· Beauty Tips · Hair & Makeup Tips · How To Stretch Your Shampoo & Make Your Own Hair Gel

How To Stretch Your Shampoo & Make Your Own Hair Gel

stretch your shampoo

By a raise of hands….who here has added water to their shampoo bottle to make it last longer? *raising hand high* Back in the day, when our budget was stretched to the max….I would stretch our shampoo too by adding water to it. Every little bit helps ya know?

Here is an idea for stretching your shampoo and at the same time kicking it up a notch by adding protein for stronger, healthier hair.

stretch your shampoo

How To Stretch Your Shampoo:


stretch your shampoo

stretch your shampoo


Mix half an envelope of Knox Unflavored Gelatine with 1/2 cup water and add to a regular 8 ounce bottle of shampoo. (My bottle was bigger than 8 ounces but almost 1/2 of it was gone, so it was roughly that amount of shampoo. If your bottle is full you will obviously have to pour some out into another bottle.)

The gelatine will increase the protein content of your shampoo and the shampoo will last much longer.

I made up a batch today and tried it tonight and while I didn’t notice any immediate change in my hair, I’m hoping that regular use will help thicken it up…not to mention save a few dollars. :-)

homemade hair gel

Before I shampooed my hair though…I tried out this quick and easy Homemade Hair Gel that I also made up this afternoon.

Homemade Hair Gel


homemade hair gel


Dissolve gelatin in 1 cup warm water. Keep refrigerated and use as you would a purchased gel.

homemade hair gel

This is what the gel looked like after several hours in the refrigerator. I decided I would give it a try and pull my hair back into one of those slicked back pony tails I used to have to do on my daughter all the time when she was in dance.

homemade hair gel

While it’s not exactly the most flattering look I’ve ever sported…lol….it worked every bit as good as the dippity do-style stuff we used to use on Britta.

Overall I was very satisfied with both of these homemade solutions! More so than I thought I would be. I realize the savings would be pretty minimal…but in the long run, all these “little things” add up!

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Beauty Tips

  • This design is spectacular! You obviously know
    how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos,
    I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!)
    Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
    Too cool!

  • I have very long hair, and it is oily so I shampoo everyday. I use a small drop of suave professionals shampoo on my scalp area and let the rest just rinse down my hair. Only one shampoo no repeat. Always comes clean and the ends are not dry because there is minimal amount of shampoo on the back and bottoms. I use conditioner on the ends and done. if i have frizzies a tiny tiny amount of coconut oil will do the trick. I color my hair and cannot put baking soda or vinegar in it, it lightens the color. If you use those smoothing oils sold in the drugstores they contain silicone and will eventually dry out your hair over time and repeated use.

  • […] Stretch your shampoo and make your own hair gel, or just make a gel to apply directly to your hair. Either way, it’s easy and saves money. […]

  • When I was in high school, I was on the synchronized swimming team and we “knoxed” (temporarily glued) our hair in buns using LOTS of knox gelatin so that it would stay put through competitions.

    It smelled like wet dog, is simultaneously rock hard and sticky, and next to impossible to get out. But your hair didn’t budge, and I would recommend it if you ever need some crazy super-strength hairdo. Here’s a how-to video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hojtnnw3iZQ Due to the memories, I don’t think I can add knox to my shampoo, but I just wanted to share this! Love your blog Jillee!

    • Agreed! I lost so much hair due to Knox in Synchro, i just can’t ever use that again. The smell is indeed nasty! Horrors of hard pieces that take weeks to come out, having to use scalding hot water just to melt it on my scalp, clogged drains, sticking to my pillowcase at night…. Ugh!

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  • […] How To Stretch Your Shampoo Make Your Own Hair Gel | One Good Thing by Jillee […]

  • […] How To Stretch Your Shampoo Make Your Own Hair Gel | One Good Thing by Jillee […]

  • Thank you so much, Jillee, for this wonderful tip.
    I am currently trying to grow my hair out, from short-short, almost pixie short, so I am all about the protein-boosting stuff. Besides, my hair is notorious for breaking and splitting, even though I don’t blow dry it and rarely use products in it, other than a little hairspray.
    I recently bought some fancy organic shampoo and conditioner that said it is for strengthening hair. I only use it a couple of times a week. The rest of the time, I use my homemade “non-poo” and conditioner, which is nothing more than baking soda and water, and then apple cider vinegar and water. So, if I can stretch that fancy shampoo AND boost the strengthening power, it’s a win-win-win for me! :)

  • Would the gelatine work in conditioner as well? I have colored hair so I use more conditioner than shampoo, so it tends to run out sooner than shampoo. Thanks! Love ur tips!

