Hair gel

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Hair gel is a hair styling product used for grooming, styling and managing hair. The first hair gel was created in 1929. Called Brylcreem, it was the

first mass-marketed men's hair care product. Prior to the introduction of commercial hair gel, people used petroleum jelly to keep their hair in place till the end of the day.

Why should I be aware of this?

  • A popular hair styling product, there are many varieties of hair gel available. It is important to know the ingredients of your hair gel, the frequency and duration of application.
  • Daily application of hair gel can be harmful for your hair
  • If you have dry hair, avoid hair gel containing alcohol.

All about hair gel

Hair gel is a type of gel that can be applied into the hair to congeal it into a hairstyle as required by the user. The outcome created by a hair gel is similar or stronger than that of a hair spray but weaker than that of hair glue.

Hair gel is available as either a spray or direct application. Spray gel is good for a quick, overall covering, but generally provides less hold than direct application hair gel. Direct application hair gel requires you to work it in evenly by hand, but typically provides a stronger hold. Hair gel works well for “scrunching” curls and helping create sleek shapes. Hair gels can be a boon for a hurried hair style. It is marketed as an exemplary styling support for any kind of hair, be it long, short, curly, permed or chemically treated.

Ingredients of Hair gel

The primary ingredients of hair gel include humectant, plasticizer and a water-soluble polymer. They come include beeswax, alcohol and petroleum jelly. Other ingredients might include herb extracts, vitamins, nutrients and fatty acids for promoting hair growth. Most of these ingredients are listed by their chemical names. Here is a list of possible chemicals you might see on the labels of your hair gel and their possible adverse impact on your health.

  • Polyquaternium-11 - This is a possible carcinogen and a respiratory toxin.
  • Panthenol - Experiments conducted on animals show broad systemic effects at high doses.
  • Benzyl Nicotinate - These exhibit broad systemic toxicity in animals.
  • Zinc PCA - This has been found to be persistent, bioaccumulative in wildlife.
  • Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate - This may contain harmful impurities.
  • Phytic Acid - Animal studies show brain and nervous system effects at moderate doses.
  • Dipropylene Glycol - Tests done on animal effect on sense organs at moderate doses.
  • Polysorbate 20 - Studies on animal show reproductive effects at high doses.
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone - This has been found to be human immune system toxicant.
  • Tetrasodium EDTA - Animal studies show sense organ effects at low doses
  • Methylparaben - This is a possible carcinogen, neurotoxin and a skin irritant.
  • Fragrance - This could be an irritant for those with allergies.

Frequency of application and hair health

Hair experts advise against applying hair gel daily. According to them hair needs to breath.

  • Though hair is a dead cell, these dead cells still react in certain ways to the chemicals and products that are used on them. The regular application of chemicals can break, discolour and dry them.
  • Using a hair product with a large percentage of alcohol, for instance, will dry the hair shaft and make it more prone to breakage.
  • Excessive usage of products with harmful ingredients can harm the scalp.
  • This however will not cause hair loss or baldness.

What can I do?

  • Avoid applying hair gel to the ends of the hair as this might weigh it down and reduce the motion.
  • Do not apply too much of gel on a particular area alone.
  • Hair gels are wonderful on fine and medium hair. If your hair is thick, then you have to take special efforts to style your hair.
  • Any type of hair and hair style will require no more than a small chunk of gel, so do not use excess as this will give your hair a hard and crunchy look. The alcohol in the gel will dry up your hair if used in excess amounts.
  • Perform a patch test to ensure that your skin is ready for the hair gel you are going to use.

Homemade hair gel

Dissolve about 1 tsp gelatin in 1 cup of warm water. Store in the refrigerator and use this homemade hair gel as you do with a ready hair gel. Shelf life is approximately one week. This hair gel has to be stored in a refrigerator as it contains no preservatives. Add fragrance (lemon juice)


  • Hair gel