Chances are, you keep your kitchen stocked with a number of staples, from eggs to olive oil, that add flavor and nutrition to all of your cooking and baking endeavors. These essentials do more than just boost your meals, though. Turns out, they’re great to apply topically, too, and have major benefits for your hair.
“When it comes to skin- and hair-care, there are several simple yet highly effective treatments you can add to your routine using items you likely already have in your pantry,” says natural beauty expert Patricia Walker, founder of Farm to Skin. And, luckily, none of these items will break the bank.
Ready for the mane of your dreams? Here’s how to use healthy foods you likely already keep stocked for stronger, shinier locks.
FYI: Hair is made up primarily of a protein called keratin, which is responsible for its strength. So, because they also contain protein, eggs are beneficial for the hair, says Raven Hurtado, hairstylist at Chicago’s Maxine Salon. In fact, protein-packed eggs can help repair damaged hair and bring back some strength, explains Hurtado.
Eggs also contain lots of healthy fats, which can help increase shine, adds Cody Renegar, a Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist. According to a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, saturated and unsaturated fatty acids make up about 85 percent of hair’s total lipid content and play an important role in keeping hair healthy and shiny.
How to use eggs on your hair: “You can use eggs on your hair once or twice a week,” says Hurtado. She suggests mixing two eggs with a tablespoon of olive oil (more on its benefits soon), distributing it onto the hair, and letting it sit for 20 minutes. Then, rinse it out and follow with your regular shampoo and conditioner.
Avocados aren’t just a delicious base for guacamole. “Avocados contain healthy fats and biotin that’ll keep moisture in the hair, help with frizz, make hair stronger, and provide shine to the hair,” says Hurtado. Remember: Fatty acids promote shine! Meanwhile, biotin, a B vitamin, can help support hair growth.
How to use avocado on your hair: Apply avocado as a hair mask once or twice a week, suggests Hurtado. Mash the avocado until you get a creamy consistency, then apply on the hair and let sit for 30 minutes before shampooing.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
You may have heard the rumor that an apple cider vinegar rinse could help degunk your hair. Well, it’s 100 percent true! “Apple cider vinegar helps remove any buildup from the scalp and hair,” explains Hurtado. Why is that, exactly? Research shows apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties, which means it helps nix buildup associated with dandruff on the scalp.
Apple cider vinegar also helps balance the hair’s pH, “which closes the hair cuticle, making hair smoother, shinier, and easier to detangle,” adds Renegar.
How to use apple cider vinegar on your hair: Use ACV once a week as a pre-shampoo treatment, advises Hurtado. Apply the vinegar onto your scalp and massage it in to get rid of any debris and oil. Then, rinse, shampoo, and condition.
Honey has been used as a natural remedy for centuries for a wide range of health issues. “Honey is very useful in locking in moisture, so applying it as a mask will give your hair a smoother, silkier texture,” says Walker. “Due to honey’s natural antioxidant and balancing properties, it also makes a great natural remedy for scalps that are easily irritated or experiencing flare-ups.”
How to use honey on your hair: “A honey mask is great for those with damaged hair or irritated skin,” says Walker. To make a mask, Walker suggests mixing a little bit of honey with warm water, then applying it to wet hair, massaging it into your scalp, combing it through your hair, and letting it sit for a few minutes before rinsing out with shampoo. Try it once a week or once every other week.
5. Olive Oil
This Mediterranean diet staple is packed with antioxidants, including vitamin E, which Hurtado says helps promote a healthy scalp and stronger hair. Early research published in PLoS One also suggests that topical application of oleuropein, one of the antioxidant compounds in olive oil, could potentially aid in hair growth.
Read More: 5 Possible Reasons Why Your Skin Is So Dry
How to use olive oil on your hair: Hurtado loves a DIY hair mask made of three tablespoons of olive oil mixed with two tablespoons of honey. Apply the mixture to your strands, let it sit for 30 minutes, and shampoo it out. “You can try this once a week or every other week,” she says.
6. Coconut Oil
“If you have spent much time browsing the hair-care aisle at a grocery store, you will likely notice a lot of products have coconut oil added to them,” says Walker. And that’s for good reason! “Coconut oil contains lots of natural fatty acids that strengthen your skin cells and provide a stronger natural barrier to the elements you expose your hair and scalp to,” she explains. Renegar says that hair strands easily absorb the lauric acid in coconut oil, which helps moisturize hair and tame frizz.
“Due to the deep moisture that coconut oil provides, it is also great for naturally relieving dandruff,” notes Walker. A study published in Scientific Reports found that applying coconut oil topically helped ward off dandruff and keep the scalp healthy.
How to use coconut oil on your hair: “When my hair or scalp is feeling extra dry, a coconut oil mask is a go-to for me,” says Walker. She recommends hopping in the shower and wetting your hair with warm water, then applying coconut oil all through your hair and scalp. From there, get out of the shower (without rinsing the coconut oil) and wait for about 30 minutes. Then, hop back in, rinse out the coconut oil, and proceed with your regular hair-care routine. “This should provide immediate and lasting moisture—and you can do it as often as you feel necessary,” Walker says.
7. Rice Water
Rice water is the starchy water that’s left over after you cook or soak rice—and it’s totally worth keeping on hand so you can add it to your hair-care routine!
In addition to containing skin-loving vitamins A, C, and E, “rice water also has natural sun-protective properties, which can protect your hair and scalp from sun damage,” says Walker. It can also help maintain the natural pH of your scalp and protect the healthy oils in your hair.
Fun fact: According to research published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, rice water was used as a daily hair rinse by Japanese court women during the Heian Period, which lasted from 794 to 1185. (The study authors note that these women had hair that reached all the way to the floor!)
How to use rice water on your hair: “The next time you cook rice on your stove, simply add a few extra cups of water when cooking,” says Walker. “Alternatively, you can soak rinsed rice in a few cups of water for at least 30 minutes, strain it, and save the water.” Use your rice water after shampooing and conditioning, letting it sit on your hair for about 20 minutes before rinsing out thoroughly, she says.
8. Rolled Oats
“Oats are high in fiber, fatty acids, iron, and protein, which all act together to exfoliate the skin, work against hair loss, soothe dry skin, absorb oil, minimize dandruff, and improve hair texture,” says Walker. Talk about a powerhouse! As one study points out, the antioxidant and soothing properties of oatmeal make it excellent at relieving irritated skin, so it’s especially helpful when you’re dealing with an angry scalp.
How to use rolled oats on your hair: To make a rolled-oat hair mask, cook old-fashioned rolled oats according to the instructions on the packaging, says Walker. Once the oats are cool enough, rub them into your hair and scalp and comb them through your locks. Let the mask sit for about 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse and wash with your usual products. “You can always add in honey, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, or olive oil for added benefits,” she says.