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30 Best Curly Hair Gels and the Key Ingredients to Look For

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

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As warmer weather brings inevitable frizz to curly hair, modern hair gels offer a solution. The key to choosing the right gel lies in its ingredients. Unlike older gels that left hair crunchy, today’s options focus on nourishment, definition, and hold, coming in various textures from dense to creamy.

The best hair gels for curly hair will help reduce flyaways and frizz, keep your hairstyle in place, and protect it from harmful external elements like the weather. Here are the cornerstone ingredients you should look for in curly hair gels: styling polymers for hold and definition, thickening agents for consistency, and moisturizing elements for nourishment and moisture.

Drawing on my expertise as a beauty editor and extensive personal testing of hair gels (I even include some video footage and photos of my results), I’ve curated a list of 30 top-performing options specifically designed for curly hair.

For a detailed understanding of what to look for and what to avoid, towards the end of the article is a comprehensive guide where I’ll be covering aspects such as hair type and other key factors for making an informed purchase.

My Top 30 Favorites

Image of Pinterest pin titled "Key ingredients 30 best curly hair gels."

To facilitate your review, we’ve included the ingredient lists for each product. I’ve also highlighted key details such as whether the gel is protein-free, which curly hair types it’s most effective for, and its suitability for color-treated hair.

It’s important to note that these hair products may not be the most up-to-date. For the most accurate and current information, we recommend looking at the details on the product bottle. Additionally, be sure to verify the size of the product, as it may differ across various sites.

#1 Dippity-Do Girls with Curls Light Hold Gelee

Achieve soft, silky curls and waves with a natural light hold that will not leave your hair dull or crunchy. It contains natural aloe, vitamin E, and wheat protein to help work to eliminate frizzy texture while calming curls for all-day definition.

This gel is gluten-free, safe for color-treated hair, and works best with wavy to curly hair types.

Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, PVP, Sorbitol, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Polysorbate 20, Tetrasodium EDTA, Propylene Glycol, Panthenol, Parfum/Fragrance, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Benzophenone-4, Benzyl Benzoate, Red 33 (CI 17200).

#2 Lus Brands Irish Sea Moss Gel

This curly hair gel features a unique formula enriched with Irish Sea Moss, an ingredient capable of holding up to 50 times its weight in water for superior hydration.

Combined with a blend of passion fruit, açai, and rice bran oil, the gel effectively reduces frizz while eliminating the need for silicones, ultimately leaving your hair with a lustrous shine.

This gel is safe for color-treated hair and works well with wavy to curly hair types.

Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Chondrus Crispus (Irish Sea Moss) Extract, Passiflora Edulis (Passion Fruit) Seed Oil, Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Fruit Oil, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Extract, Polyquaternium-37, Sorbitol, Polyquaternium-69, Behentrimonium Chloride, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Citric Acid, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Fragrance/Parfum.

#3 Curls So So Def Vitamin C Curl Defining Jelly

This affordable jelly is specially formulated with Vitamin C to invigorate your curls, adding body and bounce. Enriched with a blend of essential vitamins—A, B1, B6, and C.

This curly hair gel is safe for color-treated hair (my hair was red at the time I used it) and works for all curly types!

Ingredients: Water, Sorbitol, Polyacrylate-14, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Polysorbate 20, Ananas Sativus, Certified Organic Fruit Pineapple Extract, Certified Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Keratin, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Silk Amino Acids, Panthenol, Shea Butter, Certified Organic Mango Seed Butter, Certified Organic Argan Kernel Oil, Certified Organic Evening Primrose Oil, Jojoba Esters, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer Aminomethyl Propanol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Pineapple Fruit Fragrance, Sodium Hydroxide.

My results are in the video below.

YouTube video

#4 Pattern Beauty Curl Gel

This medium-hold gel will deliver resilient and juicy curls because it’s infused with aloe vera, coconut oil, and cacay oil, enhancing curl definition and adding a healthy shine to your curls.

This curly gel is safe for color-treated hair and works best for type 3 and type 4 curly/coily hair.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua, Eau), Glycerin, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Sodium Benzoate, Citric Acid, Sodium Sulfite, Potassium Sorbate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Cetrimonium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Wheat Amino Acids, Fragrance (Parfum), Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium EDTA, Hydrolyzed Silk, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Phenethyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Glycol, Caryodendron Orinocense Seed Oil, Amyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Benzoate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citronellol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellol, Limonene, Linalool.

