The 16 Best Gels for Natural Hair of 2022

Our best overall pick is Mielle Organics Honey & Ginger Styling Gel

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Byrdie / Lecia Landis

All hair gels are not created equal—and if you have curly, coily, or kinky natural hair, then you know that different occasions call for different gels. The right gel will provide clumping for your wash-and-go curls and definition for your twist-outs, but the wrong gel? Well, that’s just a dry, crunchy mess.

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our best overall pick is Mielle Organics Honey & Ginger Styling Gel, which can work for all different curl types. We love that it contains honey, aloe extract, and babassu oil to provide ample hydration while tamping frizz. If you're looking for something more lightweight, consider Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel, which provides natural-looking definition with zero sticky or tacky feeling.

When searching for the best gel for you, it's important to consider your hair’s texture and porosity, as well as your styling needs. For those with low-porosity hair (your hair doesn’t allow in moisture easily), you’ll want to reach for a lighter gel to prevent product build-up. For those with high-porosity hair (your hair easily absorbs moisture), it might take a strong moisturizing hold to keep frizz at bay. Whichever your texture or your curl goals, there's a gel out there for you—and we've rounded up the best of them.

Keep reading to discover the best gels for natural hair.

Best Overall: Mielle Organics Honey & Ginger Styling Gel

Mielle Organics Honey & Ginger Styling Gel

Mielle Organics

What We Like
  • Made with over 70-percent organic ingredients

  • Crunch-free hold

  • Defines curls

What We Don't Like
  • Can be drying for some

Who else recommends it? Allure also picked the Mielle Organics Honey & Ginger Styling Gel.

What do buyers say? 82% of 700+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

You might’ve been forced to choose between moisture or hold in the past, but this styling gel gives you the best of both worlds. The formula—which contains honey, aloe extract, and babassu oil—nourishes and hydrates your hair while also offering curl definition and frizz reduction. Those with a wide range of curl types rave that it delivers a crunch-free hold without sticky build-up or damaging chemicals. 

Hair Type: Curly | Active Ingredients: Acrylates Copolymer | Scent: Honey and Ginger | Size: 12.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Budget: ECO Style Olive Oil Styling Gel

ECO Style Olive Oil Styling Gel

Sally Beauty

What We Like
  • Weightless

  • Controls frizz

  • Alcohol-free

What We Don't Like
  • Can create flakes in hair

We’ve all seen this OG gel on the shelves at our local beauty supply store, but there’s a reason why this classic product has become a styling staple. The alcohol-free formula provides serious hold and definition while olive oil moisturizes strands. It can be a great option for those who wash their hair frequently (it’s known to flake after three or four days of buildup), but it really shines as a maximum-hold styler for twisted or braided styles.

Hair Type: All | Active Ingredients: Triethanolamine | Scent: Clean | Size: 16.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Lightweight Hold: Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel

Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel

Sephora

What We Like
  • Encourages uniform curl formation

  • Very moisturizing

  • Protects hair from free-radical damage

What We Don't Like
  • Could use a bit more hold

This gel provides light to medium hold for long-lasting, natural-looking definition with superior movement, shine, and softness. This formula—made with quinoa extract, keratin, and rice amino acids—fortifies strands and increases elasticity as well as smooths and seals the hair cuticle to lock out frizz and promote consistent curl formation. Reviewers also love that this lightweight formula doesn’t cause any stiff or sticky after-effects.

Hair Type: Curly | Active Ingredients: Polyquaternium-37, panthenol | Scent: Clean | Size: 6.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Strong Hold: Taliah Waajid Tight Hold Loc It Up for Natural Hair

Taliah Waajid Tight Hold Loc It Up

Amazon

What We Like
  • Flake-free

  • Superior hold for thicker hair

  • Smells good

What We Don't Like
  • May feel gooey to some

If you’re looking for serious hold minus the flakes, this gel is the one for you. It’s strong enough to maintain loc styles—it's ideal for retouching or even creating new locs. But it’s also flexible enough to use as a styling gel to define your curl pattern and limit frizz. The all-natural formula is alcohol-free, which also makes it a great option for those with sensitive scalps. 

