27 Best Curly Girl Approved Gels in 2022

Finding the right gel to use on the Curly Girl Method can be super tricky. I, therefore, curated a list of the 27 best Curly Girl approved gels and I guarantee that you will find one suitable for you.

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Why Is Gel Important For Curly Hair?

If you have naturally curly hair, you most likely also have dry hair. This is because it takes longer for oils to travel down the hair shaft when it is curly. Thus, it is important to hydrate curls and this is where gel comes in.

Gel has the ability to lock in moisture. This means that if you scrunch gel into your curls while they’re still wet, the curls become more defined and as the gel dries, a cast is formed. This cast protects and holds in the moisture of each individual curl.

Once you break the cast, soft, bouncy curls are revealed.

What To Look For In A CGM Approved Gel

I personally found that the best way to find a gel for your hair type is simply to try different gels.

Use one for a week or two and then switch up. It’s the only way to know if a product is better or worse than the one you were using.

However, there are a few things you can consider before making your purchase:

Protein: Do you suffer from protein overload? If so, stay clear of protein products.

Glycerin: If you have naturally poofy, frizzy hair (particularly in humid conditions), then you should avoid glycerine.

Cost: Don’t be fooled by highly expensive products. Sometimes the supermarket brands work just as well. Just make sure to check the ingredient list

Coconut: Although not a protein, coconut can act like protein and so if you already suffer from dry, straw-like hair, make sure to avoid coconut in your products.

The 27 Best Curly Girl Method Approved Gels

1. BEST OVERALLUmberto Giannini Curl Jelly Vegan Scrunching Jelly

Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly Vegan Scrunching Jelly

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What I like

You get a fantastic cast with this gel without any of the flaky white bits. It leaves hair feeling incredibly soft and smooth.

What I don’t like

A bit pricey (but worth it!)

Hands down, the most popular Curly Girl is the Umberto Giannini Curl Jelly. This vegan gel from Umberto Giannini is their best-selling product and you can understand why. Many curly girls have reported that after one week of using this product, their hair feels softer and their definition greatly improved.

The gel has a medium hold and adds shine while giving definition to waves and curls. It is suitable for all hair types and helps prevent frizz and is also extremely crunchable so if you like to break a cast, this is the gel for you.


2. BEST FRIZZ CONTROL Giovanni LA Hold Styling Gel

Giovanni LA Hold Styling Gel

What I like

I found that you get amazing curl definition with this gel as well as keeping the volume on the top of your hair.

What I don’t like

If you use a lot of the product it can give you that ‘wet curl’ look. But a little goes a long way.

I like Giovanni as their products are affordable and easy to get a hold of. The LA Hold Styling Gel offers a really strong hold for your curls and it is also color-safe and cruelty-free. It’s perfect for those who need extra frizz-control ad well as if you’re looking for more defined curls.

The formula contains moisturizing ingredients such as aloe vera leaf juice, lavender extract, and grapefruit so I think it has a really pleasant smell.


3. BEST FOR MOISTUREBounce Curl Light Cream Gel

Bounce Curl Light Cream Gel

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What I like

Super light formula which won’t weigh your hair down.

What I don’t like

Quite expensive so look out for deals or wait for the sales.

Bounce Curl makes great curly products but they’re also not the cheapest. This light gel from Bounce Curl is 80% gel and 20% cream which helps to lock in the shape of your curls while also hydrating your locks. This really helps with maintaining definition and keeping your curls frizz-free.

The gel is vegan, color-safe, and has a super lightweight formula. This means you’ll still see a lot of volume. For best results, mix with other Bounce Curls products.


4. bEST VALUE – Eco Styler Gel – Olive Oil

Eco Styler Gel – Olive Oil

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What I like

Affordable, lightweight, non-flaky.

What I don’t like

You need more product than you think but luckily it comes in a big tub!

This is a personal favorite of mine as this was the gel I started out with when I first began the Curly Girl Method. The Eco Styler olive oil gel contains 100% pure olive oil and provides a medium to strong hold. I have wavy 2B curls and it was perfect for me.

It’s really great for CG beginners and for those looking for budget-friendly gels. The Eco gel works great when layering with cremes or mousses and leaves your hair with a healthy shine. You don’t get any white flakes with this one. The gel gives you a superior crunchy cast and feels lightweight so won’t weigh down your hair.


5. BEST BUDGET – Aussie Instant Freeze Gel

Aussie Instant Freeze Gel

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What I like

Easy to use, cheap, and works for all hair types.

What I don’t like

Contains glycerin so if you’re prone to frizzy hair in humid conditions, best to avoid it.

