Hair gel is one classic way to create a slick look, to stiffen your hair and keep it in place, or to add shine. But buying the wrong hair gel is a way to harm your health and, depending on the particular chemical makeup of your favorite gel, the effects can be mild to severe.
While parabens, triclosan, and dimethicone can cause skin irritation at their best, at their worst they can interfere with your hormones, cause neurotoxicity, or contribute to cancer. Beyond those health effects, over the long term, many of these harmful ingredients do the opposite of what they’re intended to do. Take PEGs for example they create synthetic softness in the short term but, over time, they can cause greasy roots and heavy ends.
Why continue to use these harmful hair products when there’s a whole world of organic hair gel and natural hair gel options that gives you all the same benefits, with none of the consequences? We’re going to introduce you to our top 5 picks for organic hair gels and tell you how they ditch the chemicals for natural ingredients that actually contribute to better hair health.
7+ Best Clean Natural Organic Hair Gels
Innersense I Create Hold $26
Instead of stiffening agents that have harmful effects on your health, this extremely popular styling gel uses certified organic honey as its natural holding resin. Combined with nettle and rosemary extracts for an even stronger hold, rooibos tea has been added to this organic hair gel formula as an added benefit that rejuvenates and protects your strands with their antioxidant power.
Phyto PHYTO PARIS Phyto Specific Curl Legend Cream-Gel $24
Not all curls are created equally, but this Curl Legend cream-gel was designed and developed for all types of curls. Apply this flake-free, cream gel to wet or dry hair and provide definition to tight curls, bounce to loose curls, and lightweight hold to everything in between. Formulated with ultra-nourishing and protein-packed botanical caviar, your scalp will love it as much as your strands.
Rahua Cream Wax $34
Ok, this isn’t exactly hair gel, but we love this cream wax as much as everything else on this list and achieve similar hair goals. Like all Rahua products, its symbiotic formula is composed of pure, organic, and natural plant-derived ingredients and free of parabens, silicone, sulfates, and anything potentially harmful to your hair or skin. Great for all hair types, it smells of exotic palo santo and provides a pliable hold, manageability, and texture. The low-key gloss goes on (and stays) non-greasy.
Jack Black Hard Body Sculpting Hair Gel $14
Jack Black Men’s (but actually gender-neutral like all hair gels) fan-favorite Hard Body Sculpting Hair Gel provides a powerful long-lasting hold on hair. The fragrance-free gel is not only made without drying alcohol but also made with B5 provitamins for hair health and ginger extract to strengthen hair.
Alternatively consider Jack Black’s Body Building gel ($14), for a medium hold. Speaking of washing, this gel washes out easily – there’s no residue left behind, just like there’s no crunch, buildup, or flaking when you use it to keep your hair in place. Plus, we don’t see too many hair products geared at men that use so many botanicals and vitamins: B5 provitamins and vegetable protein for the bodybuilding the name promises and lavender, sage leaf, and grapefruit peel for shine, antibacterial properties, and a sweet yet earthy smell you can’t get enough of.
Briogeo Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel $20
If you’re looking for a solution to enhance the natural curl or wavy texture of your hair then look no further than Briogeo’s clean Rice Amino + Quinoa Frizz Control Gel that provides a light hold. The vegan formula is made with Rice Amino Acid to prevent frizz and define texture, Quinoa extract to nourish, and tomato fruit extract to seal the hair cuticle. It should be noted that best practice usage with the gel is to use it sparingly on damp hair.
R+Co Motorcycle Flexible Gel $28
Another highly-rated clean hair gel falls somewhere between a gel and a wax. It provides all of the support and control you’ll get from a styling gel with all the flexibility and texture you get from a wax, for the best of both worlds. Key ingredients in the cruelty-free formula include nourishing coconut oil. sunflower seed extract protects against free radical damage and finally Keratin for hair health.
Alternatively get super shine, powerful all-day control, thermal and UV protection with the peace of the fan-favorite Wall Street Strong Hold Gel ($28). It also enhances the look and feel of your hair when you’re going au-natural, thanks to texture-improving vitamin a and strengthening hydrolyzed soy protein.
Leonor Greyl Paris Alcohol-Free Gel $35
Leonor Greyl luxury natural hair gel that provides a light to medium hold is popular as it full of hair-beneficial ingredients. Key ingredients to look out for in the silicone-free formula include keratin to help repair damaged hair making it easier to manage, wheat protein to help manageability as well as help with fullness, and finally, plant extracts from the likes of nourishing hibiscus and walnut for a moisture boost. Last but not least, a little goes a long way with the shine-enhancing hair gel that is formulated without other known irritants like parabens and sulfates.
Loma Curvy Creme $21
LOMATherapy’s haircare line are as much therapeutic treatments as they are organic hair products. Forming the base of all their products is a balanced blend of the purest water and concentrated organic aloe vera powder, delivering hydration, protection, and repair to every strand along with whatever the specific product was intended for. This medium flexible hair gel, for example, activates and defines curves and curls.
To bring body and bounce to sad strands, try Loma’s Volumizing Solution ($21). It adds buildable volume and visible shine – both of which last all day with medium to firm hold.
HAIR GEL WORST OFFENDERS
If you’re not buying natural or organic hair gel, there are a few common ingredients you’ll want to avoid, at the very least. These include:
- Fragrances: Protected under trade secret laws, brands don’t have to reveal the chemicals they use to make their fragrance and this term might refer to a blend of hundreds of unknown chemicals. Fragrances are a common cause of redness, itching, hives, dryness, and dermatitis.
- Preservatives: Preservatives fall under different variations and names. Parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and formaldehyde, for example, are included in formulations to prolong their shelf life. But these are some of the most harmful chemicals in any skin and hair care, with side effects ranging from skin irritations to hormone disruption and even links to cancer.
- Mineral oil: This ingredient prevents tangles and breakage. It may also act as a lubricant or moisturizing agent for the hair and scalp. However, it may surprise you to know that people who are regularly exposed to mineral oil at their job are at a higher risk for developing nonmelanoma skin cancer. So, think twice if you find this on your ingredients list.
- Alcohol: Various alcohols may be found in your hair gel, including isopropyl alcohol and benzyl alcohol. The former is used to absorb other ingredients into the hair follicles and the latter is often used as a preservative. As alcohols, though, they can have a drying effect on the scalp with long-term impacts.
If you’re trying to clean up your skin and hair care, the order is as follows: certified organic reigns supreme, natural is second-best, and at the very least, avoid all of the above.
With certified organic products, you can be sure that what you’re buying contains at least 95% chemical-free ingredients. Natural is an unregulated term and these products aren’t necessarily as free from toxic and harmful ingredients as you might assume, but some brands are doing a good job with their formulations. At the very least, though, if you can find something without synthetic fragrance, harmful preservatives, mineral oil, and alcohol, you’re off to a good start.
The clean movement in personal products goes well beyond the world of skincare. In fact, some of the most health and environment-damaging products out there are those that we use for our hair. So, if you’re serious about making the switch to clean products, then don’t forget about what you use to tame your mane. Organic hair gel gives you all the styling and shine of the unnatural counterparts, with none of the consequences.