Instead of the gums, some recipes for hair gel I saw use gelatin. I prefer to avoid putting extracts of dead animals in my hair, but it should work fine if you are into that sort of thing.
The usual vegetarian gelatin substitutes are agar
. I expect that agar would would well to make a gel with stronger holding power. From what I've read, arrowroot gels aren't stable for as long, so my guess is that agar is better for that purpose.
You can get other ideas for good conditioner ingredients either by going to online stores that sell ingredients for making soap, lotion, etc., or by going to to the Skin Deep cosmetics database
and sorting the list of conditioners by safety.
Most contain some kind of emulsifying wax--a wax that can be mixed with water, serving much the same function as the oil in our recipe, but easier to mix with water, and leaving behind a solid wax coating instead of an oily coating, so that the hair doesn't feel as oily. That's great, but if you go shop for an emulsifying wax, and look up its ingredients in the Skin Deep cosmetics database
, you'll quickly find weird chemicals with serious safety concerns listed. The ones I found that don't have serious concerns are the emulsifying wax from Lotioncrafter
comprising Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Cetearyl Alcohol, and the the "vegetable based" emulsifying wax from Organic Creations
, which doesn't list ingredients, but the friendly folks there told me it comprises Cetearyl alcohol and polysorbate 60. If you look those up in the Skin Deep cosmetics database
, you find them listed as low concern, but mostly because there is almost no information available about them. I suspect that stuff would work to make a better conditioner, but I prefer using my recipe that I'm more confident is benign.
Be careful of other emulsifying waxes. For example, this vegetable based emulsifying wax elsewhere
contains PEG-150 which is rated as a "moderate hazard" with a 78% information gap on the Skin Deep cosmetics database
Another common ingredient that sounds safe and helpful is "DL-Panthenol", also known as vitamin B5. It's "plant-derived" and acts as a humectant, attracting moisture and helping keep your hair and scalp from drying out.
You can also, of course, add whatever scent you like.