#5 As I Am Curling Jelly

This curl-defining gel minimizes hair shrinkage and maximizes natural stretch for more elongated curls. Enriched with nature’s top moisturizing and curl-boosting ingredients, it locks in moisture, giving your curls bounce.

This gel is safe for color-treated hair and works best for type 3 and type 4 curls. It is also great for coarse textures.

Ingredients: Aqueous (Water, Aqua Purificada, Purified) Extracts: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf¹ and Beta Vulgaris (Beet) Root, Glycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Xanthan Gum, Pectin, Citric Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate, Potassium Sorbate, Diazolidinyl Urea (and) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Fragrance/Parfum, Limonene.

#6 Adwoa Baomint Moisturizing Curl Defining Gel

This versatile cream-gel hybrid is specifically formulated for medium to thick hair, delivering a flake-free medium hold.

This vegan and cruelty-free gel is safe for color-treated hair and works best for wavy, curly, coily, and kinky hair textures. This gel is also It is protein-free, making it a well-rounded addition to your haircare regimen.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Adansonia Digitata (Baobab) Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Fractionated Coconut Oil), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Opuntia Ficus Indica (Prickly Pear) Seed Oil, Phthalates Free Fragrance, Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) Seed Oil, Acrylates Copolymer, Polyquaternium,-11, Xanthan Gum, Dehydroacetic Acid, Benzyl Alcohol, Carbomer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Lavandula (Lavender) Spica Oil, Gaultheria Procumbens (Wintergreen) Oil, Mentha Viridis (Spearmint) Leaf Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract.

#7 Aunt Jackie’s Flaxseed Don’t Shrink Curling Gel

If you’re grappling with curl shrinkage, this lightweight styling gel offers the stretch you need without leaving your hair crunchy.

It’s suitable for wet and dry applications and designed to provide a soft hold, making it perfect for curly and coily hair types. Plus, it’s color-safe.

Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Carbomer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Phenoxyethanol, PVP, Polysorbate 20, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Parfum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Tetrasodium EDTA, Potassium Sorbate, Linum Usitatissimum Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Linalool, Amyl Cinnamal, Butylphenyl Methylpropional.

My hair results using the Aunt Jackie's elongating flaxseed gel.
The key to using this gel is not to use too much! A little goes a long way.

#8 Aussie Instant Freeze 20-Hour Hold Hair Gel

If achieving a gel cast has been a challenge for you, this maximum-hold hair gel could be the solution. Infused with jojoba oil and sea kelp, it not only provides a strong hold but it will also delight your senses with its citrus and aquatic fragrance. It’s ideal for all curl types, this gel is both color-safe and protein-free.

Ingredients: Water/​Eau, Laureth-23, Polyquaternium-4, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Benzyl Alcohol, Acrylates/​Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Copolymer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Dmdm Hydantoin, Fragrance/​Parfum, Acrylates Copolymer, Disodium EDTA, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Ecklonia Radiata Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil.

Aussie Instant Freeze Hair
$9.61 ($1.37 / Ounce)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Aussie
03/21/2024 06:49 pm GMT

#9 Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control

This lightweight, non-sticky gel doesn’t contain silicones (for those strictly following the Curly Girl Method). It’s formulated with rice amino acids and quinoa and smooths the hair cuticles while adding shine.

This hair gel is suitable for all curl types. Plus, it’s color-safe for those with treated hair.

Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, VP/VA Copolymer, Carrageenan*, Glycerin*, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract*, Lactobacillus/Tomato Fruit Ferment Extract*, Rice Amino Acids*, Hydrolyzed Quinoa*, Keratin Amino Acids*, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil*, Tocopheryl Acetate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil*, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Oil*, Polysorbate 80, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate*, Acyl Coenzyme A Desaturase*, Fragrance (Parfum), Dehydroacetic Acid, Benzyl Alcohol.

* Coconut, vegetable, or plant-derived.

#10 Bounce Curl Light Creme Hair Gel

This styling gel offers a light, soft hold that helps maintain your curls’ shape while minimizing frizz. Infused with its flagship ingredient, black seed oil, the gel leaves your hair feeling light and manageable.

It’s suitable for all curl types and is color-safe.

