KNOXING – 101
What do you need?
Knox Unflavored Gelatin (4 or more packets)
Pony Tail Holders
Container to mix gel (butter tub/cup & spoon)
Very hot but no where near boiling water (most meets will supply hot water, but it is always a good idea to take along
a thermos from home just in case)
Pastry or paint brush and large toothed comb to apply gel
Bun Form for swimmers with thin or short hair (can be kitchen scrubbee)
How do you “knox”?
It is not hard to knox hair, just messy! It will get to be routine the more you do it, and over the
course of the year you will get lots of practice! The object is to get the hair up, look neat, and stay
up while you are swimming. Swimmers with hair on the forehead or neck don’t get the best
presentation scores. The Knox hardens and keeps the hair up. After you have done it a few times,
you may find ways that work better for you.
1. Brush or comb the hair up into a high, tight ponytail diagonal from the chin (use a pony tail
holder). Twist the ponytail around and pin into a bun. Many swimmers braid the ponytail first.
If the hair is especially thick or long, you might want to braid it into 2 or 3 sections. Make sure
the ponytail is tight, with no bulges or ridges in the hair. If strongly curled, a small amount of
conditioner may help smooth unruly hair into a ponytail.
2. Another option is to pull the pony tail through a bun form, comb the hair over the bun
form, place another rubber band around the pony tail to catch the hair, then comb the long
hairs around the form and pin. Bun forms can be found at Sally’s Beauty Supply.
Kitchen or body scrubbees also work as bun forms.
3. The Knox will go on much easier if the hair is wet or damp. You can wet the hair before
you put it into a ponytail or use a spray bottle to wet it before applying the Knox.
4. A common “recipe” for mixing Knox is 1/2 c. hot water to 4 or more packets of Knox
gelatin. The water needs to be hot to dissolve the gel. Otherwise, the Knox will make
“clumps” that are difficult to smooth out (we do not want clumps!!!). The Knox should
transform into a syrup-colored liquid that is a bit thicker than rubber cement. If your
Knox is too dark, slowly add a bit more hot water and stir until the Knox is of a good
smooth consistently. If your Knox is way too thin, it's best to start over or see if another
swimmer has some leftover Knox you can use. It's a waste of time and effort trying to
salvage Knox that has WAY too much water. You can purchase Knox in the baking
section of the grocery store by the Jell-O section. It comes in an orange box that usually
includes 4 packets. Larger boxes are also available. Do not buy flavored gelatin! It might
taste better, but it doesn’t work for our purposes! There is quite a strong smell (not
necessarily a good one) associated with knox – but that only lasts during the mixing and
brushing on stage, after that you won’t even notice.
5. The best method that we have found is to mix it in a small butter tub or cup and use a
pastry or small paint brush to apply it. Whatever container you use to mix it, don’t shake
it! Shaking causes bubbles that turn the knox white when they dry. Instead, stir gently
with a spoon. Once a thick, clear solution has been obtained slowly brush the gel on the
hair. Moving from your hairline towards your bun, use your hand or a paintbrush to
smooth Knox onto your hair. You will want to have a towel handy around your shoulders
to catch drips. While the gel is still freshly applied, you may run a comb through to
smooth any “wispies” particularly around the temples, ears and back neckline. Keep
adding Knox and smoothing the “wispies” in place; bobby pins are not an acceptable
alternative for taming all the loose hair. Additional gel should be poured or “patted” into
the bun. The gel should dry in a smooth, shiny “helmet”. Ridges and lumps should be
minimal. If you have time, stand under a hand dryer to help the Knox set initially.
6. After the gel is applied and hair has begun to thicken, pin the headpiece on. Once the
hair is dry (this can take some time and can be hurried along by using a hairdryer if
you’re short on time), it will harden. It is easier to pin the headpiece on while it is
still wet. It is important for it to dry before you get into the water. Otherwise, your
hair may come down in mid-swim! When planning on when to knox, allow enough
time for the hair to set solid afterwards (at least one hour).
7. Your swimmer may also have some of the knox run down their neck. This can be quite
irritating. Please do not allow them to pick at it or they will have red marks all over their
neck. Instead take a warm wet cloth or towel and gently hold it on the knox – it may not
come off completely, but at least it won’t be quite so bothersome.
8. Be sure to use enough bobby pins so the headpiece does not come loose during a routine!
Criss-cross the pins for better stability! The rule of thumb is: when you think you’ve put
in enough, add more. Be sure the bobby pins do not show outside the headpiece unless it
is completely unavoidable. A headpiece lost during a routine affects the “manner of
9. Now - once the gel is in, will it ever come out? Yes, but the thicker you have applied it,
the more shampoos and hot shower water (at home!) it will take to get it out. Running a
comb through the hair as you shampoo seems to help. Just remind your swimmers that
knox is actually very, very good for their hair (pure protein) –
10. People who manage and maintain pools hate Knox. It clogs up their drains, makes their
floors sticky, and usually causes locker rooms to smell weird. So please do your part to
BE NEAT WHEN YOU KNOX. NEVER pour Knox down the drain. Give any leftover
Knox time to congeal IN THE CUP. When it's hard enough it will actually peel out of the
cup like a flubbery kind of plastic. Throw the hardened Knox away and you're left with a
clean cup for use next time!
When is the Best Time to Gel?
Unless specifically instructed otherwise by your coach, do your hair at home or in the hotel
before the start of the competition. Allow enough time for the hair to set solid after gelling (at
least an hour).