Can Gel Cause Hair Loss? Everything You Need To Know!

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Hair gel has been used for many years to create the desired look and hold everything in place. But is it actually good for your hair? In this article, we’re going to answer the number 1 question ‘can gel cause hair loss?’ and explain what you can do about it.

Hair gel on its own doesn’t cause hair loss, but it can be a contributing factor. Some of the chemicals that are found in hair gel can cause scalp irritation and clog the hair follicles. This can lead to weakened hair, breakage, and potentially hair loss.

Chemicals To Look Out For In Hair Gel

Hair gel contains chemicals that can potentially be harmful to your hair and contribute to the cause of hair loss.

If you want to maintain healthy, shiny hair then you may want to avoid the following chemicals and opt for a more natural solution:


You would normally see sulfate listed as an ingredient in shampoo. However, sulfate is included in many health and beauty products, including hair gel.

Commonly used as a foaming agent, sulfates can be very drying on the hair and scalp. They strip away natural oils and they can even cause a reaction in some individuals.

Luckily, there are many sulfate-free hair gels available that are less harsh on your hair.

Drying Alcohols Such As Isopropyl Alcohol

While some alcohols in hair products aren’t considered harmful, isopropyl alcohol is a rubbing alcohol that can present some issues.

It’s an extremely harsh ingredient that can be very drying on the skin. This can result in a dry, itchy scalp.

It can also cause brittle, weak hair strands.

You will often find this ingredient in hair gels as well as hairspray so try to avoid it where possible.

Propylene Glycol

When added to hair products, propylene glycol works by preventing water and moisture from escaping the hair strands.

It’s also responsible for giving hair a glossy and sleek appearance. The issue with this ingredient is that it can irritate the scalp and leave the hair dehydrated.

Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

Polyethylene glycol is commonly used as an emulsifier in hair products like hair gel.

Although it intends to soften and hydrate the skin, this ingredient often does the opposite!

This chemical penetrates the hair shaft and actually strips it of its moisture, leaving the hair dry, dull, and lifeless.

It can be particularly damaging when used frequently and in large amounts.

Also Read: 5 Ways Ashwagandha Can Help With Hair Loss

Can Hair Gel Cause Hair Loss?

hair gel on table

There is a misconception that hair gel itself will cause hair loss and should therefore be avoided at all costs. This isn’t true.

Any hair loss caused by using hair gel will be linked to the ingredients as stated above.

These harsh chemicals can be detrimental to hair health, especially when they are used excessively.

Here is what you need to know about hair gel leading to hair loss:

Alcohol is Drying

As mentioned above, certain types of alcohol can be very drying. Even some of the good alcohols can be drying in some individuals.

However, isopropyl alcohol is often described as being one of the worst alcohols to use on your hair.

If used frequently, this ingredient can lead to dandruff. And as you may or may not know, there is a link to dandruff and hair loss.

The cause of dandruff such as poor diet, stress, and certain ingredients in hair products and hair gel, is often the same cause for hair loss.

Alcohol Can Cause Scalp Irritation And Redness

Additionally, drying alcohols can also cause further scalp irritation that may be temporary or long-lasting. Many people have reactions to this chemical.

In fact, if you notice itching or redness after you use a product that contains isopropyl alcohol, then it could be an allergic reaction.

Always test your reaction to a product using a small amount and discontinue use if any reaction occurs.

Dry Hair Leads To Breakage

One of the adverse reactions to hair gel is dry hair.

This is often caused by the strong chemicals in some brands of hair gel.

The ingredients can strip the natural oils, leading to dry, brittle hair. In turn, this leads to breakage, a direct cause of hair loss. 

Gel Can Clog The Hair Follicles

Your hair follicles are extremely delicate and they are susceptible to product build up.

Now, product build-up can be caused by using a range of hair products, but hair gel can definitely be a huge culprit.

Certain ingredients in hair gel can clog the hair follicles, resulting in discomfort and can therefore cause hair loss.