Hair Type: Color-Treated, Locs | Active Ingredients: Acrylates copolymer | Scent: Rosemary and Nettle | Size: 6.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Strengthening: NaturAll Club Curl Defining Flaxseed Gel

NaturAll Club Curl Defining Flaxseed Gel with Yogurt

NaturAll Club

What We Like
  • Softening

  • Available in flexible hold and extreme hold

  • Adds volume

What We Don't Like
  • Definition is harder for coily hair

This nourishing gel (made with organic flaxseeds) keeps your natural hair strong, but it also delivers amazing hold. The formula is non-sticky and leaves natural hair feeling soft and crunch-free—plus, it allows for flawless wash-and-go styles, twists, and braid-outs. It's available in both flexible hold (for defining curly hair) and extreme hold (for defining kinky, coily hair).

Hair Type: Curly, Kinky, Coily | Active Ingredients: Caprylhydroxamic acid |Scent: Flaxseed | Size: 8.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Defining : The Doux Big Poppa Defining Gel

Big Poppa Defining Gel

The Doux

What We Like
  • Humidity-resistant

  • Touchable hold

  • Adds shine

What We Don't Like
  • May need to follow up with moisturizer

This humidity-resistant formula creates a long-lasting, flexible hold, and helps to fight frizz while defining your style. It especially comes in handy for those who are transitioning from relaxed to natural hair or with multiple hair textures, and it comes with a promise to keep your curls poppin', defined, and shining. As a bonus, this 16-ounce container holds plenty of product, so you can feel good about getting the most bang for your buck.

Hair Type: Curly, Kinky, Coily, Textured | Active Ingredients: Ppg-5-Ceteth-20 | Scent: Unscented | Size: 16.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Edge: Design Essentials Sleek Edge Control

Design Essentials Sleek Edge Control

Amazon

What We Like
  • Intense shine

  • Provides texture to short styles

  • Works on wet or dry hair

What We Don't Like
  • Results may not be drastic to some

When I first found this edge control on my mother’s bathroom sink, let’s just say that it didn’t stay there for long—it remains one of the best edge controls I’ve ever used. You can count on this product to tame your flyaways and provide a firm hold to unruly hair. And, while there’s no miracle product that'll completely change the texture of the hair that frames your face, this will definitely help you style your baby hair to perfection.

Hair Type: Relaxed, Natural | Active Ingredients: Ceteareth-25 | Scent: Clean | Size: 2.3 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Thinning: NaturAll Club Flaxseed Gel Edge Control

NaturAll Club Flaxseed Gel Edge Control with Yogurt

NaturAll Club 

What We Like
  • Covers gray roots

  • Long-lasting

  • Minimizes the look of thinning edges

What We Don't Like
  • May leave some residue

Edge control is typically a quick fix, but this product doesn’t just lay your edges—it promotes growth, too. Made with organically sourced flaxseed, this formula offers strength and naturally derived protein to help promote edge hair growth and prevent breakage. This product will smooth your edges, tame frizz, and manage flyaways to reveal effortless, filled-in, and laid-back edges that last all day long.

Hair Type: Curly, Kinky, Coily, Textured | Active Ingredients: Ceteareth-25 | Scent: Clean | Size: 2.3 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Wash-and-Go: CURLS Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Jelly

CURLS Blueberry Bliss Curl Control Jelly

Amazon

What We Like
  • Reparative

  • Stimulates follicles for hair growth

  • Curl-enhancing

What We Don't Like
  • Smells overly sweet to some

For all of the curly girls who don’t like gel for their wash-and-go styles, this jelly is a total game-changer. My high-porosity hair is very curly yet fine, which makes it difficult to find a gel that defines my curls without drying them out or causing too much product build-up. I’d almost written off gel completely until trying the Blueberry Bliss Collection, but once I did, I never looked back—my curls were hydrated, soft to the touch, and more manageable.

