The 11 Best Gels for Every Curl Type, According to Natural Hair Experts
Get all the curl definition.
When a curly girl proudly rocks her natural ringlets and coils, we love to see it. But when the summertime humidity hits, even the healthiest of curls can lack definition and be prone to frizz.
And while finding the perfect product that provides both hydration and hold without the crunch could feel impossible — it's not.
Hair gels have come a very long way since the early 2000s, when they would leave our tresses dried out and looking like ramen noodles. Thankfully, most formulas these days are alcohol-free and loaded with rich and nourishing ingredients. With that said, hair gels aren't necessarily a one-size-fits-all either. Just because it works for one curl type doesn't mean it will work for another, which is why we decided to hit up the pros for some recs.
From loose and wavy 2A textures to super tight and coily 4C curls, here are the best gels for textured hair — straight from the curl experts.
Design Essentials Honey Forming Custard
To avoid shrinkage on tighter curls, hairstylist and natural hair expert Ro Morgan recommends this gel custard formula. "It's great on all hair types but I love the shine and elongation it supplies to tighter coils and curls," he tells InStyle. "When applied to hair sections from roots to the ends, the result is beautifully defined curls. The honey ingredient locks in moisture — resulting in strong hold without the crunchy feeling."
To shop: $15; sallybeauty.com
TPH By Taraji Tough Cookie Style Defining Gel
Legendary celebrity hairstylist Chuck Amos loves using this formula on fine textured 3A to 3C types. "The formula clumps curls together to give you thicker defined curls," he says. "It's infused with flaxseed and castor oil, so your curls have that soft touchable hold and it doesn't flake either." As for the price? We're certainly not mad at it, either!
To shop: $10; target.com
Mizani Twist and Coil Jelly
When it comes to 4A to 4C coily curls, celebrity hairstylist Cesar DeLeon Ramirez recommends the Mizani Twist and Coil Jelly due to its ability to smooth, define, and hold texture, while also adding moisture and shine. "It dries stiff and softens to the touch, which is my favorite way for a gel to activate to control frizz and maintain definition," he says. "The consistency of the product has a lot of slip, making it super easy to apply and coat each strand on really full and thick hair. [It's] great for achieving many styles."
To shop: $20; sephora.com
VIDEO: How to Curl Your Hair Without Using Heat
Rizos Curls Light Hold Gel
If you're looking for a gel that works on all curl types, from thin, thick, wavy, curly, to super tight and coily — this product might just be it. "Gels can be tricky. We typically use it to tame frizz or better define our curls but experience has taught us that they can't all be trusted," says hairstylist and curly expert Dazy Lyn. "As a curly hairstylist, it's very important for me to work with a gel that provides a weightless and natural look for all the different textures I work with, and Rizos Curls Light Hold Gel does that. I always recommend applying lightly for a more effortless bounce, but it's also important to note that the amount of gel varies per individual, as well as which additional products I pair it with. It's all about texture and density." Lyn likes to use more products on her curly clients with thicker and more textured curls and less on those with finer or wavy textures. If you experience some light crunch from your gel, she recommends scrunching it out half way through diffusing or before it dries for those who prefer air drying. Scrunch hair from roots to ends as you're diffusing until the texture meets your liking.
DeLeon Ramirez, who is also a major fan of this gel, loves to use this on his clients with 3A to 3C who have fine, thin curly hair. "It won't weigh fine hair down and has nourishing ingredients like aloe, rosemary, and flaxseed that helps keep thin hair healthy," he says.
To shop: $24; target.com
Innesense Organic Beauty I Create Hold Gel
Curly hair stylist and expert Ona Diaz-Satin swears by this gel, especially for fine or thin 3A to 3C curl types. "I love this so much! It's organic, the viscosity is perfect for fine curly hair, and once you break the cast it's like you put nothing in your hair but it still has definition," she says. It's formulated with natural ingredients like rooibos tea, which helps nourish hair while nettle and eucalyptus work to increase shine, flexibility, and strength.
