Best Gel For Curly Hair [Review] in 2021
written by nail expert Jess Rowley
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Whether you have thick or fine curls having the right gel to define, style, and hold your curls in place is a key factor of your hair care routine. When it comes to summertime and humidity hits, a good curly hair gel is a staple in taming frizz.
But won’t a gel leave your curly hair hard or sticky?
Absolutely not! If you apply correctly and scrunch the crunch, you can have defined, hydrated curls that will hold up a fair fight no matter what the weather throws at you, and trust me; these gels won’t leave a greasy, hard looking cast.
Sadly not all gels are created. Equally, some gels will define your ringlet curls, those wash-n-go curls that you dream about, while others will leave that horrible cast everyone dreads, and no matter how much you scrunch, your curls look hard and wiry.
This all depends on the gel you use, your curl type, and your hair porosity.
But don’t let that put you off. To make things easier for you, I’m here to break down everything you need to know to find the best gel for your curls. I’ve also selected 5 of my top picks of top-quality gels for you to try.
Here’s a pro tip before we get started: working out your hair porosity is super important when looking for a curly hair gel for your curls. If you have high porosity hair, you’ll benefit from a lightweight gel to prevent product buildup, but for high porosity hair, you may need a heavy, deeply hydrating gel to help keep frizz at bay and lock in moisture in the cuticle.
I’ll break everything down shortly; you won’t want to miss my top three picks!
Top picks of the Best Gel For Curly Hair
ECOCO Eco Style Gel
Coming in at the number one spot is this OG styling gel that you’re sure to have seen on the shelves. It is one of the top gels approved by the Curly Girl Method community itself, and it will be sure to hold your curls all day long!
This alcohol-free gel provides serious hold and definition for every strand of curly hair. It is a brilliant option for those who like to wash their curls frequently rather than once a week because they can begin to flake after three or four days.
However, some customers found this wasn’t the case, so this may result from using on low porosity hair.
It is an excellent maximum-hold styler for twisted, braided, or defined styles.
This gel is infused with olive oil, which is deeply moisturizing. This gel is best for high porosity hair as it strengthens the tips of our curly hair and provides a water/oil barrier to prevent moisture from escaping the cuticle.
It also has benefits for reducing damage and breakage and sealing the appearance of split ends. Olive oil is both emollient and occlusive, meaning that it will help smooth the cuticle creating a barrier against frizz.
ECOGO Eco Style Gel will hold, define and moisturize your curls no matter what the weather throws at you.
- Alcohol free
- Provides serious hold and definition
- Infused with olive oil
- Ideal for high porosity hair
- Found some issues with flaking
Latest deal: ECOCO Eco Style Gel
Aunt Jackie's Don't Shrink Elongating Hair Curling Gel
If you have type 4 hair, you’ll know the struggle of shrinkage; it is a pain in the ass! I have type 4 curls, and I was recently introduced to Aunt Jackie’s Don’t Shrink Hair Curling Gel, and it works to stretch my shriveling curls, leaving them defined!
This gel is infused with flaxseed, shea butter, and extra virgin olive oil, making this gel liquid gold– or gold jelly for what it’s worth. All these ingredients work together to nourish, define, strengthen and protect strands deeply.
For starters, flaxseed gel is amazing for creating a defined curl clump along with reducing frizz. Flaxseed stretches shrunk hair and allows curls to clump together much easier than any other styling product, which massively reduces frizz.
Shea butter is frequently found in curly hair treatments, thanks to its exfoliating qualities. It softens and smoothes the cuticle to lock in moisture and deeply nourish curls. This helps closes the cuticle and prevents any moisture from escaping.
This makes this another gel perfect for type 4 high porosity hair!
Just like with ECOGO, Aunt Jackie’s also contains extra virgin olive oil, which conditions your hair while deeply nourishing the scalp and promoting curly hair growth.
It is another brilliant ingredient for high porosity hair as it helps seal the cuticle and provide a water/oil barrier. This gel is excellent for defining curls without flaking or weighing them down.
I love this gel because it is clear; it doesn’t “cloud” up your curly hair or turns white or flaky after a few hours. A little also goes a long way which is ideal if you have thick, porous hair.
It is simply the best gel you can find for highly porous hair.
- Clear get so doesn’t leave a white cast
- Little goes a long way
- Infused with olive oil, flaxseed, and shea butter
- Tames frizz and locks in moisture
Latest deal: Aunt Jackie’s Don’t Shrink Elongating Hair Curling Gel
Curls Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Jelly
Are you looking for a gel that defines your curls without leaving them dry and flaky? This curling jelly by Curls is a product every curly girl dreams of. This ultra-hydrating jelly eliminates frizz and elongates the curl leaving them soft to touch.
