Here's How To Find The Best Styling Gel For Your Hair Type (2023)

When you want to create hairstyles that hold up to wind, humidity, and more, turn to the best hair gels, which come in flake-free formulas which work for your hair type and offer strong holds to keep your preferred look in place. To find a flake-free formula, keep an eye out for gels with the word “copolymer” in the ingredient list. Hair gels often include polymers to keep your strands in place, and copolymers (aka blends of two or more polymers) can be stronger and more flexible than single polymers, making them less prone to flaking.

Once you find a quality copolymer formula, you’ll want to choose your preferred type of hold. Lighter hold formulas create softer, more flexible styles that work well for flowy or casual looks. For more elaborate updos or formal styles, though, you’ll want to go for that maximum hold gel to ensure your look will last. While the hold you need mostly depends on the style you’re going for, you should also keep your hair type in mind. Thicker hair, whether curly or straight, usually needs a stronger hold formula, regardless of how you want to style it. For fine hair, though, a strong hold can weigh down your locks, making it tough to get lasting volume. For dry or thinning hair, strong hold gels can make your hair prone to breakage, so you may want to stick with light or medium hold gels.

For any hair type that’s prone to dryness, you should also opt for an alcohol-free formula so the gel doesn’t dry out your hair even more. For low-porosity hair, like 3B or 4C curls, a thinner, more watery formula spreads more easily and will help your hair absorb the product better to prevent clumps. In between washes when you’re applying gel to dry curly, coily, or natural hair, it can help to create a hair cocktail of hair gel and leave-in conditioner to help distribute the product more evenly and avoid clumping or crustiness.

Whatever your hair type and whatever look you’re going for, find the hair gel you need in this list of quality copolymer gel formulas.

1. A Maximum-Hold Hair Gel For Thick Or Curly Hair

With a 4.7-star overall rating after more than 7,000 Amazon reviews, SexyHair Style Hard Up is a popular hair gel with a strong hold, flake-free formula that works great for thick hair. The high-hold, high-shine formula adds dimension and gloss to locks to keep your hair looking vibrant and healthy all day long.

The copolymer formula provides that maximum hold while maintaining the flexibility needed to prevent flaking or crunchiness. While it does contain some alcohol, which might make it too drying for dry or damaged hair, it’s still a great pick for many other hair types. If you do have dry hair but you really need that extra hold, make sure you rehydrate your hair later with a moisturizing conditioner or hydrating hair mask.

According to one reviewer: “Best hair gel ever. Excellent hold. The hold on this is so good that, even on the rare occasion when I wear a hat, I do not have ‘hat hair’ afterwards. It’s a little pricey as hair gels go, but it holds well and you don’t really need a lot of it to get it to work right. No flaking, either. I’ve gotten caught in rain, (Florida summer downpours), and it still holds. And with that kind of hold, you’d expect it difficult to wash out. And though it doesn’t rinse right out without shampoo, I’ve never had any problems with it coming out with a normal amount of shampoo. If they ever stop making this, I’ll be sad; because I don’t think there’s anything on the market that compares to it.”

2. A Pack of Budget-Friendly Strong Hold Hair Gels

This three-pack of strong hold hair gels from Aussie gives customers a great balance of budget-friendly pricing and quality, flake-free styling. The copolymer formula is infused with aloe and jojoba oil to provide nourishing moisture , so you can achieve the styles you want without drying out your hair.

The volumizing effect provided by the bamboo extract combined with the lightweight, hydrating formula makes this a great go-to formula for any hair type; dry hair will benefit from the moisturizing aloe and jojoba, fine or thin hair will benefit from the lightweight formula and volumizing ingredients, and natural or curly hair will benefit from flake-free curl definition.

While this gel’s hold may not be strong enough for laying edges or keeping more elaborate updos in place, reviewers suggest that it has the perfect amount for defining curls or maintaining control of your casual styles.

One thing to note is that this product contains benzyl alcohol, which should be totally fine for most people. That said, if you’re sensitive to benzyl alcohol, you should steer clear to avoid potential skin irritation.

