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Microscope Photos Reveal That Gels Have Little Effect on 4C Hair

Avatar • Oct 2, 2014

Hair gel is a product that some naturals love and can’t leave without but for others, it is beyond useless as they may find it drying and damaging in addition to not doing anything at all visibly to the hair.

I recently experimented with a number of popular hair gels on swatches of my own 4c hair and I’ll cut to the chase, here are the results.

4c_hair_gel_ experiment

Initially the results look underwhelming. The hair without gel pretty much looks like hair with gel. Additionally, there isn’t a visible difference between the different gels (at least not to me!). Here is a close up of the comparison between hair with no gel and hair with aloe vera gel just in the event you think that the previous set of images are too small to compare.

comparison_natural hair without gel and with gel

However, this isn’t an unexpected result. My hair (I emphasize my) really in general does not care about products, any shampoo will do, any conditioner will do and also now any gel will do.….…..or will it?

Lessons from the experiment

1. Why the bentonite clay step?

I used bentonite clay to clump the curls before applying gel. Some people can use hair gel to clump hair but this often involves a lot of combing for tightly curled hair such as mine. My hair is averse to a lot of combing and the easy clumping method for my hair is a bentonite clay rinse (more details here)

2. Why isn’t there a visual difference between the gels or hair without gel?

Essentially, the result seen is the ability of the gel to lock in the curl clumping from the bentonite clay stage. In my case, all the gels perform to the same degree.

3. Is there no way to distinguish which gel is better

Yes there is! This experiment really brings home the message of trial and error. You will never know whether a product works well or not for you if you do not try it. It is the subjective assessment that maters. However, I am able to distinguish between the gels for myself as a result of using them e.g

a. No hair gel : Hair feels soft, clumps break up easily
b. Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel : Slight crunch, good hold for long and in humidity
c. Kinky Curly Curling Custard: Very little crunchiness, hair feels soft but a little oily, light hold. Strange product consistency (not be too graphic but it is a little bit like holding mucus)
d. World of Curls Gel: Slight crunch, very sensitive to humidity absorbing water from air or if misted on easily (actually makes a good pre-wash treatment if hair is thirsty for moisture), sometimes does not play well with other products
e. Ecostyler Gel: Very crunchy and oily with a heavy hold, sensitive to humidity, the most difficult of the three to use due to gel/oil like consistency.

4. Do I have a favorite?

I emphasize again these are my favorites for my skill and desired results. For free hair — Fruit of the Earth Aloe Vera Gel gives the most consistent results and has the easiest to use consistency.  For hair in own braids — World of Curls Gel  because it traps moisture so well. Least liked — Ecostyler is a definite no and KCCC is a no if you want a strong hold.

The moral of the story: Trial and Error.

Additional Notes:

Hair swatches: All from the crown area (details)

Experiment: Hair unbraided and detangled first then shampooed (2 mins), rinsed (2 mins), conditioner applied (1 hour with heat) and then rinsed (2 mins) before applying bentonite clay suspended in water applied (20 mins) and before being rinsed (2 mins). Leave in applied to soaking wet hair followed by gel (except in one case where no gel is used. Hair then dried and imaged.

Conditioning time: In practice, I never use heat or condition my own hair for an extended period of time; 20- 30 mins at most, but in the interest of doing what many naturals do, I chose to apply heat and extend the conditioning time to 1 hour.

Products: Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo, L’Oreal Eversleek Smoothing Conditioner, Bentonite Clay from Sheabutter cottage , Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave In

 

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About The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

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rb
rb
6 years ago

This test doesn’t seem accurate. You can’t see the effect of the gel by itself because you did the clay treatment. You basically did the maximum hydration method without the first step. With the MHM your hair will be defined, but the type of gel you use with just determine the crunchiness,hold, and frizz.

Barbara
Barbara
6 years ago
Reply to  rb

I have to agree concerning the bentonite clay. This experiment should have been done without it. This post does remind me that I need to try bentonite clay on my hair again. Lol.

Anu
Anu
6 years ago
Reply to  rb

Even with the bentonite clay, there are still clear differences between the types of gel used. In that way, I think that the experiment serves its purpose of displaying the differences between hair gels. Furthermore MHM is much more involved and takes time to achieve. Simply adding clay to hair on wash day doesn’t make your regimen MHM.

