We see the brightly colored packaging in the aisles. We watch the glossy ads of women with larger-than-life hair say you can have “75% more definition!” – but what is going into your best hair gel products? What makes the best hair gel different from a bad gel. What is that thick, sticky liquid doing to your hair? Cosmetic chemist Tonya McKay breaks down the science of hair gels for us what you spend your money on and put on your body is no secret to you.
Before you try one gel and make up your mind about gels as a whole, understand that the properties of hair gel are highly dependent upon its formulation (which ingredients are present and in what composition), your hair type, the other products in your hair, and the climate in which you live.
Why use styling products?
A styling product helps to provide shape and hold to a style by forming a film on the hair that creates physical bonds between adjacent strands, holding them in place. One method of achieving this is spot welding. Here droplets of the product are applied at critical junctures to hold the hair in place. Hair sprays perform in this manner and are useful in providing hold to hair.
Another method of creating hold is known as seam welding and involves the application of a product down the length of the hair shaft, which facilitates the formation of physical bonds between adjacent hair strands. This creates the clumping effect so often desired by people with curly hair. These types of products also impart volume to the hair by increasing stiffness from the root, which lifts it away from the scalp. Gels, hair crèmes, waxes, and mousse provide hold via the seam welding mechanism. This type of hold is very susceptible to disruption due to physical manipulation, such as combing, touching, and windy conditions.
What is a gel?
A gel is a colloidal dispersion of particles (ranging from nanometers to micrometers in size) in a liquid medium. The solid particles (oftentimes polymers) form a network throughout the liquid that swells and forms a jelly-like mass. Gels are comprised mostly of liquid but can appear like solids when at rest. The application of force allows these gels to flow like liquids, which makes them useful for many applications, such as hair care products. In a hair gel, the product has a thick consistency in the bottle but should come out of the container easily and spread evenly on the hair. As the product is applied, the polymers deposit onto the surface of the hair and cause adjacent strands to be attracted to one another through capillary forces, creating clumps of curls.
Water evaporates slowly from the hair, and the polymers dry to form clear films. These solid films help maintain curl and shine until the bonds are either broken via mechanical forces (combing, touching, windy conditions) or until the product is removed by washing.
The composition of the best hair gel
- water as the main ingredient
- polymers for film-forming
- emulsifiers for non-water soluble components
- viscosity modifiers (thickeners, such as caromed)
- additives are used to impart moisture, shine, and UV protection, and to modify the properties of the film that is formed.
- Modification of the film properties of hair gels is the subject of continuing research and development, both at the academic and corporate levels. The reason for this lies in the fact that no current polymer or combination of polymers provides the perfect set of properties.
- Some polymers provide excellent hold, but are too brittle and can cause flaking or style disruption throughout the day. Others may get around the problem of being brittle but may be susceptible to moisture and cause frizzy or dull hair in humid environments.
Still, others may provide all the desired hold and shine properties and are indifferent to climate, but may be difficult to remove with shampoo and can cause unattractive build-up problems. It is also desirable that a hair gel maintain its properties over a broad range of temperatures, which can be another difficult obstacle to overcome.
Some of the more frequently used polymer fixative agents include, but are not limited to, the following
- PVP (poly N-vinyl-2-pyrrolidone) is an excellent film-former that is substantive to hair, forms clear films, and is completely water-soluble. However, 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 (which leads to better hold in damp weather conditions) and is more flexible in dry weather so it doesn’t flake, but is not as substantive to hair.
- PVP/VA copolymer provides an excellent compromise between the properties of each of these polymers individually.
- Polyurethane (good thermal stability), acrylic copolymer, polyacrylates, acrylates copolymer, and other copolymers are also all hold agents found in hair gels.
- Cationic polymers (Polyquaternium): These positively-charged polymers are very substantive to the negatively-charged surfaces of human hair. For this reason, some cationic polymers are useful in hair styling applications. They form clear, glossy films and decrease the static-charge buildup and fly-away hair. They typically provide good wet and dry combing results and impart a smooth feel to the hair.
- Polyquaternium-4: is a superior film-former on the hair, and has been found to exhibit very high curl retention even in humidity. It is very substantive to hair but exhibits little build-up. It is very stiff due to its molecular structure and is thus outstanding for use in hair gels.
- Polyquaternium-11: is a copolymer of VP/DMAEMA (vinyl prolix done and dimethylamino ethyl methacrylate). As a copolymer of VP and an acrylate, it is less susceptible to humidity than VP photopolymer. However, it may have more potential for failure due to humidity than polyquaternium-4. Polyquaternium-11 is generally recommended for mousses and creams, where it can moisturize as well as aid in styling. This polymer is water-miscible, but not water-soluble. This could lead to some build-up over time if one were not using a clarifying shampoo occasionally. There are many more polymers, copolymers, and combinations of polymers. Many of these provide better instability, more softness, and a tougher film with better hold. We may explore some of these newer ideas and technologies in a future article.
