The 15 Best Gels For Curly Hair

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As someone with curly hair, I’m always looking for the perfect products to enhance my curls. I’ve found that hair gels can be a game-changer if you have this type of hair, and they’ve come a long way since the crunchy, flaky, and drying gels of the past. The best gels for curly hair are formulated for your specific curl type and will give your curls the moisture they need while reducing frizz, resulting in shiny, bouncy hair that holds its shape. Here’s how to pick the best gel for you:

1. Identify your curl type

One of the most important elements of any curly hair education is identifying your curl type. Curls range from type two (wavy) to type three (curly) to type four (coily and kinky), with subcategories from A to C that are based on the shape of the wave, curl, or coil. Some curls are even a combination of types. The curlier your hair, the more difficult it is for oils from the scalp to reach the ends of your strands, and the more moisture and conditioning you’ll need from your gel. Some products for curly hair specify which curl types the product is intended for, but if the brand doesn’t provide an intended curl type, it can be helpful to look at user reviews to see whether users with your curl type had good results. It can also help to look at the ingredients used in the gel and opt for one that focuses on moisture if you have especially curly strands.

2. Look at the ingredient list

Gels can contain a variety of different ingredients that can be beneficial for curly hair. If you require moisture, look for nutrient-rich oils like argan, coconut, monoi, macadamia, and apricot, and butters like shea, cocoa, avocado, murumuru, or mango. Other natural ingredients, such as honey, tomato fruit ferment, and spirulina, can nourish and strengthen your strands. Finally, ingredients like proteins, glycerin, polymers, polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), silicones, sorbitol, and amino acid extracts can coat your curls to lock in moisture, prevent frizz, and enhance your curl pattern.

3. Consider which type of gel you need

Gels come in a few different formats, so think about the one that would work best for you. Traditional gels are thinner, liquidy, and evenly coat your strands; they can enhance definition for all curl types. Cream gels can feel lighter but tend to be more moisturizing, which can be a plus for curl types three and four. A custard gel is thicker and heavier, and it can be beneficial for natural textured strands or can be used to elongate your curls. For the lightest touch, spray gels come in a liquid format that can be misted over your hair, ideal if you have fine strands or just want a finishing touch.

No matter your curl type, these 15 hair gels will enhance every curl, wave, coil, kink, and texture with softness and shine — Amazon reviewers confirm it.

A Highly Rated Gel For Natural Hair
  • Suggested curl types: 1A to 4C

Searching for the right gel for wavy, curly, or kinky natural hair isn’t always easy. Trying to get one that’s highly rated and under $5 makes it even harder. That’s why Cantu’s Twist & Lock, which has over 13,000 reviews and an impressive 4.5 star rating, is such an incredible find. The gel moisturizes strands with rich shea and mango seed butters, along with a number of nourishing oils like coconut, sweet almond, argan, neem, and avocado.

If you prefer to avoid parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, or silicone, you’ll be glad to know that the product is free from all of these. It has a traditional consistency for a hair gel and uses PVP to form a thin coating over curls, providing medium-level hold. In addition to simply enhancing curls, Cantu promises that the gel is also great for twists and braid outs (and multiple reviewers agree).

Helpful Amazon review: “One of the few hair products I have repurchased, and seriously cannot live without! I have very thick, curly hair, and it is the perfect gel! Smells great, not crunchy at all, and still a very firm hold. This is a thick gel, and it works very well for those who like to use products on wet hair. Honestly can't buy a better curly hair gel for the price!”

A Gel For All Hair Types With A Light, Flexible Hold
  • Suggested curl types: 1A to 4C

With 98% naturally derived ingredients, Garnier Fructis’ curl-shaping jelly can work for any hair type — curly, wavy, or even straight — though it’s formulated especially for curly hair. Packed with coconut oil to moisturize and glycerin to condition and reduce frizz, it promises definition and shine. The gel has a traditional consistency and is also vegan and free of sulfates, parabens, silicones, mineral oil, and artificial colors. The shaping jelly offers a light hold and frizz resistance for up to 24 hours. It’s intended to be used on hair that’s a little bit damp — just apply evenly, scrunch, and air dry.

