Struggling with curly hair frizz?
You’ve heard styling gel can help with that but you’re unsure and have questions.
You’ve also read some swear gel helps define and enhance their curls so they get the best out of them.
All of which is why you want to know how to use hair gel for your curly hair, huh?
Well, get set for some of the secrets for using gel that you need to know if taking care of your curly hair is important to you.
We’re answering questions like
- Who Should Use Gel For Curly Hair?
- How To Use Hair Gel For Curly Hair?
- Do You Put Gel On Wet Or Dry Hair When Styling?
- What Does It Do For Curly Hair?
- How To Scrunch Hair With a Cast
- Is Gel Good or Bad For Curly Hair?
- What Is The Best One For Curly Hair?
- Does Hair Gel Expire?
Read these ideas as they come. Or jump to something that catches your eye. Totally your call.
Either way in about five minutes or so you should have a much better idea how to get all the curl definition you could ever need. Without the frizz you don’t.
Just keep in mind not everything you read here, or anywhere online for that matter, is going to work with your hair. Cause everyone’s curls are so different.
With that bit of housekeeping out of the way …
Who Should Use Gel?
Basically anyone who wants to manage their frizzy, curly hair.
So if you want frizz free, nicely defined curls? Gel’s the answer.
Want a heat free, or near heat free, way to style your hair? Gel’s the answer.
Follower of curly curl method? Gel’s the answer.
Think of it as a way to manage frizzy, curly hair. Leaving you with curls to be proud of.
Still, being skeptical is okay.
It’s just that you won’t know what gel can do for your locks until you give it a try.
And by try I mean not giving up after the first time because you didn’t get the results you were looking for. Because you likely won’t.
So here’s one explanation of …
How To Use Hair Gel For Curly Hair To Get Beautifully Defined Curls
This 67 second video hits the highlights of one approach to applying it without destroying your clumps.
Just so you bear in mind this is one girl’s way to do it. There are many ways to skin the gel application cat if you know what I mean.
This quickie video admittedly only covers the basics of gel application. Showing how it’s done on soaking wet hair using the praying hands method and scrunching. But can’t you almost see the curls forming?
Now … if you want to know more of the details of styling curly hair with gel a recent article of ours lays out the 411. In it we offer solutions if you can’t get a gel cast, if you can’t break your cast plus give you clues as to how long to wait before trying.
Click the link to read it on our site and find out all you need to know about gel cast.
Anyway for now let’s mush on with more answers.
Do You Put Gel On Wet Or Dry Hair When Styling?
Just to clarify – for gel styling soaking wet is preferred. Which is why stylists who know their curls recommend you do this while still in the shower.
Know why? Applying to it any less than dripping strands risks uneven coverage. Uneven coverage won’t give you the results you seek.
Second reason is with dry hair you may tend to use too much product which can weigh things down.
Or you’ll get little product penetration beyond the top layer. Cause that top layer will likely soak up most of the product.
Besides your curls are their smoothest when drenched. Which make it easy to apply the product and coat each strand evenly. (You getting that even distribution is key here?)
Hopefully you agree those are good reasons why you probably want to put your gel on wet rather than dry hair.
That said that’s not a guarantee soaking wet will work for you. Texture matters. Density matters. And drenched locks don’t work for everyone or with every product. (Like the product might get too diluted.)
So while soaking wet works most often it’s still not 100% guaranteed. Just so you know.
Just What Does Gel Do For Curly Hair?
When applied to soaking wet hair gel coats your curl clumps. As your hair air dries the gel dries and forms a coating around those clumps. Delivering the thicker, better defined curls you deserve.
That’s called a cast. Many gels will help you get one. Look at it as a way to know the product has done its job.
That coating works to keep your hair defined as it’s drying.
Plus it locks down the curl pattern while locking in the moisture.
Even better it can help you get a consistent curl pattern day after day.
BONUS: If you’re lucky the right gel will all but eliminate frizz too.
Tip: If frizz is a problem for you it’s often because of dry ends. Gel can help with that. Simply concentrate the product on your ends.
Finally you’ll want to release the cast. Don’t panic. That is also known as scrunching out the crunch. (How to do that is coming up next.)
Clearly for some curly girls this is a great way to reduce the near daily struggle they go through with their hair.
How To Scrunch Hair With a Gel Cast
Scrunching out the crunch (also known as SOTC) is easy. It’s nothing more than softening those clumps that may look a bit wet and likely feel a bit crispy.
