Curly hair requires special care, and regardless of your curl type — you probably have several products to maintain your look. Two of the most popular curly hair products are gel and mousse, but there’s a lot of confusion about the differences between these options and which one is better for curly hair.
To help you pick the right product, we’ll explain what a hair mousse and gel are along with the pros/cons and differences of each option. Plus, we’ll answer a few common questions about these products, including if you can use them together and how you should go about doing so.
What is hair mousse?
Hair mousse is a lightweight and airy product that comes pressurized in a can or bottle and is dispersed as foam. In fact, the term “mousse” is actually French for foam. Mousse adds light hold and volume that creates a natural look, but will likely need to be reapplied several times throughout the day to maintain your hair’s sculpt. It works best on wet hair, but can also be used on dry hair when you don’t have time for a wash. Mousse is ideal for a natural, loose, and voluminous style with light definition.
- Adds light hold without weighing hair down
- Increases volume and bounce for loose waves and curls
- Helps tame frizz
- Works well for hair of mid-long length
- Can be used on wet or dry hair
- Only provides light hold, which may not work for shorter hairstyles
- May not work in mid-high humidity climates
- Lacks moisture and can dry out fine hair
- Doesn’t add noticeable definition for tight curls
What is hair gel?
Hair gel is a styling product used to add strong hold and definition so your hair stays in place throughout the day. It usually comes in a jar or tube in the form of a thick, jelly-like substance that can be clear or colored and may contain particles mixed in. It’s easy to spread over your hair and dries quickly to lock in your hairstyle. Hair gel is great for creating a sleek, defined hairstyle that requires strong hold or even a lighter style that you want to last longer without constant maintenance.
- Provides strong, long-lasting hold and definition
- Fights frizz and tames flyaways, even in strong humidity
- Layers well with other styling products including creams and oils
- Versatile styling options — you can scrunch for loose definition or finger coil for tight curls
- Can be overly heavy and weigh hair down
- May contain harsh chemicals like alcohol that weaken the hair shaft
- Gel may leave your hair feeling sticky, crunchy, or brittle after drying
Differences between a hair mousse and gel for curls
The main difference between a hair mousse and a gel is the definition and hold each product offers. A mousse offers light definition for loose, bouncy curls — but the hold doesn’t last long and you’ll likely need to reapply the product several times to maintain your style throughout the day. By comparison, a gel offers strong definition and long lasting hold which is great for sleek styles.
Is gel or mousse better for curly hair?
One product isn’t always better than the other, whether you should use a mousse or a gel depends on the curly hairstyle you’re going for. If you’re going for a natural loose and airy look — a mousse is the product you should use. However, if you’re going for a sleek, defined style — opt for the gel. Just be sure to also consider the maintenance you’re willing to deal with. Mousse offers less hold, so choosing it over a gel means you’ll likely need to do several reapplications throughout the day to maintain your loose curls.
Can I use a mousse and a gel together?
You can use a mousse and gel together, and experimenting with both products can be a great way to create a unique style or at the least, see which option you prefer. If you choose to use both products, you should always start with the mousse before the gel. This is because the gel will harden up after application, so it’s easier to start with the light mousse first and then add a little bit of gel afterwards depending on where you want firm hold and sculpt. Just keep in mind that layering several products can weigh your hair down, so you may want to skip using some of your other stylers on days where you’re using a gel and a mousse.