Do you still you hair gel?

Growing up as a child, I always remember there being a tub of gel in the bathroom to style our hair. My childhood photos are riddled with with shiny or spikey hair. Now I wasn’t really worried about hair as a kid, but if I styled my hair, gel was the only option. How many of you can relate to this? 

For a while now, I’ve been changing hairstyling products as much as girls change clothes, trying to create ambitious and trendy hairstyles. If it wasn’t for my intervention, my dad and brother would still be using gel. So it got me thinking… How many people out their just use gel because that what they’ve always been using? So I decided to do some research to help answer whether you should still be using hair gel.

For decades gel was a household product that a lot of men to consider their go to styling product. I don’t blame them. In the past, gel was one of the dominant men’s styling products on the market. It offers hold, ease or application, scultability and simplicity. So why wouldn’t men want to use it, right? Wrong. Those days are long in the past. The boom in men’s fashion and style has seen the development of many great types and variations of hairstyling products. Gel is no longer the main option. In the post, I hope I can help educate you on the hair styling options available to help you decide what it right. 

And it starts with the question…

Is hair gel right for me?

You probably remember those 90s and 2000s days where gel was used to tame unruly hair and create crusty wet looking spikey or slicked back finish. I had a friend, and I swear he must have used about half a tub of gel in his hair every day. Gel came in big tubs because people used it quickly, slathering it in like there was no tomorrow. I may have even been guilty on the odd occasion. Have you?

Today’s truth is that this is not the best or most effective way to style your hair. Nor is it the most effective way to use hair gel. Gel has its purpose, but it’s not a blanket product that actually suits everyone’s hair type. 

What you can achieve with hair gel

Gel is typically good for wet/shiny looks when applied to dry or air dried hair. By applying sparingly to damp hair, coating all your hair evenly from root to tip, you can comb it into place before it sets to get a neat, shiny and classic look. 

As long as you don’t mind the wet look and minimal volume. Gel can also be good for taming long, curly, wavy or unruly hair in humid conditions. However, the side effects of many gels can leave your hair looking greasy and dirty. If you have short hair or want something to stick your hair up and give a dry or matte finish, then gel is not for you. If you’re after a hairstyle that looks natural, as though it has no product or that has lots of volume… Then you should really look into the world of waxes, clays, pastes and pomades. They can help the most.

However, gel is cheap and if you want to give it a try, it can also be used in wet hair before blow drying and styling with a brush. This can help to boost structure, hold and texture. The heat styling of a blow drying helps to remove the water from the gel, leaving a dryer look than most gelled styles. It can still appear a bit glossy, but it is a cheap pre styler and using this technique won’t make your hair appear drowned. With this method, using smaller amounts as a pre styler and a finishing product can help to create more versatile styles. Maybe even a matte finish.

Ultimately, you need to consider what you want to achieve. Some of the subjective pros to using hair gel is it has strong hold, gives a wet look and can sometimes be good in humid climates. Cons are; that overuse and exposure to the scalp can create dandruff, it’s not reworkable, and looks less natural.

What hair types are suited to gel?

To be honest, I would say there are other products out there for every hair type. However, I understand why some people may still consider gel. It’s inexpensive, simplifies things, and can still have it’s uses.

But before you go out and buy yourself a tub of gel. I hope to help identify whether it is suitable for your hair type. 

If used in moderation and the right way, gel can work in anyone’s hair. But that doesn’t mean it will work well in everyone’s hair. If you have thick and dark hair, gel will be a lot more versatile for you. Whereas, shorter or finer hair, have more limited styling potential with gel. 

If you want to tame hard to manage hair or don’t mind a wet look, gel may be worth trying. If you have thick, dark or curly hair, again, gel might be worth trying in moderation. If you want to create dry matte finishes, big or ambitious styles, natural looks, reworkable styles, etc. Then look into prestylers, clays, pomades, pastes, and pomades.

