Cheers for Beer … Shampoo, That Is


Written by Angela Haupt for

Pour another—for your hair. Turns out that pumpkin ale could be exactly what it needs to look healthy and shiny. No joke: Beer hair isn’t just what happens when some drunk guy spills his Guinness on you, or when you accidently dip your locks into your drink. On the contrary, beer shampoo is trendy—intoxicatingly so, some might say—and it’s landing everywhere from high-tier salons to your neighbor’s shower.

“People put beer in lamb, in bread, in pastries,” says Francky L’Official, a celebrity hairstylist who works with clients like Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Mena Suvari, and Vanessa Minnillo. “Why not use it for your hair, too? It gives it body and makes it shiny and bouncy.”

That’s because two of the basic ingredients in beer—malt and hops—are packed with protein, which acts as a nourishing and strengthening agent. Soaking, rinsing, or spritzing your hair with beer will strengthen the cuticles and help repair damage. Alcohol also contains B vitamins and natural sugars, which add a glossy shine. “Beer is great for fine or fragile hair,” says Marta Wohrle, founder of Truth in Aging, a website that reviews beauty products. “The proteins bind to the hair shaft and give it more volume,” boosting the appearance of thickness.

You don’t have to splurge on fancy varieties, either. In fact, it’s best to stick with traditional brews to maximize nutrients while minimizing chemicals. When L’Official gives the beer treatment, he shampoos clients’ hair, pops open a warm bottle of Budweiser Select, pours it on their head, rinses, and then dries and styles as usual. If you’re experimenting at home, you have two options: Purchase some, or make it yourself.

A growing number of companies, including LUSH and Redken, are drinking up the trend. LUSH’s Cynthia Sylvia Stout shampoo is made of “a locally sourced microbrew; a thick, rich vegan stout; and lemon juice, cognac oil, lemongrass, and balsamic vinegar,” says Erica Vega, one of the company’s product trainers. “It contains almost 50 percent beer. It does all the functions of a normal shampoo, but also gives extra volume and silkiness.” A 16.9 ounce bottle goes for $29.95. (It’s not available as a six-pack … yet.)

If you’d rather go the DIY route, Wohrle suggests trying these recipes:

Beer shampoo. Ingredients: 1 cup mild shampoo, ¼ cup boiled beer. Boil the beer before letting it cool to room temperature, and then mix it with shampoo. Although the alcohol has cleansing properties, combining it with shampoo makes it better able to remove dirt and grease.

Beer conditioner. Ingredients: 1 cup warm beer (preferably mildly scented), and 1 teaspoon jojoba oil, which is available everywhere from GNC to Walmart. Combine ingredients, apply to hair, and spread from ends to scalp before rinsing well. It’s a natural conditioner that won’t make your hair look greasy. Beer adds body, while jojoba oil adds shine. You can wash with both beer shampoo and conditioner; no need to stick with just one.

Beer and cider vinegar rinse. Ingredients: 1 ounce water, 2 teaspoons cider vinegar, 1 oz. flat beer, 5 drops rosemary essential oil. Rub this through your hair after shampooing and conditioning to remove build-up from styling products.

Most experts agree that if you purchase beer shampoo, it’s OK to use it every day, as a replacement for standard shampoo. But homemade versions require a little moderation. “Repeated use could be a bit drying for hair that tends to be not-so-oily,” Wohrle says. Make it an occasional part of your beauty routine; once every week or so will do the trick.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that beer is showing up in hair salons. It’s long been touted for purposes that transcend drinking, particularly as a way to enhance appearance. A number of spas, for example, offer pedicures that begin by soaking clients’ feet in a tub of beer and water. The yeast is thought to soften the skin, while the alcohol kills bacteria and microbes. To try it yourself, fill a basin with enough warm water to cover your ankles, then add half a bottle of your favorite beer. Soak your feet for about 15 minutes, and when you remove them, slather on some lotion.

And if you have pimple-prone skin? Beer doubles as an astringent. “The yeast helps maintain a balanced pH level and keeps acne under control,” Wohrle says. “And its pantothenic acid and vitamin B make the skin smooth and supple.” Test the theory by making your own beer mask. Mix 1 tablespoon of beer with a teaspoon of plain yogurt, a teaspoon of olive oil, an egg white, a teaspoon of lemon extract, and a teaspoon of almond extract. Stir all the ingredients together, then dampen your face with warm water and apply. Let it dry for about 15 minutes, then rinse with warm water followed by a splash of cold. Or, if you’d rather be pampered, head to a beer spa. These are mostly located in Europe, where visitors indulge in warm beer baths to improve their complexion and hair, while soothing muscle and joint tension. Beer spas claim the experience brings impressive physical benefits, while aiding overall relaxation.

And that’s something we can all toast to.

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