3 Natural Ingredients You Probably Never Thought About Putting on Your Hair

Hibiscus flowers seen here growing in Turkey Asia Minor. Photo: Peter Titmuss/ myLoupe/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Coconut oil gets all the buzz lately as a go-to hair treatment in natural-beauty circles, but there's actually a garden of potential things that make for great hair-masks. While some of these probably bring to mind vacationing in Hawaii or smoothies, a few actually can really nourish your hair. Below, three unexpected food and floral products — and how to make them into usable hair-masks.

Hibiscus: Hibiscus, traditionally used in Ayurvedic therapy, is a popular hair treatment in India, where the flowers grow bountifully. It also works. According to Siobhan O’Connor, co-author of No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics and co-founder of clean-beauty site No More Dirty Looks, hibiscus will make your hair shinier than any silicone-laden commercial product. There have also been scientific studies, which indicate that hibiscus can assist in hair growth. 

Finding hibiscus flowers in the gray confines of North America may be tricky, though. O’Connor recommends hibiscus powder, which can be found in health-food stores. “Mix with water and put it on for ten minutes," she says. "It turns into kind of a goo when you make it." O'Connor suggests mixing the powder with half an avocado and a bit of water to create a mask, applying it all over your hair and leaving it on for about ten minutes. (Don't leave it on for too much longer, as it could easily become greasy.) The Times of India, on the other hand, suggests you soak six to seven hibiscus petals in a little bit of water overnight, then mix that with a quarter cup of olive oil and two tablespoons of milk. Leave it on for 20 to 25 minutes, then rinse off with cold water. This concoction gives the hair shine and makes it stronger. 

Oatmeal: Oatmeal’s benefits for the skin are well documented — it’s moisturizing, has anti-inflammatory properties, and is loaded with vitamins and fatty acids. So it makes sense that it could help treat dandruff and oily, itchy scalps. According to O’Connor, commercial hair-care products often contain oat protein. Skip the lab-produced stuff and hit up your kitchen instead. Mix oatmeal, milk, and almond oil in equal proportions to make a paste, recommends the Times of India’s beauty expert, Aashmeen Munjaal. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water mixed with a bit of lemon juice. 

Banana: This one, despite its ubiquity in the grocery store, might be the weirdest of the bunch. But two similar recipes for banana hair-masks popped up this week online. While there isn’t a whole lot of clinical evidence to back up health claims, bananas contain vitamins (like vitamin A) that can potentially help to make hair shiny and moisturized, and rave reviews abound. A few years ago Dr. Oz apparently deemed the banana a miracle hair treatment, for whatever that’s worth. 

Mash or blend one overripe banana with one tablespoon of honey. Spread it all over your hair, then put on a shower cap and let it sit for 15 minutes. Blending well is the most important step, because there are some reports of people having a hard time getting the banana chunks out, which will definitely take away from whatever benefit you get from the mask in the first place.