Hair Type: Wavy, Curly, Kinky, Coily | Active Ingredients: Castor seed oil | Scent: Blueberry | Size: 8.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Multi-Purpose: Pattern Beauty Strong Hold Gel

Pattern Beauty Strong Hold Gel

Pattern Beauty

What We Like
  • Fortifying

  • Built-in slip

  • Color-safe

What We Don't Like
  • Hold could be longer-lasting

You can never go wrong with a slicked back pony, and this gel has what it takes to get the job done. Never damaging or drying, reviewers love that it has a flexible yet strong hold that’s great for a variety of styles. It also has a slippery texture that distributes well throughout your hair, making it an ideal choice to define your curls when rocking a wash-and-go style.

Hair Type: Curly, Kinky, Coily | Active Ingredients: Polyquaternium-37 | Scent: Clean | Size: 15.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Sensitive Scalps: Curlsmith Hydro-Style Flexi Jelly

Curlsmith Hydro Style Flexi Jelly

Curlsmith 

What We Like
  • Travel-size options

  • Minimizes scalp build-up

  • Silky consistency

What We Don't Like
  • Might make hair too wispy to some

This medium-hold styling gel is formulated to be super lightweight, delivering the definition you deserve without product build-up that can irritate your scalp. It’s super-charged with hyaluronic acid and hydrates both your scalp and your hair, plus it’s full of several other yummy ingredients, like green tea, thyme, and lavender.

Hair Type: Curly, Kinky, Coily | Active Ingredients: PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil | Scent: Unscented | Size: 2.0, 8.0, or 16.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

This lightweight gel is ideal for those with low-porosity hair, providing curl definition that is flexible and soft to the touch.

Best Anti-Frizz: Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel

Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel

Ulta

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Advanced frizz protection

  • Award-winning formula

What We Don't Like
  • May make hair feel sticky

For curly hair, humidity is not your friend. That’s because textured hair leaves the hair cuticle exposed, causing your strands to expand and frizz when they encounter water. The answer? This protein packed-gel, which seals every strand and locks in moisture to define dull frizzy hair. The result is a flexible hold that won't leave hair crunchy, sticky, or weighed down.

Hair Type: Curly | Active Ingredients: Acrylates copolymer | Scent: Clean | Size: 8.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

tgin Rose Water Defining Styling Gel

tgin Rose Water Defining Styling Gel

Ulta

What We Like
  • Strengthens hair follicles

  • Adds shine

  • Protects from free radicals

What We Don't Like
  • Can create flakes

Twist-outs, braid-outs, roller sets, and slicked back looks—if you can style it, this gel can hold it. This rose water gel delivers moisture and soft hold to your hair for greater definition without flakes or residue. Plus, it's free of harmful sulfates, parabens, and artificial colors, so you can feel confident that you aren’t sacrificing the well-being of your hair for the sake of a style.

Hair Type: Wavy, Curly | Active Ingredients: PVP/VA Copolymer | Scent: Rose Water | Size: 13.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Fine Hair: Aveda Confixor Liquid Gel

Aveda Confixor Liquid Gel

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Medium hold

  • Creates body to the hair

  • Refreshing fragrance

What We Don't Like
  • May feel greasy to some

When you have fine hair, it can be difficult to find a gel that delivers the hold you want without weighing down your curls. This liquid gel does just that while the Morikue protein-infused formula conditions, fortifies, and creates definition. Reviewers also rave that it adds body and volume to limp hair.