Caress
Caress
6 years ago

Can you do an article on how to avoid frizzy ends when taking twists down. I coat with out I give it all night to dry even when it dry every time I untwist a twist the hair looks like I jusy combed it out when I haven’t. Im a 4b/c mixture but I have achieved a great twist/Bantu knot out before so why is is not working now? So pissed

AlllSmiless
AlllSmiless
6 years ago
Reply to  Caress

Check out BlakIzBeautyful on YouTube:8 Reasons Your Twist Outs Look a Hot A$$ Mess| — …: http://youtu.be/jjM6F5hJl6w

LaNeshe
6 years ago
Reply to  Caress

Are you coating your hands with oil before take down? Are you untwisting from the bottom of the twist? Are you sure not to “borrow hair” when twisting? Those three things changed how my twist outs came out.

NaturallyNeesh
NaturallyNeesh
6 years ago
Reply to  Caress

I used to have that issue too…I am all 4C (the nape is like 3A lol) and so I started making sure to take my twists out from the root. Also, when you twist make sure to do a smoothing a twisting motion if you know what I mean as you twist down. When I did’t do this, my twists would always be frizzy. I sorta makes the twist more secure without it being tight. Check out naturallyme4c…she has great twist out vids. I am not her lol…just sharing.

NaturallyNeesh
NaturallyNeesh
6 years ago
Reply to  NaturallyNeesh

a smoothing and twisting*

Hansy
Hansy
6 years ago
Reply to  Caress

This was my problem until I started the MHM regime, now my hair is frizz free for the most part. However for a quick fix, put flaxseed gel on the ends when you are twisting or braiding. That should help.

Holla4mom
Holla4mom
5 years ago
Reply to  Hansy

That used to happen to me before MHM as well. Now that my hair is more hydrated and clumps together better, it is much more defined in braid outs and not as frizzy during take down.

silkynaps
silkynaps
6 years ago

My hair responds similarly to gels. Curls and coils clump naturally, but combs can break the clumps and create frizz; so, I finger detangle. In the beginning, I used curling gels from Kinky-Curly, SheaMoisture, and Nubian Heritage, but eventually I realized that my hair would remained clumped on its own if I maintain moisture levels. Plus those gels only worked if the climate was perfect; otherwise, they would dry out my hair. The air in my area is not very moist. Dry air + glycerin = mortal doom for my hair. I’m more into softness than hold, but I do like… Read more »

mlank64
mlank64
6 years ago

The hair doesn’t look like 4c hair, more like 4a/3c hair.

Stace
Stace
6 years ago
Reply to  mlank64

Yea I agree. I was looking to see what magnification the hair was under (but maybe it was just the article title).

Brown
Brown
6 years ago
Reply to  mlank64

Agreed. Whats the point of a hair typing system if people dont know to use it properly. No offense to the author but she has s like curls and some medium sized coils. 4c hair would be more of very smalls coils or some z shaped strands. The title is a bit misleading

Canary
Canary
6 years ago

Please change the title of the article avoid generalizations it is catchy but misleading as the experiment was only done on one subject.

Victoria Owl
Victoria Owl
6 years ago
Reply to  Canary

@Canary I totally agree!

NaturallyNeesh
NaturallyNeesh
6 years ago

I love using fruit of the earth aloe vera gel when I do use gel…which is rare. I noticed that I really do not need anything to “clump” my coils (I am 4c mostly)…but I agree with this. I think even if you hadn’t used the clay beforehand…it would have been the same result honestly.

cnj
cnj
6 years ago

What happened a few days later? I ask because that’s when I see the difference between gel and no gel. I can get curl definition without gel but it lasts much longer when I use a gel especially in the summer. I use shea moisture’s gel btw. I thought that was why people use gel, to increase the number of days they can wear a style not for definition.

Victoria Owl
Victoria Owl
6 years ago

Do you think you would have noticed a difference in the gels and how your hair responded if bentonite clay was not used?

Victoria Owl
Victoria Owl
6 years ago
Reply to  Victoria Owl

I meant a *visible* difference.

The moral of the story for me was that without bentonite clay you would not have experienced such defined results. So considering this, you can’t really judge the true effectiveness of the gels? Correct me if I’m wrong.

Alwina
Alwina
6 years ago

Thank you for sharing and showing us visibly some expectations to have with our hair and gel. I will add that I’ve used a few different gels, either by me or my stylist and the outcome does vary. But I also need to rake the product through to get the requisite style. I plan to do the MHM this month as I hope this method will really provide hydration to my hair for the coming winter.

Many thanks again for your work!

NapturallyKia
NapturallyKia
6 years ago

Interesting. can you do an experiment like this using curl puddings, custards, butters, etc?

Tyler
Tyler
6 years ago

If you twist your hair without get they may not hold for as long and/or a twistout may not have defined curls for as long.

