Last Updated on December 2, 2022 by Verna Meachum
Do you have hair that doesn’t respond to gel casting? We know how frustrating that can be, and if you have curly hair then you know how challenging it is to manage and style your hair.
It’s not just the fact that every curl behaves differently but also because there are so many different types of curls! You may have a tight curl or loose curl, fine or coarse texture, high porosity, or low porosity.
And, all these factors make it hard to find products and techniques that work for your unique type of hair.
Don’t worry – we can help! We’ve created a simple guide that will help you figure out why your hair is not getting a gel cast.
What is a Gel Cast?
You may have heard the term “gel cast” thrown around in the curly hair community, but weren’t quite sure what it meant.
Don’t be alarmed; this is a positive development and something we want to happen to our curls.
However, if you don’t recognize what it is or how to deal with your hair once it happens, you may mistake it for hard hair and believe you’ve used a poor product.
The name “gel cast” refers to the crunchy sensation that develops around your curls as they are coated with a gel or mousse.
What is the Purpose of a Gel Cast?
The gel cast is formed during the drying process after the gel has been applied to wet hair. It helps to keep the curls in their natural formation until it’s dry, which is how we achieve that super-defined look.
After your curls are completely dry, they will be glossy and have a wet appearance.
Furthermore, a gel cast can hold in moisture, enhance and define curls. It also helps to combat humidity while also protecting it from the weather during the drying process.
The majority of us scrunch out the crunch by applying a light oil to release the gel cast, making the curls softer.
We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how to get a gel cast later, but first, let’s dive into the science behind it all.
The Science Behind it All
Have you ever wondered why your gel cast doesn’t come out the way you want it to? There are several reasons why this may be happening, and below we will go over some of the most common ones.
Hair is made up of protein and it has tiny pores on its surface all along its shaft.
Hair responds to products and treatments and its response is potentially due to its proteinaceous nature, so it’s important to be mindful of what you are using on it.
Many elements impact the retention and firmness of a style, its form, and its beauty which may include whether or not your gel cast is coming out the way you want it to.
Remember that gel casting is a technique that is guided by gel. The gel acts as a coating that allows you to achieve super-defined curls without damaging the hair.
Different gels are applied differently on different types of hair because there are many factors involved in the process.
It will take some experimentation to see what gel and what method of application works best for your hair type.
Be patient, and you will eventually achieve the look you desire.
Every one of us has different hair types, in that they are different in their degree of;
- Protein level
- Tensile strength
- Porosity (low, normal, high)
Hair responds differently to hair care products and methods, and some hairs may not respond to gel casting, which makes it difficult to manage and style.
Mechanism of Hair Setting and Styling
The distinctive feature of hair setting and styling products is the presence of large polymer molecules that are mostly man-made and synthetic.
Scientists have developed a series of such big molecules of polymers that are capable of reshaping hair fibers temporarily.
The basic objective is to create a uniform film from the root to the tip.
This is a coating that may be homogeneous or heterogeneous at the microscopic scale, and this coating offers hardness and stiffness that keeps the hair strand in a definite desired shape for a certain period.
The aim is to “weld” hair together in a definite shape.
This film alters the morphology and physical properties of hair such as bending, texture, tensile strength, and tactile response.
Adhesion of polymer to hair surface depends upon the type of polymer used, its concentration, physicochemical properties of hair, and outer humidity conditions.
Also, the time it takes to hold a style (style retention time) varies greatly depending upon the same factors.
However, this is temporary reshaping or “gluing” that can be reversed easily. This polymer film can be readily dissolved by simply using an anti-residue shampoo.
The hair surface contains a large number of cuticles. They are aligned like “shingles on the roof” and their smoothness is important to minimize fiber friction. These cuticles also define the sensorial properties of hair.
Hair with smooth cuticles has a brilliant sheen and gloss, which is the ideal desire for everyone.
However, frequent maintenance, combing, and chemical treatment may cause significant hair damage that can permanently modify the physical and chemical properties of hair.
As a result, hair becomes more porous, fragile, and is more vulnerable to high moisture uptake from its surroundings.
Hair that is porous absorbs more of any substance applied since its pores are now more open and there are large empty areas within the hair shaft.
When applying gel to porous hair, there is no uniform homogeneous coating of product formed. If you were to look at it under a microscope, it will appear to have a “rough, bumpy” texture that is insufficient for a good definitive hairstyle.
For these hairs, the “less is more” idea must be kept in mind. The product should be applied in small sections of the hair and used sparingly, with an even application.
High humidity is another reason for hair not getting a gel cast or responding to product application. Hair absorbs moisture from its surroundings and its water content varies with the humidity outside.
Polymers’ film coatings must withstand these fluctuations in humidity. Water-soluble polymers are generally used, which means they absorb water as well.
Hair can become limp and difficult to style under high humidity conditions. The possible reason is the increase in hair mass (weight) as water molecules inside hair fiber increases the overall mass (weight) of hair.
That’s why polymer manufacturers and hair care formulators work closely to develop new polymers that offer more water resistance and hold the style for a long time even under high humidity conditions.
Hair Treatments Previously Applied
Consumers nowadays use more than one hair care product on a regular basis. We wash and condition our hair almost every day, as well as use chemical treatments and colors.
These cosmetic treatments greatly alter the morphology, physicochemical properties, sensorial touch, and hair volume.
The textures of virgin (unprocessed) hair and chemically treated hair fibers are quite distinct, and their styling, setting, and daily manageability needs vary.
Getting a gel cast may be difficult to achieve due to previous treatments and product applications. These hairs may not respond to every hair styling product and consumers may experience difficulties in finding the right product.
High Protein Products
Consumers who have had several or continuous protein treatments might not get a gel cast, as well.
