The world of hair care is changing. For years, we've been told that styling gel is bad for our strands. However, newer formulations have improved a lot and even offer benefits for healthier hair. In fact, Hollywood stars like Brad Pitt have been seen sporting a little gel (or "product," as they call it) in their manes for a while now — and his hair still looks as good as ever!
If you've ever wondered what the deal with hair gel is, why you should or shouldn’t be using it, and whether or not it's safe for your locks, keep reading.
What Is Hair Gel Exactly?
The basic answer is it’s a styling product that's used to keep your hairstyle in place. It can be used on wet or dry hair and comes in many varieties depending on your needs and preferences (straightening, moisturizing, volumizing, or as a heat protectant).
While there are differences between gels designed for curly hair versus straight, they all serve the same purpose — to hold styles firmly in place without leaving behind any residue on your strands.
Hair gel is made up of mainly two main components: water and polymers. While older polymers were mainly used as fixative agents and for viscosity control in hair care products, newer polymers are now being used to condition hair and provide more control. When you apply hair gel, the polymers on your hair attract adjacent strands, forcing them to clump together through capillary forces.
Parabens, sulfates, and alcohol are the secondary ingredients in hair gel that most people have problems with. Parabens in cosmetic products are generally safe, according to the Food and Drug Administration as they come only in very small amounts. Sulfates, on the other hand, can be beneficial or detrimental to your hair. They’re great for removing oil and impurities from greasy hair, but they can be too drying for those with dry, frizzy locks. If you have a sensitive scalp, dandruff, or dyed hair, you may want to look for sulfate-free hair gels.
Last but not least, it's a common belief that alcohol harms hair. However, not all of them are bad. Due to their drying effects, short-chain alcohols like ethanol, propanol, and isopropanol are considered problematic styling products. Long-term use can roughen the hair cuticle, causing dry, brittle hair. On the other hand, long-chain alcohols like cetearyl are added as an emulsifier. These are typically moisturizing and good for the hair.
How Safe Is Hair Gel? Does It Cause Hair Loss or Scalp Damage?
When it comes to hair gel, your scalp, and hair health, there's no need to worry. Most of the issues surrounding hair gel come from not using it properly or using products with harmful ingredients.
Since most hair gels are made from synthetic ingredients, using them every day can cause build-up on your scalp and hair. This buildup can cause the scalp to become irritated and inflamed which can lead to itching and even hair loss. If you have dry hair, choose an organic hair gel or one without sulfates. If you have brittle hair, choose one without short-chain alcohol.
Remember that anything used in excess can be harmful. As long as you don't overdo it by using hair gel daily and you wash your hair thoroughly at the end of the day, you should be good.
What Are the Benefits of Using Hair Gel?
Here are some of the benefits of using hair gel:
Lets You Enjoy Hairstyles for Longer
A decent hair gel will keep any complex hairstyle in place for at least a whole day. Look for a hair gel that maintains its hold despite changes in weather since some gels lose their hold in hot or humid conditions.
Using a volumizing hair gel can make your hair look fuller and more bouncy. To prevent oil from weighing your hair down, try using a hair gel that offers oil control.
There are various hair gels available today that are formulated with ingredients that are good for your hair. Some contain natural oils like jojoba, argan, or coconut oil which are known to rehydrate the hair, tame frizziness, and enhance its shine. There are also hair gels formulated with proteins, biotin, and B vitamins that can strengthen hair and promote hair growth.
Here’s What You Should Remember
Hair gel isn’t as bad for your hair as you might think, especially with more advanced and hair-friendly formulations. If you use it correctly, hair gel can actually help your hair look healthier and more lustrous. You just need to find a gel formula that’s right for you and wash your hair thoroughly to avoid build-up.
After all, it doesn't seem like Brad has any hair gel worries. At the age of 58, he's still going strong and his hair looks fantastic.