Beer = Perfect Hair?
Is rinsing your hair with beer the long awaited miracle secret to long, shiny hair? Or just a hoax-y trend with no real results? I guess we’ll find out because I tried rinsing my hair with beer to see if it would truly improve my naturally textured hair (before and after pictures included).
I’m pretty fearless when it comes to hair-related DIYs. I’ve cut my hair, I’ve highlighted my hair, I’ve even rubbed all kinds of mashed up fruits and veggies into my hair (DIY banana avocado hair mask…anyone?) but when I came across a DIY recipe for a beer rinse my first thought was, “um, ew.”
What Are The Benefits of Rinsing Your Hair With Beer?
I have never understood the appeal of beer and the thought of saturating my curly hair with it seemed even less appealing. However, I couldn’t help my curiosity…if people are willing to risk having hair that smells like beer, the benefits of a beer soak must be pretty amazing and totally worth-while. So what are the supposed benefits of rinsing your hair with beer?
From what I’ve found, beer is the secret hair tonic we’ve all been searching for. Apparently, rinsing your hair with beer will make it: thicker, stronger, healthier, shinier, curlier (if you have curly hair), and can promote hair growth…phew…that is a lonnnng list. But what’s the science backing all of these amazing benefits?
Malts and Hops for Hair
Most of the sites promoting beer rinses credit the malt and hops in beer as an intense source of protein. While it’s definitely true that properly protein balanced hair is just as important as properly moisturized hair, if you’re like me you’re probably wondering what ice cream drinks and a bunny’s preferred method of movement have to do with beer or great hair.
Malt and hops are actually two important components of a beer’s structure. Many of the sites with DIY beer rinse recipes are a bit lacking in detail, when it comes to why a beer rinse is effective, but thankfully artisan beer brewers passionate about the craft are abundant online.
What is Malt?
I’d like to start by thanking The Brew Enthusiast for this detailed definition of Malt
“Malt is essentially the toasted version of any cereal grain. This includes barley, wheat, oat, rye, etc. The full name would be “Malted Barley” or “Malted Wheat”, if we chose to say it that way. We don’t choose to say it that way, so in beer vernacular we just say “Malt”. In most beer styles, the “malt” is barley, because it’s relatively high enzyme content makes it conducive for brewing. Pretty easy so far.
We toast the cereal grain because we need to access the lovely sugars and enzymes within the grain. These sugars and enzymes form the sugary, substantive backbone of all beer. In their raw version (picked straight from the field), the starches in these cereal grains are not very accessible. Brewers sometimes use unmalted grain in their beer, but it’s a small percentage of the total grain used. We won’t get too far into the specific enzymes and chemicals we’re trying to create in this process, but suffice it to say that it’s important.”– The Brew Enthusiast
If you’re still curious about malt I would highly recommend reading the rest of the article.
Why is Malt Good For Hair?
Even after knowing what malt was, I still didn’t understand how malt’s protein contribution worked so I had to spend some time on Brew Chatter to figure it out. To the best of my understanding, protein in grain aids the enzyme process during malting. As proteins break down during this process they become part of the malt base solution (the malt factor in beer). When protein interacts with hair it bonds to the hair shaft and fills in gaps, leaving hair strong and able to maintain its shape.
Did you know that some of our natural shampoo bars have natural sources of protein from grain? It’s true! Our Wheat and Honey Almond Shampoo Bar contains wheat germ (this bar also smells absolutely heavenly)
What are Hops?
“Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus, a member of the Cannabaceae family of flowering plants. They are used primarily as a bittering, flavouring, and stability agent in beer, to which, in addition to bitterness, they impart floral, fruity, or citrus flavours and aromas. Hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine.”–Wikipedia
Hops have an astringent property that acts similarly to how apple cider vinegar or a citric acid hair rinse works and supposedly produces the same benefits of fighting dandruff and promoting shine. Hops do have a protein content, which means they could potentially strengthen the hair shaft while also smoothing it down (what makes hair shiny).
Putting The Beer Rinse To The Test
I knew a beer rinse was too crazy not to write about, but it was so outlandish that I decided I wouldn’t write about it without giving it a go first. A couple of recipes called for non-alcoholic beer, claiming any alcohol content would simply overpower any results by drying the hair out. I decided not to follow this instruction, why? I honestly feel like most DIY adventures happen on a whim, so unless you already have non-alcoholic beer on hand, you’re not going to drive all the way to the store when you’ve got alcoholic beer in the fridge (C’mon people, we want results and we want them now!)
I happened to have a bottle of Leinenkiugel’s Toasted Bock (a name I would never remember or be able to spell if I wasn’t holding the bottle in front of my face) left over from when I made Corned Beef. I did pour the beer into a container and let it sit for a couple of hours to flatten in. Apparently when the carbon dioxide in beer mixes with water it makes it hard…and as we all know…hard water makes hair washing…hard.
There are many different methods for beer rinses online. Some say the rinse should be after shampoo, some call for leaving the beer in the hair, I found another experiment in which beer was the shampoo! With so many methods, I decided that coming up with my own wouldn’t mess too much with any results. I wet my hair with water, soaked my hair (scalp to ends) in beer, waited a couple minutes, rinsed with water, and then shampooed and conditioned as usual. Just as I did with my Winter Skin Saver Bar experiment, I did not use additional product in my hair because I wanted few variables for a clear outcome.
Results of my Beer Hair Rinse
I was disappointed. As my hair dried not only was it frizzy, but my curls were limp. Limp, frizzy curls were far from the bouncy, shiny ones I’d been hoping for. On the plus side, there was no lingering smell because I rinsed before I shampooed.
The first photo is my hair before the rinse. My curls don’t hold up past wash day even with a sleep with my hair in a loose bun my curls still get pulled out which is what you can see from this photo.
As you can see, the results of the beer rinse look dramatic compared to my second day hair. It makes it seem as though the beer rinse made my hair go from wavy to curly when in reality this happens every time I wash my hair. What I was really focusing on was the quality of my curls.
If you look at the second picture, you can see how the curls start as waves, you can also see how loose the ends of my hair are. In order to call it a good wash day, I’m looking for more curl at the top and bottom and less “floofy” curls. To see what my hair looks like on a good wash day you can check out my blog on how I discovered my naturally curly hair, or my popular blog on the benefits of natural oils for your hair.
I took one last picture with flash because sometimes indoor lighting makes for grainier photos. Yes, my hair looks shinier, but that is simply because of the lighting. You can still see how loose the curls are.
Would the results have been different if I had used non-alcoholic beer, followed a recipe more closely, or used a styling product? Maybe. One thing’s for sure, a beer rinse will not be replacing my weekly Herbal Hair Rinse.