B
B
6 years ago

*Raises hand* I havea few questions: Where are these swatches of your hair coming from? how much hair do you have? Can you ship some my way?

Stace
Stace
6 years ago

My question is , why or how is it that bentonite clay produces the results that it does?

lolab
lolab
6 years ago

OK. I read this article a few times and what I don’t understand is, how can their be any visible differences if bentonite clay was used on all samples? Since the clay causes the definition/clumping, like that of a gel, then there is no more definition that can be done(for your hair type) by adding gel, other than possibly longer lasting definition/hold? Maybe I would understand your point if you did this same experiment without the clay. Or am I missing something? Like Victoria stated this may not be an accurate representation of how gels actually work on your so… Read more »

Aliyah
Aliyah
6 years ago

Um that wasn’t 4c hair anyway that was 3c/4a kinky curly weave . Anyway I get great results with gel but it tales too long to put through my whole head so I don’t use it alot .

Aliyah
Aliyah
6 years ago

BTW I’m a 3c/4a I was juts curious to see if they would actually use 4c hair and show proof that’s not proof and I have a friend with 4c hair she twists braids her hair using moisturizer oil and gel and gets greats results .

Anu
Anu
6 years ago

Thank you so much for this! For years, I couldn’t understand why Ecostyler left my hair looking and feeling like a terrible mess. Now I can see that this problem isn’t unique to me. I will try Fruit of the Earth.

dot
dot
6 years ago

What I got from this experiment is that if you want defined curls on hair that does not work well with gels, then just use bentonite clay as your base to guarantee some curl definition. Then you can add gel to lock in the definition for style longevity. This experiment does not show that gels have no effect on 4c curls. The only way I can see that being the case is if the gels were applied without the bentonite clay because only then we can see the true effect that the gels may or may not have on the… Read more »

Tineka
Tineka
6 years ago

I don’t think there was a difference because of how the products are applied. Leave ins are all pretty much water based which would be your moisturizer you would need to apply an oil or butter on top to seal in the moisture otherwise the moisture just escapes or evaporates because it’s mostly water. For that reason applying gel directly on top of a moisturizer may leave your hair feeling dry because it’s as if you applied it to naked hair since the moisturizer has evaporated. I would suggest sealing before applying the gel and see if there is a… Read more »

HerlucidsKy
6 years ago

So from reading your previous article on your main site concerning this topic, what I have gathered is that once bentonite clay has been applied to type 4c hair, gels are ineffective for further clumping or definition? And this is the case because the hair has already been significantly clumped/defined due to the bentonite clay? So the only use for applying gels would be for the holding power and longevity of the style. Or is there more to it? Is it safe to say that for those who once thought that their type 4 hair could not achieve a defined curly,… Read more »

Stace
Stace
6 years ago
Reply to  HerlucidsKy

I’m a 4a with some 3c around the perimeter. My shrinkage is crazy because my curls when not properly defined will just ravel around themselves and draw up. Even when I twist my hair the twist will start to curl around itself. After reading this article, I figured the clay by defining the curl should also elongate the curl and reduce shrinkage. The minute I applied it to my hair my curls just loosened up and unraveled and began to hang. I was amazed. No gel ever defined my curls so well as the clay did, and no gel ever… Read more »

herlucidsky
6 years ago
Reply to  Stace

Hey Stace, Thanks for sharing. That’s exactly what it did to Jc’s hair. It is demonstrated in greater detail on her main blog. She has other photos of her hair without any clay being used(not sure why she didn’t add the before and after to this article) I was able to see the drastic difference in her hair with and without any use of the clay. Her hair naturally shrinks up significantly. So for those who thought her hair looked more 3c/4a than 4c, well her hair prior to the use of the clay appeared very different than what you… Read more »

Carlee
Carlee
6 years ago

Pseudoscience.

cacey
cacey
6 years ago
Reply to  Carlee

were you expecting a microscopic analysis or something?

0101
0101
6 years ago
Reply to  cacey

Not the person you were replying to, but for an article titled with the word “microscope”- its not too far off-base to expect something resembling just that. lol

natural247
natural247
6 years ago
Reply to  0101

lol true and I also don’t get the point of this article. What does she mean gels have little effect on 4c hair? Gel can be used for hold or sealant. Is she saying that gels don’t do those things? I’m confused.…?

