Curly Haircare 101: Is Gel or Mousse Better for Curly Hair?
By Jacqueline Samaroo
Question: Is gel or mousse better for curly hair?
Short answer: It depends!
Keep reading as we break down the differences and similarities of hair gels and mousses with a look at the styling effect each one has on different hair types. We’ll also share a few tips on the dos and don’ts of using gel and mousse in your curly haircare routine.
If you’re interested in other types of styling products for Black hair, then check out:
What is hair gel?
Scientifically speaking, a gel is a semi-solid made up of a liquid dispersed in a solid. Hair gel is usually clear (transparent) and often sold in bottles or jars. It can be used on wet or dry hair and tends to work best on thicker, coarser hair.
What does gel do for curly hair?
Hair gels are most often used for curl definition and long-lasting hold. They tend to make hair look wet and slick. They also have the effect of weighing down the hair. That can be either good or bad, depending on the style you are trying to achieve.
One of the main highlights of gels as styling products for Black hair is their ability to tame frizz. However, some gels (especially cheaper brands) are notorious for leaving hair flaky.
What is mousse?
Again, scientifically speaking, hair mousse is a foam made up of a gas dispersed in a liquid. This combination makes hair mousse lighter and airier than hair gel. It is usually opaque and sold in spray cans or bottles.
It works best on wet hair but can also be used on dry hair. Mousse is best suited to wavy hair and hair that naturally forms loose curls. It is lightweight enough for you to apply it several times in a single day to style your hair.
What does hair mousse do for curly hair?
The main reason for using mousse is for the added volume, body, and bounce that it gives to hair. Mousse offers light hold and some curl definition but does not weigh down hair like hair gels do. However, mousse is not as good as gel at eliminating and preventing frizziness in curly hair.
So, is gel or mousse better for curly hair?
It depends! Your choice of whether to use gel or mousse in your curly haircare routine will depend on:
- Your hair type or curl pattern: Is your hair wavy, curly, coily, or kinky?
- Your curl density: This refers to the number of strands of hair on your head. Do you have low-density (thin), medium-density, or high-density (thick) hair?
- Your hair texture: Is your hair fine, medium, or coarse?
- Your hair’s tendency to frizz: How important is frizz control in your styling efforts?
- The hairstyle you are after: Do you need maximum volume, curl definition, or hold? Are you hoping to create tighter or looser ringlets from your curls?
Choosing mousse for curly hair
Reach for mousse if adding body, volume, and bounce to your curls is what you are after. Generally, you will find that mousse works better for thin hair and wavy hair to add light sculpting. That said, however, there are many different types of hair mousse on the market today. It’s totally possible to find mousse for practically all kinds of Black hair.
- For loose curls and wavy hair, use a lightweight mousse.
- For curly hair, use a denser mousse.
- For coily and kinky hair, ensure the hair is well moisturized and add a thin layer of mousse for extra hold and greater definition.
Curly Haircare: Things to keep in mind when using mousse
Traditionally, many mousses are formulated with a high alcohol content. This can cause your hair to feel stiff and dry once the mousse dries. Also, lots of mousses contain polymers that leave a sticky coating on the hair but do not fully seal the hair cuticle (outer layer of each strand of hair).
This can cause your hair to absorb moisture and become frizzy, especially in high-humidity climates. But, since hair mousse is great for layering with other haircare products, you can consider layering your mousse with ones that will provide extra hydration and moisturizing effects.
Note: If you tend to have very dry hair, then it is recommended that you avoid using mousse. Instead, get the styling effect you need from the LOC method, that’s a moisturizing leave-in conditioner followed by a sealing oil, and then a cream for hold.
Choosing gel for curly hair
When considering gel or mousse for curly hair, there is no doubt that gels are the better choice for curl definition and long-lasting hold. Gels also lock in moisture by creating a seal on each strand of hair. This sealing of the hair cuticle gives gels their frizz-fighting power.
Gel can be used for several different styling methods:
- Scrunching for loose definition.
- Finger coiling for tighter curls.
- Taming of fluffy curls to give hair less volume.
Curly Haircare: Things to keep in mind when using gel
Gels, on a whole, are heavier than mousses, with oilier gels tending to be the heaviest and weighing down hair the most. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it could be just the effect you need if you are looking to create looser curls from normally tight ringlets.
Gels can leave hair too sticky or too crunchy. They can be layered with other products, especially as the last layer to seal in moisture. The best choices are alcohol-free without ingredients that can strip hair and lead to breakage.
Don’t forget to scrunch out the crunch!!
Both gel and mousse form a hard cast on your hair that makes your curls stiff. An important step in using either one is breaking that cast once the hair has dried. This softens your curls and is usually done by scrunching your curls. A great tip is to oil your hands before scrunching away the crunch!
BTW, if frizziness is a major concern of yours, be sure to read:
Is gel or mousse better for curly hair – Still not sure?
If you’re still wondering “Is gel or mousse better for curly hair – MY curly hair?” then one of the best ways to find out is to experiment with them and see!
Armed with the knowledge we’ve shared in this article, you can select gel and mousse styling products that would MOST LIKELY work best with your curls. Try them out and pay attention to how your hairstyles fare with each one. Remember, too, that layering your gel AND mousse is also a thing!
Whichever you use, keep in mind that a little gel or mousse goes a long way. Also, you will get the best results from either a gel or mousse if you’re NOT trying to beat your curls into submission by forcing them into an unnatural curl pattern.
Do you use gel, mousse, or both in your curly haircare routine? Tell us about it!