Natural hair gel has been used since the ancient Egyptian period. (1) Hair gels are used to set or style hair in different ways and tame unmanageable hair. (2)(3)(4) The question here is, “Is hair gel bad for your hair?” The answer is yes! Hair gel is bad for your hair.
According to the experts at the American Academy of Dermatology, frequent application of gel that gives a long-lasting hold to style your hair can cause hair damage. (5)
A lot of beauty experts also warn about the damaging effects of gel due to the presence of chemicals that can make your scalp dry and hair brittle, which can lead to hair breakage, hair loss, and hair thinning. (6)
Read on to further know why gel is bad for your hair.
Why Is Hair Gel Bad for the Hair: Should I Completely Avoid It?
Hair gel contains polymers that cause buildup on the hair shaft, and its continuous usage can make the hair dull, rough, and harsh. (6)
Polymers in hair products contain natural substances such as polysaccharides, which include natural gums, starch, cellulose derivatives, and hydrolyzed proteins.
Artificial hair-friendly polymers comprise polyurethanes, polyvinyl amines, polyvinyl pyrrolidone and acetate, polyacrylates, polymethacrylates, and silicones.
The polymers in hair gel keep your hairstyle intact in humid or windy conditions. It also minimizes flyaways and frizz. Consumers have a choice in the kind of finish they want, whether it’s a soft natural feel or a crisp hold.
These products are available in foams, gels, lotions, and sprays. (7)
According to experts, several hair gels contain short-chain alcohols which helps to dry hair faster. The alcohol evaporates quickly after hair gel application, and the polymers stay to give a hold to the hair.
Thus, hair gel overuse can make your hair brittle and dry, causing dandruff, hair fall, scalp buildup, and other hair issues.
Using hair gel in moderation can curb these issues. It will be more beneficial if you choose an alcohol-free gel that suits your hair type and texture. (6)
What Are the Types of Damage Caused by Hair Gel Use?
Some possible types of hair damage caused by using hair gel are as follows.
1. May clog follicles and cause hair fall
When scalp buildup or excess sebum combines with the chemicals from the hair gel, (6) a deadly combination is created that blocks the hair follicles. It may weaken the hair roots and give rise to hair fall, which may lead to baldness and thinning. (8)
2. May cause dry and brittle hair
The alcoholic agents and chemicals (9) in the hair gel may strip away the natural moisture of the hair.
Occasional usage of the hair gel will be less harmful than regular usage. Using it regularly can damage your hair and make it dry. (6) Dry hair is prone to breakage and frizz and becomes unmanageable.
3. May cause dandruff
The chemicals in hair gel can strip the scalp of its natural oil, causing scalp dryness. A dehydrated scalp will pave the way for irritation, itching, and flakes, which will lead to dandruff. (10)
Tips to Overcome the Damage Caused by Hair Gel Use
You can manage the damage caused by applying hair gel by following these tips:
- Avoid alcohol-based hair gels to stop hair drying. Instead, use water-based hair gels. Select a hair gel containing natural ingredients such as flaxseeds, aloe vera, (11) agar-agar, (12) and lavender oil. These ingredients moisturize and nourish your hair and promote healthy hair growth.
- After using gel, thoroughly clean your hair to get rid of product buildup.
- Avoid gel application to greasy and dirty hair as it might cause split ends.
- Apply gel in small amounts. Increase the portion only if needed. Avoid its overuse.
- Avoid combing your hair after applying hair gel. It may cause hair breakage.
How to Use Hair Gel at Home?
Towel-dry your hair, apply the gel on wet hair for best results, and style accordingly. For better application:
- Take a small amount of gel and rub it in between your palms.
- Run your hands through your hair gently.
- Use a wide-tooth comb for combing.
- You may blow-dry your hair in a low-heat setting.
Buying hair gel from your nearest supermarket may seem easy, but not good for your hair in the long run. Making natural hair gel at home can be more beneficial.
Homemade Hair Gel With Natural Ingredients
You can use the following ingredients to make hair gel at home.