Ingredients: Water, VP/VA copolymer, Glycerin, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Jojoba Esters, Hydrolyzed quinoa protein, Hydrolyzed Oat protein, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Panax Ginseng root Extract, Salvia Officlnalis (Sage) Extract, *Nigella Sativa (Virgin Black Cumin) Oil, Boswellia Carter Oil, Aminomethyl Propanol, Carbomer, Sodium Phytate, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, **Fragrance (100% Natural Fragrance).

*Certified Organic **New 100% Natural Fragrance.

Image of my results with the Bounce curl gel.
Here are my results with the Bounce Curl gel. This is my favorite and go-to gel!
Bounce Curl Light Creme Hair Gel
$25.98 ($3.25 / Fl Oz)

Use 'muse' at Bounce Curl's checkout for a discount.

Buy at Amazon Buy at Bounce Curl
03/19/2024 02:21 pm GMT

#11 Bumble and bumble Anti-Humidity Gel Oil

This unique gel-oil blend adds moisture, bounce, and sheen to your hair and offers humidity and UV protection to shield your curls from frizz and sun damage. This formulation is color-safe, protein-free, and ideal for curly and coily hair types.

Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycerin, Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan), PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Caprylyl Glycol, Tocopherol, Sucrose, Ethylhexylglycerin, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Xanthan Gum, Octyldodecyl Citrate Crosspolymer, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, BHT, Fragrance (Parfum), Citral, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Linalool, Geraniol, Limonene, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol.

#12 Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker

This gel is formulated to define your curls, add shine, and provide hold without making your hair feel heavy. It combines aloe vera juice, marshmallow, and agave extracts to leave your curls soft, shiny, and bouncy without any gummy or crunchy texture. It is suitable for curly and coily hair types and is color-safe and protein-free.

Ingredients: Deionized Water, Pectin, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Panthenol, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Leaf/Root Extract, Agave Americana (Agave) Leaf Extract, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail) Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Leaf Extract, Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Xanthan Gum, Chondrus (Seaweed) Crispus Powder, Polysorbate 20, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B-12), Phenoxyethanol (Optiphen ND), Caprylyl Glycol, Phthalate Free Fragrance.

Camille Rose Curl Maker
$26.99 $15.83 ($1.32 / Fl Oz)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Target
03/24/2024 12:03 pm GMT

#13 Curls Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Jelly

This curly hair gel is designed to define, defrizz, and maintain your curl’s shape; this jelly features organic blueberry extract and raw castor oil that leaves your hair soft and shiny. Since it’s formulated more like a gel than a cream, a small dab is all you need for effective results. This gel is suitable for all curl types, and it is also color-safe.

Ingredients: Water, Sorbitrol, Polyacrylate-14, Hydrogenated Castor Oil (seeds co pressed from the ricinus communis plant), Certified Organic Blueberry Leaf Extract, Certified Organic Aloe Leaf Juice, Keratin, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Silk Amino Acids, Panthenol, Certified Organic Shea Butter, Certified Organic Mango Seed Butter, Certified Organic Argan Oil, Certified Organic Evening Primose, Jojoba Esters, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tetrheyldecyl Ascorbate, Carbomer, Aminomethyl Propanol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Tetrasodium EDTA, Fragrance, Citric Acid.

Curls Blueberry Bliss Control Jelly
$19.49 $14.97 ($1.87 / Fl Oz)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Target
03/24/2024 08:58 am GMT

#14 Curl Keeper Original Liquid Styler

This hair gel formula is water-based, ensuring that your hair won’t feel crunchy or experience product buildup. Although it has a liquidity texture, it offers a strong hold that’s particularly effective in humid conditions. It is suitable for all curl types and is color-safe and protein-free.

Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, VP/VA Copolymer, Propylene glycol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Glycerin, DMDM Hydantoin, Oleth-20, Parfum, Polyquaternium-10, Fragrance (Amylcinnamyl Alcohol, Limonene, Linalool).

#15 Curls The Ultimate Styling Collection B N Control Curl Sculpting Gel

This botanical gel is crafted with certified organic aloe leaf juice, offering both conditioning benefits and a firm hold for your curls. Ideal for wash-and-go styles, this natural hair gel accommodates a range of needs as it’s safe for color-treated hair and protein-free.

Ingredients: Water, Sorbitol, VP/NA Copolymer, Polysorbate 20, Polyacrylate-14, Polyquaternium-7, Glycerin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Biosaccharide Gum-1, PEG-12 Dimethicone, Panthenol, Fragrance, Carbomer, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Sodium Hydroxide, FD&C Yellow 5, D&C Blue 1.

