With multiple styling products available today, knowing what’s best for you can be challenging. Whether to go for a hair gel, cream, mousse, or something else entirely is a question that can arise.
Hair gels are known to benefit people with diffuse hair thinning. When you apply it to damp hair, you can style it to lift it from the scalp, giving a semblance of volume. It also adds shine to hair.
The constituents of hair gels are similar to those of hair sprays, and they can be used for sculpting or styling hair. (1)
Hair mousse comes in foam form and is a better alternative to hair gels (hair gels are sticky and can cause buildup). Hair mousse can be used on naturally curly or permed hair to define its texture and make it frizz-free. It has a lighter consistency than hair creams and makes the hair bouncy.
Hair creams provide a noticeable difference to your hair appearance daily. It can give your hair a healthy texture and a great matte shine. It can also volumize flat, thin hair and tame frizzy and unruly curls. It does everything you want for your curls.
Unlike hair gels, hair creams offer several sculpting perks to your strands that don’t happen with your regular styling gel.
The decision may be difficult, but consider your hair type, the style-holding capacity of the product, and its side effects before choosing what’s best for your hair.
Read further to make the right choice between hair gel, cream, and mousse.
Hair Gel, Cream, or Mousse: Which Is the Right Choice for You
Although hair creams, mousse, and gels are popular hair-styling products with different effects on your hair, they also have drawbacks you must be aware of.
Hair mousse provides flexibility and adds volume to your hair, yet it can cause nose or eye irritation, dehydrate your strands, and lead to hair loss, thinning, breakage, or damage.
Hair creams add texture and shine to your hair and tame frizz. However, they make your hair oily, greasy, and heavy, clogs pores, and cause dandruff or buildup.
Understanding the pros and cons of these products and how they affect your hair health and appearance can help you decide what’s best based on your hair type, goals, and preferences.
Always use these products in moderation, and check their suitability for different hair lengths and types.
For instance, avoid the excessive use of heavy hair products on thin or fine hair, as they can weigh your hair down. For damaged and dry hair, avoid moisture-stripping products. And for wavy or curly hair, avoid products that can alter your curl pattern or natural texture.
Ultimately, experiment with different products and find the best one for you. You can also consult your professional hairstylist for product recommendations based on your hair condition and type.
The Difference Between Hair Gel, Cream, and Mousse
The following are the differences between hair gels, mousse, and creams.
Hair gels provide hold on your hair that lasts all day. It keeps your hair stiff and prevents it from flying. It is the best choice if you want wet-looking, sleek styles that don’t require flexibility or movement. (4)
Hair gel provides three types of hold:
|Light hold||A light-hold gel is recommended for people with long hair. (4) It is for hairstyles that do not require a tight grip to secure the hair in place.|
|Firm hold||A firm-hold gel benefits people with wavy or straight hair of medium or short length. (4) It has a tighter grip than light-hold gel.|
|Strong hold||A strong-hold gel is for people with wavy or straight hair with medium to short length. (4) It provides the strongest hold on gravity-defying hairstyles that require precise molding and shaping.|
Researchers state that hair-styling mousse provides a flexible and strong grip to your hair while delivering a natural look. (5)
Hair creams provide low to medium grip to your hair without weighing it down. They tame stray hairs and banish frizz without causing greasiness.
Hair gels with water-based formulations hydrate your hair and are recommended for dry hair. They are used to create natural hairstyles. Hair gels are usually used to curl hair, but they can also be used for any hair type and texture.
Mousse is an all-rounder hair product that is suitable for every hair type (straight, curly, etc.). People with fine hair should not step back from using mousse, as it can add much volume to naturally less voluminous hair.
Hair creams are suitable for all hair types, especially frizzy hair. They reduce frizz, tame hair, and add moisture and shine.
You can wash out hair mousse with water and your regular shampoo. You may need more than one wash to get rid of product buildup. Hair mousse is a foam-based product that holds the hair together and adds volume. However, it can cause dryness with time.
Hair creams are oil-based products with a thicker consistency and are more challenging to wash out than mousse. It adds texture and shine to your hair but can make it greasy and weigh it down.
Hair gels contain corrosive chemicals and alcohol that can strip the scalp and hair of moisture, dehydrating them and causing dandruff, damage, hair loss, and discoloration. (4)
Hair mousse can irritate the eyes or nose when it comes in contact with these delicate parts. Its excessive use can cause hair damage and dryness. Moreover, overuse of mousse on chemically treated hair can affect it adversely.
Always check the label; some mousse products contain chemicals that may cause hair loss, thinning, roughness, and breakage. Also, if you are allergic to any ingredient mentioned on the label, you may experience an allergic breakout.
