girl with locs

Mayonnaise, honey, rubber cement, chewing gum, candle wax, and even toothpaste--all of these things have been rumored to help start locs. One of the top choices is actually a product that was intended for use on hair: hair gel. Hair gel is often used to begin the locking process and then maintain them throughout the journey. This is, however, a risk in striving for your healthiest locs possible. says "Many products on the market that mention they work for dreadlocks are actually intended to add shine and fragrance and to make [locs] look neater but  don't acually help the dreading process at all. The majority of these shine waxes are made with petroleum as the primary ingredient." While petroleum-based products are OK for re-twisting every 4 to 6 weeks, it is not recommended using one in the beginning of the locking phase.

Most hair gels contain ingredients that tend to work against a healthy locking journey

According to Curl Chemist Tonya, most hair gels work by containing these holding agents:

  • PVP (poly N-vinyl-2-pyrrolidone) forms clear films and is water soluble. It absorbs water readily, which in humid weather makes it sticky or tacky to the touch, can cause frizz, and give a dull appearance to the hair. In dry weather, it can become brittle and flaky.
  • PVA (polyvinyl acetate) resists absorption of water in high humidity but is not substantive to hair.
  • Polyquaternium-4: is a  film-former on the hair and has been found to be substantive to hair. It is very stiff due to its molecular structure and causes flaky build-up.
  • Polyquaternium-11: is copolymer of VP/DMAEMA is less susceptible to humidity. It is not water soluble--this can lead to some build-up over time that resists washes.

5 reasons NOT to use gel on locs


They are drying to your scalp and prevent your hair from growing. Hair gel is typically made with the kind of alcohols and other synthetic ingredients that not only clog pores, but dry your scalp. Look into shampoos made with peppermint, eucalyptus, or tea tree extracts if you notice your scalp feeling itchier after starting the locking process. These ingredients in shampoos will also blast out the dirt from your pores, encouraging growth at a faster rate.


All of the product and elemental build-up (that gel draws to your scalp) causes you to have to wash your locs more frequently. Depending on the individual, this may or may not negatively impact the form and hold of what you've taken so long to create.


Hair gel causes small white flakes, especially when used frequently for hair styling purposes. In locs, the flakes are tough to wash completely out and can be a painstakingly long process, according to Lockology.


If you want locs that actually move, don't use a gel. When used for twisting, the hair becomes unnaturally hard and stiff. Over time, hair gel dries out the hair. Most people use gel to make the outer layer of their locs appear smoother, but using a butter or cream is the gentlest option for healthy locs.


Breakage happens when using a drying hair gel on a regular basis. As mentioned previously, do research and invest in a good quality loc butter for re-twisting and maintaining smooth, fuzz-free locs that don't have randoms sticking out all over the place (AKA breaking strands).

Try one of these safer alternatives for re-twisting:

Which product do you use on your locs to re-twist?