Gels vs. Creams for Natural Hair

When it comes to getting more definition with our natural hairstyles, many of us want a styling product that provides lasting hold, moisture, softness, or all of the above. Gels and creams are two of the more common choices of styling products for natural hair. There are differing pros and cons to both. Here is a more thorough look at gels vs. creams for natural hair and which one you may find more benefit using:

creams vs. gels for natural hair

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Hair gels usually have a gelatinous-type consistency. They are a popular choice of styling products for natural hair because of their longer-lasting definition and hold. However, that strong hold is sometimes accompanied with drying alcohols and other ingredients that do not provide moisturizing properties for the hair. With a styling gel, it is best to apply a leave-in conditioner beforehand to help preserve moisture.

The pros of gels for natural hair:

  • Longer-lasting hold
  • Clear gels don’t leave as much visible residue / flaking
  • Can add shine
  • Good frizz fighter
  • Great for a variety of sleek and pulled-back styles

The cons of gels for natural hair:

  • Typically don’t contain as many moisturizing ingredients
  • Some have drying alcohols
  • Can create stiff or crunchy curls


Not all creams for natural hair are made the same. Some are a lot heavier in consistency, almost like a butter. Others are lightweight and provide lots of slip. Moisturizing creams can sometimes serve as a sealant due to their smoothing consistency that provides a thorough coverage of the strands. In addition, creams may contain ingredients that are more on the moisturizing side, especially if you create your own DIY curling cream. If you’re looking for a more voluminous look and don’t mind a softer hold, creams make a favorable choice.

The pros of creams for natural hair:

  • Some creams may contain more moisturizing ingredients
  • Great for the L.C.O. and L.O.C. methods to retain moisture
  • Useful for a variety of styles – wash and go’s, twist-outs and braid-outs
  • Often results in a more voluminous look
  • Less likely to create stiff and crunchy curls

The cons of creams for natural hair:

  • Hold is not as strong or lasting
  • Can leave visible residue
  • May not mix as well with other products without causing flaking


How long your hairstyles and curl definition lasts in various climates can depend on the styling product you use. Frizz as a result of humid weather is a common problem many naturals experience. When it comes to humid weather, you want to apply extra layers of moisture to your hair to help smooth the hair cuticle and prevent moisture from escaping – which creates the frizzy hair appearance. Since gels tend to provide a stronger hold, they’d make a good finish and frizz fighter against the humidity. Apply a moisturizing leave-in conditioner and a sealing oil prior to your choice of gel to define. However, a curling cream during the warm weather can still make a good choice in the effort to preserve moisture.

During the colder temperatures, our hair is especially prone to dryness. An additional layer of moisture will also help to keep your hair soft and moisturized. Certain creams can serve as a moisture sealant during the colder months as well. Since the weather isn’t humid, your hair is less prone to frizz up so styling creams may provide just the right hold.

Of course, everyone’s hair is different. Some may find better results using gels in colder weather and vice-versa. In either climate, moisture is key. You may even find benefit using both a gel and a cream for definition and softness – it all depends on the product.

creams vs. gels for natural hair
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So, gels vs. creams for natural hair? It all depends on your preference. Do you want a strong, long-lasting hold with your wash and go’s? Then gels may provide more benefit. If moisture is your biggest priority, try using a curl defining cream with your styles. During the changing temperatures, gels may let moisture escape if a prior moisture sealant isn’t applied. On the other hand, some creams can help to smooth the hair cuticle and limit frizz, but the softer hold may result in styles that do not last as long.  Check below for some good gel and cream recommendations for natural hair:

Good styling gel picks for natural hair:

Good styling cream picks for natural hair:

Do you favor styling gels or creams more for your natural hair? Why? Let us know below!

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