Why You Should Avoid Applying Gel To Dry Hair

Back in the '80s, hair gel was all the rage. It allowed permed hair to hold its curls while also allowing mall bangs to maintain their gravity-defying heights. The hair gel in those times was tacky and left your locks with a crunchy feel. These days, gel is much more refined and gives your hair definition while maintaining its softness. "Ingredients make a huge difference both in how the product performs and the health of your hair," Original Moxie haircare owner Rachel Bleinstein told Naturally Curly. "Some gels ... meld more easily with the hair, producing a low-residue, flexible finish. Others, which rely on synthetic polymers or thickeners, can provide an extremely long-wearing finish, but may build up more quickly on the hair," she added.

The specific ingredients in gels make a difference in how they perform on your hair, but the final result also depends on how you use them. Many gels come with instructions that tell users to apply to damp or dry hair, but for the product to distribute evenly around your hair, it's actually better if your tresses have some moisture.

Applying gel to dry hair will result in those annoying white flakes

Gel is great when you need your hair to hold a curl or simply need extra hold for your straight hair. However, applying gel to dry hair won't allow the product to coat the hair properly without some water to help it along. The result will give you sticky, crunchy hair that will end up with white flakes of buildup that can be mistaken for dandruff. On the other hand, having your hair wet allows the gel to disperse throughout your strands more easily, leaving you with touchable, smooth locks. 

The gel also aids in locking in the water so your hair remains hydrated throughout the day. Director of Education of the As I Am haircare line Alana Snowden advised gel users to apply the product on wet hair, instead of damp, for this reason. "Water is a natural hydrant and it helps break down gel and support curl definition when the hair is drying," she said (via Naturally Curly). "Characteristically, damp hair has dry spots and naturally curly hair loses some of its definition at this point. There is not enough hydration in the hair, which can cause the hair to look frizzy and dry."

If your hair is completely dry or has some spots that need some hydration, we suggest spritzing it with some water before using gel. Give it a comb-through to distribute the water evenly and then follow up with your preferred method of styling.

How to style your hair with gel

After towel drying and combing your hair, apply a dime-sized amount through your strands, using your fingers to disperse the product evenly. "Detangling the hair prior to styling and applying hair gel sets you up for success by allowing the gel to glide right through the lengths of the hair, evenly saturating the strands to make for stress-free styling," hairstylist Gina Scipioni shared with Makeup.com.

In a YouTube video posted by ehowbeauty, hairstylist Linda Mendoza reveals that she likes to scrunch the gel throughout the crown of the head to give the hair more volume. Once the gel is distributed, use a towel to squeeze your strands to absorb any extra gel and water. Continue with the crunching motion while using a blow dryer on medium heat. You can also use a diffuser attachment to help fight frizz. Once your hair is completely dry, you'll be left with beautiful wavy or curly locks.

Gel can also be used to style straight hair. If you want to nail a sleek ponytail or bun, apply gel to wet hair and blow dry as usual. Pull your hair back and secure it with elastic, spot-treating areas with gel as needed. Do you have short hair that needs some styling? Create a fun, spiky effect or a smooth, slicked-back 'do with some hair gel. A cool tip — if you need some hold but don't want your hair to be too stiff, mix your gel with a bit of leave-in conditioner.