It occurred to me yesterday that perhaps a lot of curly girls don’t know how gel is meant to work in our hair. This realization came about when someone asked me why my hair had looked “wet and crunchy” in the morning, and soft and bouncy that same afternoon. Yes, she was a straight-haired woman, but her question reminded me of how many curly girls I see running around with that same crunchy-wet look throughout the entire day.
I’m going to start by saying that it’s fine if you just like the way it looks. If you want your hair to be super tame, tamped down, and orderly, so be it! But to people who like my hair and want to find a way to achieve soft and bouncy curls, I explain that the gel should only be used as a cast while your hair is drying. Let me explain:
When gel is applied to wet hair, a chemical reaction causes the gel to harden as the hair dries; this is called a cast. It is setting your hair and allowing the curls to come together and stay together despite wind, humidity, and other such elemental strains. The longer you leave your hair in its hardened shell, the longer it will remain frizz-free and ready to be released from its chemical bondage. This works to our advantage if, say, we want to wash our hair the night before a big day but don’t want it to get ruined overnight. If you let it dry with the gel still hardened and intact, when you wake up you can scrunch, ruffle, and go with super-shiny beautiful locks. If you want to leave the gel cast in during the day at work so that it will look its best for a first date that evening, that’s yet another advantage.
When you’re ready to break the cast, you just turn your head upside down and scrunch your hair upward in an accordion-like motion. Then you put your fingers at the base of your hair follicles against the scalp and ruffle the roots–as usual, do not touch the hair shafts. This causes curls to separate, but not to frizz. As they’ve dried in their protective shell, they are cool, calm, collected, and ready to face the elements.