A little bit of this gel goes a long way to control frizz and keep curls looking great in most humid conditions. Doesn't leave hair feeling stiff or crunchy. Contains a silk protein that locks in moisture. Has a nice scent, and doesn't contain parabens, phthalates, or silicone.
Has a thin consistency. Works best on loose curls compared to tight coils. You may need to re-apply it throughout the day if it's very humid.
A little bit of this gel goes a long way and holds without leaving hair feeling crunchy or sticky. Works well on tight curls, and smooths frizz and flyaways. Earns Sephora's "clean" seal, so it doesn't contain additives like parabens, sulfates, and other harsh ingredients.
Not very moisturizing, so it's not ideal for extremely dry hair. Doesn't define waves and loose curls as well as it does tight curls.
Makes curls bouncy and well-defined, but doesn't make them feel crunchy. Made for curly to coiled locks. Contains vitamins and omega-7 oils derived from the sea buckthorn berry that nourish and moisturize hair. No sulfates, parabens, or phthalates.
Doesn't control frizz as well as it conditions and holds curls.
Formulated with polymers and plant-based oils for an ultra-moisturizing effect. Great for tight curls and coils, as well as dry hair. Reduces frizz and doesn't leave hair feeling crunchy. Made without phthalates and parabens.
Not the best pick for waves and loose curls, as it can weigh them down and leave hair looking oily. Some users report flakes after using it.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Wearing your curly hair natural is not only better for it — saving it from heat-damaging blowouts — but also beautiful. That is, if you have the right product to define those curls and combat frizz.
From loose beach waves to corkscrew curls, there’s a wide spectrum of “curly hair.” If you already rock your curls, we don’t have to tell you that humidity is your archnemesis. Fortunately, many gels these days contain anti-humidity protection to shield temperamental curls from moisture in the air.
Premium gels for curly hair will also smooth frizz, keep your curls locked in place throughout the day, and feel soft to the touch. Gone are the days of crunchy and sticky curls. With the right gel, you no longer have to sacrifice hold for bounce and touchability. While gels are ideal for curly hair that isn’t dry — don’t fret if it is. Many gels also include a conditioning agent to moisturize dry curls.
We’re committed to helping you find a hair gel that’ll work with your curl texture.
Gels for curly hair are designed to hold your curls. Over the course of the day, curls can lose definition and unravel, especially if exposed to humidity. Any gel worth its salt will lock in your natural curl and keep it in place throughout the day — or even for a few days.
When curls lose definition, they tend to frizz. A gel that keeps curls defined will also keep frizz at bay. Often a moisturizing agent, which most curly hair gels contain, will smooth frizz as well. Because curly hair is drier due to its texture, hydrating ingredients are desirable in these gels.
Curly hair gels work best when diffused with a hair dryer or applied to wet or damp hair and allowed to air dry.
Hair nerds have a numerical system for curl type: 1 is for straight hair, 2 for wavy, 3 for curly, and 4 for coily. Then there are subclassifications, ranking from A to C, for the diameter of your hair pattern. A is a wider wave, curl, or coil, whereas C is a tighter one.
Let’s stick to a breakdown of the numbers for now, which may require different curly hair products.
Type 2 (wavy): This type has a defined, S-shape wave. Hair can be fine or coarse, but the pattern lays closer to the head. Some gels are too heavy for this hair type and will weigh down your style, especially if your hair is thin.
Type 3 (curly): If you’re a 3, your hair ranges from loopy curls to tight, springy corkscrews. Frizziness is an issue for this hair type, though hair may naturally have some sheen. Gels work well on this type as well as some curling creams.
Humidity protection is available in premium products for consumers who live in humid climates. These use plant proteins and polymers, which expand with heat to define curl and also seal the cuticle to keep even the worst summertime humidity out.
Moisturizing/conditioning ingredients are essential for most curly-haired people. For thick or kinky hair, a gel containing natural oils may be the way to go. Plant-derived proteins and amino acids also help lock in existing moisture and seal the cuticle.
Added shine without using silicone (which can build up on hair and weigh down your curls) is a tall order for a hair gel but is accomplished by many brands.
Sulfate-free products for curly hair are considered a must by curly hair experts. Sulfate breaks down hair internally and also deposits salts, which can accumulate and dull hair. While this is more common of an ingredient for detergent shampoos, always opt for sulfate-free curly hair products.
A low-priced gel for curly hair goes for $4 to $14. At the lower end of this spectrum, you may get hold but also unwanted crunch and additives.
For a mid-priced curly hair gel, expect to pay between $15 and $23. These may be a cross between creams and gels, or serums and gels, that offer flexibility and shine. You can also score some great clean, curly hair gels in this price bucket.
Top-of-the-line hair gels that can be purchased from salons or Sephora range between $24 and $30. These may offer humidity control and quality ingredients to combat frizz. Higher priced gels are usually free from parabens, sulfates, silicone, and phthalates.
Evenly coat hair with gel while it’s still wet from the shower. Air drying is best and less prone to frizz.
Touching your hair while it’s air drying will lead to frizz. As tempting as it may be to scrunch up your curls while they’re drying, leave them in peace.
If you don’t want to leave the house with a wet head, invest in a diffuser attachment for your hair dryer and use a low heat and speed setting.
Co-washes (a cleanser and conditioner in one) are popular for curly-haired heads, because they won’t strip hair of essential moisture. Consider adding one to your shower routine to get the best results from your curly hair gel.
A. The best way to determine your curl shape (wavy, curly, or coily) is to identify it when your hair is sopping wet. Be aware that you can also have a combination of types. We like to think of the subclassifications (A, B, and C) in terms of what your curl could wrap around (when dry). For someone with a type 3 curl, give yourself an A if your curl could wrap around a piece of sidewalk chalk, B for a Sharpie marker, or C for a straw or pencil.
A. Because your hair type experiences about 75% shrinkage (or more!) and dryness, you want to stretch that supertight curl and moisturize it. Use a leave-in conditioner or even castor oil as a great hydrator and moisture sealant before a gel. Even within these classifications, every head of curly hair is unique, so finding a product to define your curls may be a bit of trial and error. You may find a curling cream or pudding to work better with your own unique hair type.
A. In a nutshell, gels provide more hold than curling creams, whereas curling creams add more moisture. Gels always run the risk of feeling crunchy or sticky. However, for gels designated for curly hair, that risk is lower because of added conditioners. With curling creams, your curls may lose definition throughout the day. If you’re rocking beach waves, this may work for your style, but if you have tighter curls that you want to keep bouncing and defined throughout the day, opt for a gel.