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How To Use Hair Gel For Curly Hair:

Your first thought may be that gels could be quite daunting, and you may want to steer clear; they’re sticky, hard, crunch, and lead to slicked-back hair, right?

Well, you’re actually wrong, but don’t worry, you’re not the only one that thinks this.

For a long time, I’ve always associated gel with crispy, crunchy curls until the past year I steered clear, but I’ve recently given it another go, and it has transformed my curls!

It’s all about the application, really, not the gel itself. You can master your curls with gel that will hold for days to come, just by simply changing your technique.

So how do you do it?

Well, let me share some of my secrets with you; here are my top tips for styling your hair with gel, and once you’ve tried this technique, the gel will be your new best friend!

Let’s delve into the details, shall we!


Benefits Of Hair Gel On Curly Hair:

Don’t give up on curly hair gel just yet; there are some serious benefits of using hair gel on curly hair. Rather than giving up the gel, upgrade your technique!

Here are the benefits of using gel on curly hair:

Prevents frizz:

One of the best things about using gel on your curly hair is that it prevents frizz. It creates a moisture barrier and locks in moisture to the cuticle.

Since the top cause of frizz is dehydrated strands, using gel can especially help high porosity hair as it helps provide a barrier to seal in moisture and prevent frizz.

Helps promote natural curl pattern:

Using gel on your curls can help promote the natural curl pattern as it helps curls clump together. It also helps protect curls why drying by forming a cast around curl clumps until they are dry.

It even helps define curls and protects them from opening up during the day. A gel will help provide hold on the curls, so they don’t drop during the day.

This helps give bounce even to looser curls.

styling curly hair

How To Style Your Curly Hair With Gel:

Now, this is important; it’s all about the technique you use when styling your curls with gel, as it will transform how your curls will look. The technique is key!

Step One: Apply To Soaking Wet Hair:

You must apply gel to soaking wet hair, it should be used as your final styling product, and it works best when your hair is soaking wet.

So shampoo, condition, apply leave-in conditioner cream, hair products, and detangle using a wide-tooth comb, fingers, or wet hair detangling brush before applying the gel.

There are two ways you can apply your gel. You can either apply in the shower or soak your hair with water spray and work in sections; I personally prefer the second method.

I like to get out of the shower and sit in front of the mirror with my towel underneath me and work in sections.

You’ll want a quarter-size amount of gel in your hands per every few sections; use more or less depending on your curl type or hair thickness.

Rub the gel between your palms for a few seconds; this will help evenly distribute the gel across your curls and prevent applying gel in thick clumps.

For each curly hair section, I will drench with the water spray and then apply the gel; you must have wet hair.

This helps ensure the gel is evenly distributed and works best on my thick, coarse curls. I grab my Denman Brush and style each section, creating tension and twirling the brush as I go down.

I then scrunch the curl section, cradling the curl in your hand, and then repeat for all curls.

Step Two: Scrunch Out Excess Water:

Grab your trusty microfibre towel or cotton t-shirt and scrunch out all the excess dripping water and begin to scrunch upwards until you’re happy with the shape.

Once I’ve finished, I like to lift the root and give it a little shake to add volume; this also helps with defined curls.

Step Three: Dry Your Curls:

The next step is a bit of a waiting game; once you’ve finished scrunching your curls, you can either plop, diffuse or leave your curls to air dry.

Don’t touch your curls until they are completely dry to prevent frizzy curls.

Once you’ve styled your curls, you can either plop your curls, use a diffuser or leave your curly-haired locks to air dry. I’m going to show you how to do each.

Diffuse your hair:

Using a brilliant way to dry curls if you’re a little bit strapped for time. Remember to use on a low setting and diffuse on low heat; this will prevent frizz.

Before using a diffuser, you should flip your head upside down or to the side; this is a brilliant way to create lift at the roots and create volume.

Gently lower sections of your curls into the diffuser bowl and move the diffuser towards your roots. Use a similar motion to scrunching your curls.

Hold for 30 seconds on each section, continue until your curls are 80-90% dry; this will help retain moisture. But wait until your curls are 100% dry before leaving the house; this will prevent frizz.

Plop your curls:

Plopping your curls is a brilliant method for adding volume and protecting curls as they dry. It is one of my top recommendations for curly-haired girls who have a few hours on their hands.

Grab yourself a t-shirt; I would recommend a long-sleeved, XXL tee as it’ll be easiest to use, especially if you have thick curls.

Once you’ve applied your styling gel, cream, mousse, or whatever you use to keep your curls intact, flip your head over the center of the t-shirt pressing your head down on the curls.

Reach up and grab the bottom of your shirt (with your head still upside down) and lay it over your head so it is touching the nape of your neck and completely covering your curls.