A short term solution would be to use a clarifying shampoo to remove most of the build-up.

Clogged Hair Follicles Can Affect Hair Growth

When you have clogged hair follicles, this prevents the chance of new hair follicles forming.

It’s also important to note that excess sebum is often the leading cause of clogged hair follicles.

Using hair gel frequently or sleeping with gel overnight can strip your hair of its natural oils which leads to the scalp overcompensating by producing excess oil.

When there is a build-up of oil and it begins to harden, this can then hinder hair growth.

Hair may also appear thinner and weaker.

Also Read: The Truth About Energy Drinks And Hair Loss

Alcohol Can Change The pH Of Hair

Harsh, drying alcohols can alter the hair’s natural pH and throw everything off balance.

This can affect the hair’s natural oils and dry out the hair strands, resulting in weakened hair follicles.

It’s important to avoid alcohols as much as possible if you have grey hair, as grey hair is naturally drier and more susceptible to damage.

The Right Way To Use Hair Gel To Avoid Hair Loss

If you are worried about hair gel being the cause of your hair loss or have experienced symptoms of hair loss, you may be wondering if you should stop using hair gel altogether.

This isn’t necessary, however, you should consider changing the way you use hair gel in order to protect your hair.

These are some of the best tips for using hair gel whilst protecting the natural health of your hair:

Use Gels With Natural Moisturisers Such As Coconut Oil Or Olive Oil

Thankfully, there are many natural hair gels on the market that contain essential oils to nourish and hydrate the hair.

Switching from traditional hair gel to a more natural brand will allow you to create your desired look without drying out the hair.

While these gels may still contain some drying ingredients, the natural oils help to counterbalance the effects of this.

It’s very important that your hair retains moisture!

Don’t Apply Gel Directly To The Scalp

To avoid clogging the hair follicles you are advised to not apply the gel on the scalp.

For some people, this can present an issue because they create their desired look by applying the gel directly to the scalp.

However, the risks outweigh the benefits.

Clogged hair follicles can be painful, uncomfortable, and stunt hair growth. By avoiding the scalp you will lessen the chances of any side effects occurring.

Wash Hair Regularly With Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Product build-up can still occur even if you try your best to avoid the scalp.

That’s why it’s always recommended that you thoroughly wash the hair to remove any of the excess product.

If left in the hair for too long, the gel can harden and make hair become crunchy, dry, and brittle. This often leads to breakage and hair loss.

You can avoid this by washing your hair regularly with a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo.

A shampoo containing nourishing essential oils such as coconut is a good choice to restore any lost moisture. Or try using baby shampoo if you’re worried about hair loss.

If you use hair gel daily then you will need to wash your hair more frequently. This isn’t usually advised.

Avoid Pulled Back Hair Styles Which Might Be Straining

To minimise the risks of using hair gel, you could opt for hair styles that put less pressure on the scalp.

Any tight hairstyles such as a tight bun or ponytail can put a strain on the scalp and lead to a receding hairline and even hair loss.

Also Read: Is Sparkling Water Good For Your Scalp? (Solved)

Other Causes Of Hair Loss

Using hair gel isn’t the only explanation for hair loss. In fact, there are many other causes that are usually far more likely to be the culprit and should therefore be considered. These include:

  • Poor diet (Specifically, not getting enough vitamins and minerals, or eating too much junk food)
  • Hereditary reasons
  • Medical conditions (there are many health complications that can lead to hair loss so this would need to be thoroughly explored)
  • Chronic stress (one of the leading causes so don’t rule it out!)
  • Thyroid problems
  • Certain medications or supplements (always check the leaflet for side effects or discuss with your doctor)
  • Low iron levels
  • Over styling the hair
  • Aging

Remember, if you are concerned about any hair loss symptoms you may be having, it’s always best to consult your doctor. Hair gel in general won’t be the only reason you’re experiencing hair loss so it’s important to find the root cause of the problem.

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