Gels for Curly Hair, According to Beauty Editors and Hairstylists

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

There's nothing like flexing your natural texture. But curly hair tends to have a mind of its own, and sometimes it doesn't want to cooperate with your devious plans for curl domination. Maintaining definition can be an issue, especially when you're dealing with humidity, but thankfully, hair gels for curls are here to help.

No, we're not talking about those dry, crunchy gels that make your hair look like it hopped right out of 2003. And we're definitely not here for any gels loaded with alcohol. But zapping frizz, adding moisture, and pumping up the shine factor? Oh, that just sounds like curl heaven. "Gels are best used on wavy to curly hair [types 2 and 3] that doesn't have moisture deficiencies," explains hairstylist Andre Walker, who works with Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, and Michelle Obama. "Creams add moisture, but not all gels do."

So here's a word to the wise: Read the ingredient list very carefully. But before you decide on a gel to add to your stash, we rounded up TK for you to consider that hairstylists and editors absolutely adore.

Aphogee Curlific! Curl Definer

If you ask hair editor Jihan Forbes for her best curly-hair product recommendation, she'll undoubtedly point you toward the Curlific! Curl Definer by Aphogee. It's her current go-to gel for defining her 3C/4A curls without drying them out.

Oribe Curl Gelée For Shine & Definition

The nourishing butters (murumu, mango, cocoa), oils (macadamia seed, apricot), and fruit-derived antioxidants infused in Oribe's Curl Gelée formula make it perfect for coiled hair and curls that need extra moisture or are recovering from heat styling and color treatments.

Rene Furterer Style Vegetal Sculpting Gel

"This gel was created for people with tight curls that tend to frizz," shares hairstylist and founder of Eliut Salon, Eliut Rivera. "It coats the hair, sealing the outer layer and sticking each strand together." Also helpful? This Rene Furterer gel has UV filters to protect your hair from the sun.

Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel Extra Hold

Forbes swears by this curl gel for the way it protects against unpredictable weather. "I add just a bit of Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel over [a curl cream] to make sure the curls stay for days. And they do — even in the humid New York City summers."

Mielle Organics Honey & Ginger Styling Gel

Editorial assistant Gabi Thorne loves the lightweight hold and sweet scent of Mielle Organics's Honey & Ginger Styling Gel. "I would use this on a wash-and-go [hairstyle] for defined and soft hair with no flakiness," she says. "And I love that it's a pump because it's so much easier to push out product."

Curls So So Def Vitamin C Curl Defining Jelly

The thick consistency Curls gave its So So Def Curl Defining Jelly makes it perfect for prepping braids and twist-outs. The light and sweet pineapple scent it leaves behind is just an added bonus.

The Mane Choice Ancient Egyptian Anti-Breakage & Repair Antidote 24 Karat Glistening Gold Twisting Gel

Prepare to get the best twist-out of your life. This gel from The Mane Choice holds on to definition and doesn't let go. Loaded with biotin and fatty acids omega 3, 6, and 9, this stuff not only makes your curls pop but also helps strengthen, protect from breakage, and put frizz in its place.

Bumble and Bumble Bb.Curl Anti-Humidity Gel-Oil

"[This formula is best for] thick, curly hair types from wavy to tight spiral curls," shares hairstylist Patrick Kyle, who works with Zara Larsson, Anika Noni Rose, and more. "Curls need the weight of the product to help define them." Bumble and bumble added a blend of Brazilian oils to this gel to give thirsty curls hydration and hold.

Wonder Curl Get Set Hair Jelly

Hairstylist George Papanikolas, who has worked with Fergie, Britney Spears, and Madonna, says that with curl gels, application is key. "You need to evenly coat your hair after you shower, and then let it completely air-dry without touching it so that you get that perfect definition," he says. "Touching it during the drying time will lead to frizz." This Wonder Curl gel includes Vitamin B5 to help give your curls an extra boost and aloe vera, leaving you with soft spirals.

Taliah Waajid Curly Curl Gello

Beauty editor Devon Abelman loves this Best of Beauty-winning gel on her loose curls. "I wish my hair could always look like it does when I use the Curly Curl "Gello" Hair Mousse — it has more volume and less frizz than usual, and my curls stay springy and soft for three straight days," she says.

Matrix Biolage Styling Curl Defining Elixir

"This is perfect for people that want to air-dry their natural curls and waves," says Papanikolas, who loves this option form Matrix Biolage. "I like it because it tames frizz and gives curls definition without stiffness, weight, or crispy hair." This definer also has blue agave nectar, which works to repair damage and add strength to your curls.

Curls Curl Gel-les’C

This Curls gel absolutely does it all, including smoothing down your curls so they remain touchable and in place. Think of it as a cross between a serum and a gel. Apply it to your hair while it's still wet and enjoy controlled, soft coils.

Fekkai Sheer Sculpt Styling Gel

This Fekkai gel promises hold that is as strong as it is flexible. Just ask Walker, who is a big fan. "This is great for a firm hold. It’s great to use on type 3 hair to form tight corkscrew curls," he tells ishonest. "Apply on damp hair and let air-dry or diffuse with a dryer."

DevaCurl Ultra Defining Gel Strong Hold No-Crunch Styler

DevaCurl's gel creates a "curl cast" over your strands to lock in moisture and keep your hair from frizzing up. As an added bonus, this stuff is made with oat, soy, and wheat amino acid extracts to make sure your hair is extra shiny and bouncy.

Andre Walker Hair Beautiful Kinks Styling Crème Gelee

"In my experience, I've found that some creams do not have enough hold to form defined curls," says Walker. "This gelee is somewhat of a hybrid product. It is the perfect blend of moisture, mongongo oil, and hold that can be used on type 3 and 4 hair. It's a cream-gel that has added hold to define and make a firm curl."

Taliah Waajid Apple & Aloe Hold Me Down Gelle

Taliah Waajid is an absolute genuis when it comes to curls of all textures. The brand's Biotin and Basil curl cream is beloved by editors, and its Hold Me Down Gelle "is alcohol-free and has long-lasting hold without a hard crunchy feel," explains brand founder Taliah Waajid, who counts Yara Shahidi as a fan. "The ingredients — green apple and aloe — strengthen hair while adding moisture."

Curlisto Control II Gel

If you've got tight curls, you'll absolutely adore this gel, which will even get kinks in order. "In general, the brand Curlisto is great for all curly types of hair, leaving the hair nice and shiny," shares Rivera. But, if your texture is fine, be careful about how much you are using." [Gels can be] heavier and make the hair look thinner than it normally does."

SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curling Gel Soufflé

Besides the amazing smell, SheaMoisture's Coconut & Hibiscus Gel Soufflé is free of things like silicone that can cause buildup on your hair. Agave nectar helps your curls spring back into formation, while shea butter keeps your hair moisturized.

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