It seems that every list I read about kitchen beauty tricks and tips includes pouring beer on your hair. Honestly, you guys, I remember college, I’ve been to bars, and I know how unpleasant and sticky it is to get covered in beer. So, the thought of intentionally dousing myself with a can of PBR sounded like the opposite of enjoyable.
But I’m a curious person, and the tip seems to be on every Pinterest list. So, I decided to put aside my aversion to stickiness, and look into whether beer is beneficial for hair. In fact, I even poured a bottle of beer into my hair for you guys. If that’s not dedication, then I don’t know what is.
What IS Beer? You Should Probably Know if You’re Dousing Your Hair with It
- Malt is the term for germinated (sprouted) grains that are dried. The germination process produces enzymes that break down starch into sugars that, if it were not dried in this phase, would be used as an energy source for the seedling.
- Hops come from the flowers of the hop plant and are used to give beer its flavor.
- Yeast is a microorganism used to ferment the mixture, breaking down the sugar into carbon dioxide and ethanol.
Isn’t Beer … Alcohol? Won’t that Be Drying?
In a 2000 study measuring the ethanol content of beer, researchers found that beer had an average 4.66% ethanol (Journal on Studies of Alcohol and Drugs). But, as we’ve said many times, ethanol isn’t always bad. Sure, straight ethanol on skin will strip moisture by attaching to water and the long-chain hydrocarbons in lipids and dehydrate your skin when it dries. But ethanol in products can help ingredients penetrate more deeply and will thin a solution.
Beer also contains somewhere between 1.3 to 2 g/L of glycerol (Journal of Chromatographic Studies; Biotechnology in Flavor Production). This is the alcohol of sugar and gives beer its sweetness. Glycerol has been found to be a moisturizing ingredient in skin and hair care products, so it would, in theory, add moisture to hair (British Journal of Dermatology).
That said, since beer has all different levels of alcohol (with ethanol being particularly high) and isn’t formulated for use on hair and skin, the amount of ethanol in beer could be problematic. After all, without the moisturizers that most products come with, you might be stripping your locks unnecessarily.[Read More: Why Alcohol in Skin Care is Safe, Despite What Paula Begoun Says]
Not All Beers Are Created Equally
The running myth claims that it’s the brewer’s yeast that really does the heavy lifting in this one. And it’s true that Saccharomyces cerevisiae, one of the two yeasts commonly used to brew beer, is used in cosmetic formulations and has been shown in tests to increase skin moisturization and improve skin micro-relief (structure) (Food and Chemical Toxicology).
Unfortunately, if you’re cracking any old can of beer, you’re probably missing these benefits. Many manufacturers use a filtering process to get rid of the plant matter and debris — including yeast — that might give beer a cloudy look. This filtered beer, sometimes known as bright beer, is clear and free of skin and hair-benefitting yeast.
I Poured Beer in My Hair … This is What Happened
I didn’t want to just spit out information at you and claim that unfiltered beer might make hair soft and shiny but that I’d be dubious — so, I decided to test it out. I used UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen since it was both unfiltered and delicious.
To start, I used a room temperature beer. It’s best to let the beer sit out overnight. If this tip seems arbitrary to you, I’ll tell you why it’s important. Ever poured a carbonated beverage very quickly only to watch it foam everywhere explosively? Yeah, use flat beer.
Next I poured it over my head, worked it in, and tied it up with a plastic bag. I read everything from “two minutes” to “overnight” for the length of time to leave it in, so I decided to let my hair marinate in beer for five minutes before rinsing it out with cold water and conditioning.
I can’t say that my hair was dramatically different. Initially, it felt harder than normal as it dried, but then it became fairly soft and shiny. Nonetheless, I think it was less soft than my hair normally is. Overall, the difference was pretty negligible, but I wouldn’t do it again.
On the one hand, certain beers contain brewer’s yeast, which can add moisture to hair. The glycerol content of beer might also provide added moisture. On the other hand, you don’t need to use actual beer to benefit from these ingredients. Companies are catching on to the beer trend and making his and hers beer inspired products that contain brewer’s yeast (along with citrus oils).
The upside of these products is that they’re specifically formulated for hair and give you the benefits of beer everyday. And a regular beer rinse seems like a pretty high tab for shine. What’s the point of home remedies that cost more than the specialized products options, right?
Overall, a beer rinse might benefit some to an extent, but it can also be both pricy, drying, and if you’re using unfiltered beer, possibly ineffective.