The Aussie Instant Freeze gel is a firm favorite amongst CGM followers. It has a strong hold and contains Australian jojoba oil and sea kelp which is great for hydration. The gel locks in moisture without going flaky or being sticky and leaves your hair feeling soft and bouncy.

The gel is also super affordable and would therefore be great for those on a budget.


6. Ecoslay Orange Marmalade Gel

Ecoslay Orange Marmalade Gel

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What I like

Contains protein which is great if you’re suffering from damaged hair.

What I don’t like

A bit pricey and needs to be kept refrigerated.

The Orange Marmalade from Ecoslay is an extremely popular gel with the CG community. I have even seen hairdressers recommend this product!

It is great for thick coarse curls and it gives a strong hold that leaves your curls feeling shiny, bouncy, and super defined. Contains flaxseed, aloe vera juice, and marshmallow root extract for consistent springy curls at every wash.


7. Kinky Curly Curling Custard

Kinky Curly Curling Custard

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What I like

A little goes a long way so this is really good value for money.

What I don’t like

The scent of vanilla is quite strong so avoid it if that’s not your thing.

The Curling Custard Gel from Kinky Curly is a real CG favorite and despite the name, is a dream product for wavy to light curly hair. It contains an all-natural formula that provides moisture, and shine and helps define waves and curls, even in difficult weather conditions.

Its botanical ingredients will leave your hair feeling strong and hydrated and the soft textured gel helps eliminate frizz and flyaways. For best results, use on soaking wet hair and leave to dry or diffuse without touching.


8. Aunt Jackie’s Don’t Shrink Flaxseed Elongating Curling Gel

Aunt Jackie's Don't Shrink Flaxseed Elongating Curling Gel

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What I like

Great smell, long-lasting and it really works for all hair types.

What I don’t like

It doesn’t really elongate curls so don’t buy the product for this reason alone.

This gel from Aunt Jackie’s is a styling gel that lasts all day. It contains moisturizing ingredients such as flaxseed, Shea butter, and extra virgin olive oil which can really give you those big clumps we all want.

The gel doesn’t flake or cake but you’ll need to use more product if you have tighter curls.


9. Wella Shockwaves Ultra Strong Power Hold Gel

Wella Shockwaves Ultra Strong Power Hold Gel

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What I like

Ultra-strong hold that will literally last you 24 hours.

What I don’t like

May flake if you’re using it alongside other products.

This ultra-strong gel from Wella Shockwaves lives up to its name and creates texture, definition, and structure. It won’t leave your curls feeling sticky or greasy and washes out very easily.

It has a super-strong hold without making your hair feel like concrete and will last you throughout the day without the need for a refresh. It’s also very affordable and suitable for those looking for maximum hold and frizz control.


10. Innersense I Create Hold

Innersense I Create Hold

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What I like

Creates perfect, light, touchable curls.

What I don’t like

The formula is a bit wet so will add to your drying time.

This is a very popular gel from Innersense. Excellent for those with tighter curls that tend to clump together. This gel separates each curl and provides definition and shine. The texture is lightweight and you don’t need a lot for maximum results. Use on wash days or even as a refresh gel. Fortified with aloe vera, honey, and Rooibos tea for buckets of moisture.

Contains small amounts of Potassium Hydroxide. Use at own discretion.


11. Bouclème Curl Defining Gel

Bouclème Curl Defining Gel

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What I like

Perfect for refresh days when you don’t want to use too much gel.

What I don’t like

Pricey and the scent can be off-putting if you don’t like lemons.

This is Bouclème’s best-selling gel. It creates a great cast for scrunching out the crunch to reveal smooth and defined curls without any flakiness.

The gel leaves your locks with a long-lasting medium hold and has a lemony kind of scent. The formula contains virgin coconut oil, Argan oil, and organic aloe vera. The gel is vegan and 99% naturally derived.


12. Jessicurl Spiralicious Styling Gel

Jessicurl Spiralicious Styling Gel

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What I like

Amazing for type 2A, 2B, and 2C curls so if you have wavy hair this is for you.

What I don’t like

Pricey for what you get so use alongside another product if you normally use a lot of gel.

The Spiralicious Styling Gel from Jessicurl is super easy to apply and leaves you with defined, bouncy curls. It has a medium hold that lasts all day and helps to banish frizz and flyaways. This product doesn’t leave any residue or flaky bits in your hair and creates a soft flow to your waves and curls. Use as part of your wash or refresh routine.


13. Cantu Define & Shine Curling Custard

Cantu Define & Shine Curling Custard

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What I like

Leaves hair soft and shiny without too much of a crunch.

What I don’t like

Can flake if you don’t wet your palms before using the product.

This curling custard from Cantu is another popular product amongst CG followers. Contains Shea butter which moisturizes your hair and allows for frizz-free and defined curls.

