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When it’s not easy to get your hands on the best curly hair brands, we make do with what’s available near us. And in the quest to find a good gel, an ingredients list is your best friend! 

Water should be the first ingredient

Polymers in Gels

After water, the ingredient that actually makes a gel, a gel are polymers. Polymers deposit onto the surface of the hair and cause adjacent strands to be attracted to one, thereby creating clumps and providing the much needed “hold”. Once the water starts to dry off, a gel cast is formed which can be removed once hair is fully dry by SOTC – Curly hair gels : Everything you need to know

  • PVP/VA copolymer or just VP/VA copolymer – PVP (Poly N-Vinyl-2-Pyrrolidone) is one of the best film-formers. But it absorbs water readily, thus making it tricky in humid weather. PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate) resists absorption of water but not as great as PVP in film-forming. PVP/VA copolymer or just VP/VA copolymer is a  hybrid of the above 2 – Best of both worlds 
  • VP/DMAPA Acrylates Copolymer
  • Polyacrylate acid
  • Polyacrylate-2 Crosspolymer
  • VP/Dimethylaminoethyl Methaceylate Copolymer (VP/DMAEMA) – this is also known as Polyquaternium-11
  • Polyquaternium (Polyquats) – Cationic Polymers. Provide hold and humidity resistance.
    • Polyquaternium-4
    • Polyquaternium-10
    • Polyquaternium-11
    • Polyquaternium-28
    • Polyquaternium-69
    • Polyquaternium-72
    • Note – Not all Polyquaterniums are film forming. Polyquaternium-7, Polyquaternium-37, Polyquaternium-44, Polyquaternium-47, Polyquaternium-55, Polyquaternium-59, Polyquaternium-87 etc. are used for their conditioning, detangling or heat and sun protectant properties.
  • Polyamide-1 –  It is a really good film-former. Great Hold. Provides body and texture to hair

Film-forming humectants in Gels

These are products that form a film around your hair (thereby slowing moisture loss) + attract moisture. These can also cause a cast which can be removed by SOTC. But these will not provide the “hold” that we like. A lot of these can be found in custards like Kinky Curly Curling Custard.

  • Flax Seed Gel
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Hydroxyethylcellulose
  • Carboxymethyl cellulose
  • Pectin
  • Xanthan Gum
  • Guar Gum
  • Marshmallow Root
  • Slippery Elm
  • Nettle Extract
  • Panthenol
  • Hydrolyzed Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Amino Acids

Thickeners in Gels

Ingredients like Carbomer and Magnesium Aluminum Silicate merely thicken the product and do not have any film forming properties

Flaky Gels

Gels mainly flake when they do not combine well (are incompatible) with a previous product applied to your hair. To prevent this from happening to your hair, mix the products you are going to use in your palms and see if they form a smooth mixture or chunky white clumps. If they form white clumps, they cannot be used together. Some gels also flake is you use large quantities of them. Good examples are Kinky Curly Curling Custard and Cantu Define & Shine Custard.