How to choose the best hair gel for your hair type

Get out of sticky style situations with the right products.

Shopping for the best hair gel in the drugstore hair aisle is enough to leave most people running for the hills. With at least 500 different hair products on the shelves at any given time (we’re kinda exaggerating… but also, not really), we’re lucky if we even have half an hour free to peruse this overwhelming selection at our leisure. It helps to know what you want the moment you step inside the store, especially with common products like hair gel.

Keeping your specific needs in mind helps narrow the field down and facilitate your decision.

Picking the best hair gel isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. We all have different hair types, so it makes sense to have different products to address each need. Even just one person can have a slew of hair products for their various needs at any given time! Read on to learn more about the best kinds of hair gels for every hair type. Knowing, after all, is half the battle!

The best hair gel for each hair type

best hair gel for straight fine hair
Hair gel helps define details on medium-length styles like the shag, while also helping retain its shape throughout the day. Credit:

Straight and fine hair

Thinner locks crave volume, so make sure to use products that don’t weigh your hair down or leave them prone to going limp mid-day. Lightweight styling gels (AKA blow-dry lotions) are a fun, useful innovation, since most of these coat hair strands evenly while also providing bounce. Volumising mousse is also an ideal product to play with, as the foam is light enough but offers major lift and virtually disappears upon application.

Try: TRESemmé 24 Hour Body Blow Dry Lotion (60ml, £1.89*).

Straight and thick hair

Thicker hair can be prone to dullness and unmanageability, so take control of your hair type’s density with a hair gel that adds lightweight shine and smoothness, while also giving you the control you’ll need without sacrificing body. If you’re looking for creamier formulations, mouldable wax gives both shine and hold that stays put.

Try: VO5 Classic Styling Volume Boost Gel Spray (£2.99*).

Wavy hair

Frizz is public enemy number one for ladies who have naturally wavy hair. The best hair gel for this hair type is one that shields from humidity and enhances your natural texture: this is your golden unicorn of hair products. Lightweight hair oils or salt sprays can actually accentuate your waves and give them some deliberate grit without feeling dirty. For a mussed-up, streetstyle feel, look into some putty or wax—the matte formulation is made to go with your hair type.

Try: Toni&Guy Casual Sea Salt Texturising Spray (£7.49*).

Thick curly hair

Products that have leave-in conditioning properties, beat frizz and keep your coils moisturised without flattening them are your best bet. A hair gel that provides medium-to-firm control in a true gel formulation will distribute more evenly through your tresses than a paste or wax. Unless you’re able to coat your entire head of hair perfectly and evenly, avoid hair sprays—they can dry you out and aerate strands further, encouraging frizz.

Try: VO5 Smoothly Does It Curl Defining Mousse (£3.99*).

Fine curly hair

If you have curly hair without an afro texture or kink, your main priority should be enhancing those ringlets and maintaining shine and body throughout the day. A hair gel or cream that also imparts a bit of shine should work a treat.

Try: TIGI Bed Head On the Rebound Curl Recall Cream (£14.95*).

best hair wax for short pixie cut
Hair gel’s great for short hair! Credit:

Bonus: Short

Short hair in need of an edge, whether via a faux-hawk, piecey texture or just all-around gritty definition, can get away with extra-hold hair gel that keeps strands in place.

*RRPs are Unilever suggested retail prices only, it is at the discretion of the individual retailers to set the actual price.