It contains raw castor oil, which nourishes the curly hair and promotes hair growth. It even has ingredients like shea butter, argan oil, Jojoba esters, and more critical ingredients in moisturizing and retaining moisture in the hair.
As I said for the previous product, shea butter is key for nourishing and locking in moisture to curls. Jojoba oil also provides a protective coating over curls which helps lock in moisture, tame frizz, and gently detangle.
Plus, the blueberry extract has a super addictive smell.
You can use it on wavy, curly, very curly, and even kinky hair from wavy type 2A to coily type 4C. This should be your go-to for long-lasting, shiny curls– plus, say goodbye to frizz!
For best results, you should apply to sopping wet hair (not damp hair) until you feel there is a little “too much” in there, and trust me, it will feel weird at first, but once your curls have dried, your hair will transform.
Plus, unlike other gels I’ve tried, this one is surprisingly not sticky. Once you’ve tried this gel, you will be hooked!
- Ideal for all curl types
- Contains raw castor oil, shea butter, argan oil, and aloe vera
- Non-sticky formula
- Addictive smell
- Not everyone likes the smell
Latest deal: Curls Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Jelly
Kinky Curly Original Curling Custard
Looking for a highly moisturizing and curl-defining gel that provides brilliant hold and shine in one product? This Curling Custard Styling Gel brings out natural curls of waves that you never knew you had.
It is infused with ingredients that nourish and strengthen your hair, such as humectant ingredients like Agave Nectar. It is a soothing hair humectant that provides moisture and gives hair lustrous shine.
But that’s not all…
This Curling Custard will give weight to your curly hair, define your curls and remove frizz. You can have long-lasting hold and shine without the greasy, crunch, or flaking on your curly hair.
It is highly concentrated, too, so a little will go a long way. Customers love it on their 3b curls, and curly girls raved about this product for their tight 4c coils!
It gives hair shine, defines curls beautifully, and does an excellent job at keeping frizz at bay. All you need to do to scrunch out the crunch is to grab yourself some light oil, and your curls will look soft and luscious.
But don’t just take it from me; check out the glowing reviews from pleased curly girl customers!
- Contains agave nectar humectant
- Long-lasting hold
- Leaves curls defined and shiny
- Helps keep frizz at bay
Latest deal: Kinky Curly Original Curling Custard
Design Essentials Natural Honey Curl Forming Custard
best curling custard for natural hair
Next up is Design Essentials Natural Honey Curl Forming Custard which is enriched with Honey, Chamomile elements, Almond and Avocado Oils. It is designed to elongate curls and coils with a medium to firm hold.
I’m talking brilliant shine with no flaky residue.
It is brilliant for was hand go styling, finger coils, twist sets, and even Bantu knots. It works for textures as loose as 3a curls and as tight as 4b coils. What I love about its product is that they don’t say it will work for “all curl types,” as it’s just unrealistic.
Our curls are all different and need different products.
So let’s start by talking about the enriching honey and chamomile ingredients. For starters, honey has both humectant and emollient properties, so it retains moisture and provides a protective seal over strands to lock in moisture snd strengthen hair.
Chamomile has some serious anti-inflammatory compounds which can help alleviate itchy, dry scalp. It is best known for its calming properties, so it is extremely beneficial to the scalp.
Almond oil can help soften and strengthen hair; it is rich in biotin, which helps keep curls healthy and strong. Avocado oil can also help seal and strengthen the cuticle; it can moisturize, repair, and strengthen your curls, making it a staple in hair care.
To top it all off, it is free of parabens, paraffin, petrolatum, and mineral oil, making it safe to use on curls and safe to use in the Curly Girl Method.
Some customers even spoke about how it made their curls last for 4 days! You heard me for 4 days without needing refreshing. If you ask me, this is the holy grail of curly hair products.
- Extremely hydrating
- Infused with humectants and emollients
- Ideal for 3a to 4b hair
- Free of harsh chemicals
Latest deal: Design Essentials Curl Forming Custard
Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino Quinoa Frizz Control Gel
Coming in last but certainly, not least is Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel. This excellent formula provides light to medium hold for long-lasting, natural-looking definition and superior movement, shine, and softness.
It is rich in rice amino acids and tomato fruit, which helps smooth and seal the cuticle and provides a barrier to lock out frizz caused by environmental moisture and humidity. Rice amino acids are also rich in the inositol carbohydrate, which helps repair damaged hair and protect hair from further damage.