You can control flyaways with this custard and expect shiny, bouncy locks after use. Great for a long-lasting, flake-free hold.


14. As I Am Curling Jelly

As I Am Curling Jelly

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What I like

Creates a great cast and shrinks your hair a bit so that the curls form tighter.

What I don’t like

Can be a bit drying if you use too much product.

As I am is a staple with CG followers and I am personally a big fan of their co-wash. This Curling Jelly from As I Am is perfect if you live in a high humidity region. This gel defines waves, curls, and coils while minimizing frizz and locking in moisture. Best used whilst hair is soaking wet and work in small sections. Keeps curls smooth and bouncy throughout the entire day.


15. Eco Styler Black Castor And Flaxseed Oil

Eco Styler Black Castor And Flaxseed Oil

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What I like

Has a great smell and doesn’t dry out your hair.

What I don’t like

Comes in a much smaller size than the Eco olive oil gel.

It’s no secret that Eco Styler is one of the most popular products amongst CG followers and I’m a big fan myself. It’s a super affordable brand that produces a high-quality gel that lasts all day.

This black castor and flaxseed gel is no different. It provides a superior hold that lasts all day while banishing frizz and flyaways. Its moisturizing formula gives you long-lasting shine the mixture of vitamin E and Omega-3 helps to promote hair growth.


16. Wet Line Xtreme Clear Professional Styling Gel

Wet Line Xtreme Clear Professional Styling Gel

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What I like

Works amazingly well on both wet and dry hair. Also, super cheap!

What I don’t like

Can cause white flakes if used alongside other hair styling products.

This super-affordable hair gel is a great product for those who are on a budget or just starting the CG method. The gel contains aloe vera which provides hydration while styling and it also offers a strong hold that lasts all day. A great gel that doesn’t leave white flakes or build-up.


17. As I Am Smoothing Gel

As I Am Smoothing Gel

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What I like

Great for ponytails and updo hairstyles.

What I don’t like

Doesn’t have a super-strong hold but it absolutely is smoothing. Great for edges.

This smoothing gel from As I Am leaves a flawless shiny finish that holds your hair in place all day long. The gel is quick to dry with no flakiness and provides a secure hold. The gel smooths hair and encourages your curls to take their natural form.

The best part is that the gel can be ‘reactivated’ on refresh days by smoothing with damp fingers.


18. Camille Rose Naturals Lavender Crush Defining Gel

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What I like

Doesn’t flake and is perfect for low porosity hair.

What I don’t like

Has a low-to-medium hold.

If you’re looking for a gel to give you optimal definition, this Curl Crush gel from Camille Rose is it. The formula is enriched with coconut and jojoba oil which helps to penetrate the airshaft for maximum hydration.

It also contains real lavender which gives it a wonderful scent as well as style retention. This gel is moisturizing and helps to control frizz.


19. Cantu Flexible Hold Moisture Retention Styling Gel

Cantu Flexible Hold Moisture Retention Styling Gel

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What I like

Has a light hold which is perfect for waves.

What I don’t like

Can cause white flaky bits if used with other products.

This moisturizing curl gel from Cantu contains flaxseed, olive oil, and shea butter for a hydration boost like no other. The formula will help strengthen your hair while retaining moisture in every hair strand. This gel has maximum hold but without the crunchiness, white flakes, or itching.


20. Flora and Curl Sweet Hibiscus Curl Defining Gel

Flora and Curl Sweet Hibiscus Curl Defining Gel

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What I like

The gel is very hydrating (use alongside the lotion) and doesn’t make hair feel crunchy.

What I don’t like

The floral scent may be overpowering for some.

This curl-enhancing gel from Flora and Curl is perfect for those who create ponytails, twist-outs, or style their hair on a regular basis. The gel creates body, provides control, and delivers a high amount of shine.

The formula contains a wonderful mix of botanical ingredients such as marshmallow root and aloe oil. This leaves curls defined, bouncy, and more enhanced.


21. Dippity-do Girls With Curls Gelée

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What I like

Curls will hold even after a good night’s sleep.

What I don’t like

Can be drying for those with high porosity hair.

This light hold gel from Dippity-do is fortified with natural aloe, vitamin E, and wheat protein to help protect against frizz while hydrating your curls. The gel creates natural and healthy-looking locks that feel soft and defined. This gel banishes crunchy and stiff curls and produces a glossy, shiny look.


22. Alikay Naturals Aloe Berry Styling Gel

Alikay Naturals Aloe Berry Styling Gel

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What I like

Provides a light hold for causal days with no flakes

What I don’t like

Can feel a little  sticky

This is a great gel that can be used daily. It contains natural ingredients such as aloe vera and sweet almond oil which help to keep hair hydrated whilst also keeping hair in place. The formula is infused with avocado oil which helps to strengthen your hair strands and improve elasticity. 


23. Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker Gel

Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker Gel

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What I like

Provides very defined curls so great for 3abc curls and coily hair.

What I don’t like

Can leave hair feeling a little bit dry. 

This gel from Camille Rose is a firm favorite with the Curly Girl community. It has a fantastic smell and does not flake if used with curl creams or other styling products. The recipe contains marshmallow root which helps to smooth and detangle curls. Agave extract has been added to help with moisture retention.


24. SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Styling Gel

SheaMoisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Styling Gel

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What I like

Makes a strong cast even for 3c curls. 

What I don’t like

Flakes a bit if you combine it with other styling products

This gel is perfect for all hair types. It provides a medium hold and has a fantastic coconutty smell. It works really great for second-day curls – just spritz with water and scrunch your curls. The lightweight formula makes it feel like you don’t have a lot of product in your hair which means no stickiness and no tangles.


25. Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Styling Gel

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What I like

Super affordable and you only need a small amount to get the desired hold.

What I don’t like

Light consistency so not great for those looking for tight curls.

This gel is all the rage. At a very affordable price, it truly delivers in both quality and quantity. The gel is great for every hair type but particularly perfect if you have shorter hair. The hold is medium and the consistency is very light.

Contains vitamins B3 and B6 as well as plant extracts. The scent is very light and the gel leaves no flakey residue.


26. The Mane Choice Ancient Egyptian 24 Karat Gold Twisting Gel

The Mane Choice Ancient Egyptian 24 Karat Gold Twisting Gel

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What I like

Excellent for twists, definition, and bounce.

What I don’t like

Very thick product so can dry out your hair.

This gel is excellent for those who have very tight curls. It provides a very strong cast and can define twists as well as keep them moisturized throughout the day.

The formula is enriched with vitamins A, B, C, and D which help to keep your hair healthy. When used for twists, they can easily last a few days before you need to wash your hair again.


27. Twisted Sista Amazing Dream Curls Cream Gel

Twisted Sista Amazing Dream Curls Cream Gel

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What I like

Provides a soft crunch-less hold and no-frizz curls.

What I don’t like

Can feel a bit sticky.

This gel will help revive curls that may have fallen a bit limp. It’s great for thin or wavy textures and provides a crunch-less hold for up to 48 hours. This gel can help elongate your curls and infuse moisture into your hair strands. Recommended by hairdressers for all hair types.


How To Use Gel On The Curly Girl Method

How To Use Gel On The Curly Girl Method

For best results, check out this easy guide on how to follow the Curly Girl Method.

If you’re looking for a guide on how to use second-day and third-day curls, here’s a post I wrote about how to refresh on the Curly Girl Method.

If you just need an easy 3 step method, follow the guide below

Instructions

  1. After washing, squish your curls in an upwards motion with your hair hanging down
  2. Try to combine conditioner and water to clump your curls as much as possible
  3. Squish out some of the product, but your hair should still be fairly wet
  4. Grab a handful of gel and distribute it between your palms
  5. Squish your curls again and bigger clumps should begin to form
  6. If your hair feels dry, add water or conditioner.
  7. Your curls should now have shrunk a bit and be more defined
  8. Squeeze out excess product and wrap your hair in a towel while you get dressed
  9. Leave hair out to air dry or diffuse for quicker results
  10. Once your hair is completely dry, scrunch out the crunch to reveal soft, bouncy curls

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What can I use instead of gel for curly hair?

Mousse is a great alternative to gel. It won’t provide as strong of a hold but it can help you achieve soft, bouncy waves and curls.

How to tell if gel is curly girl approved?

Ingredients you should avoid are:
Sulfates, silicones, parabens, and drying alcohols.

Drying alcohols look like this:
Isopropyl alcohol
Isopropanol
Propanol
Propyl alcohol
Denatured alcohol
Ethanol
SD alcohol 40

How do you scrunch out the crunch?

To scrunch out the crunch, your curls should be 100% dry. Simply bend your hair forward and begin to softly break the gel cast around each curl. Scrunch upwards and make sure you get to each clump of hair. Afterwards, flip your hair backward, tussle your roots and reveal soft, bouncy, curls.

I hope this list of Curly Girl approved gels is useful to you and that you find just the right product that works for you.

Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on LovedByCurls.com is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.

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Dee Poulsen

Dee has been following the Curly Girl Method for over four years and is our in-house Curly Girl expert. She has a keen interest in natural haircare and has tried and tested her share of CGM products. She has a photographic memory of most sulfate and silicone-free hair products available on the high street and she's always happy to recommend you her favorites.