If you like the shaping jelly, Garnier Fructis also sells a thicker hydrating curl butter and a defining curl smoothie as part of the same Curl Treat line; buy each one separately, or bundled with Garnier Fructis Curl Nourish shampoo and conditioner.

Helpful Amazon review: “Like many curly girls I've tried hundreds of conditioners, styling products, and tools. I have very coarse and dry feeling hair naturally, with a 2B curl pattern. I had previously been using a leave in conditioner and a mousse, with mediocre results, but it was the best I could achieve without going to the stylist. But this product is a game changer! My curls are twice as curly and half as frizzy. They actually shine and bounce. And all I have to do it apply it to damp hair, raking through with my fingers, and scrunch it a few times. Air dry, and bam! Beautiful curls. I used too much the first time and my hair was sticky, but used way less the second time and rubbed it in my palms and it was perfect. I don't even have to reapply day 2 or 3. Thank you so much for this awesome product Garnier!”

A Spray Gel For Curly Hair
  • Suggested curl types: 2A to 4C

When you want just a mist of gel to amplify and hold texture in your curls, look no further than R+Co Freeway Defining Spray Gel. It’s formulated with sandalwood extract for moisture and shine. Plus, there is nutrient- and protein-dense spirulina to nourish your strands, and polymers to provide hold, definition, and volume. And according to multiple reviewers, the paraben-, sulfate, and mineral oil-free gel spray left their hair feeling soft and natural. It’s a simple application; just spray onto damp hair and scrunch the curls when dry. Like all R+Co products, this one also smells amazing, with the brand’s Relative Paradise scent, which is a combination of citrus, eucalyptus, green tea, amber, and moss.

Helpful Amazon review: “Love this gel. It sprays on like hairspray, but it isn't sticky. I have pretty unruly, curly hair and this spray keeps it in check.”

The Gel Reviewers Love For Fine, Curly Hair
  • Suggested curl types: 1A to 4C

With an overall rating of 4.6 stars after more than 5,000 reviews, it’s clear that reviewers love Biolage’s styling gelée. It’s formulated with blue agave nectar, which is a natural humectant and helps with moisture. The gelée has the consistency of a classic gel and uses polymers to coat strands and prevent frizz. It’s marketed as a firm hold gel, but multiple reviewers suggest that it’s also lightweight. Biolage advises that it’s fine for all curl types, and reviewers with fine, curly hair seem to be especially big fans, with one reviewer reporting, “I have fine, curly hair and it doesn’t weight my hair down.”

Another even went so far as to write, “Best stuff on the market for fine hair!!” The gel is formulated without parabens, mineral oil, or synthetic colors, but it does contain isopropyl alcohol, so could be too drying for daily use if you have really curly or dry hair. To apply, simply work it through your damp hair and then air dry or heat style. You can spritz it with water to reactivate.

Helpful Amazon review: “I have very curly fine hair and every gel I had used before would make my hair feel coated and crunchy/hard. This gel is very lightweight and does the job perfectly!”

A Nourishing Gel From A Cult-Favorite Brand
  • Suggested curl types: 3A to 4C

Oribe is beloved for its fantastic hair-care products (that also happen to smell amazing), so it comes as no surprise that the brand’s Curl Gelèe is a phenomenal gel. It’s loaded with natural ingredients like macadamia, neem, and apricot oils for moisture, avocado butter to soften curls, and murumuru, mango, and cocoa seed butters to smooth, hydrate, and protect your strands. Lychee, watermelon, and edelweiss flower extracts provide protection against dryness and UV rays. But that’s not all — the gel even features glycerin and panthenol for further hydration, which is especially important for type three and four curls.

The formula leaves out parabens, sulfates, and silicones. Oribe’s gelèe has the consistency of a traditional gel with a medium hold. Multiple reviewers reported that it left their curls shiny, without any stiffness or flaky residue. One reviewer even called it “best of the best.”

Helpful Amazon review: “When you have curls/natural hair, one of the downsides is the expense! But when you find that perfect product that works with your specific curl pattern and texture, the investment is worth it. I have multi-textured hair, ranging form 3A - 4A. The 4A hair sits on top of my head and is prone to dryness and doesn't hold product. My stylist recommended I switch to curl jellies instead of creams, so that my curls would get a better hold. This product perfectly defines my curls and holds them.”