According to one reviewer: “This product is not stiff or greasy in your hands. My hair looks healthier and has a good amount of volume. Aussie Hair Gel gives your hair a boost with maximum all-day hold and brilliant shine. It feels weightless and helps your style stand up to humidity.”

3. A Nourishing Cream Gel For Natural Hair

Coconut oil, coconut milk, mango butter, and murumuru butter combine to make this hair gel from Carol’s Daughter a deeply moisturizing formula that allows you to skip the leave-in conditioner when styling your hair — it’s like conditioner and hair gel in one awesome package.

(Video) Clay, Pomade, Gel or Cream? | Men's Hair Product Guide

The copolymer used as the binding ingredient is strong enough to control your curls but flexible enough to avoid crunchiness or flakiness that you’ll get from other hair gels. The cream gel is formulated to be a wash-and-go formula that you can leave in your hair without worrying about drying or damage. The flexible-hold formula adds definition and shine to your curls but may not be strong enough for laying edges or pulling hair back into a sleek ponytail. But for protective styles or when you’re wearing your hair natural, this is a great go-to gel for maintaining healthy, radiant natural curls.

While this is a deeply hydrating formula, it does contain benzyl alcohol, so you should avoid it if you are allergic to this ingredient.

According to one reviewer: “It's AMAZING!! It is so slippery that the tiniest twirl of your fingers encourages immediate curls! It literally cut my styling time by 1 1/2 hours doing my finger twists. My style held strong for three days before finally getting frizzy, and even then it still didn't look that bad […] Hair is incredibly soft and light.”

4. An Alcohol-Free Strong Hold Hair Gel For Dry Hair

American Crew’s firm-hold styling gel offers an alcohol-free formula that’s gentle enough for daily use on all hair types yet strong enough to handle most of your styling needs. In addition to being free of drying alcohols, this gel is infused with vitamin B5, ginseng root, and other nourishing extracts that strengthen and hydrate while keeping your look in place.

For dry or damaged hair, the nourishing, non-drying formula can help heal and protect your hair and scalp to minimize breakage. For thicker hair, the firm-hold formula packs a strong enough punch to keep your mane under control while the watery, spreadable consistency makes it easy to spread evenly through thick or curly locks.

For thick or curly hair, those nourishing ingredients combined with the flake-free copolymer formula make for a great all-purpose gel. Scrunch a small amount through your curls for definition or apply a thin layer to braids to smooth flyaways.

According to one reviewer: “I love this gel because it requires very little to give a nice firm hold. The gel stays on for the full day, I play racquetball about 3 hours a day, which causes me to sweat bullets. This gel does not skip a beat, it continues the hold extremely well.”

5. A Thickening Hair Gel Designed For Fine Hair

Specially formulated for thin hair, this thickening hair gel from Nioxin is infused with peppermint (or mentha piperita) oil to help stimulate hair follicles to promote growth. There’s also mentha arvensis leaf oil in this gel, which is commonly added to formulas for the same purpose. Together, they help promote new hair growth for long-term thicker locks.

Those follicle-stimulating ingredients are blended into a strong yet flexible copolymer gel that can add volume and definition, all while being lightweight enough to avoid flattening your hair or becoming too stiff. While it’s made with thin hair in mind, the volumizing, lightweight formula is also great for fine hair or looser curls that tend to go flat with heavier gels. Just steer clear if you’re allergic to benzyl alcohol.

According to one reviewer: “This product really works. It doesn't leave your hair stiff or sticky. Looks and feels thicker.”

6. An Alcohol-Free Hair Gel That’s Great For Sensitive Scalps

This fragrance-free hair gel from Free & Clear is specially designed for sensitive scalps or damaged hair. The strong, flake-free copolymer formula is alcohol-free, sulfate-free, phosphate-free, fragrance-free, dye-free, and otherwise completely free of the most common chemical irritants found in hair gels.

This non-irritating formula is great for anyone whose scalp often itches or peels when exposed to ordinary styling products. Reviewers also note that it’s great for laying edges without causing a breakout on your forehead.