Think of it as creating a protective bag over your curls– turn your head and flip it upside down and wrap the t-shirt or microfibre towel around your head.

While still holding the edges of the shirt, grab the sleeves and twist them to tighten the t-shirt around your head. (See why I recommended using a long-sleeved tee?)

Then wrap the twisted sleeves around your head and tie them in place to keep the shirt from sliding or falling off; if it looks like a wet helmet, then you’ve done it right.

I recommend keeping your curls like this for 10-20 minutes, and then you’ll open the shirt to voluminous, frizz-free curls as the curls begin to dry– it’s pretty cool!

Air Dry:

The last method is leaving your curls to air dry. This is my least favorite method, but it gets the job done. Personally, I find that the gravity and products weigh down my curls as, unlike plopping, the curls aren’t sitting on top of my head.

Try not to touch your curls while drying, as this will help prevent frizz and ensure curls can follow their natural shape.

Once your curls are dry turn, it upside down and give it a little ruffle; this will help add volume to your hairstyle.

Step Four: Scrunch Out The Crunch:

Now, once your hair is 100% dry, a gel cast will form around your curls, and don’t worry, this isn’t the finished look; you just need to scrunch out the crunch!

If you have quite thick, coarse curls, then scrunch some oil into the ends of your hair, or if not, you don’t need to use oil. You can just use your hands.

Use your hands to scrunch out your curls; you’ll feel the gel begin to soften and cause the gel cast to break and bring softer hair through. You can use the diffuser on low heat to warm up your hair and help soften the gel cast to release your curls.

You can also use a cotton t-shirt to break this gel cast and release the curls. I like to flip my hair upside down, run my fingers through the scalp, and give it a little shake to add volume to my curly hair.

You can then apply a small amount of gel around the hairline to tame the baby hairs, and you’re left with luscious, defined curls.

styling gel curly hair 1

Why Your Hair May Be Frizzy After Using Gel:

Here are a few things you could be doing wrong when styling your hair with gel, and there may be a few reasons why your curly hair has turned frizz after using gel.

You may not have applied enough styling gel; make sure you are generous with your gel, especially if you have thick hair. You want to feel like there is slightly too much gel in your hair.

Another reason is that your curly hair isn’t 100% dry before you start touching and playing with it. Playing with your hair while it is still wet can cause frizz.

You may also be too aggressive when scrunching out your curls; remember to be patient with your curly hair and take your time when breaking the gel cast.

Your curly hair may be frizzy because your hands are wet when you scrunch your hair; you want your hair to be completely dry, so try to have dry hands when scrunching.

You’re using the wrong gel for your hair. As a curly girl, not all gels will work for you; you need to find one with the right level of hold and firmness. Check out my top recommendations here.

Why Your Hair Feels Sticky After Using Gel?

There are many reasons why your curls may feel sticky after using a gel, and it’s not usually down to the product but rather the application.

The main culprit for sticky hair is that you’ve applied too much gel; if you have quite fine hair, you don’t need too much, so it’s all about finding the right balance for you.

Also, if your hair isn’t wet enough when you use gel, this can leave the residue looking sticky– this is why you need soaking wet hair!

Another reason may be that your leave-in conditioner or cream is too rich; it may not blend well with the gel, causing a sticky buildup. Using the wrong gel for your hair porosity may also be another culprit as it may sit on top of your strands rather than be absorbed.

If your curl needs a refresher, you can also dilute your gel with water and make your own hairspray to refresh second-day curls.

How To Increase The Hold Of Your Gel:

There are ways you can increase the hold of your gel, such as if you need your curls to be frizz-free before an event or going out all day.

The first thing you’ll want is to apply the gel to slightly damp hair but not sopping wet hair and reapply some gel after scrunching out the water using a t-shirt or microfibre towel.

Then once your hair is 80% reapply some more gel to your hair. Don’t use leave-in conditioner or creams under your gel, as this will detriment the hold.

You can reapply the diluted gel to refresh the curl when need, but this should hold your style when going to an event– I wouldn’t recommend doing this every day, though!

gel x2


Using a gel on your curls is really handy; it can help hold curls for longer and prevent frizz. You can always skip your leave-in conditioner but always remember the gel.

Gels can seal in moisture and promote the natural curl shape; they’re a staple in my hair care routine now I’ve got the technique in the bag.

Try it out with a few techniques, and you’ll notice the difference in the definition of your curls. Remember, it is all a bit of trial and error with how much gel to apply.

Using the right products, processes and techniques will help to define your curls and leave them feeling luscious and hydrated. I use the gel every time I wash my curls, and I won’t look back!

Give it a go today!

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