Gel is a water-based product that is applied to wet hair to help style and hold hair in place, Udoh says. Curl cream, on the other hand, is typically an oil-based product that is applied to wet hair to help with styling or dry hair to define and enhance curls. Curl cream can also help to protect curls from humidity and keep frizz at bay.
Which Product is Right for Me?
Curl cream should be used by those with naturally curly or wavy hair to help define and enhance the curl pattern, while moisturizing and conditioning the hair, Udoh says. When it comes to styling gel, this depends on your hairstyle needs. Those with straight or slightly wavy hair can use it to keep hair in place while providing a strong hold.
However, gel products can actually play an important role in curly hair routines as well. Gels of today aren’t going to give your curls that crunch you might associate with strong hold gels or mousses of the past.
Curly girl Lydia Mwangi has found success with both types of product. In her experience, “curl cream fades out faster than gel does,” she says. Additionally, the difference she sees in her curls using each product is distinct.
“Gel gives you volume and cream gives you elongation. If you’re looking for your hair to look voluminous, go for the gel. But cream curls elongate your hair,” she says.
Below are the benefits of each, according to Udoh:
How Do You Use Hair Gel and Curl Cream?
It’s recommended to use either hair gel or curl cream while the hair is wet. “It’s actually even better if the hair is dripping wet, as these products work great with water. Water allows them to smooth easily over the surface of the hair so that they can slick every strand, as is the case with gel, or define curls, as is the case with curl cream,” Abdullah says.
You can also apply curl cream to dry hair to refresh your style or help tame frizz. Keep in mind when using curl cream, start with a small amount and build up as needed. Too much product can weigh down curls and cause them to appear greasy or oily, Udoh says. Using too much much gel can run the risk of drying out your curls.
Can the Two Products be Used Together?
Remember: styling gel is designed to hold your hair in place, while curl cream is meant to define curls and keep them hydrated. If you’re looking for more flexibility or a softer hold, you can use curl cream on its own. For a firmer hold (and great next-day curls!) using styling cream followed by gel on soaking wet hair is a great option. If you find that your hair feels too crunchy or the curls are tighter than you want when your hair dries, simply give your curls a shake and thanks to the curl cream underneath, they will hold their shape without the crunch.
Experiment to see what works best for your hair type! Additionally, Abdullah suggests styling the hair with a Denman brush or a detangling brush to help produce defined curls.
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