Is It Better to Use Hair Gel or Hair Wax?

Megan Shoop

Hair gel and hair wax are both styling products that help hair keep its shape and tame frizz. There are people who swear by each product, saying that either hair gel or hair wax is the only way to go when it comes to styling hair. To decide which product is better, users should examine how each should be used and its short and long-term effects on hair. Those who use hair gel often have problems giving their hair body and may notice that their hair dries out over time. People who use hair wax can only use it on dry hair, but may note that their hair has a pleasant texture and plenty of movement.

Hair gel may cause dry, frizzy hair.
Hair gel may cause dry, frizzy hair.

Many hair gels contain alcohol, an ingredient that can be very damaging to hair strands. When used over long periods of time, hair gel can cause tresses to become dry and brittle. This often leads to frizz, which then leads to the need for more hair gel. Those who want to use hair gel but don’t want to start this cycle should typically use a deep conditioning treatment on their hair about once a week. Washing the gel out of the hair every day should also help keep hair shiny and soft, rather than stiff and brittle.

Hair wax tames hair frizz and adds shine, though should not be used in abundance because it may lead to greasy hair.
Hair wax tames hair frizz and adds shine, though should not be used in abundance because it may lead to greasy hair.

Stiffness is another problem many hair gel users encounter. When the gel dries, it often causes the hair to clump and become immobile. This may be favorable for those with short hair who want to maintain a certain style. People with long hair, though, may not like gel because makes their hair feel hard and “crunchy.” Some gels also have an unpleasant scent. Those who choose hair gel over hair wax should typically look for a lightweight gel with a pleasant scent and low alcohol content.

Hair wax contains moisturizers that may soften hair over time.
Hair wax contains moisturizers that may soften hair over time.

There are many proponents of hair wax who say that it is much better than gel. Wax does not usually contain alcohol. In fact, it often contains waxes and moisturizers that may make hair softer over time. When it dries, wax also does not usually make the hair hard or crusty. It tames frizz and adds shine while still allowing the hair to move and bounce. This may be particularly advantageous for those with longer hair, or those looking for a soft, touchable hairstyle.

Hair gel is notorious for causing stiffness in hair.
Hair gel is notorious for causing stiffness in hair.

Wax does have a few disadvantages, however. Those who choose hair wax over hair gel should be careful not to use too much, as this could cause the hair to look greasy. Wax should be washed out of the hair each day for the same reason. It can also only be applied to dry hair because waxes and water don’t usually mix easily.

Wax does not always wash out of hair, making removal difficult for some users.
Wax does not always wash out of hair, making removal difficult for some users.

Those still confused over whether to choose hair gel or hair wax should try several brands of each. Users should also keep in mind they need not exclusively use just hair gel or hair wax. They may use a combination of the two, choosing either, depending on the weather and what kind of hold they want. Still others may decide to actually mix a little of the two together.

People who use hair wax often should use a clarifying shampoo that can cut residue.
People who use hair wax often should use a clarifying shampoo that can cut residue.

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

@alisha-- I think both hair gel and hair wax causes some residue, but you may find good brands in both categories that don't give you too much problem in this area. Some residue is inevitable because you're putting something in your hair. So you need to wash your hair regularly to get the product out and prevent build-up.

When I use hair gel or hair wax, I make sure to wash my hair the next day. Don't keep applying hair products on top of dirty hair, you will just get more residue. After a while, the old product in your hair will flake off and look white. I've had this problem with hair wax before.

I think the key to selecting hair styling products is considering hair type and hair needs. I, for example, have very thick and oily hair, so extra-strong hair gel works best for me. Someone with fine and dry hair will probably get better results with hair wax.

discographer

Which hair product causes less residue? I've noticed that with a lot of hair styling products, I get residue after a few hours, especially if I touch my hair.

bear78

I used to use hair gel and then I switched to hair wax. Hair wax is so much better! Hair gel makes hair stiff like the article said. Plus, hair wax lasts for a long time! I used to run out of hair wax very quickly. A jar would last me about three weeks at most. Hair wax lasts me for months! A little goes a long way so it's more affordable.

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