I Washed My Hair with Pantry Products: What Works and What Makes You Smell Like a Salad

Having an attractive head is big business. According to Statistica, the average American spent around $65 on hair care products in 2020—and that was during a global pandemic, when only our cats were around to admire us. (Also worth mentioning: Men are dragging that average way the hell down.) If you’re looking to spend that money on better stuff—Beanie Babies, Pokemon cards, monkey NFTs—you can always consider putting food in your hair instead. 

This is not a wild suggestion. Fatty, protein-rich edible items like coconut oil, mayonnaise, and avocado have long been used as hair conditioners. And if a dose of apple cider vinegar is said to be good for your body and skin, then why wouldn’t it be good for your mane? I plumbed my pantry and pulled out three products the internet says work as hair care—mayo (Duke’s, specifically), apple cider vinegar (Bragg, specifically), and organic coconut oil—to see which proved to be genuinely useful and which made me feel like I was making pasta salad but the pasta was hair. Yum!

Duke’s Real Mayonnaise

duke's mayonnaise
Credit: Ryan Martin / Walmart

Mayonnaise is made with oil, protein-packed eggs, and astringent lemon juice, but, let’s be real, it’s mostly oil. I went with Duke’s for this experiment because the internet suggested it, and because I don’t use Duke’s in my kitchen (Best Foods/Hellman’s for life), so it wouldn’t be ruined for me. Putting thick, oily, jarred mayo in your hair purportedly moisturizes the strands, eases frizz, and even strengthens hair so it can grow more quickly. This is the part where I tell you none of these benefits are supported by scientific research, although I’m pretty sure scientists have other stuff going on. What I can confirm is that using mayo, a substance we typically use to bind tuna salad, as a hair mask is about as off-putting as it sounds. 

After getting in the shower and wetting my hair with hot-bordering-on-scalding water, I dug my fingers into a jar of Duke’s and slathered a heaping palmful of mayo through my hair, taking pains to keep it the hell away from my face. The instructions I read online suggested using a full cup of mayo, but that seemed excessive—I eyeballed it. Once my hair was good and greased up, I put on the shower cap I purchased for this explicit purpose (I now call it my “mayonnaise hat”) and let the steam work its magic for about 15 minutes while I went about the rest of my shower business. 

Honestly, aside from the absolutely deafening sound of water beating against a plastic shower cap, the process was smooth sailing until I needed to take the cap off. The smell was … not good. It was like pasta salad left out in the sun at a picnic: bad, bad, bad. Luckily, it rinsed out pretty nicely, was completely gone with one shampoo, and didn’t leave a lingering stink when my hair was dry. My thin, dry tresses definitely seemed less frizzy the next day, but I can see this working better for people with thicker, curlier hair—and, ideally, no sense of smell. 

Will I use it again? No, probably not.

Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar

bragg apple cider vinegar
Credit: Ryan Martin / Walmart

According to the internet, apple cider vinegar can do just about anything. I’m pretty sure if you google “apple cider vinegar to mend broken heart” or “apple cider vinegar to cure world hunger” you’ll find a blog with handy instructions. Of course, there are also loads of ways to use it as a beauty product, including making a rise for your hair for shinier strands. 

This was really simple: I mixed four tablespoons of Bragg’s with two cups of room temp water and brought the blend into the shower with me. After shampooing and rinsing as usual, I dumped the solution over my head, and then conditioned. Done-zo! The tutorial I read suggested rinsing with cold water after you shampoo, but that’s cheating right? Hair always looks shinier when you rinse with cold water (something about what it does to the cuticles). I used warm water to let the ACV do its thing without assistance. And my hair really did look shinier and felt more manageable once it had dried. 

Will the smell of the vinegar turn some people off? Probably. Personally, I like the way ACV tastes and smells, so that wasn’t an issue. And the smell didn’t hang around at all, especially after using a scented conditioner. 

Will I use it again? Absolutely.

365 Organic Coconut Oil

Yet another one of those all-purpose products, coconut oil is used for everything from cooking to relieving eczema. But, as I learned from this experiment, it’s not a great hair mask for thin, relatively straight hair like mine. 

For one thing, this stuff is thick. It’s so thick it’s solid. (Unless there’s a March heat wave in Southern California and all of a sudden you realize it’s turned to liquid while sitting on the counter in your hot, uninsulated apartment.) When it was still in its solid state, I brought the jar of coconut oil into the shower with me and applied three fingers’ full to my wet hair prior to shampooing. It took two shampoos to get this out of my hair. Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of using something to moisturize your hair? Anyway, I didn’t notice my hair really looking or feeling much nicer once it had dried. Again, maybe better for people with thick hair.

Will I use it again? Nope.

Live the Sweet Life with the 7 Best Honeys

It’s sweet. It’s sticky. It’s Winne the Pooh’s meal of choice. “Honey is nature’s candy,” our guest taster, Mythical graphics director Matthew Dwyer observed. And, amazingly enough, it’s all very different. Some are much, much better than others. 

About the Author

Gwynedd Stuart

Gwynedd Stuart, Sporked’s managing editor, is an L.A.-based writer and editor who spends way, way too much time at the grocery store. She’s never met an Old El Paso taco or mozzarella stick she didn’t like.

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  • Will you be trying more home remedies? I’ve seen avocado, honey, all kinds of oils used as well. Anyway, about the coconut oil. I swear by it for multiple purposes. About every week I use it on my scalp. I knew it was recommended for hair itself but also thought it was too heavy & tough to get out. On the scalp, though, I love it! Every other week, I add tea tree oil. Tried neem oil a couple times but it has a nasty oniony smell I don’t like that lingers cuz it seeps into the skin. Tea tree oil is also pretty strong but a much fresher soothing smell. Coconut oil is great for skin in general. I especially used it a lot more often with the pandemic since frequent hand washing dried my skin. I use it on my face, the cheek area that dries out. Haven’t found a moisturizer that feels as good & healing. Also, I add sugar to make a scrub in my t-zone. I know it’s recommended to add an essential oil but I haven’t found one I like for my face. Just wanted to put in my two cents on the coconut oil. Love what you’re doing, and look forward to more.