Not Martha

DIY hair styling spray

DIY hair styling spray

I like Bumble&Bumble Surf Spray, it does a nice job of bulking up my fine hair and creating some lift at the roots. But man is it expensive. A while back I ran across this simple DIY version at Makeup Alley (registration required, worth it). I find that it works pretty much the same and it this has become my everyday product. Note, the salt in it does give a matte finish to your hair, so if you like shiny this won’t make you happy:

1 or 2 teaspoons epsom salt. Available at drugstores.
1 or 2 generous squirts of hair gel. Make sure it’s water based, water should be one of the first ingredients. I used Pantene Volume Gel because it was on sale when I went looking, the original instructions used half Dove Shine & Define and half TIGI Creative Genius.
4 ounces water.

Combine in spray bottle, shake well. I had a B&b surf spray bottle left over, it has a nice misting thing going on. I think any spray bottle should work out ok.

I also use B&b Thickening Spray, and the main ingredient in that is hydrolyzed wheat protein. So of course I did try to reproduce this as well. I thought wheat protein = wheat gluten, right? Turns out, not at all. But before I learned this I bought a bag of Bob’s Red Mill vital wheat gluten powder and mixed 1/4 teaspoon in about six ounces of water, shook it up and sprayed it. The spray nozzle almost immediately gummed up and stuck, and the gluten left to settle in the bottle floated around until it found each other and formed a blob that floated on the surface menacingly. And when I tried to clean it out it stuck to the inside of the bottle, the outside of the bottle, the sponge and the sink so tenaciously that I ended up tossing everything except for the sink. So, don’t try wheat gluten. Subsequent and equally uninformed trials with bread flour went about as well. You’ve been warned.

It only took a second of Googling (yes, hello, why don’t I do that first?) to find that you can actually buy hydrolyzed wheat protein. According to The Herbarie it does not actually contain gluten, and it “constitutes a unique hydrating complex offering a combination of moisture-balancing and film-forming properties that work synergistically to give hair better body control”. I might just buy a few ounces and see if I can make a home version of the Thickening Spray as well.

· comments [35] · 05-27-2009 · categories:beauty ·

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 anna // May 27, 2009 at 5:38 am

    haha – sounds like something I would have tried :)

  • 2 Rose // May 27, 2009 at 6:36 am

    This post is a lifesaver. I have been using B&b for the past few months, but the problem is that I go through the container in about three weeks (I use the curling creme). At $27 a pop, it’s way too much.

    I think I’ll look into creating my own – or using the surf spray you mention here. Thanks for the tip!

  • 3 mrbarrington // May 27, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Thanks so much for this post! The last time I got my hair cut at the B&B salon, my stylist urged me to buy the surf spray (she said it’s HER fave B&B product), but I just couldn’t bring myself to shell out the cash. Can’t wait to try this!

  • 4 Jess // May 27, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Sweet. After refusing to pay that much for the b&b spray, I tried making my own with just salt and water, but it did zilch. Adding a squirt of gel? Genius. Yaaaay!

  • 5 Tasha // May 27, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Awesome! Does anyone else have other “recipes” like this?

  • 6 Dionne C // May 27, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Man! You really DO do it all! DIY Hairspray?!!! Wow!

  • 7 Katie // May 27, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Awesome tip. Thanks so much! Let us know if you perfect the Thickening Spray – I use that too.

  • 8 Seanna Lea // May 27, 2009 at 9:49 am

    The wheat gluten and flour experiments definitely sound like something I would do!

  • 9 theresa // May 27, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Love this idea! I’ve been trying to find a cheaper thickening/volumizing spray and actually liked the john frieda full blown blonde, but they stopped making it! I’ll have to try this.

  • 10 Amy Lu // May 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    So…. do you think you could concoct some B&B Styling Lotion and Straight gel too? (grin)

    I know they are expensive, but *they work so great*.

  • 11 Jillian // May 27, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    My hair is baby fine, and I’ve never found anything that worked as well for volume as the B&B Thickening Spray. I haven’t purchased it in years because it’s just too expensive but came pretty close to it yesterday. Can’t wait to hear how your homemade version works out.

  • 12 McAuliflower // May 27, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    wow- super interesting post.

    Have you played with flax seeds as hair gel before? Might be an interesting alternative to the wheat direction.

    Basically just steep flax seeds in hot water (like making tea) and they then turn the tea into gel.

    Lots of potential there- I think…?

  • 13 Aoi // May 27, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Awesome. I was planning on experimenting with a DIY surf-hair spray formula, but now I’ll just go with yours. Great timing!

  • 14 Heather // May 27, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    The Estee Lauder outlet near here now carries b&b and they always have surf spray. Outlet prices are 30% off. Worth looking into if you have a Cosmetics Company Store nearby.

  • 15 Tracy // May 28, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    I purchased some cheap, travel size gel (ISOPLUS brand) today at CVS to try this out and the last ingredient listed is “Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein”–can’t wait to try this out.