To shop: $26; ulta.com
SheaMoisture Curly Gel Souffle
Hairstylist Lacy Redway loves using the SheaMoisture Curly Gel Souffle on thick, coarse 3A to 3C hair types. "It's excellent for this hair type because it has just the right amount of grip but still adds moisture and shine," she says. It's formulated with nourishing ingredients like agave nectar, flaxseed, and coconut oil that leaves hair hydrated and rejuvenated. Did we mention it smells like a delicious piña colada?
To shop: $14; target.com
Mielle Pomegranate Honey Coil Sculpting Custard
Hairstylist Karl Payton prefers using this black-owned product on type 4 hair. "This product not only gives amazing definition (even with the most coily of curls) but it also adds moisture, hold, and shine to the hair," he says. "Unlike traditional gels, this gel custard is free of parabens, mineral oil, and harsh alcohols, which can leave your hair brittle and dry." He recommends applying your favorite leave-in conditioner to clean, soaking wet hair in sections first before layering on the gel — which should also be applied in sections. It provides great hold without leaving a pesky white cast after drying. This is a great pick for the girl who loves herself a good wash-n-go!
To shop: $14; target.com
TRESemme Flawless Curls Curl Defining Gel
This is Redway's go-to for wavy hair types because it builds body without weighing hair down. "It also doesn't get sticky or dry your hair out, which is very important to consider when choosing the correct gel for your hair type," she says. Her pro styling tip for 2A to 2C waves: "Add to the palm of your hands before massaging it in your strands and allowing your curls to spring back up with a lot more bounce and definition," she says. "Flip your head upside down while diffusing your hair for maximum volume.
To shop: $5; bedbathandbeyond.com
Pattern Beauty Curl Gel
Morgan is also a huge fan of the Pattern Beauty Curl Gel. He especially loves the way it works on 2A to 2C wavy textures, providing more texture, body, bounce, and definition. "The hold is medium, but the definition is high. The hair still feels lighter after application, giving your hair the bounce that it deserves," Morgan says. "The aloe vera ingredients help to soothe the scalp, strengthens and repairs hair strands, and may even repair hair from sun damage. Also, may I add that I am absolutely in love with the floral scent?" Sounds like a win to us!
To shop: $25; ulta.com
Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel
Enriched with natural and nourishing ingredients, this light-weight gel works on all hair types from 2A to 4C, but Amos especially loves using it to style thick, coarse 3A to 3C hair textures. "I love it because it gives that thick, coarse type 3 hair enough strong hold but with the rice amino acids and quinoa extract, your curls are left soft and flexible."
To shop: $20; sephora.com
Rëzo Curl Define Hair Gel
Rëzo Salon owner, curl expert, and creator of the Rëzo cut, Nubia Suarez came out with her own curly hair care line by the same name and designed a gel that she believes works for all hair types. The trick to using this one gel on every curl type and pattern, all comes down to the technique. On 3A to 3C fine, thin hair, Suarez likes to do what she refers to as the 50/50 technique. "Start by applying the Rëzo Curl Define Hair Gel to the mid shaft very lightly," she says. "[With] 50 percent of the hair being dry, reapply the Rëzo Curl Define Hair Gel for extra support, creating amazing volume." On 3A to 3C patterns that are more on the thick or coarse end, Suarez goes by her 80% water and 20% product philosophy. "This will help the hair maintain amazing volume, remain weightless, and create super bouncy curls," she adds. On 4A to 4C hair, Suarez likes to prime soaking wet hair with the Rëzo Curl Serum to first lock in moisture and hydration, following with the Rëzo Curl Define Hair Gel that works to elongate curls while maintaining definition and shine. And on 2A to 2C wavy textures, she likes to apply the gel first, then dry it 50%, using a diffuser before reapplying the gel in a scrunching motion from ends to roots to create volume.
To shop: $40; rezohaircare.com
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