No, most hair gel is not bad for you. However, some types of gel do contain ingredients which can cause damage to your hair, scalp, and even your health.
A few years ago, a terrifying rumor started circulating the internet which claimed that hair gel could actually cause you to go bald. It was said that leaving the product in for too long could clog the pores in your scalp and repress hair growth. This year, the U.K. Telegraph finally put this hoax to rest: they interviewed many experts at hair loss clinics throughout Great Britain who all concurred that there was absolutely no scientific evidence to support that hair gel makes you go bald.
But even though gel won’t cause you to lose your locks, certain kinds can be bad for your hair and skin. There are safe hair gel products out there—you just have to check the ingredient labels and know what to avoid.
Some gels contain alcohol, which is harshly drying to your hair and scalp. Alcohol-based gel may cause your scalp to itch and flake, while simultaneously making the shaft of your hair more brittle and prone to breakage. So while you won’t go bald, you might end up with thin, damaged hair.
Propylene glycol (PG) is another ingredient to avoid. PG is used to create the appearance of soft, shiny, healthy hair... but it breaks down proteins and cellular structure in the process. Worse yet, PG has even been called out by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as one of the top 10 commonly used hair care ingredients that may negatively impact health with frequent use or overexposure.
It’s also crucial to avoid hair gel (or any cosmetic product, for that matter) that contains the word “fragrance” on the ingredient label. It may seem harmless, but “fragrance” is actually a blanket term for thousands of different chemicals—some of which may cause allergic reactions, skin irritations, hormone disruption or even cancer.
There are also some ingredients that you actually want to find in your hair gel. Seek out products that contain natural moisturizers, such as chamomile, aloe vera, henna, amla and jojoba. These ingredients will help hold your hair style without drying out your strands or your scalp.
While it’s very important to pay attention to ingredients, it’s also critical to follow product directions. Hair gel should be applied as directed and washed out after 24 hours. If the product is left on for too long, gel can irritate the scalp and cause itchiness, inflammation, and dandruff. It won’t cause any permanent damage, but it can be very uncomfortable and even painful to deal with for a few days.
Possible short-term side effects
- scalp irritation
Possible long-term side effects
- dry, brittle hair
Ingredients to be aware of
- curl definition
- holds hair style