#16 EcoSlay Orange Marmalade Curl Definer Gel

This product is enhanced with crucial flaxseed extract; this lightweight gel delivers remarkable curl definition and a firm hold. Beyond its styling prowess, I noticed that this gel moisturizes your hair, imparting an immediate, noticeable shine to your curls. It is suitable for all curl types and is both color-safe and protein-free.

Ingredients: Flaxseed extract, Agave nectar extract, Pectin, Aloe Vera juice, Marshmallow Root extract, Vitamin E, Xanthan Gum, Optiphen Plus, Sweet Orange Essential Oil.

#17 Eco Styling Gel with Olive Oil

This strong-hold gel is a versatile pick for all curl types and is designed to impart both shine and definition to your hair. This versatile gel is ideal for all hair types and serves a dual purpose: it’s commonly used for edge control but can also be applied throughout your hair for overall styling.

It is alcohol-free, ensures your hair stays hydrated, and can be conveniently applied to wet or dry hair daily.

Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Pvp, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Polysorbate 20, Tetrasodum Edta, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil), Fragrance (Parfum), Ci19140 Yellow 5.

Eco Style Gel Olive Oil Styling
$6.19 ($0.77 / Ounce)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Target
03/24/2024 02:23 pm GMT

#18 Giovanni L.A Hold Styling Gel

This strong hold gel, enriched with aloe and mallow extract, offers both definition and shine without containing alcohol or weighing your hair down. It’s been awhile since I’ve used this gel, but it truly is a good one and is super affordable. It’s suitable for all curl types and is color-safe.

Ingredients: Aqua (Purified Water), VP/VA Copolymer, Hydroxyethylcellulose (plant derived), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Citric Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Fragrance (includes essential oils), *Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, *Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, *Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, *Betula Alba Extract, *Malva Sylvestris (Mallow) Extract, *Achillea Millefolium Extract, *Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, *Equisetum Arvense Extract, *Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract, *Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, *Salvia Sclarea (Clary) Extract, *Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Extract, *Tussilago Farfara (Coltsfoot) Flower Extract, *Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract.

*USDA Certified Organic.

#19 Innersense Organic Beauty I Create Hold

This gel provides a soft, crunch-free hold, perfect for medium to thick curls. Formulated with certified organic ingredients like aloe, water, and honey, it hydrates and adds a natural shine to your hair. Plus, it’s color-safe.

Ingredients: water/aqua/eau, aloe barbadensis gel*, hydroxyethylcellulose, maltodextrin copolymer, potassium hydroxide, gluconolactone, sodium benzoate, calcium gluconate, alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, citrus aurantium dulcis peel oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, potassium sorbate, sodium phytate, glycerin*, chamomilla recutita (matricaria) flower extract*, eucalyptus globulus leaf extract*, ginkgo biloba leaf extract*, aspalathus linearis leaf extract*, honey extract*, limonene†.

*Certified Organic. †A natural component of essential oils.

#20 Jessicurl Spiralicious Styling Gel

This aloe-based gel offers a soft, crunch-free hold while infusing your hair with moisture and a refreshing citrus scent. It’s suitable for all curl types, color-safe, and protein-free.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Polyquaternium-69, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Lavandula Officinalis (Lavender) Flower Oil, Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange) Peel Oil Expressed, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Panthenol, Polyquaternium-11, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Alcohol, Limonene, Linalool.

Jessicurl, Spiralicious Gel
$18.85 ($2.36 / Fl Oz)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Jessicurl
03/21/2024 06:44 pm GMT

#21 Kenra Styling Gel 17

If you need a gel with a strong hold, get this one. It’s a lightweight and alcohol-free gel and helps provide a firm hold while resisting humidity. This product is best suited for medium to coarse hair textures and all curl types, including straight hair. It is also safe for use on color-treated hair.

Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, VP/VA Copolymer, VP/Dimethylaminoethylmethacrylate Copolymer, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Polysorbate 20, Imidazolidinyl Urea, DMDM Hydantoin, Parfum/Fragrance, Methylparaben, Propylene Glycol, Ethoxydiglycol, Glucose, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Extract, Tussilago Farfara (Coltsfoot) Flower Extract, Equisetum Arvense Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Hydrolyzed Silk, Benzophenone-9.

#22 Kinky-Curly Original Curling Custard

This highly recommended hair gel is perfect for all curl types and is especially effective for low-porosity hair, thanks to its super moisturizing formula.

It offers soft clumping, moisture, and definition without weighing your hair down. Plus, it’s safe for colored hair and is both protein-free and gluten-free.

Ingredients: Botanical Infusion Of Water, Horsetail, Chamomile, Nettle, Marshmallow, Organic Aloe Vera Juice, Agave Nectar Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Pectin, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Natural Fragrance.

#23 LA Looks Extreme Sport Alcohol-Free Hair Gel 

This gel is ideal for wavy hair types, offering a strong hold and definition without making your hair crunchy. Formulated without alcohol, it won’t dry out your hair and is suitable for all climates, controlling your hair even in high humidity. Plus, it’s safe for color-treated hair.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), PVP, Sorbitol, Oleth-20, Carbomer, Propylene Glycol, Aminomethyl Propanol, Parfum (Fragrance), Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Tetrasodium EDTA, Benzophenone 4, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Ci 42090 (Blue 1), Ci 60730 (Ext Violet 2), Keratin Amino Acids, Rahnella/​Soy Protein Ferment, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Panthenyl Ethyl Ether, Glyceryl Acrylate/​Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Polysorbate 20, Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1.

LA Looks Sport Xtreme Hold Gel
$7.30 $6.95 ($0.35 / Fl Oz)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Walmart
03/24/2024 12:11 pm GMT

#24 Mop Top Curly Hair Custard Gel

This curly hair gel will define your curls without the hard crunch. It offers definition and shine and ensures a lightweight hold that won’t weigh down your curls. It is an alcohol-free formula for all curl types and color-treated hair.

Ingredients: Water, glycerin, carboxymethylcellulose, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, pectin, hydroxypropyltrimonium honey, silk amino acids, hypnea musciformis extract (seaweed), gelidiella acerosa extract (seaweed), sargassum filipendula (seaweed) extract, sorbitol, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, salix alba (willow) bark extract, urtica dioica (nettle) extract, ethylhexylglycerin, phenoxyethanol, citrus senensis oil, citrus limon oil, citrus aurantifolia oil, citrus paradisi oil, fragrance (phthalate free).

MopTop Curly Hair Custard Gel
$17.99 ($2.25 / Fl Oz)
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03/22/2024 02:08 pm GMT

#25 MopTop Salon Anti-Frizz Medium Hold Gel

If you’re battling frizz or living in humid conditions, this medium-hold gel could be your new go-to. Infused with nourishing sea botanicals and honey, it defines your curls and adds a radiant shine. Moreover, it’s humidity-resistant, making it an excellent option for keeping frizz at bay.
Great for all curl types and safe color-treated hair.

Ingredients: Water, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, methacrylic acid/sodium acrylamidomethyl propane sulfonate copolymer, silk amino acids, hypnea musciformis extract, gelidiella acerosa extract, sargassum filipendula extract, arnica montana flower extract, urtica dioica (nettle) extract, anthemis nobilis (chamomile) flower extract, spirulina maxima extract, panthenol, sorbitol, glycerin, hydroxypropyltrimonium honey, hydroxyethylcellulose, polyquaternium-4, polyquaternium-10, cetrimonium chloride, tetrasodium edta, phenoxyethanol, ethylhexylglycerin, fragrance.

#26 Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat and Humidity Gel

This is my go-to gel to combat humidity and protect my curls from heat and UV damage. It is lightweight and has a thin-like consistency. Its Anti-Frizz Nano Technology provides advanced frizz protection, making it ideal for wavy and curly types. Plus, it’s safe to use on color-treated hair.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Butylene Glycol, Polyquaternium-28, Sericin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Panthenol, Polyquaternium-7, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Actinidia Chinensis (Kiwi) Fruit Extract, Lawsonia Inermis (Henna) Extract, Wheat Amino Acids, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein/PVP Crosspolymer, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Glycerin, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Behentrimonium Chloride, Cetrimonium Chloride, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, VP/DMAPA Acrylates Copolymer, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Hexylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Potassium Sorbate, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum).

#27 Shea Moisture Daily Hydration Styling Gel 

This curly hair gel is alcohol-free and is a hydrating styling solution that avoids hard crunchiness. It provides a medium hold that will keep your style intact while leaving your strands soft and smooth. It’s enriched with coconut milk, acacia senegal, and a creamy blend of 100% virgin coconut and shea oils, making it suitable for all hair types. Additionally, it’s safe for color-treated hair and free from proteins.