Even if you don’t have sensitive skin or damaged hair, this gentle hair gel still provides a flexible, flake-free hold that’s great for everyday looks. The lightweight, spreadable gel can define curls in natural hair, lift roots in fine hair, and generally add dimension to all hair types without getting crunchy or stiff.

According to one reviewer: “I mix a small amount (nickel size) of this in my palm with a little coconut oil and apply it to my damp hair when I get out of the shower. So far I have no complaints, continue to be itch free, and love the unscented, medium/light hold for my thick, curly hair. It doesn't seem to be drying my hair or irritating my sensitive skin and rinses out easily in the shower with my mild shampoo. No problems with flaking either when I spritz water on dry hair the next day between washes. It is truly fragrance free, which is wonderful!”

(Video) Find Out What Your Hair Type Really Is

7. A Humidity-Proof Hair Gel With UV Protection

For shoppers looking to maintain control over their locks in humid climates, Matrix Vavoom Hold My Body is a hair gel you can rely on. Specially formulated for hot and humid climates, this alcohol-free gel holds volume and curls in place no matter how much sweat or humidity it's exposed to. It even provides some UV protection to prevent sun damage when spending long afternoons outside.

The flexible hold keeps your hair under control while still allowing for movement and bounce that’s suitable to all hair types. For natural and curly hair, the humidity-proof curl definition and flake-free hold are just what you need to keep your styles intact through the summer. For fine or thinning hair, the lightweight, volumizing formula adds body and resists flattening.

According to one reviewer: “Ive used this gel off [and] on for 14 years. It is the best I have found! It really controls the frizz and gives shape to curls. I apply about a dime size to my hand and apply it to the ends and then all over. Then I take a little less and apply that all over again. […] We vacation in Orlando and Charleston.SC in the summers where it is hot and humid and I could not stand my hair without this gel. I use more on super hot / humid days.”

8. A Flexible Gel For Defined Curls That Last For Days

With a lightweight formula that’s designed to last for days, Biolage’s styling gelee is a great hair gel for anyone who wants to maintain their styles in between washes. Simply mist your hair with water the next day and scrunch your roots to reactivate the gel and renew your style.

This ability to reactivate means you won’t have to apply more product in between washes. The paraben-free, dye-free formula is gentle enough to leave in for a couple of days (though it has benzyl alcohol, if that’s a concern for you), while the copolymer gel will resist flaking no matter how much you move or restyle your hair.

(Video) Finding your hair type

According to one reviewer: “I love how this product holds my naturally kinky hair for several days. I apply it immediately after a shower & scrunch my hair. Then for the next couple days, I have a spray bottle filled with water & i just spray fairly heavy with water & scrunch again! Perfect.”


How do I choose a styling gel? ›

You Want: Shiny, Slicked Hair

Your biggest decision is strength: Gels come in light, medium or firm hold. If you have fine hair, light is better because it won't weigh hair down. Thick hair? Go with firm hold to get maximum control.

What hair types should use gel? ›

The hair types that most benefit from a traditional gel are medium to high density, high to somewhat low porosity with a definite curl (not a wave). Wavies and those with thin density hair do better with a lighter, less cast-forming definer like a mousse or a serum."

Is gel good for Type 4 hair? ›

Type 4 hair is known to be dry so it's a must you use gels that provide moisture for your curls and coils.

Which is the best hair gel for ladies? ›

Top 10 Hair Gels Available In India
  1. Garnier Fructis Style Pure Clean Styling Gel. ...
  2. Himalaya Men Anti Dandruff Styling Gel. ...
  3. Set Wet Style Casual Hold Gel. ...
  4. Schwarzkopf Taft Looks Marathon Power Gel. ...
  5. Gatsby Water Gloss Super Hard Gel. ...
  6. ARATA Hair Gel. ...
  7. Enliven Ultimate Hair Gel. ...
  8. L'Oreal Paris Studio Line FIX & STYLE Hair Gel.
Jan 31, 2023

Is styling gel the same as curl gel? ›

Remember: styling gel is designed to hold your hair in place, while curl cream is meant to define curls and keep them hydrated. If you're looking for more flexibility or a softer hold, you can use curl cream on its own.