A Lightweight Cream Gel With Argan Oil & Vitamin E
  • Suggested curl types: 2A to 4C

This cream gel combines the hold of a traditional gel with the lightness and moisture of a cream, for a powerful product that does it all. Argan oil and vitamin E provide the deep moisture, and silicones and polymers coat curls to hold in the moisture and reduce frizz. Apply a small amount (reviewers advise that a little goes a long way) to saturated wet hair, distribute evenly through curls, then air dry or diffuse.

According to the brand, this cream gel can be used on wet, damp, or dry hair, whether you want to apply to dripping wet hair to encourage waves or curls, use as a gel for wash-and-go or twist out styles, or simply add a small amount to dry hair to reduce frizz and add a little more definition. According to multiple reviewers, the result is soft, bouncy curls that don’t feel stiff or greasy. The cream gel is free from sulfates and parabens, and comes in 8- or 3-ounce sizes, or bundled with other products from the line.

Helpful Amazon review: “This product is amazing. I have waist length wavy/curly red hair and I only have to use two pumps of the product to coat all my hair. My curls are wonderfully moisturized and shaped with absolutely ZERO greasy or crunchy feel. Don't use too much though. I did the first time and didn't get great results. A little goes a long way. Now that I've been using it for several months my hair is in the best shape it's been in years. I love this product and I have already ordered additional bottles trying to stock up for fear they will stop making it. Highly recommend this to the curly girls out there.”

A Custard Gel For Wavy Or Curly Hair
  • Suggested curl types: 2A to 4B

Custard or gel? Gel or custard? Why not have both? MopTop’s Curly Hair Custard gel combines the hold of a gel with the thick, moisturizing properties of a custard. Made with aloe, sea botanicals, and honey for moisture and shine, and glycerin to hold in that moisture and reduce frizz, it’s no wonder that one reviewer raved that this gel is a life changer.

Curls are left feeling soft and smooth with no heavy residue, and there’s a light citrus-kumquat scent. Because the custard gives the product a thicker consistency, this can be a great option for textured hair or to elongate tight coils, and MopTop suggests that hair with less texture will require a smaller amount of product. MopTop also sells a more traditional gel and a bunch of other products you can use throughout your cleaning and conditioning routine. The custard gel is free from parabens, sulfates, phthalates, silicones, and dyes.

Helpful Amazon review: “Love this custard. I have frizzy, dry coarse hair. After taking a shower I apply this custard to my hair and let air dry or blow dry and my hair becomes more manageable. Sometimes I am able to leave as is other times I will have to style or curl. But so far this is the best custard I have found. Love the smell too!”

A Strong Hold Gel Made With Lots Of Aloe Vera
  • Suggested curl types: 2A to 4C

Aloe vera is great for lightweight shine and hydration, and Maui’s ultra-hold gel is full of it (in fact, it’s the first ingredient listed on the label). There’s also coconut oil for hydration, papaya extract to soften and condition, plumeria extract for UV protection, and glycerin to draw in moisture and prevent frizz. According to reviewers, the gel provides a light hold with a coconut smell that is “so good” and “not overpowering.” It has the consistency of a standard gel and is free of parabens, silicones, mineral oil, synthetic dyes, and sulfated surfactants. One curly haired reviewer went so far as to say, “Love this gel more than any other gel I ever used before.”

Helpful Amazon review: “I’ve been embracing my natural hair texture and it has had a steep learning curve, but I’ve finally hit my stride in styling my wavy/curly hair. This product was the game changer. Other gels made my hair crispy to the point where I could not “scrunch out the crunch”. This adds moisture and definition without the crunchy feel and it smells amazing! I’m so glad I found this!”

A Strong Hold Gel For Hot & Humid Weather
  • Suggested curl types: 3A to 4C

Hot and humid weather can be challenging for curly hair, but less so with Ouidad’s extra-hold gel. It’s a brand that specializes in curls, and this gel utilizes Ouidad’s Anti-Frizz Nano technology, which is a fancy way of saying it uses ingredients like shea butter to provide an intense dose of moisture, then locks it in with silk protein. The paraben- and sulfate-free product, which comes in a traditional gel format, even has a UV filter to protect your hair from the sun. It’s easy to use, too — just distribute evenly through wet hair and then air dry or blow dry with a diffuser — and multiple reviewers advise that you only need to apply a small amount on wet hair to shape curls while minimizing frizz. Reviewers also report that after use, hair can be refreshed with a spritz of water, so you don’t need to constantly reapply.

