Curly hair gels – Everything you need to know

Just like most people, I used to stay away from hair gels. Sticky, hard, crunchy and slicked back hair – Who wants that? We all desire soft flowy curls. Conclusion- gels are for guys only. This is until I very recently discovered a big secret. And ever since I cannot style my hair without a gel :D. So how should we apply gel to curly hair then?

Benefits of using gel on curly hair

  • Prevents frizz by forming a protective layer over curl clumps.
  • Helps in curl definition, clumping and hold by forming a cast around curl clumps till they are dry.

How to apply gel on curly hair

Part 1

  1. Start with freshly washed hair. Apply whatever products you use like curl creams or lotions or leave ins. Gel should be the final step. All curl products are best applied on dripping wet hair.
  2. Take a lime sized quantity and rub the gel between your palms. You should use enough gel to thoroughly coat each curl clump
  3. Flip your head down. Use a scrunching motion to directly apply it on to curls.
  4. You can also smooth the gel on both sides of your hair with open palms before scrunching. Scrunch well.
  5. But DO NOT rake/run your fingers through your hair because gels should coat each curl clump so that it stays so. Raking will open up the curl clumps.
  6. Now you may use a t-shirt to scrunch out excess water.
  7. Use tiny amount of gel on your crown to reduce frizz – Rub the gel on your palms and lightly glide over the crown.
  8. Let your hair completely dry. Either air dry or use a diffuser.

As your hair dries, you will start noticing that it gets harder. That is the protective gel cast forming. This will prevent frizz and disturbance as the curls dry.

Part 2 (The secret revealing part 😛 and probably the most important step) – Remove the gel cast

What we don’t like about gels is the hard crispy crunchy feeling they give. The cast is only required till the hair is drying. Now we need to break that cast around the curl clumps it to reveal the soft curls inside.

Hair should be completely dry before proceeding to this step or it will frizz up instantly.

Gel cast can be removed in 2 ways –

Scrunch out the crunch (SOTC) – Flip your head down and scrunch your curls either with your palms or with a cotton tee. This will break the cast revealing soft defined curls. You may hear or feel the cast breaking slightly. Scrunch thoroughly all through till all the cast is broken. You can also smooth a serum or oil on your palms before scrunching to add shine to your curls. This method is good for removing light to medium gel casts.

I do it in this video (at around 2:35)

Twisting method – Take sections of your hair and keep twisting them till they feel tight on your scalp and release. Continue till all of your hair has been twisted. This motion breaks cast better because of the tightness and is a good way to remove gel cast if your gel has formed a really hard cast.

Finally, with your head flipped over, use your fingers to rub your scalp and give the roots a good shake. Remember to not run your fingers through the length of your hair. Just shake the roots. This lifts the crown and gives volume to hair.

You can also dilute your gel with water in a spray bottle to make your own hairspray for refreshing 2nd day curls.

Properties of a good gel for curly hair

  • A good curly hair gel should have good polymers like PVP, PVA, PVP/PVA copolymer, Polyurethane, Polyquaternium etc. the polymers are deposited on the surface of the hair and create bonds between adjacent strands thus clumping them together.
  • It should be alcohol free.
  • The hold of drugstore gels are mentioned as numbers on the packaging. Start with a medium to medium high hold and increase hold if needed.

I am going to review some curly hair gels in the coming days! And here is a post with my full curly hair routine – My curly hair routine.



  1. Hi Anjana ☺️ Amazing write up as always 😊 Can gels be used on every wash days ? If yes, it wont be harmful in the long run right ? 😓

    1. I use gel after every wash. Keep away from drying alcohols(different from fatty alcohols) and you should be good!

  2. Should gels be used on dripping wet hair or just damp hair?
    Also, should gel be applied liberally or is it like a small amount goes a long way?
    Thanks 🙂

    1. Good questions Varuna. I will update the article as well.
      1) Dripping wet hair is the best. Then after applying gel you can use a t-shirt to scrunch out excess water
      2) You should use enough gel to thoroughly coat each curl clump

  3. Even I always thought that gels were for guys! :p Now, I love gels too and I need hard ones since my curls can frizz very quickly.Good write up!

  4. Hi,

    While looking for curly hair products in India, I came across your blog and this is awesome 🙂

    My questions,
    1. While tying my hair up in a ponytail, should I brush my hair?
    2. How to treat baby hairs?
    3. Which cream is good for curly hair? How and when to apply it?
    4. Can cream and gel (alovera gel!) be used together?

    I know this is too much 😛

    Take your time 🙂


      1. Hi,

        Thank you for replying… Really glad 🙂

        The baby hairs are a really menace to me and it’s worst on 2nd day.

        Also, is there a post on how to treat curly hairs on 2nd day… Because I can’t wait to return home and have a shower on the second day 🙁


        1. I love enliven for both cowashing and conditioning. If you like, you can have separate conditioners for both 🙂

          1. I use Alovera gel and yes, the hold is not so good… Lasts maximum 3 hrs. Which one is better, flax seeds gel or enliven?
            But good news is that after using Cantu cream, my curls have stopped looking like lions mane. They stay calmly throughout the day and my colleagues tell my hair shines… Hihihi.

            Just purchased silk satin pillowcase… Trying that too 🙂


    1. Oil can make your hair greasy and weigh it down. Gels will provide hold without these effects. If you don’t want to use a gel, you can use a curl defining creams. These creams are creams that have polymers for slight hold.

  5. Hi Anjana,

    I travel total four hours daily to go to work and the pollution causes dandruff. Oiling didn’t actually help because I sweat and neither did co washing. Purchased Jason dandruff relief this week and will start trying from tomorrow. 😊

    How often should I shampoo? Also, during second day I wet my hair and apply cream, but at evening it turns dry and frizzy. Actually, I don’t get time to properly dry my hair in the morning and then just clip it up and hurry to work. What should I do? This is when baby hairs creates problems 😔


  6. Hi anjana
    I use any shampoo to wash my hair and then condition with enliven Conditioner. Then I tee dry my hair and apply mythic oil
    Please help as my hair all stand up in the front on awakening the next morning
    I want to try the cantu lotion and gel. Should I still use the mythic oil and if yes would it be the last product

    1. Hi Priti,
      1) Glide a lightweight gel over the crown after washing. You can repeat this in the morning if you still find baby hair.
      2) You will not need to use too many products. But if you still feel the need to, you can apply the serum after the cream and before the gel

  7. Hi. I had chemically straightened my hair on this January. But now I want to get back my original curly hair. What should I do? How can I get back my curly hair now?

  8. Hey Anjana..
    Great blog.. Thank you so much for doing something so elaborate and specific about curly hair..
    By the way how do you take care of your hair while you are on the road. Like with the wind.. Because if you leave your hair open, it will be a tangled mess. And if you put it up in a ponytail or in a bun, the hair band will leave a kink plus the curl pattern gets a bit weird..

  9. Hi anjana, thank you so much for all this help… My hair in extremely fine.. Gels and leave in conditioners are making my hair very limp. What can I do?

  10. Hey Anjana.
    Have you tried Tresemme Curl Care Gel X Hold ?
    What are your reviews..?
    Do you think I should give it a try ?
    My hair is type 2b/2c.

  11. I used the Set Wet Cool hold Gel following your method but it hasn’t really showed any difference on my hair. What should I do?

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