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Common Gelling Ingredients

So what polymers are typically going to be in a gel formula? This list is not complete but contains some of the more common ingredients you’ll find in hair care products.

PVP (Poly n-vinyl-2-pyrrolidone)

This polymer is notorious for causing flaking. It’s great at film-forming and can be washed away with water which is great for the no-poo or low-poo naturals. It’s also inexpensive. However some notable drawbacks are a crunchy feel to the hair, flaking in cold, dry weather, and, in humid conditions tackiness, stickiness and frizz.,

PVA (poly vinyl acetate)

PVA is another ingredient commonly found in hair gels and it overcomes some of the drawbacks of PVP. It is water resistant and therefore doesn’t absorb as much moisture from the atmosphere. The hold is more flexible which means less flaking. A drawback of PVA is that it doesn’t provide that much hold to the hair.

Copolymers

Copolymers include ingredients such as PVP/VA copolymer and the acrylates copolymer and they have been designed to bring more balance to a formula creating a polymer that is strong yet flexible and less likely to flake. It can also be used in more temperature extremes while still maintaining optimal performance.

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is used in food products as well as cosmetic application and it’s a naturally derived polymer that is obtained by way of a fermentation process using a bacteria call Xanthomonas campestris. It’s useful in modifying the viscosity of products resulting in a product that is thick and creamy. It can also be used to create styling gels which result in a clear film on par with the typical synthetic polymers noted above. I absolutely love xanthan gum in my hair gels but one thing I’ll note is that not all xanthan gums perform the same. I’ve used xanthan gums with softer holds and others that form more rigid polymer structures. So you’ll need to try the formula to ensure it will work for your hair.

Dehydroxanthan Gum

This is a naturally-derived, modified form of xanthan gum that provides great hold, humidity resistance and minimal flaking.

The ingredients that work well for my type 4 hair are dehydroxanthan gum and xanthan gum. I haven’t tried products that contain PVP, PVA or the copolymers, mainly because my interest is in choosing products with more naturally sourced rather than synthetic polymers.

How to Choose a Gel for Maximum Clumping

Gels for natural hair come in many flavours, colours, textures and names. From curling gellies to curling custards, the name is more descriptive than functional. In essence, these are products that are manufactured to enhance curl definition by causing the hair to clump and keeping the strands in place as the hair dries. Because I’m a hair gel junkie, I can pretty much tell whether a gel will work for my hair as soon as I read the ingredient listing. My hair type and curl patterns is 4b and c and why this is important is because there are certain requirements for a hair gel to meet in order to effectively work on my hair.

Gels for Type 3 Hair

For women who have hair that has visible definition regardless of product use, your gel needs are little different. I have two daughters with two completely different hair textures. Based on my experience with my baby girl’s hair (extremely fine hair, silkier texture, visible curl definition without product) a gel that is more liquid and less dense but with a lot of slip works very well for her. The gel that I would use on my eldest daughter’s hair or my hair would be way too thick and would just matte baby girl’s hair.

Gels for Type 4 Hair

Type 4 curlies have various curl patterns and textures but if there is one thing that most type 4’s have in common it’s the lack of visible curl definition. What this means is that a little more work is required in order to achieve defined curls. I’ve gotten the best results from the following types of gels:

Thick, dense hair gel. Thicker gels cause my thick hair to clump better and dense gels add weight to my hair, allowing it to hang Choose gels with a lot of slip. For me, slip means the gel goes on easily and helps to detangle my hair in the process The gel should feel gooey and snot-like between your fingers. I know it’s a little gross but trust me on this one! The more gooey and stringy the better because this means MAJOR clumping and curl definition.

READ: Top 10 Curl Defining Products

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