The Ultimate Hair Gel Guide for Every Hair Type

Get the 411 on the styling gels you need, all tailored to different hair types and styles.

Hair gel: What is it? Why should you use it? This vanity staple is used for styling your hair into structured looks. It can also be used to add polish to fine, flat hair and mold hairstyles into looks that have lots of height—think mohawks and spikes! Curly hair can also benefit from using hair gel, as the product helps create long-lasting, more well-defined curls with a bit of control. And if you have a yen for waves for days, using hair gel when styling your hair will give you that as well—not to mention give those fab, runway-worthy wet look styles some staying power.

The key to using hair gel to create different hairstyles is to pick the formula that works with the look you want. There are tons of different kinds to choose from that are tailored for every specific kind of hold and concern—from extreme-hold formulations to gel sprays that define and add shine— so there’s really little room for error these days when styling with the use of this product.

Gone are those sticky, greasy-looking days of yore! Hair gel for women can definitely be any gal’s BFF when creating today’s top trending looks, provided the correct product is chosen for your desired result. Read on for a bit of guidance on the perfect one for you:

hair gel curly hair
Going for the beach babe look? Hair gel can boost your curls.

1. Waves and Curls

Bed Head by TIGI Beach Me Wave Defining Gel Mist is a spray gel, meaning it’s lightweight and won’t weigh hair down. And because it’s a spray, you can build up its hold by applying more product where and when needed. Beach Me helps controls frizz and curls, while adding shine and definition to styles. Since it contains marine algae extract (seaweed), it helps prevent hair from drying out. Is your hair color-treated? You’ll love this spray as well, as it has a UV Complex to filter and protect against the sun bleaching out your hue.

How to use: For beachy, boho waves and curls, spray onto damp hair, scrunch and let air-dry. For more of a wave than a curl, finger-comb your hair when dry to loosen curls into waves. For more defined curls and waves, spray the gel onto damp hair, and then dry using a blowdryer with a diffuser. Add more volume to your ‘do by spraying the gel on the undersides of your hair, then flipping hair over and then blow-drying upside down.

Want very defined curls, ringlets or waves? Then say hello to TRESemmé Flawless Curls Defining Gel. This is a gel that helps you create curls that withstand the day (and night!). The humidity-resistant formula helps control flyaways and frizz while locking in style. Hair looks shiny and its formula contains keratin and panthenol to help enrich your strands.

How to use: When hair is damp, apply gel from roots to ends. A good method for ensuring that hair has gel all over is to first apply gel to hands and then rake through using your fingers. Next, with a wide-toothed comb, comb hair from roots to ends, as this will ensure a more even distribution of the product. For loose waves: After applying gel, section hair and create as many braids as desired (the smaller the braid, the tighter the wave). When hair is dry, undo your braids, then finger-comb and spray TRESemmé Climate Protection Finishing Spray to lock in style and prevent flyaways. For defined waves, apply the defining gel from roots to ends on damp hair. Roll hair in foam rollers and allow to set, or until completely dry. Slowly unroll hair and gently brush into place. In the mood for more defined curls? Check out our pin curl tutorial.

Strong Hold

hair gel strong hold
Hair gel helps you defy gravity. Photo credit: Allyson Alapont

Dying for a spiked-up pixie? Dreaming about creating a fauxhawk? For hairstyles that defy time, space and yes, gravity, look no further than Bed Head by TIGI Hard Head Mohawk Gel. It can be used on fine and thick hair to create the high-and-mighty looks you love. Bonus: It’s so easy to use: Just spread, spike and go!

How to use: Apply to dry hair. Gel dries instantly.

Frizzy hair has met its match with Nexxus Exxtra Hold Sculpting Gel. The super strong hold makes hair feel silky soft and smooths down frizz and flyaways, while helping you create the most intricate styles.

How to use: Apply to damp hair. Style away.

TRESemmé TRES Two Mega Firm Control Gel is for those who don’t want to mess around with control. It’s a shield against humidity and keeps styles in place for 24 hours. This gel is made for hair that is hard to hold and hard to style (shoutout to all you with thick, coarse hair!). With its firm control, you can slick hair back, sculpt it into looks and style it anyway you want.

How to use: As a styling aid, apply to damp hair. Then either scrunch and air-dry, or use a blowdryer (or your favorite heated tool) and style away your style. It won’t leave hair sticky or stiff.

TRESemmé TRES Two Ultra Firm Control Gel is one of the strongest hold styling gel formulations we love. This gel for hair gives you 24-hour humidity protection and total control, while boasting of an alcohol-free formula that won’t dry out your strands. Looking to create styles that are piecey or sculpted? Then this option works extra hard for you.

TRESemmé TRES Two Extra Firm Control Gel is the gel you want to use when creating slicked back wet look styles. Like the Ultra Firm Control variant, this styling gel has 24-hour humidity protection. Hair stays in place extra long without feeling sticky. This hair gel for women can be used on any type of hair. Ed’s note: If you’re not looking for the wet look (but still want extra, extra, extra hold), this is a formula that can be used while blow-drying too.

hair gel volumizing
Thin hair gets lots of volume and shine with hair gel.

2. Fine Hair + Volume

Nexxus Diametress Volume Lavish Body Gel Spray gives fine, flat hair a boost of volume and long-lasting styling staying power. Its formula contains Pro Vitamin B and Green Tea extract, which feed hair moisture while plumping up your strands.

How to use: Apply to clean, damp hair from roots to ends. For volume, blow-dry hair on low with a medium-sized round brush. Keep your style in place with a spritz of TRESemmé Compressed Micro Mist Hairspray Boost Hold Level 3 for good measure. The spray helps boost volume and protects against humidity.

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