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curlynikki defined curls

Technique

It’s one thing to have the right product; it’s another to know how to apply it properly. And this is another area where there are polarized opinions in the natural hair community.

I’ll present you with a few different techniques, the rationale behind them and give you the pros and cons of each so that you can make the best decision on how to apply gels to your hair for the best definition.

Let’s start with some problems when it comes to hair gels:

  • The potential for flaking and residue
  • The potential for dryness
  • Tackiness and stickiness (depending on the formulation as well)
  • Here are some issues you’re trying to overcome with your hair:
  • Lack of curl definition
  • Dryness
  • Shrinkage (big one!)
  • Lasting style
Applying gel on soaking wet hair

This is not my first choice for my hair. If it works for you then carry on. But for me, it’s doesn’t result in the look I’m going for. The thing about hair is that when it’s wet is expands to allow the excess water. So the hair is going to be longer. However, as the hair dries the hair shaft contracts and shrinks up. So when you apply gel to wet hair, the length is not going to magically locked in. Sorry if you thought so or if the bottle or jar told you this. And this is because the hair is wet because of the excess water. But eventually the hair dries. And you get some major shrinkage.

I’ve also found that applying the product to wet hair for me doesn’t result in all of the curl definition I would like. So what are the pros and cons of applying the product to wet hair?

Pros:
  • The hair is a little easier to work with because it’s hydrated
  • It’s easier to apply the gel to the hair and get it distributed throughout the hair from the scalp to the tip
  • Applying gel wet helps to reduce the stickiness, tackiness and whiteness that could occur with the gel
Cons
  • Shrinkage (big time!)
  • You don’t really maximize curl definition is some hair types
  • Increased chance of breakage due to manipulation. Hair is pretty fragile and even more so when wet.
  • Could lead to frizz and poor curl definition when it dries
  • For wash n’ gos some people use different techniques to apply the gel. Once the gel is applied you can wet your hair more, shake your head vigorously and apply more gel. I haven’t mastered this technique because I don’t use it. However it’s important to apply it from the scalp to the ends of the hair and with the hair wet, it’s a little easier to do then when it’s dry.
Applying gel on damp hair

This is what I do and it works well for me for how I want my hair to look – with maximum definition and less shrinkage. Starting with damp hair may seem to be a little bit counterintuitive if you want less shrinkage, but it works well. This is because when you apply the gel to hair that is damp, WYSIWYG. Translation – what you see is what you get. If it’s a good gel it will encourage the actual length of the hair from it’s density and curl “clumpiness”. Then when the hair dries the style will lock in place. I also find I get great shine from this method and better moisture retention. Some potential issues with applying product to damp hair is that the hair can feel sticky or tacky depending on the formulation of the gel used. And on some hair textures there can be some residue. The fix for the cons is to add a little water to the hair the work the gel into the hair more.

So what are the pros and cons?

Pros:
  • Maximum definition
  • Less shrinkage
  • More moisture retention
  • Shine
  • Sleeker look to the style
Cons:
  • Tackiness and stickiness (depending on the formulation)
  • Some residue (depending on your hair texture)

Hair gels can be used to lock in any style: wash n’ gos, twists, braids, twist-outs, braid-outs, bantu knots. You name it, gels lock and hold.

Okay so there you have it! In my usual round about, long explanation manner I’ve given you my opinion and experience with using hair gels. Hopefully you understand how to achieve maximum definition from any style you choose to wear and longevity from the style.

Do you use hair gel? If so, which one? What works for you? Let’s discuss!


Written by DrWalkerWellness for CurlyNikki

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