These ingredients also help promote natural curl formation.
The quinoa extract and keratin amino acids strengthen the strand and increase elasticity to protect against damage. The formula is also very lightweight and doesn’t leave a sticky residue making it ideal for low porosity hair.
This product is also 93% naturally derived, and it doesn’t contain any nasty ingredients like sulfates, silicones, phthalates, parabens, DEA, or artificial dyes. It is even certified gluten and cruelty-free.
But wait, here’s the best bit!
This gel can be safely used on color-treated or chemically treated curly hair. It will leave curly hair looking and feeling hydrated. It works best on 3b-4c curls, especially those that suffer from frizz and moisture retention.
Give it a go today!
- 93% naturally derived
- Doesn’t contain any nasty chemicals
- Very hydrating for curls
- Helps tame frizz
- Doesn’t work for all curls
Latest deal: Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel
Best Gel Curly Hair-- A Buyer’s Guide:
When it comes to styling our curls, humidity is not our friend. You may spend hours on a wash day, drenching your hair in products that you don’t know will even help frizz, and then taking one step outside, and your hair looks like it’s been electrocuted.
We’ve all been there.
Finding the right hair gel for your hair porosity and curl type is super important for how well it will perform against holding your curls and protecting them against the environment without leaving a flaky cast after a day.
Whether you follow the Curly Girl Method or just looking to care for your curls, then finding products that work for your curls is so important. Any curly girl will tell you that it is all a bit of trial and error, but the results are so rewarding.
Let’s go into everything you need to know when buying hair gel for curly hair.
How To Use Hair Gel For Curly Hair
First things first, how do you use hair gel on curly hair? Well, for starters, you can only apply it to wet hair; it works best on soaking wet hair when you’re about to style your curls. Here’s my step-by-step guide.
Step One: Wash Your Curls:
Since curly hair gel is best used as a wash-and-go product, so the first thing you need to do is fast forward to wash day and wash your curls like usual. Remember to use a sulfate-free shampoo or co-wash to care for your curls.
If it’s a shampoo wash day, grab your sulfate-free shampoo, drench your hair under the shower, rub the shampoo in your hands for like 10 seconds and then massage it into your scalp– this helps evenly distribute the product.
Since most curly hair girls only wash their hair with shampoo once a week, it’s important to massage your scalp for a good minute or two to break down all the excess oils. Also, remember always to do two shampoos.
For co-washing, massage your roots for a minute or two under the running water and then apply your cleansing conditioner; if your curls are quite fine and you’re prone to grease, then only apply the co-wash to the ends of your hair.
Please don’t be shy with how much you apply, be very generous as co-washes are designed to cleanse your hair and a condition; they won’t leave a greasy residue. Once you’ve rinsed off your conditioner, apply your leave-in conditioner straight away.
Step Two: Apply Your Styling Hair Gel:
Now don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you in the dark and say apply your styling hair gel and job’s a-gooden. There are a few steps to remember. There are two ways you can apply your hair gel, but as long as it’s on soaking wet hair, it is really about what works for you.
You can either apply the hair gel to your curls once you’ve detangled your hair in the shower, as long as your curls are still soaking wet, or apply using my preferred method by working in sections and using a water spray bottle.
For this method, you hop out of the shower, dry yourself off with your towel and go and sit in front of the mirror with a towel underneath you. I will then section my hair, soak each section with a water spray, and apply my styling gel.
I have quite thick porous hair, so I find working in sections works better for me.
For each section, I then brush and style using my Denman Brush; I will create tension as I brush down the section and gently twirl the brush as it goes down. This evenly distributes the product and defines each curl.
After each section, I will scrunch that curl until I am happy with the shape and then move onto the next section. I will repeat this for every section of curls, tip my head upside down, and do a final scrunch with my microfiber towel to remove excess water.
You can also wear a cotton t-shirt if you’d prefer to.
Step Three: Plop, Air Dry, Or Diffuse:
The key point for this step is to wait it out. You need to wait for your curls to completely dry before moving onto the next step. If I have a couple of hours, I like to plop my curls as it leaves them defined and frizz-free.
The other alternative is to wait the hours for your curls to dry; don’t go to be with wet curls as this can cause damage and result in frizz. Also, try not to touch your curls while they’re drying, as this can also result in frizz.
Step Four: Scrunch The Crunch:
Fast forward to your hair being COMPLETELY dry, you’ll notice a cast has formed around your curls, and don’t worry; this isn’t the finished result; all you need to do is break that cast and scrunch out the crunch.
