WHAT IS A HAIR GEL?
A hair gel is a styling product used to define and hold our hairstyles. They help control frizz, add shine and make our hairstyles last longer.
When picking a hair gel keep in mind what it is that you want from it:
-Are you looking for shine and definition while keeping your dry hair moisturized?
-Do you need a gel that will help tame frizz?
-Do you want something light that won’t weight your hair down and will leave your curls feeling soft?
-Do you want a strong hold gel to help you preserve your curls longer?
Most gels have a brief description of what it is they will do for your hair: Anti Frizz, Strong hold/long lasting curls, no crunch/lightweight, moisturizing. Hair gels are completely dependent on their ingredient composition, therefore picking a good quality gel is a must. You want your gel to be water based (first ingredient on the list) and you want to avoid drying alcohols at all cost.
Hair Gel Composition
-Polymer: film forming, fixative agent. This is what makes a gel a gel, so it it important to understand what they do. Below I listed some of the most common polymers used in hair gels:
PVP (poly N-vinyl-2-pyrrolidone)
-One of the best film forming agents and it is water soluble.
-It quickly absorbs water, making your hair feel sticky and prone to frizz in humid weather and flaky in dry weather.
-It resist water absorption in humid weather and does not flake in dry weather
-Not as good as PVP in film-forming.
This is a combination of PVP/PVA and it balances the pros and cons of both polymers making this one of the best copolymer in a hair gel.
Cationic Polymers (polyquaternium)
-Have conditioning and smoothing properties
- Polyquaternium-4 is superior at retaining curls in humid conditions, but also produces build up in the hair.
-Polyquaternium-7 is highly hydrophilic, great detangling properties and great slip for wet combing with moderate build potential.
Polyquaternium-10 provides slight hold, fights frizz, and improves hair manageability with very low build up potential.
- Polyquaternium-11 is a copolymer that moisturizes and provides slight hold, often found in hair mousse. This cationic conditioning ingredient is not water soluble and can lead to build up, but it works great on dry conditions.
-Polyquaternium-44 is one of the most effective conditioning and detangling polymers. It also resists build up in the hair.
-Emulsifier: to combine non-water soluble ingredients like oils
-Viscosity agents: to thicken the formulation
-Fragrance and Preservatives
- Other ingredients: to add moisture, shine, conditioning properties.
What is the right gel for me?
The most important thing to consider when buying a hair gel is the weather conditions in your area (humid/dry).
Humidity plays a huge role in how well your styling product will work for you. Humidity refers to the amount of water vapor/ moisture found in the air. If you live in a humid area and you are using a gel that is packed with humectants your hair will quickly absorb all the water vapor in the air causing your cuticle to swell and your strands to separate from the clumps resulting in frizz. For this kind of environment it is recommended to use a gel with PVA polymer or PVP/PVA with anti-humectant ingredients like natural oils (shea butter, coconut oil) and hydrogenated castor oil, these will help seal in the moisture. These anti-humectants will act as a shield blocking the humidity from entering the hair shaft. On the other hand, if you live in a dry area your hair will benefit from a gel with PVP polymer or PVP/PVA polymer, followed by some humectants like glycerin, panthenol, and good alcohols like cetyl alcohol and cetearyl alcohol.
One of the mistakes we make is not testing how our gel will react with our leave- in conditioner. Not all products work well together, so it is important to mix a little bit of your leave-in conditioner with the gel that you will be using. If your leave in and gel become one after mixing them, that means they will work great together, but if the products start to form clumps and separate you might want to try a different combination.
It is not one or two ingredients that will make your gel a good one, but the combination and balance of all of them. I will leave my favorite gels for you to check out below. Keep in mind that I live in Florida aka humidity central, so these gels work great in humid conditions.
DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a commission if you click one of the links and make a purchase through that link. I am not a professional hair stylist, but I've done plenty of research and hope I can help someone in need.
My all time favorite gel is Flaxseed gel. It contains a lot of the essential nutrients our hair and scalp need while also providing hold and shine.
Commercial Gels I use regularly: