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A Guide to the Key Ingredients in Gels for Low Porosity Hair

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

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Are you on the hunt for the perfect hair gel for low porosity hair but feeling overwhelmed by the options? You’re not alone. Finding a gel that complements low-porosity hair can be challenging, as not all products are designed with this specific hair type in mind. However, understanding what ingredients to look for can significantly simplify your search.

It’s essential to know which ingredients will best support your hair’s unique needs. Today’s blog will guide you through the key ingredients to consider, including styling and thickening polymers for structure and volume,1,2  moisturizing ingredients to hydrate, emollients to soften, preservatives to ensure product longevity, and fragrances to add a pleasant scent. Each of these ingredients plays a pivotal role in the effectiveness of a hair gel, particularly for those with low-porosity hair, where moisture retention and easy styling are key.

To provide you with the most accurate and helpful information, I’ve consulted with a friend who is both a hair scientist and an experienced cosmetic formulator, holding a PhD in Chemistry. His expertise on the subject will offer invaluable insights into selecting the right gel for low-porosity hair, ensuring you make an informed decision tailored to your hair’s specific characteristics and styling needs.

Top 10 Gels for Low Porosity Hair

We have provided the ingredient lists for each product for your reference. Nevertheless, it is important to know that these lists may be outdated. Therefore, we recommend referring to the information on the product bottle for the most accurate and current details. Also, make sure to check the size of the product, as each site varies.

1. Curl Keeper Original Liquid Styler

This gel will be your new go-to for stunning, effortless curls! Its water-based formula will never leave behind any product build-up, allowing you to use it on your precious curls every day.

Moreover, with its special formulation that gets reactivated by water, the results of this lightweight liquid styler last several days in all weather conditions – from desert heat to humid coastal air – without ever leaving a single frizz standing in sight.

Attention – this gel contains DMDM Hydantoin, so for those with allergies or dermatitis-related issues, please take caution.

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


2. ECO Style Styling Gel with Olive Oil

This gel is infused with 100% pure olive oil to produce a weightless gel that leaves your hair healthy and radiant. The olive oil helps attract moisture to your hair while also aiding in its natural hydration process, all while providing an unbeatable hold. With this styling gel, you can achieve the desired look without compromising on health or shine.

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
$6.19 ($0.77 / Ounce)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Target
03/24/2024 02:23 pm GMT

3. Jessicurl Spiralicious

If you have medium to thick curls, Spiralicious is the perfect product for your hair type. Its superior hold and definition will last days after a wash day while controlling frizz without glycerin or protein. This gel will provide fabulous control with no sacrifice in terms of strength and definition.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Polyquaternium-69, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Panthenol, Polyquaternium-11, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Alcohol.

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

4. Aussie Instant Freeze Gel

This will be your go-to hair product for effortlessly styled and long-lasting curls, waves, or simple straight styles. Not to mention its 20-hour hold that won’t be ruined by humidity! Plus the bonus of a subtle citrus scent – it’ll make you feel as if you’re on vacation no matter where in the world you are.

Best of all? This is PETA-certified cruelty-free!

Note – this gel contains DMDM Hydantoin, so for those with allergies or dermatitis-related issues, please take caution.

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

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

5. MopTop Anti-Frizz Medium Hold Gel

This gel provides a strong hold and keeps frizz at bay, all while leaving your curls feeling smooth and soft to the touch. This specialized formula contains only beneficial ingredients like sea botanicals and honey – it’s water-soluble, silicone-free, paraben-free, and alcohol-free.

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.


6. Curls Blueberry Bliss Jelly

Treat your curls to the ultimate definition and control with our Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Jelly. Formulated with certified organic blueberry extract and pure castor oil, this nourishing jelly provides volume, frizz control, and beautiful bounce.

Ingredients: Water, Sorbitol, Polyacrylate-14, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Certified Organic Aloe Leaf Juice, Certified Organic Blueberry Leaf Extract, Keratin, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Silk Amino Acids, Panthenol, Certified Organic Shea Butter, Certified Organic Mango Seed Butter, Certified Organic Argan Oil, Certified Organic Evening Primrose, Jojoba Esters, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tetrahexyldecyl 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

7. Camille Rose Curl Maker

This luxurious gel is carefully crafted with a delectable blend of marshmallow and agave extracts, creating an indulgent fusion. Coconut and pomegranate oil serve as the foundation for this delightful concoction, which is smoothly balanced by botanical juices like seaweed and aloe vera.

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

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

8. Mielle Organics Honey & Ginger Styling Gel

Crafted with certified organic honey, ginger, aloe extract and babassu oil, this formula is the perfect blend of nourishing ingredients. This gel is best for Types 3A to 4C natural hair.

Ingredients: Aqua (Water), *Glycerin, *Honey, *Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Acrylates Copolymer, *Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, *Orbignya Oleifera (Babassu) Seed Oil, *Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Maltodextrin/VP Copolymer, Althea Offinalis (Marshmallow) Root Extract, Pectin, Parfum (Fragrance), Zingiber Offinale (Ginger) Root Oil*, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Dehydroacetic Acid, Benzyl Alcohol.*CERTIFIED ORGANIC INGREDIENTS.

Mielle Organics Honey & Ginger Styling Gel
$15.00 $12.00 ($0.92 / Fl Oz)
Buy at Amazon Buy at Target
03/24/2024 02:27 pm GMT

9. Curls B Defined Curl Defining Gel

Formulated with organic Quinoa, our high-performance botanical gel offers a medium hold that works wonders on curls and twist-out styles. Use it to protect your hair while adding definition and strength.

Ingredients: Water, Sorbitol, Polyacrylate-14, Polysorbate 20, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Panthenol, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Xanthan Gum, Fragrance, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, Tetrasodium Gutamate Diacetate, Sodium Hydroxide, FD&C Blue 1.


10. Curlsmith Curl Defining Styling Soufflé 

Get bouncy, juicy, and shiny curls with our all-natural vegan jelly that moisturizes your hair while defining it. This super-strong hold souffle ensures a crunchy cast around the hair during drying to fight frizz and boost definition – but don’t worry! This is only temporary: once your hair is dry you can simply “scrunch” upwards to reveal soft results.

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Glycerin, Babassu Oil Polyglyceryl-4 Esters, Sorbitol, Chondrus Crispus (Irish Moss), Fragrance (Parfum), Linum Usitatissimum (Flax) Seed Extract, Carapa Guaianensis (Andiroba) Seed Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil*, Selaginella Lepidophylla (Resurrection Flower) Extract, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Leaf Extract, Piper Nigrum (Black Pepper) Seed Extract, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Glyceryl Caprylate, Glyceryl Undecylenate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Disodium Edta, Citric Acid, Limonene, Linalool.*Organic Ingredient.


What Is Low-Porosity Hair?

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

Porosity for hair is a parameter to describe the nature of hair fiber and the extent of hair damage.

High-porosity hair indicates more damaged fibers due to higher pore density and pore volume. Whereas, low-porosity hair fibers have a relatively low extent of damage.

Individuals with low-porosity hair face a unique challenge when it comes to managing and styling their strands; formulators too find creating specifically tailored formulations for this type of fiber difficult.3 

Low-porosity hair fibers are virgin, non-chemically treated resulting in a relatively low number of pores with low pore volume and less damage.

These hair fibers are more damaged towards the hair ends (tips) while they are healthy and normal towards the roots due to exposure to solar radiation, normal wear and tear, combing, brushing, etc.

Those with low-porosity hair necessitate specialized hair styling products that offer moderate moisture and a sufficient hold to maintain the desired style.

Selecting the Right Hair Styling Gels

Woman with curly hair shopping. Gels for Low Porosity Hair and Key Ingredients.

Selecting the Right Hair Styling Gels for Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair typically boasts a healthy structure, with cuticles that are well-aligned and in good condition. However, the tips of hair fibers can suffer from breakage and loss of cuticles due to factors like excessive brushing. Despite this, low porosity hair doesn’t usually struggle with dryness, but rather with maintaining the right moisture balance.

To cater to the unique needs of low porosity hair, a hair gel must be carefully formulated with a precise mix of ingredients. Achieving the perfect styling effect involves a blend of components designed to enhance the hair’s natural attributes without weighing it down.

The formulation for an effective hair gel for low porosity hair should include:

Styling or Fixative Polymer: A low to medium molecular weight resin that adheres well to the hair fiber, providing hold without stiffness.

Thickening Polymer: Adds texture and viscosity to the gel, ensuring it distributes evenly without being too heavy or too light.

Moisturizing Ingredients: Key for adding hydration to the hair. Common choices include glycerin or propylene glycol, which attract moisture to the hair fibers.

Emollients: These ingredients, such as sunflower oil or shea butter, smooth the hair shaft, adding lubrication for a shiny finish.

Preservatives: Essential for maintaining the shelf-life and efficacy of the gel.

Fragrance: Adds a pleasant scent to enhance the user experience.

Key Ingredients to Look For

Image of woman with curly hair shopping for hair products. Gels for Low Porosity Hair and Key Ingredients.

● Styling Polymers

Polymers are the backbone of any hair styling gel and come in a variety of formulations. These synthetic polymers are designed to adhere to hair fibers, allowing you to style it exactly how you want without fear that it will fall limp within a certain period.

These polymers perform this fixative job by forming a fine polymeric film over the hair shaft. An ideal polymer should hold your hair fibers in place without fail but also dry quickly without leaving any flakes upon drying.

Polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) has been one of the first polymers used in hair styling gel. Unfortunately, it creates extreme flaking after drying and fails to maintain its style when exposed to high levels of humidity.4

If you’re searching for the ideal styling polymers to use on low-porosity hair fibers, opt for the following:

● Acrylates Copolymer

● Vinylpyrrolidone (VP)/vinyl acetate (VA) copolymer

Polyquaternium – 11

● Polyquaternium – 69

The polymer should form a thin, even layer over the shaft that will dry rapidly to effectively “fix” hair fibers in place.

The evenness of film is vital for low-porosity hair fibers because of their low extent of damage and gradient damage level from roots to tips. This ensures that the hair fiber is equally and uniformly “fixed” all along the shaft. 

Thickening Agents

Styling products for hair come in two variations: thickened transparent gels or fluid liquids. Gels are generally preferred and require a thickening agent to achieve the desired viscosity level, which may be either synthetic or natural polymers.

Carbomer is the ideal ingredient for creating hair gel, as it boasts high viscosity, superior transparency, and remarkable product stability.

On top of that, this powerful compound helps to improve style retention. Furthermore, it’s safe for use in personal care products which makes it a reliable choice amongst many manufacturers.

In addition, natural thickening agents such as Xanthan Gum can be used to create hair gels. It’s a great option because it offers good viscosity and product stability; however, its styling hold is not quite up to par.

Moisturizing Ingredients

Although low-porosity hair is virgin and non-chemically treated, it still needs moisture to maintain its vibrancy, natural outlook, and bounce.

Without the proper hydration, your hair will never have its desired style retention and would be difficult to manage.

Furthermore, those with low-porosity hair need to add water molecules to their strands to avoid split ends and breakage.

Hair styling gels that contain glycerin and propylene glycol are the ideal option to keep your hair looking its best.

Not only do both of these ingredients excel at enhancing hair’s moisture levels but they are cost-effective (low-cost ingredients). 

New-generation moisturizing ingredients are also gaining attention. They are multifunctional and are more advantageous.5

Our favorite new-generation moisturizing ingredients for low-porosity hair gels are:

  • Betaine – natural water binding molecule with high water retention capacity.
  • Sodium or Zinc PCA – excellent moisturizer for the scalp and hair.
  • Propanediol – yet another natural corn-derived moisturizing ingredient without any greasy or tacky feel ( a typical drawback of glycerin).

Emollients

Emollients are added to hair gel to impart fiber protection, lubrication, and conditioning. Low-porosity hair needs this emollience at its tips to address the problem of dryness and shield against cuticle damage.

Natural oils are the ideal choice due to their natural green origin and easy biodegradation.

Our favorite natural oils/butter for a gel formulation are:

  • Coconut Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Avocado Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Shea Butter

Additives: Preservatives

To keep hair products fresh and increase their shelf-life, preservatives are essential in preventing the growth of potentially dangerous microbial organisms.

Some traditional preservatives may be harsh and may have a high toxicity. For example, isothiazolinones, DMDM hydantoin, and formaldehyde. Among them, formaldehyde is is a well-documented contact allergen and carcinogenic.

Fortunately, these preservatives have been proven to be safe when used in finished products at 0.2% levels or below – a level that regulatory limits will guarantee is respected. If you do not wish to have them in your products, you can opt for natural preservatives as listed below.

Opt for green substitutes in place of these preservatives, such as:

  • Sodium Benzoate
  • Potassium Sorbate
  • Hexylene Glycol

Not only are these mild and gentle, but they also are easy to undergo biodegradation. 

Additives: Fragrances

Most of the styling formulations contain synthetic fragrances which is a blend of lab-made organic volatile chemicals.

Natural essential oils provide a convenient replacement for synthetic fragrances and offer a natural aromatic scent. Peppermint, Clove, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary oil are good examples.

Furthermore, these products are natural, with a sustainable supply chain, and are biodegradable.

Should I Choose Gels with Protein or Protein-Free Gels?

Deciding whether to opt for protein-rich or protein-free hair gels can significantly impact the health and appearance of your hair. Styling gels with proteins offer a range of benefits, including strengthening the hair, adding volume and body, minimizing breakage, and boosting shine. However, the effectiveness of these benefits largely depends on the specific type of protein used in the product.

For individuals with low-porosity hair, the common advice suggests avoiding extra protein in styling products, as this hair type naturally struggles to absorb substances due to its tightly bound cuticle. Yet, incorporating proteins in gels for low-porosity hair can still be beneficial, contrary to popular belief.

Proteins play a crucial role in moisturizing and conditioning, especially for low-porosity hair. The key to harnessing the benefits of proteins without overwhelming low-porosity strands lies in using them in moderation. A carefully calibrated, low to moderate amount of protein in hair gels can significantly improve hair fiber quality, increase moisture content, and help mitigate issues like split ends, making them a valuable component of a low-porosity hair care regimen.

For detailed insights on which proteins are most beneficial for low-porosity hair, including how to effectively incorporate them into your routine, refer to my blog titled “Best Proteins for Low Porosity Hair.”


References

1. Corbett, J. F., The Chemistry of Hair-care Products. Journal of the Society of Dyers and Colourists 1976, 92 (8), 285-303.

2. Zviak, C., The Science of Hair Care. Taylor & Francis: 1986.

3. Hessefort, Y. Z.; Holland, B. T.; Cloud, R. W., True porosity measurement of hair: a new way to study hair damage mechanisms. J. Cosmet. Sci. 2008, 59 (4), 303.

4. Robbins, C. R., Chemical and physical behavior of human hair. 4th ed.; Springer-Verlag: New York, 2002.

5. Schueller, R.; Romanowski, P., Conditioning Agents for Hair and Skin. Taylor & Francis: 1999.

HI,I'M VERNA

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