    • Try adding a couple of teaspoons of olive oil into your conditioner, you will need to use less and olive oil does NOT leave your hair oily if you rinse well. I have been making my own shampoo – Started with Jillee’s recipe and tweeked it to fit me and I very seldom have to use conditioner at all anymore. I put olive oil in my shampoo :) Good luck!

  • Hi Guys! For those who have had adverse effects with baking soda in the hair, remember-while it is fairly gentle, one size does not fit all. Some might only need to use it once every few months to clarify their hair and scalp, some might need it once a month, some once a week. Start spreading its use out farther if you have had problems with it, that may help you achieve the results you desire. I have very fine curly hair prone to frizz-I never use it during the winter, but I do once in a while over the summer, to help remove excess oil and air pollutants from my hair, since I am more likely to be out longer in the summertime, and more active. Anything other than a basic shampoo and conditioner should be introduced with caution to prevent adverse reaction as a rule of thumb.

  • Another hair shampoo saving tip from a dermatologist:

    If you wash your scalp with your preferred shampoo, the suds/shampoo/water mixture actually runs down and through the length of your hair strands. No need to use more shampoo to wash and dry out your ends again!

    I have such dry hair it has begun to fall out :(. My scalp does not produce any oils to help my scap and hair.

    Any suggestions of what I can do to first help my hair grow back in, but mainly add a light oil to my hair and scalp that would not be run of the mill, but very thereaputic for it?

    Any ideas? Thanks so much. Love your blog jillee. Like in life, we must read everything with knowing that not everything is for everyone, take the info in, think about it and try it if you think it might fit with your problem you are trying to solve. Adapt it for you and your body/ or in this case hair.

    thank you.

    • First, buy a natural bristle brush with fairly soft bristles. Us this to groom your hair and brush your scalp, to stimulate it. Gently. If there are any active oil glands up there, this actions will stimulate them. Get some pure jojoba oil; it can be found at health stores, natural foods stores, some beauty supply stores. It is liquid and usually in a small bottle. Not inexpensive but it can be used all over and will last a long time. Put a scant few drops in your hands, rub them vigorously to disperse and warm the oil, then massage your scalp with your fingertips; apply the oil on your palms lightly to your hair after massage. Don’t use too much because you don’t want to coat your scalp, you don’t even have to be able to feel it on your hair and scalp afterward for it to do its job. Don’t overwash your hair. Rinse very well, then use just a little shampoo (rinsing well cuts the amount of shampoo you need too). Put a drop or two in your hand, rub your hands together, then apply to your wet hair. If you didn’t use enough add a drop at a time. Never put the shampoo directly on your hair, always in your hand first. Shampoo gently, rinse well. Unless you have been doing something dirty like spraypainting or riding a 4 wheeler in the dust, one shampoo is enough-the bottle says repeat so we will buy shampoo twice as fast. Since you suffer breakage, use a moisturizing protein conditioner according to directions on the container. These steps will help a lot. Improvement isn’t instantaneous, but don’t overdo it in an effort to rush it, that does more harm than good. Good luck!
      My source of information is 10 years of cosmetology experience.

    • PS-also, if you haven’t mentioned it, next time you go to the doctor, make sure you ask about hormone levels-sometimes dryness, breakage, thinness can all be signs of thyroid or hormone issues, especially if this is a fairly recent development.

    • MSKAT is right about the hormone levels. I had thyroid issues and my hair drying out and falling out (I thought I was going bald!), were the first symptoms. I had to have part of my thyroid removed, but now at least I have hair! LOL

  • I saw adding the gelatin into shampoo on another site, but they didn’t say to add with water first. That is definitely a good tip because I tried it in a couple of bottles and one of them kind of got clumped up! Follow you on Pinterest. Thanks for all the good info you provide.

  • Gosh, Jillee, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I guess you only want comments if we agree with everything you post. I’ll remember that the next time.

  • Thanks for this hair gel recipe. It’s a lifesaver for me! I’m allergic to just about every commercial hair gel on the market, but this homemade version seems to be ok for my hair and scalp. I also added a few drops of essential oils (orange and jasmine) to give it a pretty scent.

  • My daughter (the wigmaker) tells me that the gelatine in the shampoo will not thicken your hair. Hair, once out of your head is dead, like your nails. BUT, my mother use to take gelatine capsules & not only will it improve your hair But your fingernails will literally become as tough as NAILS. (I know, pathetic).