If you live in a humid, hot environment, you should avoid a product containing PVP as an ingredient. If you are in a dry, cold climate, you should seek a product with Polyquaternium-11. Humectant additives–panthenol, propylene glycol, glycerin–may help product performance in a dry climate also but may be disastrous in a humid one. As always, experimentation will be necessary to find the product that is right for you and your hair.
Best Women’s Hair Gels for 2022
Want to know which hair gel for women is best for you? Keep scrolling to find your perfect match! Once you find the right one, you’ll be able to create all your five looks.
Mega Hold best hair Gel Spray
If you’re looking for a hair gel for women that can do it all, you’ll love the VO5 Mega Hold Gel Spray! Conveniently, this gel comes in spray format, which means you apply it to where you need it the most.
This non-sticky gel spray is great for managing frizz, slicking down flyaways, and giving your hair a polished finish.
Air Dry Natural Hold Gel
If you’re looking for a gel that will help to define your curls, this is all you need. Not only does the Trireme Botanies Air Dry Natural Hold Gel smell refreshing (thanks to its coconut and cactus fragrance. It also helps to enhance natural waves and curls like a dream.
Wet Look Styling’s best hair gel
The VO5 Wet Look Styling Gel is designed specifically. It will look hairstyle the runways and celebrities adore. It provides 24-hour hold and can keep your look in place even in very high humidity, making it perfect for year-round wear.
Balsam Ultra Strong Gel
Great for all hair types, the Alberto Balsam Ultra Strong Gel is great for those of you who want to create long-lasting hairstyles (trust us, your hair
won’t move an inch!).
This is also the ideal hair gel for women looking to lay down their baby hairs and smooth frizz.
The gel-meets-wax hybrid formula of Gel Wax makes it perfect
for styling shorter cropped and pixie cuts. It has a natural shine finish, which gives hair a neat and polished look, so you can rest assured your style will stay looking flawless.
Firm Hold Styling’s best hair gel
If you’re looking for a hair gel for fine hair, we’ve found it. When applied to damp hair, the VO5 Firm Hold Styling Gel not only provides hold but also adds fullness and lift at the roots.
Alberto Balsam Wet Look Gel
Recreating the wet-look hair trend can be tricky – you want to strike the right balance between looking wet and glossy but not greasy.
Thankfully, that’s exactly what the Alberto Balsam Wet Look Gel does best. This non-sticky gel gives hair an instant wet look effect (à la Kim K) but doesn’t make hair greasy at all and washes out easily, too.
Mega Hold Styling Gel
Apply the Mega Hold Styling Gel in the morning and your hair will
seriously stay in place. Day Long. The max-hold, weatherproof formula locks your look in place, so even if it’s damp or humid outside, you’ve got one less thing.
Volume Boost Gel Spray
The accommodation of hairspray and hold of a gel consolidate in the VO5 Volume Boost Gel Spray. This splash in gel gives hair observably more body – apply to clammy hair, zeroing in on the roots, and dry your hair topsy turvy to accomplish the most volume.
Step-by-step instructions to Use Hair Gel (Female)
Since we’ve separated a portion of our most loved go-to hair gels, continue to peruse for our top tips on the best way to application
Use Hair Gel to Style Short Hair
With regards to styling more limited trims, hair gel for ladies is splendid for accomplishing an assortment of looks. We will use it to smooth down your locks and look over it back for a sharp and smooth ’80s-propelled ‘do (likewise enormous on the runways this season). Also to make a more gleaming, voluminous completion.
Work it through your hair before blow-drying in reverse with a brush to accomplish a fair fortress that will endure day in and day out.
On the off chance that you’re battling to tame your frizz. The littlest spot of hair gel joined with smoothing serum makes for a strong mixed drink. It will assist with quieting fuzzy hair, without overloading it, or getting flaky.
Blend in the center of your hands. Apply it to your braids previously or after blow-drying to get a sleeker impact. It will help exile annoying flyaways, as well.
Hair gel for ladies isn’t only for making enchanting shapes and surfaces. They can assist you with accomplishing volume, as well.
“Attempt the Mega Hold Gel Spray,” suggests Dan Lines. “Use it related to a hairdryer and it’ll assist with supporting volume also. So it’s similar to an extremely delicate variant of a mousse. Assuming you splash it on to wet hair and let it dry, it will fresh.
Make Wet Look Hair
Need to work that wet look you’ve seen such a great deal on the runways, all things considered?
All things considered, presently you can!
“Assuming that you consolidate the Mega Hold Gel Spray and the VO5 Big Volume Mousse together.
Hair gel is a flexible hold item. it has different users all across the globe. Either for whole styles or fast final details when a solid, stronghold is the need.
Whenever abused, the gel can make a lot of solidness. When utilized appropriately it can prompt a simple look rapidly and without any problem.