Beer: You can bathe in it, fertilize grass with it and boil shrimp in it. But have you ever doused your hair with it? (We mean on purpose, not the accidental, "Hey, I'm doing a 'keg stand' and my hair got in the way" kind.) Turns out beer just might be good for your hair, too.
Beer's most basic ingredients -- malt and hops -- are full of protein that can strengthen hair cuticles. The cuticle is a layer of dead cells wrapped in a shingle-like fashion around the outermost part of the hair shaft. When the cuticle is damaged, these cells are raised and rough.
If you apply the proteins found in beer to your hair, the cuticles begin to realign themselves in an orderly fashion. Essentially, the proteins are repairing damage to your hair caused by all the other things you may do to make it look good: blow-drying, straightening, curling and coloring.
The beer benefits don't end with stronger locks; it can make your hair shinier, too. As the proteins bind with hair cuticles, the newly smoothed surface will better reflect light. This means your hair will become shinier. The alcohol in beer also adds shine, thanks to B vitamins and natural sugars, although some experts caution the alcohol will your dry hair if you use it too often. Critics also claim there's no evidence that beer is a wonder-rinse; it won't make hair grow and it can leave behind a "just left the frat party" smell [sources: Romanowski, Nolasco].
To use beer as a hair rinse, mix it at room temperature (about a quarter of a cup or 59 milliliters) with an equal amount of water and add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to cut the beer smell. After using shampoo and conditioner, saturate hair with the beer rinse and let it soak for a few minutes before rinsing. While too drying to use every day, a once- or twice-monthly beer rinse will work as well as a pricey clarifying shampoo, removing buildup from hair products [source: Hudson].
For a leave-in conditioner, transfer the mixture to a spray bottle, spritz and go. As the proteins in beer bind to the hair shaft, something fabulous will happen: volume. For people with fine, thin hair, a solution that delivers volume is the Holy Grail of hair products [source: Haupt].
Unfortunately, the volume boost beer offers your tresses will only last as long as the beer remains bound to hair follicles. Wash it out and the benefit goes down the drain, too. Re-applying a leave-in beer treatment when you wash your hair will make it feel like a more long-lasting benefit [source: Hudson].
You also can turn your next beer into a shampoo. Reduce a cup (236 milliliters) of beer over medium heat until there's only one-quarter cup left (you'll have boiled off the alcohol). After the beer reduction cools, mix it with a cup of shampoo, rebottle it and wash as usual. If you're not the DIY type, you can find the occasional purveyor of beer shampoo on the Internet [source: Kita].