How to Set Hair without Gel? Tips & Alternatives

Written by: Kaushik Jethva

Last Updated: November 17, 2023

a woman styling her hair
a woman styling her hair

In the realm of hairstyling, gel has long reigned supreme as the go-to product for achieving that polished and sleek look. But what if we told you there’s a way to set your hair without relying on the sticky and often chemical-laden gels? Yes, you read it right! Get ready to embrace a whole new world of styling possibilities as we dive into the art of how to set hair without gel.

Picture a scenario where your trusty gel is nowhere to be found, or perhaps you’re looking for a more natural approach to hair care. Fear not, for we are about to unravel a treasure trove of techniques, tips, and insider secrets that will revolutionize your hairstyling routine. Whether you’re after voluminous curls, beachy waves, or a sleek updo, this blog will empower you with the knowledge to achieve stunning hairdos without the reliance on gel.

Join us on this transformative journey as we explore a variety of gel-free alternatives that will leave your hair looking fabulous and feeling healthier than ever. From traditional methods passed down through generations to innovative hacks discovered by hair enthusiasts, we will uncover the best-kept secrets of setting hair without gel.

1 Understanding Your Hair Type

your hair type. The different hair types – straight, wavy, curly, and coily – all have unique characteristics and respond differently to various styling techniques. Understanding this can help you select the most effective technique for your specific hair type, ensuring the best possible result.

Straight Hair

Straight hair is often smooth and shiny but can be prone to oiliness and lack of volume. Because it tends not to hold curls well, it requires a little more effort to style.

Wavy Hair

Wavy hair sits between straight and curly hair. It has a slight curve to it and is usually voluminous. With the correct styling, you can enhance these waves or smoothen them out.

Curly Hair

Curly hair has a distinct curl pattern that tends to be dry and frizzy. It holds styles well, but care must be taken to avoid damaging the natural curl pattern.

Coily Hair

Coily hair, often referred to as kinky or type 4 hair, has a tight curl pattern. This hair type is often dry and fragile, requiring careful handling to avoid damage.

2 Choose the Right Tools

To set hair without gel, you need the right tools. A wide-tooth comb, round brush, blow dryer with diffuser attachment, hair clips, and hair spray are essential tools for this process

  1. Wide-Tooth Comb: A wide-tooth comb is perfect for detangling your hair without causing breakage. It also helps distribute products evenly through your hair.
  2. Round Brush: It’s useful for adding volume and smoothness to your hair during blow-drying.
  3. Blow Dryer with Diffuser Attachment: This tool helps dry your hair evenly and reduces frizz. The diffuser attachment is particularly useful for people with curly or wavy hair as it helps define curls and waves.
  4. Hair Clips: They assist in sectioning your hair, which is crucial for effective styling.
  5. Hair Spray: A good quality hair spray is essential to hold your hair in place after styling.

3 The Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Prepping Your Hair

Start by washing your hair with a mild, sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner. This helps remove any buildup and provides a clean base for styling. Towel dry your hair gently to avoid any damage and to keep frizz at bay. Apply a few drops of your chosen essential oil evenly through your hair, focusing on the ends.

Step 2: Sectioning Your Hair

Now, using your wide-tooth comb, detangle your hair and divide it into sections using hair clips. The number of sections depends on your hair’s thickness and length. Generally, 4-6 sections should be fine. Sectioning your hair makes the styling process easier and more effective.

Step 3: Blow-Drying and Styling

Start with the lowest section of hair. Remove the clip and comb through the section. Use your round brush to hold the hair taut. Aim the blow dryer (with diffuser attachment) at the roots first and then move towards the ends, following the brush as you go. The round brush adds volume and smoothness to your hair. Remember, high heat can damage your hair, so it’s best to use a medium heat setting.

Continue blow-drying each section until your hair is completely dry. Pay attention to the direction in which you’re drying your hair – this will influence the final style. For volume, blow-dry your hair in an upward direction. For a sleek look, direct the airflow downwards.

