i have shorter hair, and i used to shed a TON! when it was long? i could break vaccuums! hahahaa
i actually thought i had a thyroid condition for a while, got tested, and that came back negative...
then, i read curly girl, and started the curly girl routine. i don't shed HALF the hair that i used to, and my hair is healthier then ever.
so, i think you're moving in the right direction because you are becoming concious of it all! i don't think it's do much which product you use, but what is in the products you use.
for styling gel, i use suave professionals biolage firm hold gel (you should be able to buy it at walmart/walgreens/target). it has no alcohol and no silicones.
that's a step in the right direction for now!
let us know how it goes!!!