Before going natural, I had zero concept of ‘cream.... for hair’ and gel was this thick gelatinous stuff my mum would use to slick my hair back before school. Now as a ~fully fledged CG~ cream, gel and I? We’re like the three musketeers. Us modern curlies have defining gels and creams, frizz defense, edge control, curl activators.. custards, jelly’s, gelee’s, even cream and gel combined! But, it can be a lot to digest when deciphering what to use, when, how and why.
So what is a cream?
A cream is an emulsification of oil and water. It is the process of combining the two that create that ~‘creamy’~ texture we associate with using them on our skin. Just as our skin needs nourishment our hair does too, especially us curly types, and even more so dry curlies like me. The job of a curl cream is to both condition and moisturise from the inside out, and the nature of the ingredients will affect how well it does this. A good curl cream will also enhance the natural pattern of the hair by encouraging curl formation, allowing them to be the best version of themselves.
..And a gel?
A gel on the other hand is a solid particle suspended in a liquid. When applied to the hair the water evaporates and the solid particles dry and form a clear film around the shaft, referred to as the cast or the hold. The film provides a longer lasting wash and go by sealing moisture underneath and controlling frizz for a defined curl. If applied well, a good gel will do all of the above, a bad gel will leave you with sticky, stringy or weighed down curls, and depending on the ingredients will leave them dry and flaky above anything else. Many gels will leave a slight rigid ‘cast’ around the curls upon drying, which is removed with washing or over manipulation. I personally like the cast as it lets me know the product has worked well and will keep my curls protected until I’m ready to release it. To ‘scrunch out the crunch’ I use one or two drops of oil between my palms and squeeze in an upward motion to leave me with soft defined curls.
When to use them?
Even a super-moisturising gel won’t provide as much moisture as a cream. Which is why many curlies like myself who have thick, tight coils may one after the other for the best of both worlds. Being a 3C curly, my hair gets dry super quick so I need the moisture from a cream but the hold of a gel to keep my curls
looking defined for longer. Every head of curls is different, so it’s totally personal and down to you which you prefer for you and your hair, but it’s important that you know which to use for certain outcomes!
How I use them
1. I apply cream to freshly cleansed and conditioned hair. I never use a towel, instead I opt for a 100% cotton towel or T-shirt as I don’t want to remove too much water from the hair.
2. My hair will be damp to slightly dripping wet. I then section my hair into 4 with butterfly clips for better distribution of the product.
3. I’ll then pump a dollop of curl cream into my hand for each section. I like to use it in the same way as conditioner.
4. Rub my palms together to spread the product and finger rake downwards, starting from just below the root and down to the ends - slightly squeezing the product between my hair and my fingers. Imagine that you want to cover each strand with product.
5. I continue to do this for a further 1-2 minutes by massaging the product into my hair until my curls are detangled, moist and clumped, not stringy.
I do this all around my head before I move onto applying gel. I use this as a final stage to define and seal the curls now that they are moisturised. So I repeat steps 3, 4 and 5 but with 1/3 the amount of gel as cream used. I finish with the praying hands method on each section to smooth the product down my curls. I diffuse for 20 minutes and won’t disturb the curls during the drying stage.
What to look out for?
While all creams and gels generally have the same goal, depending on the ingredients, some creams may provide growth benefits or some gels aim to strengthen. Fundamentally these are add on properties to their main purpose which is to moisturise and set. However, it’s important to realize that while they may share a common purpose, there will be many on the market that contain ingredients that wont benefit your hair, such as drying alcohols or silicones.
Read the back. Keep an eye out for gels and creams where the ingredients are 1. Easy to read and understand, words that don’t end in -cone, -fate, or contain damaging alcohols like isopropyl alcohol. 2 Ingredients that are naturally derived, containing essential oils and botanicals. Particularly aimed at curly types that are silicone, sulfate, mineral oil, petroleum free or CG friendly as we often refer to.
Hopefully that concludes the ins and outs of creams and gels!
As always, lots of love,