The gel comes in three different sizes — 2.5, 8.5, and 33.8 ounces.

Helpful Amazon review: “I have natural curly hair and when I’m in a humid climate, my hair gets HUGE and extremely frizzy. I have spent hundreds of dollars on hair products and nothing has worked quite like this. It held my curls perfectly and absolutely no frizz. I love this product and will continue to purchase. No need to try anything else, this works!”

A Moisturizing Hair Gel For 2A To 4C Curls
  • Suggested curl types: 2A to 4C

Got curls? You’ll love this Design Essentials defining gelée, which uses coconut and monoi oils to hydrate your hair. It’s formulated with marshmallow root that gives the traditional gel a slippery texture to help to smooth the product over your curls, detangle strands, and form a conditioning layer over hair. Plus, the gel also contains sunflower and aloe to nourish curls, and glycerin for moisture, hold, and frizz protection — and it’s free from parabens and phthalates.

According to Design Essentials, the gelée provides lightweight definition for wash n’ go, twist outs, braid outs, finger coils, Bantu-knots, and other natural styling for all curl types. One fan with type four curls raved, “I style my hair with this product at the beginning of the week and it is still moisturized by the end.”

Helpful Amazon review: “I have 4a/b/c hair (lol as most curly girls have multiple curl patterns) I love how soft hair is after the gel has dried and my curls are so wonderfully defined! I use it for my wash n' go's, twists, and twist outs. When I rake my curls, I use a refresher spray about every 2-3 days and rake my curls in certain areas to keep the definition up. If I twist or twist out, I don't need to do a thing until I wash again. The curl definition stays so nice! And I always get compliments on how my hair smells lol“

A Hard Holding Gel That Works For 48 Hours
  • Suggested curl types: 1A to 4C

SexyHair’s holding gel isn’t specifically a curly hair gel, but it will give your curls a hard, long-lasting hold, even in humid weather. The formula contains copolymers, which work to define curls without flaking or crunchiness, as well as mica and titanium dioxide to ensure your curls look shiny. While the gel does contain sorbitol, which is a humectant and can help with hydration, as well as conditioning keratin amino acids, it’s not terribly moisturizing, especially since it contains denatured alcohol (which can be drying).

For this reason those with really curly hair may want to use it only occasionally, or use it with a moisturizing conditioner or hydrating hair mask to offset any drying effects. That said, SexyHair coats strands like a classic gel and its hold is hard to beat — one reviewer even wrote that it “will really hold the curl in humidity.” To apply, simply work it through damp hair and style however you’d like.

The gel comes in four different sizes (1.7, 5.1, 10.2, and 16.9 ounces), as well as in a Not So Hard Up medium hold format.

Helpful Amazon review: “WOW! This is the real deal. I have thick [...] curly hair and another curly headed friend suggested I use this. Its amazing - it holds my curls for days!! Wish it was less expensive, but this WORKS. I use a lot - about 3 quarter size amounts for my long hair. But what i like most - is that it really does define the curl for days!!”

A Nourishing Gel From A Cult-Favorite Brand
  • Suggested curl types: 2A to 4C

When you’re dealing with a brand like Briogeo, you know you’re getting a solid hair product — and this Curl Charisma gel from the brand is no exception. It’s made with 90% naturally derived ingredients, including quinoa extracts and rice amino acids to strengthen curls and increase elasticity, shea butter to moisturize and nourish, and tomato fruit ferment to seal hair strands and aid in curl definition. It also skips parabens, pthalates, sulfates, silicones, and artificial dyes. Briogeo delivers a light to medium hold with the consistency of a classic gel for all curl types, leaving one reviewer to rave, “helps my curls clump properly and stay pretty looking all day. Amazing!” Using the gel is simple, too — just apply from root to tip and air dry or dry with a diffuser.