Do you put styling gel on wet or dry hair? ›

You'll definitely want to use hair gel in damp hair. Hair gel doesn't work well in dry hair. If you haven't washed your hair, a little splash of water to dampen it will still work. To apply, grab a small, dime-sized amount of gel in your hands and use your fingers to style.

What is better than hair gel? ›

With hair wax, the hold and shine are less extreme than you would get with a gel. Professional stylists and men alike often choose hair wax for a specific range of hairstyles. Wax is often the perfect choice for the messy bedhead look, to more structured and professional-looking styles.

What does 2C hair look like? ›

2C type hair is extremely wavy but not coily. The S-shape bends in the hair start off at the roots. These waves are defined and thick. The bends are looser and wider than the tighter structure of curly hair.

What are the disadvantages of using hair gel? ›

  • Trigger Hair fall: ...
  • Dehydrate your hair shafts and scalp: ...
  • Causes flaking and dandruff: ...
  • Speedup Hair Graying and Discoloration: ...
  • Moderation: ...
  • Natural alternatives: ...
  • Avoid everyday use: ...
  • Right shampoo & conditioner:

What does type 4 hair look like? ›

At a glance, type 4 hair appears as a mass of tight coils brimming with vitality. This hair type comes with a spongy hair texture that can feel soft and fine or rough and coarse, depending on individual hair thickness.

What does 2B hair look like? ›

If you have 2B hair, your hair may be mostly straight and flat at the roots but forms full, bouncy waves as you travel toward the ends. It also has a not-too-fine, not-too-thick texture that makes styling fairly easy.

Is Type 4 hair considered curly? ›

Identifying your curl shape and pattern(s) is best determined while your hair is sopping wet. A simple breakdown: Type 1s are straight, Type 2s are wavy, Type 3s are curly, and Type 4s are coily.

Is it OK to use hair gel everyday? ›

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.

Which styling gel is best for natural? ›

Editor's Picks: Best Hair Gel for Natural Hair
  • TRESemmé Flawless Curls Defining Gel.
  • Suave Define & Shine Serum Gel.
  • SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil + Flaxseed Strong Hold Styling Gel.
  • Dove Amplified Textures Define N' Moisture Styling Gel.
  • SheaMoisture Papaya & Neroli All Day Frizz Control Milk Gel.

Is hair gel or pomade better? ›

Is Gel or Pomade Better? For a product that offers maximum hold and support and leaves a shiny finish, go with gel. For a product that's gentler on hair but still provides an adequate hold, pomade is a better option.

Why does gel not work on my hair? ›

Your hair is too dry.

If it's too dry, the gel won't hold properly and you'll end up with a flaky, frizzy style. Make sure you're using a gel that is compatible with your hair type, and try incorporating more moisture into your routine either through deep conditioning or by using a leave-in conditioner.

Is mousse better than gel? ›

Hair gel is heavier than mousse and tends to weigh down hair. Gel, especially cheaper gels, flake a lot more than mousse. It also has higher density and lower porosity which is great for all-day wear, but if you don't want your hair looking wet, sleek, and greasy, mousse might be a better option.

Does gel help with frizzy curls? ›

Gel helps define curls. It provides hold to curls, so that they don't fall flat through the day. By using gel, you ensure that your curls retain moisture better. And therefore you have less frizzy hair.

How long should Styling Gel stay in your hair? ›

If you're using gel everyday you may need to wash your hair with shampoo more often too. So keep an eye on it and try not to leave gel in for more than 48 hours without washing it out.

How much hair gel should I use? ›

How much gel should I use? As a general rule, you should go with the “loose change” method of measurement on this one. Use an amount roughly the size of a dime if you have very short hair, the size of a quarter for medium length hair, and 2 or more quarter sized squeezes for longer and thicker hair.