  • Passed this along to my daughter and pinned it. My daughter loves the expensive shampoos and hair products but can no longer afford them (Being married with 2 small kids will do that to you. lol) but even with using the “cheap” shampoos, every penny still counts. She’s found out that you can do the same thing with the “ultra” dish liquid. Add some water to it and she used a lot less of it each week. The small things do add up – especially when you’re on a budget. (But I still can’t get her to try the baking soda/ACV that I love so much. lol)

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I agree, it works with dish liquid too. I trained myself to only use a few drops of dish liquid, but as the bottle gets to about 1/4 full I notice the soap gets thicker, I guess because of all the air in the bottle. I can dilute it, at that point, more than once before it is all used up-it thickens up again as it gets lower, so I just thin it out again! At that point it’s easier to mix the water in too-you can use warm water, and shake it vigorously for even mixing-I do it before bedtime, so all the bubbles are gone by the morning!

  • Very interesting. Did you ever consider adding a little glycerin to the mix? When I worked at Revlon, when sales were flat, we made the hole in the shampoo bottles bigger, so the customer would use more shampoo, run out faster, and buy more. How about that? So you can probably cut your shampoo with half water.

  • Ladies, if you don’t like it…just keep going. There is absolutely no reason to be ugly and unkind in your comments. Didn’t mama teach you that if you can’t say something nice……?

    • My g-mama did!!!! She wouldn’t hesitate to wash my mouth out for making nasty comments!! =) Hey Jillee, have a recipe for a “good-tasting” soap? Just kidding!

    • Great comment, Susan!! I don’t understand why people feel the need to leave negative, to put it lightly, comments. To these people; If it’s something you aren’t interested in or don’t want to try, simply move on….. why waste your time writing such a comment? No one cares! Thank you.

  • I have been making my own ‘Sea Spray’ for years. I just use kosher salt and warm tap water in a spray bottle. It adds body and no flakes! I use about a 1/2 – 1 teaspoon to a 6 oz bottle. I always wash my hair at night and in the morning i just spray to dampen a little and blow dry. I paid $16 for a bottle only once!

  • I was under the impression that Knox was expensive. Am I wrong? I would at least think that a new bottle of Suave is cheaper than a half envelope?

  • Does anyone have any suggestions on how to manage dry staticy hair? Since I stopped using birth control my hair is much oiler then it was before so I have to was at least every 3 days and water alone won’t work. I have very thick, middle of my back hair. Thanks!

  • My hair is really long, so the ends dry out quickly. I tried the baking soda/vinegar thing but it made my hair dull and very dry. I’ve read that eventually your scalp will adjust and begin making enough oil to keep your shiny and not dry, but it never happened with me.

    The best way I saved money when I used shampoo was to use as little as possible to cover all my hair (which is much less than you usually see in commercials) and only shampoo once. The “repeat” part of the “lather, rinse, repeat” cycle only dries hair out and wastes money.

    Now I use a rather expensive cleansing conditioner instead of shampoo and conditioner. I still only use half as much as recommended, and only have to use it once or twice a week, so it isn’t as expensive as it could be. I’m also able to just “wash” with water fairly often since I’ve been using only a conditioner.

  • I recently started washing my hair with just water and have been really happy with the results! A nice way to save, for sure. I occasionally use homemade herbal rinses or conditioning treatments, too. I’ve made my own hair gel using plain gelatin before, too! I don’t have a need to do so these days since all the curl has disappeared from my hair. But it does work wonderfully! I also made a fusion recipe between a flax-seed gel recipe I found and my standard gelatin gel recipe. I really liked that, too.

  • Not sure how much money this saves. I add anywhere from 8 to 12 oz of water to a 15 oz bottle & don’t need the gelatin. Just use warm water & gently rock back n forth until it mixes. It works for vegan shampoos too. I even dilute the conditioner–just way less. BTW CVS & Walgreens both sell VO5 for 79 cents a bottle. Walgreen’s White Rain for 93 cents. Then of course there’s the dollar store for Suave.
    I like the rubber band around the pump trick–think I’ll do that for my dish soap dispenser.
    About using apple cider vinegar; it left my hair a tangled mess– I have hair past my shoulders, incredibly thick, & super wavy. It took me an hour and nearly a whole bottle of conditioner to get the tangles out and I still lost a lot of hair through knots.
    Love Jillee’s other beauty recipes though. Making the Dove body wash today:)

    • Wow!
      I have knee-length, curly hair and I’ve only washed with baking soda (2 tsp to 16 oz water) and rinsed with ACV (1 tbs 16 oz water) for 3 years now. My hair is soft and manageable without any conditioner. I do rinse both the baking soda out, then the ACV out and I don’t let either sit on my head, but put it in and rinse it out. I only shampoo once a week.