Helpful Amazon review: “FINALLY a product that works without weighing my hair down or sticky. zero frizz, just bouncy curls that you can run fingers through and it won't make them frizz. touchable hair, not oily like other products I've tried. I have short hair, just about a dime size dab, run through wet hair and use a [diffuser] to blow dry or let dry naturally. LOVE this, my curls look great. wish I'd had this in grade school, being called cotton swab wasn't fun lol. I'll never use another product!”

A Coconut Cream Gel That’s Super Hydrating
  • Suggested curl types: 2A to 4C

Whether you have waves, curls, or coils, Carol’s Daughter cream gel will give you the definition of a gel and the hydration and nourishing elements of a cream, from root to tip. It’s formulated specifically for dry curly hair, so it has coconut oil, coconut milk, mango butter, and murumuru butter for moisture, plus polymers to coat strands and hold curl patterns.

According to Carol’s Daughter, the gel provides a soft hold for the perfect wash-and-go that will last all day without drying out curls. The product doesn’t contain parabens, silicones, mineral oil, or synthetic colors, and if you love it, you can buy various other products from the same line to swap out your whole hair-care routine.

Helpful Amazon review: “THE HOLY GRAIL CURLY HAIR PRODUCT, PPL!! Everyone go buy this - and then go back and buy it again for anyone you love. This stuff lasts for days on end, doesn’t leave hair crunchy or frizzy - cost effective and a little bit goes an incredibly long way. I have spiral curls and this goes on great. I’ve bought it for friends with wavy hair and will use it for the rest of my life. Cannot believe i finally found a product that does it all. Get this. You’re welcome.”

A Cream Gel With Coconut, Argan, & Monoi Oils
  • Suggested curl types: 2A to 4C

A trifecta of coconut, argan, and monoi oils makes this Renpure gel ideal for curly hair. These oils work together to moisturize, add shine, and prevent dryness. Polymers coat your curls for definition, and glycerin acts as a humectant to draw in moisture and prevent frizz. The formula is free from sulfates, parabens, and dyes. Despite the bottle calling it a “creme curly jelly,” the gel has the hold and consistency of a traditional gel. And with a convenient pump bottle, you can get just the right amount of product for your curls — apply a small amount to wet or dry hair, then use your fingers or a comb to work it through.

Helpful Amazon review: “Great for all hair type!! I’m black with 3b/3c with mid back length hair and this product is amazing. A little goes a long way and it has great slip. The hold is a softer medium that gives you really good definition and shine. My husband is Caucasian and loves it as a styling gel for his hair too. He can run it through his hair and comb it to get a sleek look or scrunch it in to get some waves. I’ll continue to buy this because it also works great on our daughters fine 3b hair without flashing or build up!!! BUY IT AT LEAST ONCE TO TRY IT AND I PROMISE YOU’LL LOVE IT.”

A Honey & Pomegranate Custard Gel For Type 4 Curls
  • Suggested curl types: 4A to 4C

If you’re working with thick, curly type four strands that need a serious dose of hydration, Mielle’s custard gel can help. It’s formulated with coconut, babassu, sweet almond, and avocado oil, along with murumuru seed butter, pomegranate extract, and honey, to seriously condition and nourish. The gel provides a light hold, with a focus on defining and moisturizing while detangling and reducing frizz, and it’s made without parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, paraffins, and synthetic colors. Be sure to appy the product to dripping wet hair, sectioning your strands to coat them evenly and diffusing or allowing them to air dry. Mielle Organics advises that the custard gel is formulated specifically for type four curls, but can also be used by individuals with other curl patterns. According to multiple reviewers, it smells great, too.

If you like the custard, you can also buy a number of other products (all intended four type four curls) from Mielle Organics’ Pomegranate & Honey line, including a shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, curl cream, and curl refreshing spray.

Helpful Amazon review: “I really love this product. I get questioned often about the product I use on my hair, and I recommend this product. [...] For tight 4c hair, it really helps to bring out and define the coils, and it makes the hair look moisturized. This product makes me love my TWA so much! It creates beautiful definition and shine to the hair. To apply, I take a scoop of the product, and rub my hands together to emulsify it. Next, I make sure that I saturate each and every strand of hair on my head. Then I style it the way I desire, usually using a sponge and then a pick to make sure my Afro is properly shaped. This product is awesome. I have been using it daily, and have gone through 3 jars of this. I highly recommend!”