Back in the ‘90s, Back to Basics came out with a line of beer shampoos sold in translucent brown, plastic beer bottles. As a child, I couldn’t have felt cooler pouring “peach amber ale” onto my head—like a real grown-up would. It smelled malty and promised to increase shine and add volume. I loved it. Though Back to Basics beer shampoos are now discontinued, the legend of beer being good for your hair continues to permeate salon society—even Catherine Zeta-Jones has said she washes her hair with beer in interviews. And she has great hair.
The theory is this: The malt and hops in beer strengthen cuticles, resulting in healthier (and therefore thicker and shinier) hair. So, in the name of science, I decided to take a tip from my younger self and start washing my hair with beer—only this time I would use the real stuff. Here’s what happened when I washed my hair with beer for a full week.
I was sick the first morning I dumped a frosty pint of 2XMAS spiced double ale on my head in the shower, so I couldn’t smell any of malt or hops or spices. As the internet recommended, I had poured the beer into a glass the night before and let it go flat in the fridge (that gets rid of the carbon dioxide, which, again according to the internet, can create hard water). I brought the pint glass to the shower, washed my hair with shampoo as usual, and then dumped the whole thing on my head. It was very, very cold. I gasped for air, which was hard to do because of my stuffy nose, and then massaged the ale into my scalp. I gave it a rinse (not too thorough, though, because the beer remnants are supposed to give your hair body) and then went on with my morning routine. When it dried, my hair definitely felt soft and easy to comb through—no sign that I had foregone conditioner in place of beer.
The next day I tried a home-brewed coffee stout. I still couldn’t smell anything, but I could think clearly enough to not dump the whole pint over my head. Instead, I dipped my hair into the glass and poured handfuls of it onto my head, “lathering” the beer into my scalp.
I could finally smell again on the third day. As I dunked my hair into a chocolate bock, the malty scent released into the steam. I didn’t mind it one bit. But, as I sat on the train heading to work, I was, for the first time, self-conscious about what other people thought. My hair definitely smelled like beer at 9 a.m.
I had been keeping a large can of Guinness in my fridge for months for whatever reason, so I cracked that open for the fourth day. This felt the most nutritious. It was probably all in my head, but the rich, dark stout seemed like it was really nourishing my roots and split ends. It also smelled great—so good that it was hard to stop smelling my hair throughout the day.
I still had some Guinness left over in the fridge, so I used it again. It still smelled great. It still felt like it was doing the most for my hair and scalp.
I continued cleaning out the outdated beers in my pantry by cracking open a chai-spiced ale left over from Christmas. While it didn’t appeal to me as something to drink, its spiced smell made it a great rinse. At this point in the experiment, I started to tire of the process of bringing a beer into the shower with me. I stared longingly at my conditioner. But there was only one more day to go.
I had another chai-spiced beer in the pantry, so onto my head it went. On my final day of beer-rinsing, I compared the before and after pictures and definitely noticed that my hair had more of a sheen to it and looked healthier. I have very fine hair, which means it’s often staticky. But after rinsing with beer, I noticed a real decrease in flyaways.