Ingredients: Water, Glycerin (Vegetable), PVP, Maltodextrin/VP Copolymer, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Juice, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Pullulan, Sorbitol, Trehalose, Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose, Gluconolactone, Sodium Benzoate, Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hydrolyzed Corn Starch, Calcium Gluconate, Maltodextrin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance.

#28 Shea Moisture Papaya and Neroli Control Milk Gel

This product is an excellent option for moisturizing and controlling frizz in your curls. It adds a hint of moisture and shine while fighting humidity to keep your curls smooth and frizz-free.

Formulated with papaya, juicy neroli, elderflower, and fair trade shea butter, it’s ideal for both curly and wavy hair types. Plus, it’s safe for color-treated hair and protein-free.

Ingredients: Aqua, Glycerin (Vegetable/ Végétale), PVP, Sclerotium Gum, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter***, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Flower Oil, Sambucus Nigra (Elderflower) Extract, Panthenol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polyquaternium-11, Polyquaternium-7, Maltodextrin/VP Copolymer, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Triethyl Citrate, Benzoic Acid, Parfum.

#29 Uncle Funky’s Daughter Curly Magic Curl Stimulator

This aloe-based gel offers a firm hold that is perfect for enhancing the definition, shine, and hold of your curls. It’s effective for taming frizz, elongating curls, and increasing moisture. It’s suitable for all curl types, color-safe, and contains protein and gluten.

Ingredients: Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe Vera) Extract Juice, Aqueous – Infused Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail) Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Agave Tequilana (Agave Nectar) Extract, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Natural Fragrance.

#30 Wetline Xtreme Professional Extra Hold Wet Line Styling Gel

This budget-friendly styling gel is free of ethyl alcohol and offers extra hold without leaving any residue. It’s suitable for all hair types and is color-safe, protein-free, and gluten-free.

Ingredients: Aqua/​Water/​Eau), Glycerin, Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide, Polyacrylate-2 Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Parfum/​Fragrance, Sodium Polyacrylate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Hydroxycitronellal, Panthenol, Methoxycinnamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Ext. Violet 2 (Ci 60730), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice.

Key Ingredients to Look For

Image of hair gel that is opened.

Curly hair gels are crafted to offer definition, texture, and moisture to your curls. 1,2 The effectiveness of these gels depends on several types of ingredients like styling polymers, proteins, oils, thickening agents, and moisturizers.

You’ll also find gels in varying levels of hold—strong, medium, or low—to suit your specific needs for durability and humidity resistance.

Styling Polymers: Holding Agents

Styling polymers are the backbone of any hair gel.3 They provide the hold, body, and texture to your hairstyle. These polymers could either be anionic or non-ionic large molecules.

Examples of styling polymers:

  • Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP)
  • PVP/VA Copolymer
  • Acrylates Copolymer
  • Vinylpyrrolidone (VP)/vinyl acetate (VA) copolymer
  • Polyquaternium – 11
  • Polyquaternium-16
  • Polyquaternium – 28
  • Polyquaternium – 69

Ideal polymers should:

  • Create an even layer over each strand of hair.
  • Dry rapidly to form a stable, rigid outer layer.
  • Leave no visible flakes after drying.
  • Withstand humidity without compromising the integrity of the styling film.
  • Remain non-sticky to the touch.
  • Wash out effortlessly during shampooing.
  • Prevent product accumulation or build-up on hair.

PVP is a foundational styling polymer in hair care but has been criticized for leaving white flakes upon drying. Improved vinyl-based versions have been developed to better adhere to hair, reduce flaking, and extend hairstyle longevity.

Other critical ingredients also play roles in ensuring strong hold, durability, and an attractive appearance. These include the following below:

Thickening Agents

These increase the gel’s viscosity and help disperse the styling polymer in the water phase. Carbomer has been the go-to choice for creating high-viscosity clear gels. 4 It is a synthetic acrylic polymer that does not pose any dermatological concerns to the skin or hair.

Natural options like xanthan gum modified cellulose are also effective.

Moisturizing Ingredients

Maintaining hair moisture is crucial. Common moisturizing agents include glycerin and propylene glycol, which also improve the solubility of styling polymers and reduce tackiness.

Not only do these multifunctional ingredients add moisture to your hair, but they also improve the solubility of styling polymer and minimize the polymer tackiness. Furthermore, humectants also help combat frizziness under extreme humidity conditions. 