Step 4: Setting Your Hair

Once your hair is completely dry and styled, it’s time to set it in place. Here, aloe vera gel or a light hair spray can be used as a natural alternative to gel. If using aloe vera, apply a small amount to your hands, rub them together, and then scrunch it into your hair gently. Aloe vera is hydrating and helps reduce frizz. It provides a light hold, perfect for maintaining natural-looking styles.

If you prefer hair spray, choose one that doesn’t contain alcohol to avoid drying out your hair. Hold the spray about 12 inches from your head and lightly mist over your hair. It’s important not to overdo it with the spray. Less is more.

Step 5: Final Touches

Lastly, add the final touches to your hairstyle. If you want more volume, you can gently tease your hair at the roots using your wide-tooth comb. For curls or waves, you can define them using your fingers, twisting individual strands as desired.

And voila! You’ve successfully set your hair without gel!

4 Techniques to Set Hair Without Gel

Let’s explore the techniques you can employ to style your hair without gel, keeping in mind your unique hair type.


woman on a gray background with a braid hairstyle
woman on a gray background with a braid hairstyle

Braiding is a traditional technique that works wonders on wavy, curly, and coily hair types. This method helps enhance natural waves and curls, providing your hair with a styled look that lasts throughout the day.

Start by washing your hair with a gentle shampoo, then condition it to ensure it’s moisturized. Towel dry your hair until it’s damp, then divide it into sections. The number of sections will depend on how large you want your waves or curls to be. Smaller sections lead to tighter waves or curls, and larger sections result in looser waves or curls.

Braid each section and secure the ends with a hair tie. Leave the braids in until your hair is dry, preferably overnight. When you unbraid your hair, you’ll have natural-looking waves or curls without the need for gel!

Hair Rollers

woman applying hair rollers on her hair
Woman Applying Hair Rollers On her hair

Hair rollers are a versatile tool that can create curls or waves in straight, wavy, and curly hair types.
To use hair rollers, begin by washing and conditioning your hair. Comb through your hair to remove any tangles, then section your hair depending on the size of the curls you want. Larger sections will give looser curls, and smaller sections will result in tighter curls.

Place the end of a section of hair on the roller and roll it up towards your scalp. Secure the roller, then repeat with the remaining sections of your hair. You can either let your hair air dry or use a hairdryer to speed up the process. Once your hair is dry, gently remove the rollers and style as desired.

Pin Curls

hair dresser doing hair of a woman
hair dresser doing hair of a woman

Pin curls work on all hair types and are excellent for creating vintage, glamorous waves and curls.

Start by washing and conditioning your hair. Section your hair while it’s still damp. Take one section, starting from the end, and start rolling it up towards your scalp, forming a curl. Once the curl is near your scalp, secure it with a bobby pin or a metal clip. Repeat the process until all your hair is in pin curls.

Allow your hair to dry fully. This could take several hours, or you could choose to sleep in your pin curls overnight. Once your hair is dry, gently remove the pins or clips and carefully unfurl each curl. Lightly brush through your curls with a wide-toothed comb or your fingers to create soft, voluminous waves.

Hair Scarf

closeup of a woman with her hairs tied in hair scarf
closeup of a woman with her hairs tied in hair scarf

Using a hair scarf or wrap is a great way to set hair, especially for curly and coily hair types. It can help reduce frizz and maintain the shape of your curls overnight.

Wash, condition, and detangle your hair. Apply a leave-in conditioner or oil to add extra moisture. Place a scarf at the back of your head, and wrap it around to the front, ensuring all your hair is covered. Tie the ends of the scarf together at the top of your head, and leave it on while your hair dries.

In the morning, remove the scarf and fluff your hair at the roots. Your curls will be well-defined, frizz-free, and ready to face the day!

