Have you found your favorite gel?

Do you have 125 gels in your cabinet?

Can’t figure out why everyone is using gel?

Hate the idea of crunchy hair?

What you need to know is: gel is how you maintain the Definition of your curls.

Gel isn’t for everyone, and it can be confusing figuring out what your curls want.

But you have options, in this post I will go over Gel, Foam, Mousse, Definition and Volume.

Disclosure: The product links in this post may be affiliate links. As an Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases, at no additional cost to you. Read my Terms and Conditions Page to learn more.

Click any product name I mention or the photo and the link will take you to the product page for purchase.

Curly Girl Method says use GEL.

Go get the gel. Get the cast. Scrunch it out. And voilà wear the curls for days on end.

But here’s the thing, not everyone’s hair likes gel. Even I found gel to be a mystery I struggled to solve. At one point I had so many gels…so many…

Image of My Insane Gel Collection

Those were ALL the gels and hold products that I had. Most of which, I purchased because someone somewhere said it was magnificent, I couldn’t even fit them all in one picture.

The major issue was gel wasn’t defining my curls, but IT was defining my insanity. Clearly, the gel was not the problem. I finally realized that I was perpetuating the very definition of insanity, trying the same thing over and over again because all the curly gurus say GEL!!!!!!

Well, I say if it isn’t working for you: to hell with the gel. If you have never struggled with gel issues…my hat’s off to you…but if you have, keep reading. This post and the corresponding video is everything I have learned about the importance of hold.

After I took the above photo:

  • I threw in the towel.
  • I put them all away.
  • And then I did a massive hunt for foam or mousse or fairy dust.
  • I spent months looking, while I found some great products, I never found true love.


The entire time I felt like I was screaming into a void, that silver hair was different. I asked in silver groups, curly groups, I read all the blogs, watched all the influencers, and I took classes. No one was listening, everyone was answering with try this product or that product. All the while, I knew silver hair was different and how gel and/or hold worked for it or against it was one of the places it was the most different.

A woman with gray curly hair screaming with the words Curly Silver Hair is Different


  • Not only is gray hair resistant to dye but it can be resistant to holding and retaining moisture.
  • Gray hair also needs a different level of moisture and hold because the cuticle is slightly raised.
  • In addition, many people with white hair have no medulla in their hair so it can create a completely different structure to the hair strand.
  • Finally, gray hair can be harder to control on either end of the spectrum from too silky soft or very coarse hair.


Even with all of these things to consider, you still need to get a hold on it.

  • You NEED hold.
  • You need something that will lock in the moisture, set your curls, and hold everything in place.
  • You not only want to hold that definition, but you want to protect it by sealing in the conditioning you provide with conditioner and leave-in, and seal out the environment, whether it is dry or humid.

Hold comes in many forms:

  • Gel
  • Cream Gels
  • Custards
  • Mousse
  • Foam
  • Gel Foams
  • Gel Mousse
  • Spray Gel
  • Hair Spray

Hold comes at several different levels:

  • Light hold
  • Medium hold
  • Firm hold
  • Hard hold

Hold comes with different benefits:

  • Humidity Control
  • Smoothing
  • Frizz Fighting
  • Volumizing
  • Elongating
  • Defining
  • Enhancing*

Hair Tip on Claims…

*Beware of claims like “enhancing” as it often is more to sell you the product than to give any particular result. The reality is, the curl patterns that grow out of your head are what you are working with, no product can ever really give you a different curl pattern especially a tighter one. You usually cannot get a curl pattern out of a bottle unless it is a permanent wave. So just know when you are buying enhancing products, they will only “enhance” what you already have.

How to choose products for your hair type and environment:

While any hair pattern can work with any type of hold some may be better than others depending on what your porosity and texture are. If you don’t know your hair type you can check out my Hair Type Ultimate Guide to find yours.

These are just suggestions, your hair may be of one type and like all the products suggested for another hair type, silver hair tends to be unpredictable in that way…keep trying…and keep notes.

A handful of hair mousse

Try Mousse or Foam if you have:

  • Wavy or looser curls
  • Fine hair
  • Thin hair
  • Low porosity
  • Live in a moderate to dry climate

All these hair types tend to get weighed down so mousse or foam can increase volume. Also, avoiding heavy butters and oils may help you achieve better volume.

Use mousse or foam if:

  • You prefer damp styling.
  • You like refreshing.


Mousse & Foam Hair Tips:

  1. Foams are made up of about half water, so they may not work at all if you apply on sopping wet hair.
  2. If you like volumizing foams, use them throughout the lengths of your hair, not just at the roots, to create uniformity in the definition and volume from root to tips.
  3. Play with layering foams before, after, or before & after gel to create volume.
Loma Firm Hold Gel

Try Gels or Custards if you have:

  • Curly to coily texture
  • Coarse hair
  • Thick hair
  • High porosity
  • Live in a moderate to humid climate

All these hair types may need help controlling excess volume. So weighty products that contain butters and oils may be helpful.