Other moisturizing agents that are often found in hair gel formulations:

  • Propanediol
  • Sodium PCA
  • Acetamide MEA

Other Ingredients

  • A co-solvent or solubilizer – polysorbate 20, or 80 or PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil.
  • Fragrance
  • Preservative – sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, hexylene glycol.

Ingredients to Avoid in Hair Gels

Be cautious of certain ingredients in curly hair gels, as some may cause dryness, build-up, or other adverse effects on your curls.

Drying Alcohols

Some hair gel formulations may contain ethyl alcohol (also called ethanol or denat. Alcohol). It is added to enhance the polymer solubility and improve product clarity.

Alcohol also accelerates the drying time and deposition of styling polymer. However, ethanol is drying alcohol and is known to cause dryness to the scalp and hair and should be avoided.

Harsh Preservatives

Preservatives are required to inhibit microbial growth and extend the shelf-life of the formulation. To prevent any skin irritation, products containing formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, or a blend of thiazolidinediones should be avoided.

Green, mild, and skin-friendly preservatives should be the goal since it stays on the scalp and hair for some time.

How to Choose the Best Curly Hair Gels

When choosing a hair gel for curly hair, several factors come into play to ensure optimal results. These include your specific curl type, hair porosity, ingredient compatibility, and the kind of hold or “gel cast” you desire.

Keep these factors in mind before making your next hair gel purchase:

Curly Hair Type 

Image of the various curly hair types.

First and foremost, consider your specific curl type. This will not only help you gauge the level of hold you need but also guide you in choosing ingredients that will benefit your hair’s overall styling and protection.

For example, those with tighter curls may need light-hold gel but can layer it with a stronger holding gel.

Hair Porosity

Image of hair cuticle showing low porosity, medium porosity, and high porosity.

Hair porosity, or the ability of your hair to absorb and retain moisture, plays a crucial role in how styling products interact with your strands and, ultimately, in the end result of your hairstyle.

Choosing a gel based on your hair’s porosity level can significantly enhance your styling routine. For low-porosity hair, which struggles to absorb moisture, it’s essential to select products that won’t lead to build-up. For tailored advice, read our article “Gels for Low Porosity Hair and Key Ingredients.”

On the other hand, if you have high-porosity hair, that absorbs moisture easily but loses it just as quickly, opt for products specifically designed for this hair type. For a curated list of suitable options, check out our post on “Best Gels For High Porosity Hair: Key Ingredients.”

Product Compatibility 

Often overlooked, the compatibility of a hair gel with other styling products you use is a crucial factor to consider. Mixing products that don’t work well together can lead to issues like flaking, build-up, or even a compromised hairstyle.

Therefore, it’s important to select a gel that works well with your existing hair care regimen, from shampoos and conditioners to leave-in treatments and oils, to ensure the best results and maintain the health and look of your curls.

Gel Cast 

A “gel cast” refers to the protective, hardened shell that forms around each curl when you apply gel and let your hair air-dry. This shell locks in the curl’s shape, safeguarding it from humidity and frizz, and is a key technique for achieving well-defined, frizz-free curls.

Choosing between a hard-hold or a soft-hold gel for creating a gel cast is a matter of personal preference, but there are guidelines to consider:

  • If you’re battling frizz or high humidity levels, a hard-hold gel is ideal for taming unruly strands and providing crisp curl definition.
  • On the other hand, if your curls are naturally well-defined and you’re seeking less rigid hold, a softer-hold gel will enhance your natural curl pattern without making your hair feel stiff.

Experimenting with both types of gels will give you the best insight into what works specifically for your hair.

Applying Gel on Curly Hair: A Step-by-Step Guide

Image of my hair showing the Bounce Curl gel results.
My styling method is always in the following order: leave-in conditioner, curl cream, gel.

Applying gel to curly hair can be a game-changer for defining curls and reducing frizz. There are several methods to ensure even application and optimal results. They are:

The Scrunch 

This method is best for those with loose, undefined curls. To scrunch the gel into your hair, simply apply a generous amount of gel to damp hair and then cup your hair into your hand and scrunch it repeatedly. 

You can also turn your head upside-down and scrunch your hair that way if it’s easier for you. That way, you also get a little extra volume. Always squish from the end up to retain shape and prevent tangles. 

The Finger Coils 

Image of a before an after photo of finger coils in my hair. Best Hair Gel for Curly Hair: The Top 25 of 2023.
Witness the dramatic transformation of my finger coils before and after! Early in my hair journey, I had difficulty defining my curls.

