Vol.2, No.9

Styling gel alternatives

It could be time to ditch your old styling gel in favor of some new healthy-hair alternatives.

Styling gel
Photo Credit: Andreas Herpens
With all the changes in hair styling products over the last few years, maybe it's time to retire the old traditional styling gel and take a look at some alternatives. The increasing use of waxes, pomades, and conditioning sprays means hairstyles are looking more natural and less sticky or stiff. While there are some reformulated styling gels out there, many still contain alcohol, a major factor in dried out looking hair. With so many alcohol-free alternatives, it could be time for a styling gel makeover.

Sprays have been around a long time, but there's good reason to take a look at these old stand-bys. Many of the new sprays create volume without using alcohol. And many sprays now contain conditioners, hair thickening agents, or anti-frizz properties to keep your hair looking healthy. Just be careful not to over-spray or you could end up with crispy helmet-hair.

Mousse can also add lots of volume to a hairstyle without making hair look over-styled and unnatural. If applied wet and allowed to air-dry, it can give a look similar to the wet look but without the sticky gel feel. Hair styled with mousse can be easily re-styled and mousse works well with finishing products like sprays. Both sprays and mousses come in a variety of control options from light to maximum hold and together they can provide a thick, full look.

There are many newer products on the market that aim to create texture rather than volume. Pastes and muds are two styling products that give a matte, high definition finish to hair. These work particularly well with short, spiky haircuts where a lot of control is desired, but gel's glossy look is not. Use a small amount of paste or mud in place of gel to get a well-defined matte style.

If matte isn't quite what you're looking for, but you want a product that defines and molds hair, try pomades or waxes. You'll get the sheen of gel without stickiness, flakes, or stiffness. With wax and pomades, a little goes a long way. Hair can quickly go from natural to greasy if you aren't careful. Pomades can be used on either wet or dry hair, if applied wet and allowed to air-dry, pomades give a relaxed second-day-hair look without having to wait two days between shampooing. Wax should be applied to dry hair, starting at the ends. Too much will weigh the hair down, so again, start small. Many pomades in particular also contain conditioners which will help hair stay healthy.

Styling cremes, lotions, and glazes are other products that often provide very light hold but are useful for controlling frizz, conditioning hair, and providing a good base to any hairstyle. When used in place of a light hold styling gel, hair gets the benefit of shine and conditioning without the drying effects of alcohol.

There are many reasons to put your gel aside in favor of new styling products. With added conditioners and less reliance on alcohol, you may want to give your hair a new look with one of these styling gel alternatives.