5 Tips to Set Hair without Gel for Man

  • Pomade: Pomades are versatile products that offer a medium to strong hold with a natural finish. They come in oil-based and water-based formulas. Apply a small amount of pomade to damp or dry hair, and style as desired. Pomades provide flexibility and can be reactivated with a bit of water throughout the day.
  • Wax: Hair wax is another option for setting hair without gel. It offers a strong hold and is particularly effective for creating textured and spiky hairstyles. Rub a small amount of wax between your palms to warm it up, then distribute it evenly through your hair. Style your hair as desired.
  • Clay: Hair clays have gained popularity due to their matte finish and strong hold. They work well for adding volume and texture to hair. Take a small amount of clay, rub it between your palms to soften it, and apply it to dry hair. Use your fingers or a comb to style your hair accordingly.
  • Cream: Hair styling creams provide a lightweight hold and a natural, flexible finish. They are suitable for men who prefer a more relaxed and natural-looking hairstyle. Apply a small amount of cream to damp or dry hair, then use your hands or a comb to style it.
  • Hairspray: Hairspray is a classic option for setting hair in place. Choose a hairspray with a suitable hold strength for your desired hairstyle. Spray it evenly over your hair from a distance, and use your hands or a comb to style your hair while the hairspray sets.
  • Hair Mousse: Mousse is a lightweight foam product that provides volume, hold, and texture. Apply a golf ball-sized amount of mousse to damp hair, then distribute it evenly from roots to ends. Use your fingers or a comb to style your hair as desired.
  • Natural oils or butters: For a more natural approach, you can use a small amount of natural oils (such as coconut oil, argan oil, or jojoba oil) or butters (like shea butter) to tame and style your hair. These products provide a light hold while moisturizing your hair.

6 Natural Alternatives to Gel

While the above techniques can be used to style and set hair without gel, there are some natural alternatives to traditional hair gels you may want to consider.

Aloe Vera

fresh aloe vera leaves and glass of aloe vera juice on wooden background
fresh aloe vera leaves and glass of aloe vera juice on wooden background

Aloe Vera is a natural product that has been used for centuries for hair and skin care. Its gel-like consistency makes it a fantastic alternative to conventional hair gel. Aloe Vera is known for its hydrating properties and can provide a light hold, perfect for taming frizz and defining curls.

Flaxseed Gel

brown flax seeds on a spoon and flaxseed oil
Brown flax seeds on a spoon and flaxseed oil

Flaxseed gel is a natural, DIY alternative that is gaining popularity. When boiled, flaxseeds release a thick, gel-like substance that can be used similarly to hair gel. Flaxseed gel is packed with nutrients that are beneficial for hair health and can provide a medium hold without making hair crunchy.

7 Other Essential Tips for Setting Hair Without Gel

While the methods mentioned above are fundamental, a few more tips can further assist in achieving the desired results.

Use Good Quality Tools

Invest in high-quality styling tools such as wide-toothed combs, boar bristle brushes, and silk scarves. These tools can reduce damage and frizz, helping your hair stay healthy and making styling more manageable.

Regular Trims

Regular trims are essential, especially for curly and coily hair types. Getting rid of split ends can drastically improve the overall health and look of your hair, making it easier to style.

Patience is Key

Styling your hair without gel may take longer, and the results might not be as immediate. It’s important to remember to be patient and gentle with your hair. The aim is not only to create a beautiful style but also to promote healthier hair in the process.

Keep Your Hair Healthy

Maintaining the overall health of your hair will make it easier to style without the use of gels or similar products. This means keeping your hair hydrated, using a good quality shampoo and conditioner, and eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals beneficial for hair health.

Proper Hair Care is Essential

The most important factor in being able to style and set your hair without gel is to take care of your hair. This involves regular washing and deep conditioning, avoiding heat styling where possible, and maintaining a healthy diet.

Remember, the healthier your hair is, the easier it will be to style. Use natural ingredients where possible to nourish your hair. Oils like coconut, argan, and jojoba are great for hydration and shine. Leave-in conditioners are also beneficial, particularly for those with curly or coily hair types.

8 Wrapping Up

With numerous methods available to set hair without gel, achieving a great hair day without the use of heavy, chemically-laden products is entirely possible. By understanding your hair type, employing the correct techniques, and using natural alternatives, you can achieve a range of hairstyles that look and feel great.

As with anything new, these techniques might take some practice, but over time you’ll learn what works best for your hair and personal style. Remember, the journey to healthier, happier hair is just as important as the final look. Happy styling!

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About This Article

Kaushik Jethva
Written by: Kaushik Jethva author

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Updated: November 17, 2023
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