Is Gel Bad For Your Hair

When you think about hair gel, you flashback to photos of boy bands with stiff, spiky hairstyles in the early 2000s. 

It’s an iconic look, but it’s not something you’d want to wear daily.

But boy band hairstyles aside, hair gel is actually a versatile product for styling your hair. From a modern slicked-back look to taming your baby hairs, tresses at any length can surely benefit from this product.

But hair gel can sometimes leave a sticky mess on your hair, so you start to wonder if hair gel is bad for your hair.

In this article, we discover the answers to how safe using hair gel is, so follow along to know more.


What is hair gel?

What is hair gel

If you peek inside your brother’s closet, you’ll probably find a tube of hair gel leftover from his pre-teen years. So what exactly is hair gel?

Hair gel is a styling product that helps hold your hair to create certain hairstyles.

Men mostly use this product, but you can also apply it to style long hair. That’s why hair gel is available in different types: light, firm, and extreme hold. So you can control how firm you want to set your hair. 


Is gel good for your hair?

Now that you know what hair gel is let’s look at what it can do for your hair.

There are certain hairstyles that hairspray can’t achieve; that’s why you use hair gel.

Finger waves, for instance. It’s difficult to create this look using hairspray since it dries fast. Once hairspray dries, your hair becomes crunchy, making it difficult to reshape.

A dollop of hair gel can do the trick since it takes longer to dry, so you’ll have more chances to perfect that classic S-shape. Plus, hair gel dries with a shiny finish which adds charm to your finger waves.

You can also use hair gel for polishing up any hairdo. A tiny amount of gel can go a long way to tame those stubborn baby hairs and flyaways.

Hair gel is also essential for curly hair since it helps hold your curl shape, preventing your hair from turning into a frizzy mess.

These are only a few examples of how hair gel can style your hair. But is using it frequently actually harmful?


Is hair gel bad for your hair?

Is hair gel bad for your hair

Like all hair products, there’s also a risk of applying gel on your hair. Depending on its ingredients, hair gel can affect the health of your hair and scalp.    

So why is it bad to use hair gel every day?

Product build-up

If your go-to hairstyle involves applying gel on your hair, you might want to ease up on it.

Since hair gel causes product build-up on your scalp, especially when it sets, hair gel can become stiff and sticky, sometimes making it difficult to wash off.

So the gel on your hair eventually accumulates, resulting in a dry and itchy scalp.

Since having white flakes on your hair is not ideal, you can combat this by using a clarifying shampoo once a week. 

This clears out remaining dirt and products on your hair, allowing your scalp to breathe. 

But if you find using clarifying shampoo drying for your hair, you can adjust to using it every other week instead.

Dry  and damaged hair

Do you notice your hair becoming dry if you frequently use hair gel? Well, that might be due to the alcohol in your gel.

Some hair gels contain alcohol to improve their application and speed up drying time. But alcohol is one of the ingredients in cosmetic products that you should be avoiding since it dries up your hair.

When your hair is dry, it loses its elasticity and results in brittle and frizzy hair, making it difficult to manage, as it’s prone to breakage.

So if you want to avoid this, you can swap your hair gel for one that doesn’t contain alcohol. There are also hair gels available that contain organic and natural ingredients, so they’re more gentle on your hair. 


Does gel cause hair loss?

As mentioned above, hair gel can dry out your hair, eventually making it brittle and prone to breakage. That’s why you start losing your hair.

But why does gel cause balding, you ask?

That’s because alcohol is sometimes added to products like hairspray and hair gel to help them dry quickly to hold your hair properly.

But drying alcohols are commonly used since they’re more affordable than non-drying alcohols.

So to avoid harmful hair gels, make sure to check their ingredients list. Some alcohols that you should be avoiding in hair products include:

  • Ethanol
  • Propanol
  • SD Alcohol
  • Ethyl Alcohol
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Denatured alcohol

Does gel stop hair growth?

It may be disheartening to hear, but hair gel has the potential to stop your hair from growing.

That’s because frequent use of hair gel can block your hair follicles, making it harder for your hair to grow out. Especially when the gel isn’t thoroughly cleaned from your scalp, creating build-up over time.

Plus, the combination of having weak hair can make it difficult for your hair to grow out since it breaks off easily.


So if you do need to use hair gel every day, make sure to wash your hair frequently to avoid product build-up.


Is it bad to leave gel in your hair overnight?

Is it bad to leave gel in your hair overnight

If you have a habit of sleeping with hair gel on your hair, this is your sign to stop. 

Don’t leave hair gel on your hair overnight since it doesn’t allow your scalp to breathe. 

Aside from drying your hair out and causing product build-up, hair gel can irritate your scalp if you have it on for long periods. 

Scalp irritation can lead to an itchy and flaky scalp and clogged pores that could result in acne. And trust me, you don’t want acne on your scalp. Imagine how painful it would be if you accidentally bump it with your comb.

So always remember to wash out any traces of hair gel on your hair before settling in for the night.


Is gel bad for curly hair?

Everyone knows the secret to bouncy natural curls is a good hair gel. But can using it frequently make your curls flat?

On the contrary, using hair gel on curly hair can actually help set its curl pattern. Thus giving it more definition. Hair gel also prevents frizz as it coats your hair, preventing moisture from escaping.

To combat the negative side effects that hair gel can produce, make sure to pick an alcohol-free gel. There are also hair gels for curly hair that are lightweight and provide moisture at the same time.

Applying a leave-in conditioner before hair gel can also help give your hair extra moisture so you won’t have to deal with crispy ends.


Hair gel without side effects

If you think you can’t replace hair gel for styling your hair but are anxious about the side effects, we got you. There are a couple of hair gel alternatives you can try below:

Alcohol-free hair gels

From the number of times alcohol-free hair gels have appeared in this article, you’re probably not surprised.

They don’t dry out your hair, so they’re also great for curly or chemically-treated hair. 

Bonus points if they contain natural ingredients like aloe vera, olive oil, or jojoba oil, as these add moisture to your hair. 

But if you spot alcohol on the ingredients of a gel that claims to be “alcohol-free”, worry not. Aside from the alcohols that you should avoid, some alcohols are actually good for your hair.

Fatty alcohols are sometimes added, so your hair gel is easier to apply. They’re great because they help smoothen and moisturize your hair instead of damaging it.

Some of the good alcohols in hair products include:

  • Olyl alcohol
  • Lauryl alcohol
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • Cetearyl alcohol

Homemade hair gels

If you like a good DIY project, why not try making your own hair gel? This way, you know that it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that can damage your hair.

One recipe suggests using ½ teaspoon unflavored gelatin and ½ cup distilled water to create your gel. You can also adjust the ratio depending on how firm you want the hold to be. 

To customize it, you can also add essential oils of your choice depending on your hair’s needs.

Another recipe suggests boiling flax seeds and distilled water to create your gel. After boiling, squeeze out the mixture on cheesecloth to filter out the gel. You can also add essential oils to this recipe to personalize it.

And there you have it, easy homemade hair gels! The only downside is they can only last for about 2 weeks. So make sure to store them in the refrigerator to extend their shelf-life.

CHECK OUT: 7 DIY Aloe Vera Hair Mask Recipes


Final thoughts

Hair gel can be useful for creating fun hairstyles or maintaining your curls. But using it frequently can also have its drawbacks.

Product build-up and damaged hair are never a good look. Make sure to clean your hair frequently and make sure to use alcohol-free gel. 

As long as you use your hair gel correctly, you’re going to enjoy thick and healthy hair in the long run. 

Last Updated: March 8, 2022

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