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We’ve been using hair gels for so long that it just doesn’t feel right to switch from them. But who says you have to? Let’s find out if hair gel is bad for your hair or not.
Hair gel, in simple terms, is a hairstyling product used to hold the hair in place. In less simple terms, it’s the backbone behind many hairstyles and has even defined whole eras of hair trends while remaining popular since day one.
Both men and women, for as long as we’ve cared about beauty, have been finding ways to style our hair into beautiful and attractive shapes. So, while I always knew we use various methods for shaping our hair, I had no clue hair gel wasn’t invented until 1929! I figured it’d be a little more “ancient” than that.
We all want to look our best, but sometimes we have to ask ourselves, at what cost? Is that new hair gel you’re using really worth it if it means damaging your hair?
Hair gels include alcohol and caustic chemicals, which help the gel to dry and give it its firm hold. But is that all? No, it also peels off moisture from the hair and scalp and makes them very dry and dehydrated.
If hair gel is bad, we have its ingredients to blame. Which begs the question …
What is Hair Gel Made Out of?
The jelly-like paste of hair gel is made up of polymers, emulsifiers, thickeners, as well as scents. Polymers are the secret behind what gives hair gel its ability to mold to hair. Most hair gels also contain alcohol which causes them to dry once they’re applied to the hair. This is what holds the hairstyle in place.
Can you Use Hair Gel Every day?
Technically, yes. There’s nothing stopping you. The hair gel police aren’t going to burst into your bedroom or bathroom and take you away to haircare jail. In reality, you’ll be fine.
However, if you don’t, your hair will thank you – especially over the long term. You see, your hair is made up of little overlapping cells that have some gaps in between them, kind of like pores. If you don’t let these pores breathe now and then, they’re more likely to break, fray, and just “complain.”
Also, subjecting your hair to the chemicals in hair gel non-stop simply isn’t a good idea. You’ll notice that your hair becomes dry looking and dull over time. If you already have dandruff, using hair gel will only make it worse. (By the way, use these home remedies for dandruff that doesn’t wanna leave you.)
So, all things considered, if you use hair gel too often, it’ll actually counteract or undo any of the benefits of hair gel. This brings us to the conclusion that it may not be a safe play.
So, to truly answer the question, “is hair gel bad for your hair?” I have the answer below.
Is Hair Gel Bad for your Hair?
It’s no secret that hair gel is, well, quite literally all about the hold. And while it may give you that sleek style you’re going for, all that hold is often achieved by using harsh chemicals like alcohol, which can dry out and damage your locks.
In fact, long-term use of hair gel can lead to scalp irritation and flaking, not to mention weakening the hair follicles and causing breakage.
So, is hair gel really worth it? Not necessarily. But if you must use it, be sure to apply a nourishing leave-in conditioner or serum beforehand to provide some protection for your strands. Or opt for some alternatives to hair gel mentioned below.
When we juggle the pros and cons, the cons definitely have the upper hand. But until and unless you have judged it correctly, you cannot fix one answer. So let’s read onto them.
1. Can Cause Dandruff
Hair gel works by drying the scalp and hair. It strips the natural oils away from the scalp and leaves no moisturizing agent in its place. As a result, the scalp can become dry, flaky, and itchy: all symptoms of dandruff.
Related Article: 8 DIY remedies that can actually get rid of dandruff at home
2. Unhealthy Looking Hair
It probably comes as no surprise to you by now that hair gel can wreak havoc on even the healthiest head of hair. Over time, after regular gel use, your hair can become frizzy and unmanageable.
However, the first sign of deteriorating hair health you’re likely to notice is split ends. Eventually, they grow further up the hair as it becomes weaker, eventually becoming breakages. This can cause the hair to look brittle, dull, and thinner than usual.
Related Article: 6 Best Drugstore Shampoos For Oily Hair That Actually Work!
3. Hair Loss is unbearable
This one is a little scary – I know! But it’s true, and I personally think it’s one of the best reasons to cut back on hair gel use – or just throw it in the bin altogether. Hair gel, if used often, can cause the hair to become brittle, which results in hair thinning.
But if you do use gel, don’t get paranoid. It’s normal to shed between 50 and 100 hairs a day, and hair loss only happens in severe cases. So if you maintain a good, regular haircare regime that features plenty of conditioning and moisture-rich products while keeping your use of hair gel to a minimum, you can easily avoid this fate.
This potential side effect may not bother you if you have a full head of luscious hair, but if you’re balding, the gel can speed up the process. What a nightmare! So, if that’s the case, it might be best to lay off the hair gel for now.