1. Flaxseeds and aloe vera hair gel
You can overcome various hair damage caused by chemical agents in several marketed hair gels by switching to herbal ones.
Research has shown that natural hair gel made with herbal extracts such as aloe vera and flaxseeds can potentially remove dandruff and control hair fall.
Herbal hair gels with flaxseeds and aloe vera can treat dandruff, nourish hair, and get rid of other scalp-related issues. You can use this herbal hair gel as an alternative to the chemical ones. (11)
How to use:
- Take 1⁄4 cup of flaxseeds and soak them in water overnight.
- Drain the water. Blend the flaxseeds in a blender with fresh water until smooth.
- Use a fine sieve or cheesecloth to strain the mixture and get fenugreek gel.
- Cut a fresh aloe vera leaf and scoop out ½ tbsp of aloe gel.
- Blend aloe gel until smooth.
- Mix the aloe vera gel and flaxseed gel in a bowl.
- Transfer the mixture to a clean jar. You can store it in a refrigerator for a week. Only get enough for one application.
- Apply this homemade gel to your hair properly.
2. Agar-agar vegan hair gel
A 2013 research reported that gelatine is the main ingredient of hair gel recipes. If you want a cruelty-free alternative, you can use agar-agar. It has a jelly-like texture and is obtained from seaweed. It is perfect for hair gels. (12)
You will need:
- ½ teaspoon of agar-agar flakes
- 1 tbsp aloe vera gel
- 1 cup water
- 2–3 drops of essential oil
How to make:
- Soak ½ tsp of agar-agar flakes in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes to activate it.
- Boil this water containing agar-agar for 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
- Let it cool, and mix in 1 tbsp of aloe vera gel and 2–3 drops of essential oil (lavender or rose) for fragrance.
- Store the gel in a glass jar and refrigerate. It will stay good for 2 weeks.
- Use it whenever needed.
How do hair gels work?
Hair gels contain polymers, long chains of molecules that create a film over your hair strands. The gel hardens when it dries and holds the hair in place. Hair gels also add volume, texture, and shine to your hair.
Can I use Vaseline as a hair gel?
Yes, you can use Vaseline as a hair gel in small amounts. However, if you have thin or fine hair, it may not be suitable for you.
Hair gel is not good for your hair when you use it improperly or overuse it.
To avoid scalp and hair-related issues, use hair gel in small amounts, and avoid direct application to your scalp. Also, regularly wash your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo.
Give your hair a break from hair gel styling now and then, and use it only when needed. Even better, switch to a natural herbal hair gel to prevent hair damage and breakage.
- Author links open overlay panelN.C. McCreesh a, a, b, et al. Ancient egyptian hair gel: New insight into Ancient Egyptian mummification procedures through chemical analysis. Journal of Archaeological Science. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0305440311002743/. Published August 16, 2011.
- Hartson M, Coyle C, Amin S. Methylcellulose-Chitosan Smart Gels for Hairstyling. MDPI. https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9284/9/4/69. Published June 27, 2022.
- Characteristic assessment of the polymeric films used for hair gel … https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335488083/.
- Comparison study of hair tonic and gel formulation of angiopteris … https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334323282/.
- How to stop damaging your hair. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/stop-damage.
- D’Souza P, Rathi SK. Shampoo and conditioners: What a dermatologist should know? Indian journal of dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458934/. Published 2015.
- Polymers. Cosmetics Info. October 15, 2021. https://www.cosmeticsinfo.org/hbi/polymers/.
- Review article: Hair fall: Common causes and treatment modalities. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272678033/.
- Scheman A, Jacob S, Katta R, et al. Part 2 of a 4-part series hair products: Trends and alternatives: Data from the American Contact Alternatives Group. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140904/. Published July 2011.
- Ranganathan S, Mukhopadhyay T. Dandruff: The most commercially exploited skin disease. Indian journal of dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2887514/. Published 2010.
- Formulation & evaluation of Herbal Hair Gel. https://ijrti.org/papers/IJRTI2212046.pdf.
- Agar. Agar – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/agar/.