IMPORTANT: For this to work right your hair needs to totally, tumble-weed dry. If there’s a trick to this that’s it. SOTC too soon and you can kill your definition while opening the door to frizz.
So please do wait until your hair is 100% dry.
Now to break the cast you can use your fingers or a cotton t-shirt. In essence you’re softening them up without loss of definition.
If you don’t know how here’s two more quick video clips.
With your fingers just scrunch like this.
Just keep at it until all the crunch is gone. And you’re right. It can take some effort.
Tip: Some like to use a drop or two of oil spread over their fingers. This does two thing. It helps break the cast and can help cut down on frizz.
Of course others prefer a cotton t-shirt because it can be faster. It also lets them roll the hair in the fabric to rid the curls of the cast without causing problems. Like this:
Then if you like, finish up by using your fingertips fluff the roots just bit.
But this is how to soften the curls while preserving the definition with scrunching.
What Is The Best Gel For Curly Hair?
For sure no one wants their curls looking like ramen noodles with an oh so crunchy feeling. So hints as to the right gel to use are always welcome.
Yet the best answer for which is the best gel is “It depends”.
Simply put there is no one gel that works with all curl types.
So yeah it can be tricky coming up with the best one for YOUR curly hair.
It’s tricky because product formulation and consistency can have an outsized impact on the outcome.
- Some do better with a thicker, firm hold jelly.
- Others find a thinner product they pump out rules.
- Others still just need a little light hold like you’d get from a foam gel.
Beyond that not all gels are created equal. There are some that hydrate, accentuate definition or are infused with protein to strengthen your hair.
The good news is you can always switch things up until you find the perfect gel for your curls. It may sound like Mission Impossible – but it’s not.
Not as long as you’re willing to play around with different products and application techniques, at least a little, until you find the right combo for you.
Is Gel Good or Bad For Curly Hair?
Good or bad, huh?
Sounds kinda judgy, don’t you think?
Not sure good or bad is a thing when it comes to gel. It may simply be a matter of mistakes made with good gel that make it seem to be bad. You know? User error?
For one walking around with crunchy curls when that’s not the look you’re going for. It happens. Usually because you don’t know to SOTC (scrunch out the crunch).
Another is not checking in as things are air drying. Sometimes more gel is needed. And you’ll only know that if you look to see if any sections look wonky or whatever. If you aren’t seeing the definition you expected maybe more gel is called for.
Continuing to play with your hair is off limits too. Just give the gel a chance to do its job. If you keep working it you may be unintentionally sabotaging your efforts. But I know sometimes we can’t help ourselves.
Then again some gels are better for hair than others. Damaging ingredients, you know? Like if it has one of the bad alcohols known for their drying effects. Those can do a number on your precious curls.
Finally there is no bad gel necessarily but there may be the wrong gel for your hair. Use one that isn’t compatible and you may mistakenly conclude all gel is bad for your hair.
You have to understand getting this right the first try is not common. You have to be open to experimenting.
Does Hair Gel Expire?
The direct answer is yes. Hair gel, like any other styling product, does have a shelf life. The countdown clock starts ticking in earnest once you open it.
Remember too that shelf life can be affected by exposure to things like heat, moisture, or contact with your skin (pesky bacteria).
Anyway I stood in the styling product aisle of Target reading labels so you don’t have to. You know, to get an idea of what various brands revealed about how long their goop was good for.
I was surprised. Both by what I found and what I didn’t find.
A few products straight up have an expiration date – month and year.
However most that offer a hint about product life span include a what’s called a Period After Opening (PAO) symbol. It’s looks like what I’ve highlight in the image directly above this section. Usually found in the back.
What was surprising was many brands that claim no animal testing, or are organic or at least minimize toxic chemicals had no PAO to be found. So, many brands (and they shall remain nameless) still haven’t jumped on the PAO bandwagon.
For sure this is a small sample size. It also excluded products found in salons since I was in Target.
But I did find PAOs on products from Garnier Fructis, It’s a 10, Jhirmack, Deva Curl, L’Oreal, and TIGI Bed Head. I really didn’t expect to find that many.
Obviously this is far from a complete list. I suspect there are plenty of others. But I have a life too you know?
Interestingly all were 12 months.
So what is clear is that 12 months is about all you can expect in terms of shelf life with pretty much 100% of your curly hair styling products.
To keep up on totally useful curly hair styling ideas and inspiration like this please be sure to follow our Curls Gone Board on Pinterest.