4. Hair Discoloration
Yes, believe it or not, you read that right. If you’re reaching for the phone to book an eye examination – stop – your eyesight is perfectly fine.
It’s true: hair gel can literally change the color of your hair. But when you’ve considered what we’ve learned so far, it kind of makes a lot of sense!
So, here are the facts. Hair gel can cause premature greying. Much like any corrosive chemicals, the ingredients in hair gel can enter your follicles and hair cells. There, it slowly strips the hair color-giving element, melatonin, away, causing your hair to grey over time.
But, scarily enough, that’s not all! Once again, I’m pointing the finger at the familiar culprit: alcohol.
Even I’m getting a bit sick of the doom and gloom of hair gel, so I can only imagine you are too. So, now it’s time for a bit of good news.
Some haircare brands have acknowledged the poor reputation of hair gel, and they’re made efforts to change it. By working on their product formulas, some of them have even managed to make hair gel that actually benefits the hair!
What are Healthy Alternatives to Hair Gel?
Good news! I may have just told you plenty of bad news about hair gel, but all hope is not lost! In fact, there are many different variations of hope, and they all work more or less the same as hair gel.
1. Hair Wax or Pomade
Hair wax provides light to strong hold and subtle shine. It may not be as strong as hair gel, but it’s loved by people worldwide, especially hair stylists. Why? Well, get this: hair wax is the secret behind the much-loved, rugged, messy bedhead look that’s right on trend these days.
But it doesn’t stop there. Hair wax can also produce structured and professional-looking styles without costing you your hair health. I’m obsessed with this stronghold hair wax. If you are serious about styling your hair, you need to get this ASAP!
2. Hair Cream
Hair cream fulfills the same hairstyling role as hair gel while keeping your hair healthy. It’s usually loaded with hydrating and nourishing oils while not relying on drying alcohol to hold the hair in place.
As well, hair cream offers a more natural, “fluffy” feel to the hair, which also looks fantastic.
3. Hair Spray
Hair spray keeps hair in place with its famous stronghold. But that said, it should only be used on rare occasions as it contains alcohol that can cause damage to the hair.
I’ve been using a hair spray for god knows how long to set my curls and other hair styles for days when I want them to stay, especially events like weddings. Now, I’ve tried many, but I’m not kidding when I say this is by far the best hair sprays ever! A little expensive but totally worth it!
4. Hair Paste
Most styling pastes are based on water, not alcohol, making them a healthier choice for your hair. As well they produce a more natural-looking finish that is easy to brush out and re-style if needed.
5. Hair Serum
Hair serums are generally silicon-based and can add shine to your hair while reducing frizz and enhancing your natural texture.
6. Styling Foam
While not well-known for its hold, styling foam can certainly add volume and shape to hair without leaving long-lasting damage.
Your Questions About Hair Gel: Answered
Because you have so many, and I know that.
How Often Should I Use Hair Gel?
In reality, it’s largely up to you how often you use hair gel. However, all things above considered, you might want to limit your hair gel use to once or twice a week if possible.
How Long Should I leave Hair Gel in for?
The answer varies, and everyone seems a little conflicted. I would argue this confusion is largely down to the different hairstyles. You see, while some hair types can cope better with hair gel, others take a health hit much faster.
That’s why I’m going to base my recommendation on the individual types of hair. For those with oilier hair (hair that gets greasy in a day or two), you can use hair gel a lot more often – maybe every second wash. However, if your hair is prone to dryness, you might want to limit your gel use to one or two times a week. If your hair is medium or “normal,” you may want to experiment with how often you can use gel while still maintaining healthy hair.
Does Hair Gel Expire?
In general, hair gel has a shelf life of about three years. After that, it starts to break down and can cause hair to become brittle and dry. So, if you’ve been holding onto that bottle of hair gel for a few years, it’s probably time to let it go.
The Bottom Line to is hair gel bad for your hair?
When it comes to the question, “is hair gel bad for your hair” I had to consider the many variables at play. Usually, I’d say – yes – in general, hair gel is bad for your hair. But, depending on the frequency it’s used and how it’s used, that “bad” can be turned into “not too bad.”
As well, since many haircare brands are moving with the times and listening to their customers’ evolving haircare needs/demands, I’m noticing that many hair gel formulas are becoming safer to use by the year.
If you’re still reluctant to risk the negative side effects of hair gel, you can always try one of the many (and just as good) hair gel alternatives that will help you to perfect your hairstyle without a single care in the world – enjoy!
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