This method is best for those who want a lot of definitions. Start with some gel on damp hair to get and maintain finger coils. Then, use your fingers to twist small sections of hair around each other until they form loops. 

This method may take a little longer, but it will give you the best definition if you have extra time to get ready. 

The Diffuser 

Diffusing your hair is best for those with frizzy or thin and fine hair who want to enhance their curl pattern while keeping the definition.

To diffuse, apply a generous amount of gel to damp hair and then diffuse it on low heat until it is mostly dry. 

This is the easiest and quickest way to style your curls after scrunching. It also provides a slightly better definition than just scrunching. Diffusing is also a great way to dry your hair in the colder months. 

The Wet Hair Look 

This method is best for anyone who wants a lot of definitions for their curl pattern. To get this style, make sure your hair is not sopping wet. Then apply a generous amount of gel to wet hair and then use your fingers or styling tool to help distribute the product throughout the hair. 

The water quantity should be greater than the product for a slippery texture. Once the gel is evenly distributed, you can then style your hair as usual. 

The Soaking Wet Hair Method 

Add a generous amount of gel to soaking wet hair to get the curl definition. This method is best after a shower or if you dip your head into a bowl of water.

It’s best to smooth the product into your hair in sections from roots to ends. This will guarantee that the product is uniformly distributed throughout your hair.  

To finish, you can diffuse, air dry, or follow your method of preference. Once your hair is thoroughly dried – fluff and you’re ready to go. 

Tips for Applying Gel to Curly Hair 

When using a gel, begin with a lower amount of product and add more as needed. Applying too much can lead to result in flaky or crusty hair, leaving it inflexible when styling.The Mestiza Muse

While each method of using gel in your curly hair is effective, there are also specific tips and techniques you can use to get the job done and the best results. Here are some ideas:

Apply the Gel in Sections 

Using your styling tool of choice—whether it’s a wide-tooth comb, Denman brush, or simply your fingers—apply the gel in small sections.

Ensure even distribution from the roots to the ends of each section. After covering all sections, proceed to dry and style your hair as you normally would.

Start with Less Product

This method is best for those new to using hair gel or unsure how much to apply. Start with a small amount (nickel-size) of gel and work it through your hair from roots to ends. If you need more, simply add more until you get the desired result. 

Apply Gel to Damp Hair in Sections

For effective application, start with damp hair and divide it into small sections. Use your fingers or a preferred styling tool to evenly distribute the gel from the roots to the ends.

Once all sections are treated, proceed with your usual styling routine. If you find you need additional hold, feel free to apply more gel incrementally.

Distribute Gel Evenly with the Raking Technique

With your fingers, evenly distribute the gel through your hair, section by section, while it’s still dripping wet. Re-wet each section if necessary for better gel absorption. Once you’ve worked the gel into all sections, proceed to dry and style your hair as you usually would.

Embrace Experimentation to Find Your Ideal Gel

Finding the perfect hair gel is a personalized process; what works for one person might not suit another. Don’t hesitate to explore different gels, application methods, and hold levels to discover what best complements your curls.

By adopting a trial-and-error approach and eliminating what doesn’t yield good results, you’re more likely to find the ideal gel for your specific hair type.


  1. Zviak, C., The Science of Hair Care. Taylor & Francis: 1986. ↩︎
  2. Corbett, J. F., The Chemistry of Hair-care Products. Journal of the Society of Dyers and Colourists 1976, 92 (8), 285-303. ↩︎
  3.  Goddard, E. D.; Gruber, J. V., Principles of polymer science and technology in cosmetics and personal care. CRC press: 1999. ↩︎
  4.  Braun, D. D.; Rosen, M. R., Rheology modifiers handbook: practical use and application. Elsevier: 2013. ↩︎


I’m just a girl who transformed her severely damaged hair into healthy hair. I adore the simplicity of a simple hair care routine, the richness of diverse textures, and the joy of sharing my journey from the comfort of my space.

My mission? To empower others with the tools to restore, and maintain healthy hair, and celebrate the hair they were born with!

My Favourite Things

Great hair goes beyond using shampoos, conditioners, and styling products. Shop my favorite must-haves.

After years of requests, I’m finally sharing my go-to skincare products.

Give your space a quick refresh with these ultimate home decor ideas.

Prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure and make sure to pack these essential items to take with you on your journey.

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Do it now.

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