Use hair gels if:

  • You style on soaking wet hair.
  • Your hair tends to lose definition quickly.

Try the combo products like spray gel or gel foams if you like easy and your hair tends to respond well to a less is more approach.

Silver Hair Tip: Try a double application of gel, this is what ultimately helped me with gel the most.

Try Hair Spray if you have:

  • Gel or mousse in and love the style but it still falls out too quickly.
  • However, try to go easy with it especially if it has a lot of alcohol.
    • Most hair spray the first or second ingredient is a drying alcohol.
    • Alcohols will likely cause the least issue once sprayed on your already dry hair.
    • Alcohols should be used in moderation on very dry hair types.


Application Process Matters:

  • APPLICATION PROCESS IS EVERYTHING that is why I did an entire video on application.
  • If gel isn’t working switch up that application method.
  • Be willing to try something different, you might need a silicone in your gel or after it, in an oil or serum while you scrunch out the crunch.
  • Be willing to try multiple product combinations.
  • Be willing to try it every which way and different orders of application before you give up.
  • Try mousse under gel. And vice versa!


Curb Your Expectations:

  • Do not expect gel to control all your frizz you may still need an oil or serum after your hair dries.
  • If it is the right formula, it won’t create more.
  • Ultimately, you must do what works for your hair and your environment.
  • If a product works for me it may not work for you, if it works for the curliest guru out there that doesn’t mean it will work for any of us.
  • Give the product a solid go and if it continues to fall flat…ditch it.
  • If it isn’t working…STOP the STRUGGLE.
Joli Diffusing Hair with Laifen Swift Diffuser

Use Heat & Get A Gel Cast:

  • Heat sets the gel!!!! That whole time I was struggling I was airdrying.
  • If you get a good gel cast or a crunch this is a good thing but DON’T scrunch it out until your hair is 100% dry.
  • It can be a soft cast, which is what I get, I rarely see a hard cast on my hair. It depends on the gel and application.
  • If your curl relaxes too quickly, you likely have too many conditioning products that are overly softening your hair. You may need to only use gel with no leave-in. This can help in very high humidity areas.

How You Dry Your Hair Matters:

Airdrying can keep the families together, but the curl may be looser and elongated. And your style may not last as long. Airdrying basically can cause water damage to your hair, so diffusing can be a much better option all around. Heat sets the curl and the gel, so this can make your style last longer. (Diffuse with the lowest setting you can to prevent heat damage.)

Definition AND Volume Are Hard to Come By At the Same Time:

Definition, by nature, is well clumped curl families. In order to achieve volume on wavy hair especially, definition is lost in the “fluffing up” process because the families come apart.

On the same token, volume and frizz go hand-in-hand, you basically cannot achieve volume without creating a bit of frizz. Use the frizz to your advantage.

There are some ways to help boost volume and definition, but keep in mind it is tricky to keep both at the same time, the finer and thinner your hair the more this becomes an issue.

Things to Remember:

  • If you want defined curls, you likely will sacrifice a little volume.
  • If you have silky roots, like I do, volume is even harder to achieve.
  • If you allow a certain amount of what is called “functional frizz” it will help with volume.
  • Again, always use volumizing products from root to tip so the volume is evenly distributed through the lengths of your hair to keep the ends from looking stringy.


Drying Tips for Volume:

  • Use root clips for diffusing, or diffuse upside down.
  • When your hair is almost completely dry, flip your hair from side-to-side while diffusing to rotate the roots so they don’t dry flat.
  • If you want volume after your defined curls are dried, fluff the roots and try a salt spray.


What Ended Up Being My Magic Solution:

It took a little while for me to figure out what the mistakes I was making were and what I needed to change to have better hair days. It ended up being a combination of things and gel wasn’t the only issue.

  • I reluctantly tried one last gel…LOMA Firm Hold Gel and I found my unicorn.
  • I found an application method that works great for me Double Gel – Double Plop.
  • I learned how to do a proper plop for the length of my hair. Which is something I struggled with before I learned the Quick Easy Plop.
  • And I stopped airdrying my hair and started diffusing.
  • I completely gave up on refreshing and styling to achieve curls for days, not for my hair type.


You can see more on hold products and silver hair in this video:

You can shop my favorite Loma Products and get 20% off with code QSH20 at Loma

More great hold products for silver waves and curls on Amazon:


Photo of Joli Campbell


I hope you found this post educational and helpful.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share.

As always it is about so much more than the hair.








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