Does gel damage hair? ›

Hair gels can cause hair loss.

Alcohol-based hair gels that dry out the scalp can cause problems for the hair, such as breakage. Moreover, other compounds in gels can also react with cell buildup and sebum on the scalp, clogging the hair follicles and causing hair to fall off.

How can I keep my hair in place without gel? ›

Other products, like hair clay, offer a lighter hold than gel and allow you to restyle your hair throughout the day. Hair wax also allows you to rework your hair but provides a bit more hold to keep your hair neat and sleek. Hairspray creates the strongest hold to keep your hair in shape on even the windiest day.

Do I have 1C or 2A hair? ›

The main difference is that 1C tends to be more coarse and thick, whereas 2A is a bit more fine and flat. 1C has some volume and body, but 2A doesn't. If you have more waves in your hair, you likely fall into the 2A category. If the waves are barely there and mainly underneath, you probably have 1C hair.

Do I have 2B or 2A hair? ›

2A hair tends to have a tousled texture. 2B hair consists of 'S' shaped waves in the lengths, but sits relatively straight at the roots. 2C hair has even more defined 'S' shaped curls that start from the root and continue down the lengths of the hair.

What does 1C hair look like? ›

1C hair is straight but thick and coarse. It has a natural tousled look and tends to frizz. Type 2 is wavy hair. Wavy hair follicles tend to have an “S” shape.

Should I wash my hair after using gel? ›

yes,we must wash our hair after applying hair gel or cream. This products contain lots of chemical which is not good which may leads to hair fall or sclap damage and will also increase the dandruff and white hair so this is my kind request to all those gel users...

What do hair gel numbers mean? ›

Higher numbered gels maintain a greater "hold" on hair, while lower numbers do not make the hair as stiff and in some products give the hair a wet look.

When should you use styling 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.

What does flexible hold mean gel? ›

Flexible hold hairspray is a must-have styling product for every hair type. It gives you a soft, weightless hold that keeps your style in place without making your hair stiff or crunchy.

Is it okay to use styling gel everyday? ›

Avoid everyday use:

While not recommended, if you're using styling gel every day you may need to wash your hair with shampoo more often too and try not to leave gel in for more than 48 hours without washing it out.

Does styling gel damage hair? ›

Damage, split ends, thinning, and discoloration of hair are also common side effects of using hair gels. These gels rip off the nourishment and moisture content of the hair, break and strip them, disturb the pH balance of the hair and make them unhealthy, scarce and dull.

Can I use gel on my natural hair everyday? ›

Smothering the scalp and follicles with any product will hinder hair growth. It probably won't do much damage if you're doing it once a week but slathering gel on your scalp every day could spell danger. Remember, hair growth slows once you reach a certain age.

What is 1C hair like? ›

1C hair is straight but thick and coarse. It has a natural tousled look and tends to frizz. Type 2 is wavy hair. Wavy hair follicles tend to have an “S” shape.

What happens if you put too much gel in your hair? ›

Hair gel acts by driving away moisture from the scalp. As mentioned earlier, excess usage can make the scalp dry and undernourished, making it susceptible to dandruff flareups and its associated irritation, itchiness, and flakiness.

How long should you leave gel in hair? ›

If you're using gel everyday you may need to wash your hair with shampoo more often too. So keep an eye on it and try not to leave gel in for more than 48 hours without washing it out.

Should you brush your hair with gel in it? ›

Once you've applied gel or any other styling product on your hair, do not comb or brush your hair immediately. Instead, use your hands to style your hair.

Why does my hair gel not hold? ›

Your hair is too dry.

If it's too dry, the gel won't hold properly and you'll end up with a flaky, frizzy style. Make sure you're using a gel that is compatible with your hair type, and try incorporating more moisture into your routine either through deep conditioning or by using a leave-in conditioner.

What does high hold gel mean? ›

Higher/stronger hold levels (hold level 3) provide a more secure hold, lock your hair in place for longer, and keep frizz in check. That means you can style things up and not worry about stray strands spoiling your look during the day.


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