If you have quite thick, coarse, porous hair like myself, I like to apply a little bit of lightweight oil to my hands and then use my hand to scrunch out my curls until you feel the gel soften and cast begin to break.
I find that the oil helps prevent any moisture loss and helps seal the cuticle after breaking the cast, but if your hair is quite fine and oily, you can go without it.
You can also use a diffuser on low heat to warm up your hair to break the cast or even a cotton t-shirt to scrunch your hair to release the gel. Scrunch until you’re happy with the look and your curls feel soft.
Then flip your hair upside down, run the fingers through your scalp, and give it a little shake; this helps lift the curls from the roots and give it a little extra volume.
Best Gel For Curly Hair Based On Hair Porosity:
Your hair porosity actually has a lot to do with whether or not the product will work for you. If you’re using a heavy gel on low porosity hair, this will just sit on top of your cuticle and flake after a day as it won’t absorb properly into your cuticle.
The same goes for using a lightweight gel on high porosity hair; it won’t be enough to absorb moisture and seal the cuticle to prevent frizz. After walking outside in humid weather, your hair will be a frizz ball within minutes.
So what is the best gel for low porosity hair?
With low porosity hair, moisture doesn’t enter the cuticle easily since the cuticle is flat. Instead of penetrating the cuticle, styling products will sit on top and leave a greasy residue, along with weighing down curls.
You should go for a lighter gel to prevent product buildup; it won’t start to flake after a few days either as it is much lighter; it also has a better chance of being absorbed into the cuticle if the cuticle has been opened by heat.
So if you’ve applied after applying a mask where you’ve used a steamer, this should help penetrate the cuticle rather than sit on top. Many curly girls with low porosity hair love Curls Blueberry Bliss as it is very lightweight.
What is the best gel for high porosity hair?
With high porosity hair, there is no issue absorbing moisture but retaining moisture is a nightmare. Since the cuticle is raised on high porosity hair, moisture leaves the cuticle as quickly as it enters.
The gel you use can really help with this issue. You should look for a hydrating gel that is quite heavy. You also want to look for ingredients like olive oil, shea butter, coconut oil, or argan oil, as it will help smooth the cuticle and provide a barrier.
This water/oil barrier is key to retaining moisture in high porosity hair as it creates a seal so the moisture in your strands cannot escape the cuticle. Just be sure to nourish your curls before using this.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How much gel should I use for curly hair?
This all depends on you and your hair type. If you have quite fine hair, you should apply around a quarter-size piece every 4-5 sections of the hair, working in sections that will help evenly distribute the product.
If you have thicker hair, then you should use a dime-size amount of gel for every 2-3 inch section of hair. This should evenly distribute the product and prevent any areas that are harder than others.
But as I just said, it is all trial and error, your hair may need more, or it may need less. It depends on how frizzy your curls are and how much taming your curls really need.
Check out my full guide of how to use hair gel on curly hair here.
Is mousse or gel better for curly hair?
Hair gel tends to be much heavier than mousse and can tend to weigh down curly hair. It is also more prone to flaking than mousse, but a gel is much better for taming frizz if you have thicker hair.
Gel creates a seal over the hair cuticle, making it better at retaining moisture and taming frizz. If you have low porosity hair, then a mousse may be a better option as it won’t leave your hair looking wet, sleek, or greasy.
But for high porosity hair, I would recommend you stick to gel.
How do you style curly hair?
The first thing you’ll need is the right products and the right tools. I like to use my Denman Brush when styling my curls as it creates tension, and I find it defines my curls the best.
Also, top tip only style your curls and apply your styling products while your curls are sopping wet; this will help seal in moisture and help create slip when using a brush.
Check out my full guide as to how to style curly hair here.
So there you have it, everything you need to know about buying styling gel for curly hair. Whether you have curly, coily, or kinky curls, you can benefit from a styling gel for curly hair.
It will be a bit of trial and error and don’t worry, you’re not alone, but working out your hair porosity and curl type before you get started on the hunt will massively help, trust me.
Select any of the hair gels I have chosen for you today, they are all approved by the Curly Girl Method itself, and they provide a long-lasting hold that will leave your curls looking defined for longer.
Cheif Editor & Nail Technician Expert
Jess Rowley, a veteran nail tech, has been studying beauty over the last 11 years and has completed the nail technology program in California. Watching the latest trends in beauty, Jess searches for the highest quality products that make your nails feel loved.