Hair creams can make thin or fine hair heavy, oily, greasy, limp, or flat if used excessively. They can clog the scalp pores, leading to dandruff or buildup when improperly washed off.
What Are Hair Gels and How to Use Them?
Hair gels offer more hold than hair sprays, as they contain higher-volumizing substances that are applied to the hair shaft.
Two types of hair gels sold commercially are sculpting gels and styling gels. Styling gels have less hold than sculpting gels.
Transparent hair gels are made from carboxy vinyl polymers. Its fundamental criteria are high water solubility, clarity in solution, and compatibility with carbomer resins. (2)
Follow these steps to use hair gels:
- Take a dime to nickel amount of hair gel in your hands. Rub it and spread it through your hair evenly.
- Style your hair into your desired style.
- You can let spiky, messy, or textured styles air-dry, whereas blow-drying comb-over, flat-top, or slicked-back hair is beneficial.
- To restyle your hair or reactivate the gel, just add water to your hair.
Hair gels are comparatively cheaper than creams and mousses.
What Is Hair Mousse and How to Use It?
Hair mousse is popular due to its convenience. They are available as foam in an aerosolized can and contain soft copolymers, which provide a more natural look with minimal hold. (1)
Hair mousse is a foam-form film and foam-forming agent, which is volatile and evaporates, leaving a thin film on the hair. (3)
Follow these steps to use hair mousse:
- Wash your hair with a volumizing shampoo and conditioner to remove impurities and nourish your strands deeply, giving you a perfect base for your desired hairstyle.
- Towel-dry your hair and make sure to leave it a little damp. Hair mousse works best on freshly washed, damp hair.
- Part your hair in small sections.
- Take a small amount of mousse in your palms, and rub your hand gently to spread it.
- Evenly apply the mousse through your hair lengths using your fingertips. You can also use a wide-toothed comb.
- Hold your hair in small sections using a round comb and blow-dry. Pull your hair upward while blow-drying.
What Are Hair Creams and How to Use Them?
Hair creams are thick emulsions applied to the hair. They may be evenly colored, white, or off-white, and they may not be scented.
Hair creams are mainly used to condition the hair by moisturizing it. They are either water-in-oil or oil-in-water emulsions. (2)
Note: You can use hair creams before and after shampooing.
If you are applying a hair cream pre-shampooing, use it like an oil. The cream prevents hair fall, conditions the hair, strengthens the hair roots, and boosts hair growth.
Follow these steps to use hair creams:
- Take a pea-sized amount of hair cream in your palm.
- Apply it directly to your roots and hair using your fingertips.
- Massage the cream gently for 1–2 minutes, and then let it rest for at least 30 minutes.
Applying hair cream post-shampooing:
- Towel-dry your hair.
- Take a pea-sized amount in your palm, run it through your damp hair, and cover it evenly.
- Style your hair using your fingertips.
- Scrunch your hair to get a curly look, or smooth it down with a brush for a straight look.
How do you curl your hair with mousse?
Mousse cannot help you curl your hair, but if your hair is straight, you can apply mousse before curling. It allows your hairstyle to stay for a long time. For curly hair, apply mousse to your wet hair to shape and define your curls.
What happens if you apply hair oil before using mousse?
If you apply hair oil before using mousse, your hair may look greasy, and the mousse may not hold onto your hair due to the amount of oil used.
Hair gels, mousse, and creams are three hair-styling products that help you achieve different hairstyles. Choose what’s best for you based on your hair texture, type, and desired outcome.
For a shiny and sleek hairstyle with a firm hold, go for hair gels. However, they can make your hair crunchy and stiff.
For bouncy and voluminous hair, go for a hair mousse. However, it may not provide enough hold and definition to your hair.
For smooth and moisturized hair, go for a hair cream. However, it may not give enough structure or hold to your hair.
It is always a good idea to try different products to know the right suit for your hair before sticking to one.
- Sheth P. Hair cosmetics. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology. August 31, 2013. https://ijdvl.com/hair-cosmetics/.
- An overview on GMP requirements for Hair Care Products. https://www.thepharmajournal.com/archives/2023/vol12issue6/PartAO/12-6-221-344.pdf.
- Jun 16 2010. Hair spray and hair mousse with natural ingredients. Justia. https://patents.justia.com/patent/20110311463.
- ADITUM Journal of Clinical Case Reports and clinical study. https://aditum.org/images/currentissue/1627972756Clinical_Case_Reports_and_Clinical_Study_Galley_Proof.pdf.
- Advancements in polymers used in hair care a review – researchgate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301221021_Advancements_in_polymers_used_in_hair_care_a_review.
- Padule K, Shinde S, Chitlange S, Giram P, Nagore D. The advancement of herbal-based nanomedicine for hair. MDPI. November 11, 2022. https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9284/9/6/118.