Why the addiction to hair gel? I love my hair wild

Sunday February 26 2017

Women will sift through shelves of beauty products to find all kinds of ways to make their natural hair behave respectably. PHOTO | FILE

Women will sift through shelves of beauty products to find all kinds of ways to make their natural hair behave respectably. PHOTO | FILE 

More by this Author

Back when SWV wore Jade braids they added a touch of carefully artless baby hair brushed out from underneath. It was a thing in the 1990s. It was cute. It was good hair. It is what mixed race hair or really soft Afro hair did naturally.

Following a phase of gelling my edges weekly and having to sit under a drier to set it, creating this idea of perfection, my edges literally twitched themselves off. My hair would look great.

The first day. Or maybe two. If I slept like a board and did not workout and sweat. Basically, my hair was not allowing me to live. Eventually my edges came undone, turning into short, uneven and sheer pathetic flimsy things that required a change of hair regimen that did not involve the slightest drip of gel. This compulsive desire to control natural hair transcends.

To date every single time I visit a salon I witness the anxiety hairstylists feel to neaten my hair. Reign it in. Keep the edges prim, patting my colossal unruly afro, attempting, and truly failing, to contain and manage my hair.

As soon as they are done I shake my head vigorously giving the curls room to unfurl. I love my hair wild, big, untamed. Gel and all it stands for makes my hair stand on end.


But hair edges for African women are apparently very serious business #edgesonfleek. There is an obsession with laying hair down. It is gelled and brushed with a toothbrush, fine toothed comb, natural hair bristle brush or if you must be precise, an actual edge brush – because if an obsession exists so does an opportunity to make money off it.

From concotions with argan oil, jojoba oil to olive oil, gels come with no flake promises not to harden your hair into a helmet. High powered performers like Gorilla Snot Gel, any product named Edgewax to the most famed Eco Styler Gel, women will sift through shelves of beauty products to find all kinds of ways to make their natural hair behave respectably.

I have never understood why there is such an itch to pummel back edges. If you would never treat the rest of your hair as you do your edges, why do the edges have to take the heat? Aren’t they the more fragile hairs? Traction alopecia is real ladies. This drive for sleek comes at a price.

Baby hair is easy to mock. Overlooked is the fact that baby hair is how your hair grows. Some women don’t even have it. Instead their edges are thick and long and strong and beautiful and will not submit. Others have shorter, wispier, thinner hairs that immediately curl when wet, gifting the woman with sideburns. Like other hairs on your head, baby hair is a result of multiple textures on one head. They stand up when you try to sleek a bun or ponytail. Sometimes they are so little they can never be braided. In such a case, it is understandable for a woman to have to think on what to do with her errant hairs.

As for everyone else who is trapped in the gel muck, maybe you are going to have to learn to like your hair in it’s naturally messy state. Create styles allowing it to be gloriously unneat. So it’s kinky, nappy, a 3a or a 4c.

Explore more looks. Hair on fleek does not automatically mean you have to have your “edges laid to the gods”.



  • The best way to make edges lie flat is to wrap a soft, firm silky scarf around your edges. Do this when 30 minutes to a few hours before you need to leave the house. Or, you can go to bed with the wrap. 

  • Spritz your hair with water to make it slightly damp and softly brush it into a state of rest. A great alternative to gel is hair butter or hair milk.

  • Change up your hairstyles. If you have to use gel every day you are probably stuck in a hair rut. That, or there is a possibility you tend to prefer your hair held a little too tight.

  • But, if you will gel till you die, look at the ingredients and pay close attention to how your hair reacts to your gel of choice. If your hair is being styled by someone else, arm yourself with your hair pack and give clear instructions.