Carlee
Carlee
6 years ago
Reply to  cacey

I think JC has a habit of validating opinions through pseudoscience. Yet she claims her information is more factual because science, but that logic doesn’t follow, as many have already pointed out. You can’t make an opinion and validate it with a poor usage of scientific method, but hide under the esteem of science. Hard sciences like chemistry are discourses–conversations where more information is revealed over time. Science is not necessarily truth, just the truth as we know it with the information that we have today. Look into the history of science and understand how many scientists got it wrong… Read more »

DeAnna
DeAnna
6 years ago

Whatever, I will stick with what works for me

ss (short & sweet)
ss (short & sweet)
6 years ago

Dear Jc: Thanks for taking the time to test and post your opinions. I read a lot of dissenting comments — some even calling your test ‘pseudoscience’. I have 4c coils and I have to say your 4c coils are gorgeous and healthy!!! Your hair must be the bomb-diggity if you can sacrifice that much to share with us! Really healthy looking hair! 🙂 To the naysayers — this is one person’s opinion, one person sharing an experience. There are so many variables that make one product work better than another (how gel is applied/shingled/combed through hair, existing buildup on hair,… Read more »

Michelle F.
Michelle F.
6 years ago

I agree, to the naysayers I will also add that she took great pains to emphasise that this is based on HER experience and HERS alone. She never said that this should be done across the board or that it applies to everyone with 4C curls.

Nessa
Nessa
6 years ago

This was certainly interesting to read and did make me wonder if the there was any real difference between the gels I’ve been using. Having said all that, I believe I’ve landed on my ideal gel, Amazing Botanicals’ Hibiscus Gel. I get the definition I want without the crunch so I’m staying put for now.

http://www.curlkitshop.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=62

TWA4now
TWA4now
6 years ago

Like she said, trail and error. Thanks for sharing your results! ?

TWA4now
TWA4now
6 years ago

Oops the question mark is a suppose to be a heart. Thanks.

niaunscripted
niaunscripted
6 years ago

Well I just ‘re-discovered’ aloe vera gel after an article I read on bglh. I have 4c hair and I decided to try it again after purchasing numerous products and gels for 2 strand twist and braid outs. I must say the aloe vera, plus shea butter or a moisturizer of some kind seems to make my twist outs and braid outs more defined and less suspectible to frizz. Plus the aloe vera gel doesn’t make
my hair crunchy. That’s just me.

Adeola @ TheManeCaptain

This is why I stopped using hair gels. My 4c hair just doesn’t care too much. I’m currently trying the flax seed gel which makes your hair so soft 🙂
http://www.coilsandglory.com

Sibo
Sibo
6 years ago

Did you cut off your hair to do this experiment?

Nike
Nike
6 years ago

Hmm, I think we need another type 4 subdivision or maybe a whole new type 5 category cos my “4c” hair does not have curls anywhere near that big. (In Nigeria, that’s Fulani hair and the Fulani are northern people who’s ancestry includes Arabs.) The biggest coils could maybe go around a regular store-bought straw on a good day, while my tightest coils are like a ball-point pen spring. And my hair is never soft after drying without product, no matter how much DC I’ve done. I’ve got to twist in the LOC method and then twist it all over… Read more »

DiscoveringNatural
5 years ago
Reply to  Nike

Hi Nike! Ba wo ni. I love your answer. I find that when I do Wash and Go, I get the best results after doing a bentonite clay wash or a Rhassoul clay wash. My hair must be “sans” of products to reveal my true lumps. I have some videos on my channel, http://youtube.com/DiscoveringNatural

temfash
temfash
5 years ago
Reply to  Nike

I don’t agree with the generalisation of West African hair types we are not all 4c hair types in my family range from 3b to 4c and no I’m not mixed I am Nigerian. Bad haircare practices have been ingrained in us which can be a challenge to unlearn but with the advent of the Internet people are learning positive healthy hair practices.

Ife
Ife
5 years ago
Reply to  Nike

Who told you Fulani people have Arab ancestry, Fulani people are a Afro-Asiatic African ethnic group, yes they have some similar genetic composition to Asians and Asia includes Europe and the Middle East, so no Arabs are not the only ethnic group in Asia. Stop spreading wrong information, seriously. Google Fulani if you want more information, not there aren’t some Fulani people with Arab ancestry but Fulani people did not come from Arabs. Ish

Holla4mom
Holla4mom
5 years ago

Since I realized that my 4c hair is lo porosity and has never therefore been properly hydrated, it has changed for the better. I do the Maximum Hydration Method (well now the modified method of just a conditioning clay mix followed by flaxseed gel) and my hair responds very well to gel now. Thanks for this awesome information/ experimentation.

Banita
Banita
4 years ago

That’s not 4c hair

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