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Let’s face it: Sometimes we need a powerful product that will keep our hair in place—and for long periods of time. Strong hold, beautiful shine, and style versatility are all important benefits. And lucky for us, all of these components can be found in one product, and that's hair gel. We know what you’re thinking...hair gel? Really? Hear us out: The stiff hair gels of the past have transformed into the flexible, easy-to-use holds of now.
Here, find the best hair gels you’ll be reaching for day after day.
Best Overall: Kenra Styling Gel 17
Whether you want to achieve a sleek, high ponytail or just prefer to tame a few flyaways, this versatile formula does it all. Its firm hold is strong but flexible, allowing you to rock a variety of different styles without having to switch products.
Best Volumizing: Sexy Hair Big Sexy Hair Blow Dry Volumizing Gel
Are you a blowout devotee? Same. Nothing feels as good as a fresh, clean, and bigger-than-ever blowout—which is why you need this hair gel in your routine. Simply apply a few pumps of product onto towel-dried hair, then blow out as usual. The result: A lifted crown, major body, and touchable strands.
Best Budget: Garnier Fructis Style Pure Clean Styling Gel
If you’re looking for a straightforward and affordable hair gel, look no further. Infused with 98% naturally-derived ingredients, this hefty bottle will not only last you months but features acacia gum—the sap taken from the acacia tree—which provides natural holding properties.
Best Strong Hold: Davines This Is a Strong Hold Cream Gel
Introducing the strongest hold known to womankind: This lightweight cream-gel. The unique formula not only dries quickly and leaves no residue, it still gives your hair some natural movement and texture. One user raves that the formula applies quite evenly and doesn’t clump up the hair.
Best Drugstore: Aussie Instant Freeze 20-Hour Hold Hair Gel
Where there’s no flaking, there are no issues. This sea kelp and jojoba oil gel promises long-lasting hold—a minimum of 20 hours to be exact—without the dried formula “chipping” in your hair. Plus, the citrus scent makes styling your hair a lovely experience.
Best for Curly Hair: SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curling Gel Souffle
This SheaMoisture gel is designed to take your natural curls to the next level. Nourishing ingredients like coconut oil and baobab extract provide hydration, while agave nectar adds definition and flaxseed oil strengthens your strands. Plus, it's formulated without silicones, polymers, or PVP, so you don't have to worry about any product buildup.
Runner-Up, Best for Curly Hair: Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel Stronger Hold
The key to finding the perfect hair gel for curly girls is finding a formula that provides a reliable hold but allows the curl to naturally take shape and move. That’s where this hair gel—developed specifically for those with curls—comes in. Created with humidity in mind (every hairstyle’s enemy), the anti-frizz nanotechnology works to control flyaways while defining your particular curl pattern. As the temperature and humidity increase, the formula continues to keep your curls contained, without that awful hair gel crunch.
Best Lightweight Hold: R+Co Motorcycle Flexible Gel
If a more flexible, piece-y look is your thing, reach for this innovative R+Co product, which delivers the structure you'd get with hair gel and the shine and texture you'd find with a wax. Its formula is also very nourishing, packed with hair-loving ingredients like coconut oil, sunflower seed extract, keratin, and argan oil—plus, a heat styling conditioner protects hair from thermal damage so you can craft your look worry-free.
Best for Sensitive Scalps: Free & Clear Hair Styling Gel
If you have sensitive skin, you'll need a gel that's super gentle—and this one from Free & Clear definitely hits the mark. Its dermatologist-tested formula is totally free of chemical irritants—no fragrances, botanical extracts, essential oils, alcohol, or gluten here. Instead, it uses panthenol to help hydrate hair and hold it in place sans any irritation or flaking.
Best for Wet Look: Redken Water Wax 03 Texturizing Pomade
If the fresh-out-the-water or super-slicked back look is what you’re going for, then consider this pomade your partner in crime. Apply to hair for a sculpted and controlled style that lasts all day and night. The water-based formula feels slightly waxy, but not greasy, and goes on smoothly. For a true “wet” look, use a generous amount of product. Bonus: Regardless of how much product you use, your hair won’t harden.
Best for Natural Hair: Curl Junkie Pattern Pusha Hair Styling Gel
Users absolutely love this naturally-derived hair gel—and for a number of reasons. It can hold a curl for hours, it evenly distributes throughout your strands, and it doesn’t feel like there’s any product in your hair, so your style is totally touchable. For best results, comb a liberal amount of product throughout wet hair, using your fingers to twist and define your curls. Afterward, you can choose to let your hair air dry or diffuse it with a blow dryer.
Best for Thick Hair: Aveda Brilliant Retexturing Gel
Thicker hair needs a stronger hold. Made with plant proteins like certified organic aloe and chamomile, this formula provides amazing hold and touchable softness. What users love the most, however, is that it also adds a beautiful sheen throughout the hair, making strands look healthy. One user raves that she’s been dedicated to using this product for the last twenty years!
Best Matte Finish: Ouai Matte Pomade
Sometimes, instead of a super-molded look, what we want is a style that’s piecey, edgy, and has tons of movement. This lightweight pomade boasts a sophisticated floral scent plus a minimal hold that tames frizz and creates gorgeous volume. Also, it has a matte texture, so your tousled look is even more I-woke-up-like-this believable.