      I’m thinking you may not have used enough ACV to close the cuticle on the hair and that’s why it tangled. Also, I try to remember to brush my hair right before I wash it. It makes the few tangles I get even easier to comb through. (I use a wide-toothed comb when hair is wet and a natural boar bristle brush when dry.)

      For those having issues with baking soda drying out the hair, it may be that you’re using too much soda and/or not getting it all rinsed out. Once in a great while, when eye-balling the soda, I’ll get too much soda in the glass. I can tell if I’ve used too much soda, as my hair does feel dryer than when I use less.
      hth and I know MMV on things.

  • What a great tip….love this site! I get so much money saving tips…..who doesn’t want/need that!
    I’m going to try both of them.
    As for the baking soda, I have never tried it on my hair, but do use it as a quick, gentle facial scrub. I just take a little in the palm of my hand and mix a little facial cleanser and apply in circular motion on my face, avoiding the eyes……of course:) Quick and easy!

  • I’ll add another suggestion for saving shampoo….

    My daughter-in-law loves a very expensive brand of shampoo but can’t afford to buy it very often. I suggested she do what I do… use the “cheap stuff” (Suave, White Rain, etc.) FIRST, then shampoo with the GOOD STUFF. As you’ve probably noticed already, the second shampooing only requires a DROP or two of shampoo, since you’ve already gotten rid 0f the dirt, grime and oil! Now the expensive shampoo lasts over a year or two!

  • What is the longevity if the stored gel? Don’t you need some sort of preservative, even if it is natural like vitamin E? The shampoo should prevent bacteria from growing in the gelatin in that mixture but in the hair gel, I’m not so sure. Isn’t it protein? Wouldn’t that go bad before you would use that much? Ewww!

  • BE CAREFUL WITH KNOX IN HAIR!!! my cousin almost had to cut her pony tail off whe she was in synchronized swimming as a child. they used one packet in the girls hair before a competition. yes that is how strong it will be in your hair, strong enough for swimmers to use and never have a hair out of place! so if it this strong guess how long it takes for you to get out of your hair. after about a week of washing her hair the sides and top still had hard places but she could almost brush her hair. i think it took about a week and a half to get it all out of her hair and it sure did hurt.

    please dont use too much knox because you might end up with a huge mess that you cant brush out!

    • I agree Sara! My sister and I were in synchronized swimming for 13 years and it is a pain and a half to wash out! It also clogs up the drains! The ratio of water to knox in that hair gel looks to be a lot thicker than we used! When the hair dries your hair can easily break off! Sure you get protein and a style that stays in place but it is “cemented” in place that’s super dry!!

    • I am trying to change to all natural shampoo & conditioner and I have curly hair. For years I have used tons of product (gels, mousses, creams, oils, etc.) to keep the curls intact and control the frizzes. I have been looking for a good gel recipe and I am about to try this one. I would love to know the recipe you use, the flax seed & shea butter sounds intriguing. :)

  • I like the photograph of the shampoo and the gelatin. (As well as this tip, which I will try). I will also try the tbs of baking soda in water as a shampoo.

  • I have seen gelatin used to make those pore strip things….check pinterest, I’m sure you will see it pop up. They mix it similar to your gel, then apply it as a facial to remove black heads and gunk from your face. It sounds promising!

  • I stretch my shampoo by not shampooing every day. I usually only shampoo once a week. I do however, shower every day since I work out and I am a sweater. I just rinse my hair everyday and use conditioner sometimes (I wanna switch to apple cider vinegar but haven’t made that jump yet). I was reading on a natural website about not using shampoo anymore and using baking soda (MUCH MUCH CHEAPER 13.5lbs for $6.99), basically you put 1 tablespoon of soda to 1 cup warm water, dissolve it and pour it over your wet head and rinse. That’s it. Yes my hair is shorter (above my shoulders) but I do put mouse and hairspray in it everyday and my hair is not greasy or anything. I think it did take my hair a week to get used to not being washed every day when I made the intial switch because the more you strip your hair of it’s oil the more it is produced. I just switched to the baking soda last week and it works just like the shampoo does.

    • I want to warn you about the baking soda if you have curly hair. Baking soda raises the PH of your hair. At first it’s going to work, but over a pretty short amount of time the raised cuticle of the hair lets out the moisture and your hair gets rough and unmanageable. Trust me on this. It happened to me and i ended up with brillo pad hair. I am going to assume it does this to straight hair as well. I have heard if you do use baking soda you must use ACV as well to bring the PH down again but that didn’t help for me.

