Hair gel is a magic product that can enhance your hair’s look by making it shinier, stronger, and more manageable. When it comes to styling products, it is by far my favorite. I can guarantee you that on wash day, I always have a strong-hold gel not far away from my dripping wet hair. However, not all hair gels are created equal. Some can actually damage your hair and leave an unsightly residue behind. In this blog post, we’re going to take a closer look at the scientific purpose and benefits of all-natural hair gel for naturally textured hair, break down what you want to avoid when looking for a gel, and provide some tips on what to look for when picking a gel. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be a hair gel pro!
The purpose of hair gel is to help style and hold the hair in place. It works by coating each strand of hair with a polymer that has a strong bonding agent, allowing the hair to stay in place after drying. However, not all hair gel ingredients are created equal. Some gels contain alcohol or other harsh chemicals that can dry out your hair, leading to breakage and split ends. This is one of the situations where following the Curly Girl Method is so helpful. By removing potentially harmful ingredients like sulfates, silicones, and parabens, you remove the probability of dry, brittle hair, dandruff and flaking, and even hair loss. Natural hair gels, on the other hand, tend to contain nourishing ingredients that actually help strengthen hair, such as aloe vera, hydrolyzed protein, and Fenugreek. Natural gel actually makes your hair healthier by providing it with essential nutrients. These nutrients will soak into your scalp and hair follicles, making your hair stronger. Gel also gives hair shine along with lasting hold. Additionally, Natural Gel products tend to use responsibly sourced ingredients and avoid testing on animals.
When looking for hair gel, you want to avoid ingredients like drying alcohols (SD alcohol, Isopropyl alcohol, Denatured alcohol, etc.), which can be incredibly drying for textured hair. Since Naturally Textured Hair is already prone to moisture loss, you don’t want to rock the boat by regularly using ingredients that further dry out the hair. Other ingredients to avoid include sulfates and parabens, commonly used to extend the product’s shelf life. In many inexpensive store-bought gels you will often see mineral oil/petroleum. I highly advise staying away from this ingredient as it coats the hair strands locking in moisture, but once the hair is dry, the coating prevents new moisture from penetrating the strands. Over time this will lead to dry/brittle hair, split ends, and breakage. Instead, you should look for natural ingredients that hydrate your hair and promote a healthy scalp. For example, aloe vera is great for soothing an irritated scalp, while hydrolyzed proteins repair and strengthen damaged hair. You can read more about which ingredients to avoid by clicking here.
When it comes to choosing the right hair gel, it’s important to identify your hair type and styling needs. If you have curly hair, you’ll want a gel with a medium to strong hold, as curls tend to require more structure to hold their shape. For those with fine hair, a light or medium-hold gel is ideal, as heavier gels can weigh down the hair and make it look greasy. If you’re prone to frizz or live in a humid climate, opt for a gel with anti-humidity properties. One of the best tips when choosing a gel is to make sure the first ingredient is water. Water is the only other way besides aloe vera to truly hydrate your hair. Our hair is fragile like a plant and has similar requirements (frequent hydration). Water as the first ingredient is a crucial tip, this is because the first five ingredients on any product label make up approximately 80% of the total formulation. If water is the first ingredient then, you are without a doubt receiving more water than any other ingredient on the label. This ensures that your styling product not only works for the moment but helps continue your healthy hair care goals.
When it comes to getting the most out of your natural gel, make sure you apply the product to damp or soaking-wet hair. This increases the slip (slipperiness, lubrication, ability to spread easily). In my experience, some amazing gels are formulated with marshmallow root and other ingredients that may feel a bit more thick and less slippery when applied. The best way to fix this little issue is to add more water or a leave-in conditioner formulated with water that has slip. This is why for my fine curly hair, I prefer to use small amounts of strong-hold gel. Not only does the gel sculpt the curls to a more uniform shape when I finger coil, but it also adds shine and nutrients to continue aiding in my hair growth goals. Pump or squeeze a dime-sized amount (you can always add more product but you can’t remove it if you use too much) of gel per section. Rub the gel in your hands for a few moments to heat up the product, allowing it to penetrate more effectively, you can also emulsify the product with more water in your palms. Always distribute the product evenly through the hair, focusing the product on the mid-length to ends of your hair. Your roots do not need gel and will more than likely cause the hair at the top to become weighed down with the product, hindering your volume goals. If you have wavy or curly hair, your product application is key. I always recommend raking the product into your hair to ensure each strand is completely coated preventing frizz and lack of definition once the style is dry. Once you have raked your product in, you can use a styling brush like my Scrunch It Brush (Discount code: REDCARPETCURLS) to ensure perfect product distribution. If you have wavy or curly hair, scrunch your hair upside down to encourage definition and volume. If you have a much tighter pattern, you naturally struggle with shrinkage, so try using the raking and praying hands method to encourage elongation of your curl pattern.
Another key tip to remember is always to check if your styling products pair well together. Some products might not mix well leaving behind residue and giving lackluster results. The way to test if your styling products mix well together is by applying a little of each styling product to the back of your hand, and mix together. If it mixes together clearly and evenly then these products work great together. If you have an extra white and lumpy mixture on your hand, then you know this mixture will not hold together well in your hair. Skip the frustration and always make sure to test your leave-in and gel on the skin of your hand before applying them to the hair.
Finally, the one tip we all missed when we were using gel in our youth. As we discussed the purpose of gel is to act as a glue to give your style the hold it needs to last past day 1. Once your hair is completely dry you will feel what we call the Gel Cast. This is that incredibly hard hair feeling we all get from using gel. Most of us stopped using gel early on because of this hard-hair feeling. I can’t tell you how many times I walked out of my house with that hard wet looking hair feeling. Not cute at all. I don’t know how we all seemed to live the same childhood, but we all missed the secret to removing the gel cast. It’s called SOTC (scrunch out the crunch), essentially once your hair is dry, you simply scrunch your tresses again until you break the cast revealing soft, defined, and shiny hair. Personally, I love using 3-5 drops of an oil blend to add another layer of protection against moisture loss for the rest of my wash day. This adds a little extra shine and keeps frizz at bay.
Are you looking for your go-to gel? Here are a couple of my favorite recommendations:
- Inahsi Naturals Pamper My Curls Curl Sculpting Strong Hold Gel (Discount Code: REDCARPETCURLS)
- Tailored Beauty Perfect Coils Curling Jelly
- Be My Curl Let’s Get Kinky Hydrating Gel (Discount Code: REDCARPETCURLS)
- Miribel Naturals Silky Smooth Flaxseed Gel (Discount Code: REDCARPETCURLS)
- Curl Keeper Gel – Ultimate Hold
- Mop Top Curly Hair Custard
- Kinky Curly Custard
- Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel
- My Curly Way Curl Strong Hold Gel
- Bourn Beautiful Naturals Curl Crush Flaxseed & Marshmallow Root Botanical Gel
When it comes to picking a hair gel, the key is to look for natural ingredients that nourish your hair without causing damage. By avoiding harsh chemicals like alcohol, sulfates, and parabens, you can promote healthy hair growth and avoid unwanted drying or breakage. Whether you’re looking for a lightweight gel for fine hair or a stronger hold for textured hair, there are plenty of natural hair gels on the market that will meet your styling needs. So go green and go glam with an all-natural hair gel today!