Tips for using hair gel

  1. Use it in moderation. Don’t glue your hair down by using too much. Using too much can take away from the overall finish. Using smaller amounts as a pre and post styler can help you keep your hair’s natural definition and shape.
  2. Don’t touch it once set. If you’re using gel as a finishing product, you need to apply and style it quickly before it sets in your hair. Once it’s set, you need to leave it. Gel isn’t usually reworkable, so attempting to comb or restyle set gel will only make your hair style fall apart. My advice would be to style your hair into the shape you want and then applying the product. 
  3. Don’t leave gel in wet hair. If you use gel as a prestyler, use a blow dryer on warm/hot to dry and style your hair. If you’re using gel as a finishing product, make sure your hair is dry before styling with the product. Attempting to finish styling in wet hair will be far less effective because the water in your hair dilutes the product.
  4. Don’t just buy the cheapest one. It may seem like gel is just gel. But it’s not. Different companies use different ingredients and some are better than others.

Is gel bad for my hair?

It depends. Under cosmetic regulations, manufacturers are obliged to create products that are safe to leave in your hair. But I suppose that doesn’t always mean all products are good for your hair. This is something that is very dependant on the ingredients of the product.

Technically some hair styling products can contribute to hair loss or damage. However, this is often a result of the styling technique and frequency and not the actual product. Hair appliances and styling methods can cause hair loss and damage due to things such as excessive force and heat. 

Styling Gel can consist of many ingredients and certain types of gel are made with different ingredients based on the intended finish. 

There is a common rumor that using hair gel can make you lose hair. This is not true… Mostly. This is again dependant on the application and the user. Styling gel is made with styling polymers, such as PVP  (Polyvinyl Pyrolidone) or VP (Vinyl Pyrolidone) and PVP/dimethylaminoethylmethacrylate copolymer which creates the gel like consistency. Technically, gel can weaken your hair, because it prevents it from breathing. And using too much can smother you scalp, which may cause dandruff. Moreover, gels frequently have a high alcohol content which can have a drying effect. Leaving you hair dry and more prone to breakage. However, if you wash your hair regularly and look after it, you hair and scalp can stay healthy.

If you’re really committed to using gels. You don’t have to stop using them. It’s not that these issues are unique to gels. They could happen with any type of product. And as I mentioned, it’s more often than not, the way you use the product, not the product itself. There are even gels out there which are good and conditioning for you hair.

It is bad to leave hair gel in your hair overnight?

One night isn’t likely to cause any harm. But the best time for your scalp to heal, repair and grow hair overnight. A product like gel might restrict this. So while leaving gel in overnight may not damage your hair, your hair is usually better off when its clean overnight. But this doesn’t specifically mean it is bad to leave hair gel in overnight. It is more important to make sure you are washing your hair regularly and give your hair the occasional break from products and styling.

How often is too often?

If you’re using gel all day everyday. That is too much. Your hair needs time to breathe and keeping product in your hair 24/7 can be bad for your hair’s health. Try to go a day here and there without styling. Or if that’s too much for you, then it would be beneficial to wash the product out of your hair at night before bed.

What are the alternatives to hair gel?

This is a complicated discussion, that warrants an article of its own, but here is a general guide:

If you’re looking to try something new and want to achieve the same sort of slicked back, shiny or spiky style, then I would suggest looking at pomades and pastes. 

If you’re looking for something more natural looking, you could look at matte waxes and clays. Clays typically give your hair more of a texturized matte/dry finish. Waxes can be a bit sticky upon application, but they often a more natural feel to the hair and a slight shine. A lot of good clays contain wax, it helps provide them with hold. Together they these types of products can work quite well.

For easy or more natural styling, you could try a styling cream. They usually have quite a light hold and can just help that little bit to compliment your natural look.

If you’re looking to break away from using hair gel, here are some reviews I’ve written on some products worth considering:

Arcadian Clay Pomade

Muk Haircare Styling Mud

King Brown Cream Pomade

Thanks, for reading.

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