      • I tried using baking soda as well on my fine straight hair, and I didn’t like it at all. It was like it stripped it of all it’s natural oils and felt very dry and unmanagable. I use conditioner only on my hair (I scrub my scalp with the conditioner) and my hair has never been more managable. I haven’t used shampoo in over a year… conditioner only. Nobody would ever guess. I style my hair daily and it always looks nice.

      • I totally agree. I have thick, curly hair and attempted to go ‘poo free for two months. My hair felt like straw. I kept at it, waiting for my hair/scalp/oil to adjust and it never did. I played with the amounts of vinegar rinse, switched back to using regular conditioner, and finally just used shampoo.

        I have a scalp condition (sebbhoric derm./adult cradle cap) that because of this experiment I’ve found CAN be controlled with baking soda. Baking soda totally changes the ph of my scalp, so I still use the baking soda and then follow with shampoo and conditioner. My hair is still on the dry side b/c of the baking soda BUT now I don’t pay $20.00 a month for prescriptions for my scalp condition:)


    • I have been using the “no ‘poo” and apple cider rinse routine since November of 2012 and my hair is great. I can go at least 3 days with out having to wash my hair; some people say they have it down to washing once a week.

      • I’m assuming you don’t have oily hair? I’ve done the baking soda and might do it again here and there but oily scalp and dry ends are pretty tricky to clean and moisturize.

      • Try using either olive oil or coconut oil on your hands – ala VO5, Brillcream or Suave hair creams (do they even MAKE these things anymore?). Basically, you put a small dab in your palms, rub your hands together and then run your hands through your hair, trying to distribute it more or less evenly and then use a comb to comb it through. Let hair dry and then brush your hair (I’ve had hair dressers tell me to never brush wet hair). I can’t tell you an amount as it’s all relative to whether your hair is really short or knee-length like mine and how naturally oily it is. For my long hair, I use about 1 tsp in my palm. For shorter hair, a dime-size blob should do it. (Hence the slogan “A little dab ‘ll do ya.) You may need to experiment with it to get it right for you.

        Also, our grandmothers used to brush their hair 100 times each evening. It was to distribute the natural oils from the scalp to the ends of the hair and if they had long hair, they’d braid it so it didn’t get so tangled. I think most of us go to bed without brushing our hair. Plus, the daily washing/blow drying and products we use also tends to dry out the hair.

      • If you decide to go no-poo, your hair will go thru a transition period that can take a week up to a month. You can also adjust the amount of the baking soda/water ratio and also the vinegar/water ratio to custom fit the no-poo routine for your type of hair. Usually if you use more baking soda then you use less vinegar and vice versa.

        Some people have no problems problems going no-poo but others either don’t like it at all, don’t give it a chance to work, or don’t have the patience to experiment with the ratios to find the right balance.

        And you can always add “goodies” to the baking soda mix and the vinegar mix. I add jojoba oil and essential oils for my baking soda mix. Sometimes I add honey or aloe. For the vinegar rinse I always add essential oils as well but sometimes I add honey to that too.

        That’s the fun of making your own stuff …the customization.

      • I agree completely that the “no-poo” route needs some tweaking for each person. For mine, I use about a palmful of BS to roughly 2 cups of water each time I wash it (1-2 times a week), but I often skip the ACV because it leaves my hair sticky if I don’t have it diluted well enough (For me, more than a few drops in a 1/2 gallon of water is almost too much).

        I have yet to try this on dyed hair, but I’m about to dye my hair and I guess I’ll see how that goes.

  • I have also found that the dispenser hole on the empty travel shampoo bottles you buy for $1 is much smaller than the hole on the larger bottles of suave shampoo that may kids use. So if I put the shampoo into the travel bottle, it’s easier for them to use a smaller amount. On pump dispensers for soap, I’ve heard that putting a rubber band around the bottom of the pump part keeps the top from going down as far so you get less soap per pump.

  • 7.2 grams, or 1 Tbsp is the amount of gelatin in one packet of Knox. One packet of gelatin will gel 2 cups of water (America) or 500 ml (Europe).

  • My biggest shampoo cost saving move was to buy Suave shampoo and put it in an old large pump dispenser bottle. My hair is below my shoulders and less than a full pump provides plenty of suds. I use Suave clarifying shampoo (clear with blue tint) because it requires a smaller amount and it does not turn my gray/white hair yellow.

  • Please tell me how much liquid the whole pack is designed for, so I can measure how much your ‘half pack’ gelatin would be in the products I can get in Europe. Thanks!

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