Why I don’t usually recommend hair gel

On most days, a few people in my chair say that they use gel to hold their hair in place. Often, it is used to slick hair back or to hold a comb-over in its position throughout the day.

The majority of them have seen other products on the shelves, but hair gel is what that they are most familiar with. Gel is generally the least expensive, and the idea is simple: put it in your hair and shape the hair the way you want it, or comb the hair into place and put a little bit of gel on it.

While hair gel can certainly get the job done, my clients also tell me that they don’t like the gel drying into a plastic-like shell on their head, or the flaking that occurs as the day wears on (see some of the options I recommend).

Thinning hair and hair gel

A screenshot from MartyBlendz talking about different types of hair products on YouTube – see link at the bottom of the page – Check his channel for a ton of hair tips and knowledge.

I think the majority of the clients I see who use hair gel have hair which is thinning to some extent. Usually they are using the hair gel to either slick their hair back or to hold a comb-over in place. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes…. well… let’s just say that results may vary.

The nature of hair gel is that it sticks hairs together and holds them as a group. With thinning hair, what ends up happening is that it becomes a series of spikes showing a lot of the scalp, and accentuates the thinness of the hair.

…ok… it looks like a Koosh ball!

A cream or light pomade works differently, and instead of forming a bed of hard spikes, each hair goes back and looks fuller and more natural. The client can run their fingers through it during the day, and not worry about flaking or breaking down the gel.

Is it flaking? Is it dandruff? Is it dirty? What’s going on?

Hair gel is usually alcohol-based and dries into place, forming a hard shell on the hair. During the day, as the hair gets touched, the shell breaks and flakes fall out of their hair onto their clothes or onto their head.

Some folks comment that it makes them look dirty or others think they have dandruff or some other condition.

I choose other products based on the person’s hair and what they are trying to do with their hair. They work differently, and someone can run their fingers through their hair during the day without worrying about breaking the shell or losing their hair’s style or shape.

Do I EVER recommend hair gel?

In short: yes. Every tool and every product has its purpose. I will suggest a gel for specific purposes, such as:

  • Dramatic effects
    Some hair styles are very deliberate and/or may have a wet look which may or may not be accomplished with a hair spray – I’ll often refer to “Statue of Liberty” mohawks and dramatic hairstyles
  • Holding a combover in place
    This is usually on people who are camouflaging bald areas on a head. I wouldn’t say there’s a right or a wrong way to do this, but I encourage people to try different amounts of gel and placements until they find the right balance for their hair. Sometimes, a little bit toward the end will hold everything in place and the hair has a more natural look to it. Other times, we are asking hair to defy gravity and may need to use some along the length of the hair.
  • Just because you wanna!
    Hey, sometimes we just find something we like and we rock it! I’m the same way. In my hair, I generally have two products which I switch back and forth between. I like what they do in my hair, and I stick with them. If someone likes hair gel for whatever reason, then they should use it. This is your hair we are talking about, and at the end of the day, it’s all about what you want to do with it.

Check out MartyBlendz on YouTube for a ton of hair tips and knowledge.

About Dave

I am a barber in Marietta and the Cobb County area. I graduated from the Gwinnett Barber Institute and have been cutting hair since 2019.

Atlanta has always been my home, minus eight years when I was a Navy musician in Japan and Seattle.

When I am not cutting hair, I am usually found spending time with my family or at Atlanta United matches with the Terminus Legion in the supporters section.