your hair body and bounce, and the tartaric acid in champagne will bring out your hair’s natural highlights—especially if you are blonde.

An End to Split Ends

Before going to bed, apply a coat of olive oil to the bottom two to three inches of your hair, and put on a shower cap. Leave it on overnight and shampoo as usual the next morning. Then say “Arrivederci!” to dry, brittle ends!

If sleeping with a shower cap is not for you, then apply the olive oil and shower cap first thing in the morning on a day when you don’t have to go out. Wait eight hours before shampooing.

All-Natural Styling Gel

Store-bought styling gels tend to be sticky and some make hair look as though it needs to be washed. Aloe vera gel (available at health-food stores and many drugstores) is a less sticky, chemical-free, effective alternative.

Get Big, Bouncy Curls

Hooray—here’s a lovely use for those empty cardboard toilet paper tubes. Wrap a section of damp hair around a tube (you may want to cut the rolls in half, depending on the length and thickness of your hair), and keep them in place with bobby pins or hair clips. When your hair (and the paper tubes) is dry, take out the tubes and unfurl your curls.

Avoid Too-Short Bangs

If you want to avoid too-short-bangs, keep a serious face when you’re in the beautician’s chair. A big smile raises your forehead, which may lead the stylist to lop off an extra half inch.


◆ If you don’t want your walls, fixtures and floor or carpet to have sticky hairspray build up, then step into the shower to spray your hair.

Chances are your shower is used daily and the spray residue will be easily rinsed away.

If you need to see your handiwork, attach a small hand mirror to a shower wall with tile adhesive.

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