We're excited to present this story from Allure:
Growing up as a dancer, one of my first-ever beauty products was a big bottle of bubbly, blue Dep gel, which I used to slick my ballerina buns until my hair was shellacked. But habits are hard to break—I recently realized that I didn't know any other ways to work hair gel. I decided to investigate—and came up with these expert tips for everything you want to know about this superversatile product.
First off, what is gel? "Styling gels typically contain hard-hold vinyl or acrylic polymers—as the water in the gel evaporates, a clear hard film remains behind on the surface of the hair," explains cosmetic chemist Joe Cincotta. "Gels typically have more of these polymers than most other stylers, except for hair sprays, which is why it has such a strong hold." They also leave hair supershiny. "The film is clear and glass-like in appearance so when light hits it, the light reflects off the film," says Cincotta. For five great ways to wear gel, just keep reading.
Here are the best ways to wear it:
For a lacquered bun or ponytail. Turns out my ballerina bun trick works in real life to create a glossy, slicked-back bun or ponytail reminiscent of a Robert Palmer video. After blow-drying your hair straight, smooth a strong-hold gel from roots to ends before tying it back into a ponytail, which you can either leave as is, or twist it into an austere bun. "Applying gel to dry hair creates a lacquered effect," says hairstylist Guido. You can also add a shine serum over the top and sides to calm flyaways and create mirrorlike shine.
Fight frizz. Creating a styling cocktail with a mix of frizz-blocking gel and anti-frizz cream is better at calming frizz than either on their own—too much cream can weigh hair down, while too much gel can get sticky and start to flake. For curly hair, coat it with a combination of the two when it's damp, but not dripping wet, using a dime-sized blob of gel and a nickel-size amount of cream. If your hair is straight, you'll want to use the reverse ratio, and if your hair is fine (whether curly or straight), make sure to use a lightweight formula or spray gel. Try Tresemmé Flawless Curls Spray Gel.
Straighten your hair. If your hair is medium to thick, a flexible-hold straightening gel is great to use before blowing out your hair with a round brush. Make sure it contains phenyl trimethicone, a lightweight silicone, and never use more than a dime-sized amount.
Style a short cut. Now I don't mean globing it on like Pauly D, but a little gel can slick cropped cuts in place, whether you want it smoothed down to the shape of your head or combed back Evan Rachel Wood-style. Hairstylist Sam McKnight recommends mixing your gel with a bit of conditioner (like he did at Chanel's Spring 2011 show on model Britt Maren, shown above) so it doesn't look stiff or crunchy.
As a setting lotion. "Gel can be used as a setting lotion in wet hair," says Leland Ferrell, hairstylist at the Sally Hershberger salon in Los Angeles. "Use it liberally through damp hair from roots to ends, combing your hair into finger waves as you go. Or use your whole hand to sculpt your hair into a sleek, shiny style like the boy-inspired look Ginnifer Goodwin has rocked lately."