DIY Hawaiian Hair Treatment: Awapuhi Ginger Juice

Give your hair a glossy Hawaiian gift!
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Danielle
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Give your hair a glossy Hawaiian gift!

Awapuhi is a plant in the ginger and turmeric family. It is also known as shampoo ginger or white ginger, hence its popularity in hair products. Paul Mitchell's whole steez was based on awapuhi ginger, and many other brands have followed suit. 

During frequent trips to Hawaii, Mitchell learned of the Polynesian "canoe plant," awapuhi ginger, and its uses by modern Hawaiians and their ancestors. Often grown as decorative foliage, the plant is gorgeous to behold

awapuhi ginger plant

The awapuhi plant. (photo: Shutterstock)

Like edible ginger, it grows underground rhizomes, which spring stalks that grow leaves and flowers. Shampoo ginger (aka awapuhi) has a yearly cycle, causing the plant to store its juices in a cone that eventually flowers. Inside this floral cone is the good stuff: awapuhi juice!

If I lived in Florida or Hawaii it's likely awapuhi would be old news, but as a born and bred Yankee I’ve only come across this plant in passing, which is also to say that I've never squeezed its juice onto my hair (because you know I would have, given the chance).  

Bottled goodness!

Bottled goodness!

Since awapuhi doesn’t grow in the lush litter and grime that lines my block, I searched high and low for an online source. It was rather difficult, but eventually I was able to procure eight ounces of pure awapuhi ginger juice. 

I wanted to test the juice's efficacy as a hair rinse, as it’s said to have gloss-imparting, frizz-defying effects.

I doused half of my freshly washed head with about a half ounce of straight juice and blow-dried with a paddle brush. (A round brush would have added its own polish, and I wanted to demo the truest results possible.)  

Here’s a side-by-side with awapuhi-treated hair on the right and untreated hair on the left. 

Left: untreated hair. Right: awapuhi-treated hair. 

Left: untreated hair. Right: awapuhi-treated hair. 

The visible results are not dramatic, but the feeling on the awapuhi-treated side is definitely different. 

The awapuhi side was much softer and dried way faster. If you're wondering about the smell, it's a kind of faint ginger/spicy turmeric scent--nothing too intense. I actually wish it was stronger! I tried a little on my hands and arms and it dried quickly and left my skin feeling soft; it's like a moisturizing toner. 

Not easy to find but definitely fun to try, awapuhi juice can be used in DIY formulations, diluted and applied to skin, doused straight onto hair, and even whipped up in drinks and desserts. Basically, it adds shine and softness and it smells lovely. No wonder Paul Mitchell, Nature’s Gate, Avalon Organics, and OGX use awapuhi in their shampoo formulas. 

  • Have you ever sighted an awapuhi ginger plant? 
  • Do you use awapuhi hair products? 
  • What other exotic hair care ingredients are you obsessed with? 

Photos: Darnell Scott