Just like polymers, proteins form a coating on the hair surface that prevents penetration of any further ingredients.
This means styling polymers may not work and perform effectively and thus cannot offer tight firm curls as desired.
If this happens, use an anti-residue shampoo at least once a week to remove this film.
High Humectant Products
Humectants absorb water molecules from its surrounding. A simple humectant is glycerin, and these humectants are common in haircare products.
The main objective for their addition in a formula is delivering water to hair.
Humectants hydrate hair fibers and help maintain water balance across the fiber channels. However, using too much can make hair sticky, which is the result of the overloading of water molecules.
Under these conditions, your hair will feel wet, sticky, and gummy, and a hair gel will not work.
Hard water contains a high amount of calcium and magnesium ions. They may be present naturally or as a result of environmental pollution.
Tap water contains metal ions, which are absorbed by the hair.
Repeated deposits of metal ions may lead to crystalline build-up on the outer cuticular surface of the hair fiber.
Metal build-up can alter the morphology and affect combing force, sensorial feel, and shine, according to lab studies.
This also means metal build-up may prevent the penetration of cosmetic active ingredients (e.g. styling polymers) and result in your hair not getting a gel cast or undesired styling pattern.
Aloe Vera Treatments
Aloe vera is an ingredient that’s frequently used in haircare products. It mainly contains starch and protein along with small amounts of essential minerals and elements.
Aloe vera ingredients are capable of withholding and attracting large amounts of water from hair, which can also work like humectants.
This can interfere with hair styling causing your hair to not get a gel cast.
Reasons Your Hair Might Not Get a Gel Cast
Are you using gel to style your curly hair, but it’s not holding the way you want? You might have “hair that does not cast at all”.
This happens when your hair type doesn’t get the right level of firmness or hardness from any gel, making it difficult to manage and shape.
If this is the case, don’t worry – there are a few reasons why this might be happening, and we have some solutions for you!
There is a wide range of styling products on the market, and they vary in their results offering different textures, styles, holding times, and moisture incorporation (wet or dry style).
However, some hair types will not style well or hold at all with any hair gel or setting product.
There are a few reasons why your hair might not cast with gel, and each one is unique to your own individual hair type.
Here are 9 of the most common reasons why your hair may not be getting a gel cast
1. Your hair is too dry.
In order to get a gel cast, your hair needs to be moisturized. If it’s too dry, the gel won’t hold properly and you’ll end up with a flaky, frizzy style.
Make sure you’re using a gel that is compatible with your hair type, and try incorporating more moisture into your routine either through deep conditioning or by using a leave-in conditioner.
2. Your hair is too oily.
On the other hand, if your hair is too oily, the gel will slide right off and you won’t get any hold at all.
In this case, it’s important to use a gel that is light and won’t weigh your hair down.
Look for gel products that are water-based or silicone-free.
3. You’re using the wrong type of gel.
Not all gels are created equal – some will work better with certain hair types than others.
If you’re not getting a gel cast, try switching to a gel that is specifically designed for your curl type.
4. Are you using the right styling products along with the gel?
Make sure you are using products that will enhance your curls and not weigh them down.
For example, if you have frizzy hair, try adding a gel made for taming unruly hair to help reduce flyaways.
5. Are you using too much gel?
If you use too much gel, it will weigh down your curls and not give them a gel cast. Only use enough gel to evenly coat the surface of your hair strands.
6. Are you using the right method to apply the gel?
If your gel isn’t sticking to your hair, it could be because you’re using the wrong method. If you are not applying gel correctly, it will not work properly. Try a different gel or try a mousse.
7. The gel is too heavy for your hair.
Some gels are too heavy and will weigh down your curls which will prevent you from getting a gel cast.
8. Is your hair clean before applying gel?
If you don’t wash your curls thoroughly, the gel will not stick to them and you will not get a gel cast.
9. Ask a curly hairstylist.
If all else fails, ask your stylist for help. They may be able to suggest a method, product, or curly cut that will work better for you.
Steps to Get a Gel Cast
- Get a gel cast by wetting your strands and adding curl gel to each section.
- Stick to your preferred method of applying a gel or use a rake and shake technique. Don’t touch your hair after you have styled it. The more you touch your hair, the more likely you are to disturb the curl and create frizz and lose the definition.
- The gel will harden as it dries, creating a shell that also helps curls soak in maximum moisture. The gel cast helps your curls dry in their natural curl pattern and protects them from the elements.
- When your hair is completely dry—whether you’ve air-dried it or diffused it—break the cast by scrunching and perhaps even tousling the roots just a little. Use a small drop of your favorite hair oil (my favorite oil to use for this is Righteous Roots Oils) and scrunch out the crunch to help break the gel cast.
Get A Cast With These 9 Wonderful Gels
- AG Hair Mousse Gel
- BioSilk Rock Hard Gelee
- Bouncecurl Light Hold Cream Gel (use ‘muse’ at the check out to save some money)
- Bumble and Bumble Anti-Humidity Gel Oil
- Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker
- Curl Keeper Gel – Ultimate Hold with Frizz Control
- Jessicurl Spiralicious Styling Gel
- Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat and Humidity Climate
- Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel Extra Hold
If you’re having trouble getting a gel cast, try some of these troubleshooting tips. If they don’t work, ask your curly hairstylist for help. With the right products and techniques, you can achieve bouncy, defined curls that will last all day!
Share this blog if it has helped you. Thanks for reading!
1. Johnson, D. H., Hair, and Hair Care. Taylor & Francis: 1997.
2. Zviak, C., The Science of Hair Care. Taylor & Francis: 2005.
3. Marsh, J. M.; Gray, J.; Tosti, A., Healthy Hair. Springer International Publishing: 2015