Hair gel is a staple for many women with curly, and coily hair. Gel is a styling product that provides shape and hold. How well a gel works is depends on its formulation, your particular hair type, and the weather. I love hair gel and have a couple of favorites in particular like Kinky-Curly Curl Custard Gel  as my regular hair gel and Eco Style Professional Styling Gel with Olive Oil whenever I am in a more humid climate. Knowing how to apply it takes time to master especially when trying new styles. No one wants flaking, frizz, or product buildup, so we went to the experts (brands) for answers on how to properly apply hair gel. 

Curl Junkie

“For the most definition, we recommend applying gel to wet hair and smoothing through. Then, you gently blot with a towel. If your hair is dry, then you should add a leave-in before the gel. The texture of the leave-in is not as important as how well it spreads through the hair and the moisture it provides/how much you need (like our Smoothing Lotion or Curl Assurance Aloe Fix--big differences in texture but both distribute well). The main causes of white residue are chemical reactions (the ingredients in the leave-in don't mix well with the gel) and/or the product was not distributed well enough and/or the gel does not adhere strongly enough to the hair (the curlier your hair, the more likely this can happen).” -Andrea, Curl Junkie

Curl Sistas

Joy Adaeze Okere, co-founder of Curl Sistas Hair hair extensions, even gave us some tips on using hair gel on their extensions. Many women are leery about using hair products on hair extension, but here are tips from Curl Sistas. 

“For a flexible hold, I love using Eco Style Professional Styling Gel with Olive Oil mixed in with a leave-in conditioner and then applied to hair. The leave-in conditioner keeps the gel from flaking. This combo works great on our Curl Sistas Hair. For my edges, my favorite gel to use is CURLS Blueberry Bliss, applied with a toothbrush and then tie down with a scarf. Lays those babies nice and flat!”


“Botanical gels are great for creating long lasting, frizz free curls,” according to Curls CEO, Mahisha Dellinger. “Our Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Jelly & our Goddess Curls are great options, both are available at Target.” Mahisha adds, “I recommend using a liquid moisturizer on freshly shampooed/conditioned hair, before applying the gel. The key to avoiding white residue/balls is to use either a gel or a cream styler at one time…not both.”

As I Am Naturally

“It is better to apply gel on wet hair.” According to As I Am Naturally Director of Education, Alana Snowden. “Water is a natural hydrant and it helps break down gel and support curl definition when the hair is drying. Characteristically, damp hair has dry spots and naturally curly hair loses some of its definition at this point. There is not enough hydration in the hair, which can cause the hair to look frizzy and dry.”

When it comes to needing a moisturizer being added to gel, Snowden suggests their line of moisturizers. “As I Am has great moisturizers that can be used with gel. So Much Moisture is a glycerin-rich formula enhanced with natural botanical extracts, providing deep hydration and incredible softness. It works well with As I Am Smoothing Gel.”

Using a liquid or cream leave-in conditioner is a matter of preference and As I Am has two cream based leave-in conditioners:

What causes white residue?

  • Applying too much product in the hair can cause it
  • Products lines, like As I Am, work synergistically. Using products outside of a line to react in a negative way.
  • Know the product you are working with. As I Am Smoothing Gel is designed to provide moisture, shine, and hold to the hair. It also rinses easily when cleansed and won’t harden, dry, or roughen hair.

Curly Hair Solutions

"Our Curl Keeper Gel must be applied on wet hair. It can be used in conjunction with other Curl Keeper products including the Curl Keeper Leave in Conditioner. The need for a moisturizer really depends on your curl type, whether your hair is prone to dryness, the time of year, and where you live will 100% affect your hair. Taking those external factors into consideration--you know your hair--so add a moisturizer if you need it.

Liquid versus cream moisturizer will depend on how fine or coarse your hair is. If your hair is fine, then a liquid moisturizer might be best, so it won’t weigh your hair down. Coarser, thicker hair would most likely benefit from a cream moisturizer, as it’s thicker, but keep in mind the more hair you have, the more you may have to use. 

Our products do not leave a white residue, as they are without silicones, oils, and grease." -Elisabetta Denton, Marketing and Communications Manager at Curly Hair Solutions


"The response to this question may vary depending upon what type of curl styling product you're using, but as a general rule of thumb, I advise applying product to damp hair. The reason being is that when the hair is too wet, it can dilute out the product formula, making the benefits of the product less effective on the hair. For example, many styling products contain key ingredient complexes (i.e. that are meant to tame frizz) at very specific levels. If these levels are then mixed with substantial amounts of water from the application to wet hair, you may notice a weaker product performance. The preference of liquid or cream leave-in conditioner is really up to the consumer. Provided both are applied correctly, they should both be just as effective as conditioning the hair - though some find spray leave-ins easier to apply, especially if you're also applying your leave-in on the scalp.

Oftentimes white reside is caused by mixing two different products (i.e. cocktailing) that don't play nice with each other. Products that are heavy in oils often don't mix well with water-based products, so small white coagulations may occur. As a rule of thumb, I recommend mixing the two products in your hand and if you notice clumping, it's a good sign that mixing both products in your hair may result in small white clumps.

I recommend the praying hands method when applying hair gel to damp hair. I often like to apply a leave-in first, and then layer the gel on top. Most gels contain polymers that give the product hold while also sealing the hair cuticle. Layering a gel on top of a moisturizing product helps to further seal in the moisture. Finish with air or diffuse-drying your curls." -Nancy Twine, Founder of Briogeo

So there you have it. Tips from the brands themselves on how to cocktails and apply their hair gels to your curls, coils, and waves without fuss.

What other product applications do you want to learn from the experts?