Hair Type: Fine | Active Ingredients: PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil | Scent: Rose Water | Size: 13.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Elongating: Aunt Jackie's Flaxseed Elongating Curling Gel

Aunt Jackie's Flaxseed Elongating Curling Gel

Amazon

What We Like
  • Promotes hair health

  • Enriched with flaxseed and wheat protein

  • Gives bounce and stretch

What We Don't Like
  • Ingredients could be more healthier

For type 4 hair, we all know that the shrinkage is real, but this beautiful gel does the work to stretch shriveling curls. The formula—made with flaxseed, shea butter, and extra-virgin olive oil—conditions your hair while nourishing the scalp and promoting hair growth. Users love that it defines curls without flaking or weighing hair down.  

Hair Type: Wavy, Curly, Coily | Active Ingredients: Carbomer, Aminomethyl propane | Scent: Unscented | Size: 15.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

A small amount can be used on clean, dry hair, but this gel works best when used on clean, wet (or damp) hair. Apply more for tighter curls and less for elongated curls.

Best for Coily Curls: As I Am Soothing Gel

As I Am Smoothing Gel

Amazon

What We Like
  • Works on very thick hair

  • Made with organic extracts

  • Contains wheat protein

What We Don't Like
  • Not very humidity-proof

Hold and shine? Check and check. This smoothing gel has a thick yet lightweight consistency that does wonders for type 4 curls. With aloe vera and wheat protein, it moisturizes as it strengthens, working to provide a strong hold without drying your hair out.

Hair Type: Wavy, Curly, Coily | Active Ingredients: Carbomer, Aminomethyl propane | Scent: Unscented | Size: 8.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

Our best overall pick is Mielle Organics Honey & Ginger Styling Gel, which works well to hydrate and define all curl types. A fantastic lightweight alternative is Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel, which also boasts a hydrating formula to shape curls and keep hair soft and bouncy.

What to Look For in Gel For Natural Hair

Alcohol-free

Alcohol can be a problem in any hair care product. In textured hair, it can increase dryness. Since textured hair tends to err on the dryer side already, this can be damaging and can make hair look dull.

Consider your hair's porosity

If your hair is highly absorbent, you'll need a stronger, more moisturizing product in order to prevent frizz. But if your hair is low porosity, you'll want a lighter gel so that you don't experience buildup quickly. if you're unsure of your hair's porosity, try this simple and quick test.

Styling purpose

While some products can function in an all-in-one capacity, many will work better specifically for edge control, or protective styles, or loose curls. Using an edge control gel for braids or twists may not be as effective as choosing a gel that's made for that purpose.

FAQ
  • Is gel bad for your natural hair?

    A hair product is as good, or bad, as its ingredients. Some ingredients should be avoided for natural hair—for example, alcohol can cause dryness and silicones can create buildup. Provided you're choosing a gel that lets your hair breathe and doesn't contain any problem ingredients, you shouldn't experience damage from it.

  • What gel makes your hair grow?

    If your goal for gel is to stimulate hair growth, choose a gel like NaturAll or Aunt Jackie's, which contain ingredients such as flaxseed oil can potentially facilitate hair growth, and might also help to thicken thin edges. You may also want to avoid styles that pull at the edges of your hair, including tight ponytails and buns.

  • Is edge control better than gel?

    Edge control is often featured prominently on products that are best for natural hair edges. Look for gels that work to lay edges, like Design Essentials and NaturAll are two that clearly state they work well for that purpose.

  • Is gel better than pomade?

    Gel is a great choice for everything from twist-outs to holding a sleek pony in place. However, some people might not enjoy the look or feel of them. Pomade doesn't offer as much control as gel, but may be gentler on hair.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. The 19 best gels for curly hair, according to beauty editors and hairstylists. Allure. https://www.allure.com/gallery/best-gels-for-curly-hair

  2. Goyal A, Sharma V, Upadhyay N, Gill S, Sihag M. Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. J Food Sci Technol. 2014;51(9):1633-1653. doi:10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9

  3. Gavazzoni Dias MFR. Hair cosmetics: an overview. Int J Trichology. 2015;7(1):2-15.

  4. Goyal A, Sharma V, Upadhyay N, Gill S, Sihag M. Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. J Food Sci Technol. 2014;51(9):1633-1653.

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