  • 16 aadrw // May 28, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Btw, the hydrolyzed wheat protein is still unacceptable for people with gluten issues, even if it doesn’t have gluten in it per se. They’re starting to put that stuff in all kinds of weird things too (like Kiss My Face baby wash).

  • 17 Cashew // May 29, 2009 at 11:11 am

    @ aadrw:
    I thought that some people had issues when they ate gluten, not when they used it externally? Am I wrong?

  • 18 em // May 31, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    If you spray it in your hair, then touch your hair, it’s going to end up on your fingers, and then when you eat….ta da, you’re eating gluten.

    It’s a tiny amount, but it’s enough for some people to get very sick.

  • 19 Kim Dancy // May 31, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Let me add my thanks for the B&B surf spray substitute research and development. I am perilously close to runnning out in a town where there is no B&B, and have been racking my brain to figure out what to use in it’s stead. Thanks!

  • 20 Amy Dunn // Jun 1, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    I stumbled upon this website looking for the Bumble and bumble Surf Spray, but boy! Your website is a treasure. Thanks for sharing these fun tips.

  • 21 shannon // Jun 5, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    I was just about out of spray gel when I read this post. I added water & epsom salt to the spray gel & made your styling spray. Works so great! Thank you so much for the recipe!

  • 22 mmmmmkay // Jun 18, 2009 at 8:55 am

    First rule! First rule! The first rule of makeupalley is that you DO NOT talk about makeupalley!

  • 23 Ashley // Jan 8, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Why would you want to hide makeupalley, mmmmmmmkay? The more people who go, the more advertising they get, the more likely it is to continue and get better.

    Also, this is a fabulous site and thanks very much for the recipe! I love when the internet allows people to share advice and regain consumer power when they used to have to simply spend $24 to get what they wanted.

  • 24 Jacqui Mae // Feb 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    This is AWESOME!!!! im so sick of wasting the big bucks on surf spray//thickining spray when i feel like all they really are (natural feeling bottles with nice spray affects) of water! I’m excited to try this at home DIY of surf spray

    thanks so much!!

  • 25 Some guy // Apr 1, 2010 at 11:55 am

    this really works! I tried the above recipe (but i mixed 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt with 1 teaspoon of sea salt together)….a few good squeezes of gel…..and mixed it in warm water (microwaved the water to heat it up)…..

    man! it really works great!

  • 26 Treats for summer hair « A La Mode // Jul 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    […] Spray, use some form of salt to create waves. Want the waves without the $23 price tag? Try this DIY styling spray from With some hair gel, epsom salt, and water, you can make your own version of the […]

  • 27 plaidpantsuit // Sep 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Yay! Yipee!! (pause to do Dance of Joy)

    Thickening Spray discontinued now, was contemplating similar gluten experiment, thank goodle-ness I found you first!

    Thanks for lifesaving cosmetic recipe; please rename site ‘better than martha’ immediately!


  • 28 Jessica // Oct 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Do you think you could use a gel that adds shine, or a shine “serum” to this mix, to counteract the drying effect?

  • 29 megan // Oct 25, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Jessica – I think so, but I have not tried it so I’m afraid I can’t tell you if it would work out or not. Good luck, and report back if you find out!

  • 30 Laura D. // Jan 7, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I can’t wait to try this, but I want a nice glass spray bottle like the Bumble bottle for it. Anyone have any ideas as to where I can get a classy spray bottle, rather than a cheap plastic one?

  • 31 Holly // Jun 4, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Tried this, awesome… Took a bit of experimenting to find the right type of “gel” at first te spray was. Wry directed and not a mist (I’m reusing my old B&B surf spray bottle). Also, I found two teaspoons of the salt to be too little. Felt that 4 teaspoons made a better amount and felt more like the orig. Great idea, will not go back to spending $25/ bottle! Thank you! :)

  • 32 mallory // Sep 28, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    you are such a gem. i have heard good things about this product but refused to spend such an exorbitant amount of money for it. I was looking for generic substitutions and found this post which is even better! oh and now im obsessed with your blog, so keep up the good content.

  • 33 Olivia // Sep 17, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I used a bit less water, added a splash of hairspray, and used some old contorting creme instead of gel. IT IS AMAZING. Thank you so much for this recipe! I didn’t love the smell so I also added a few squirts of perfume. Divine.

  • 34 Fun Things To Read On A Friday // Nov 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    […] example:1. This Sea Salt Spray Tutorial – I have incredibly slippery hair. It is super fine and thin and if I don’t wash it […]

  • 35 MX // Jul 21, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    I too love the B&B Thickening Spray, and am *about* to try my first DIY (hopeful) replacement recipe.

    Thank you for this post! Last week in a determined fit of “I’m not paying $30 for hair spray,” I decided to TRY A DIFFERENT BRAND. Big mistake. By the end of the day I was scratching my head so hard I must have been grossing out my fellow commuters. So, that went in the trash and I went back to being resigned to spending the big bucks. Then I found this!!!

    I will report back. ;)

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