The Truth About Gel Cast: Why Crunchy Curls Are Not Bad

gel casts for hair explained

Do you struggle with hard, crunchy curls? That’s called a gel cast. It’s imperative to get a strong hold on your routine, preventing frizz and making your style last longer. However, it often results in that stiff, crunchy, “wet look” that we all try to avoid. So is it possible to get soft, full bouncy curls in tandem with definition and hold?

What is a Gel Cast?

A gel cast is that crunchy feeling that your hair gets once it’s dried and when it has product in it. Styling products like gels contain holding ingredients that create a film on the hair, binding the strands of hair together and holding them in place. They can also contain moisturising ingredients to prevent a dry, brittle feeling. Gels can provide different levels of hold, from very soft and flexible to super strong and stiff. The stronger the hold, the stronger gel cast you will get, and the longer your hairstyle will last with more frizz control.

Why is it Important to Obtain a Gel Cast?

Having that cast on your hair will help the curl hold its curl pattern, structure and definition for a more long-lasting style. If you live in a humid environment or if it’s a very windy day, leaving the gel cast in after styling will protect your curls from frizz. A cast will also help lock in moisture and prevent your hair from drying out throughout the week. Most importantly, a gel cast will prevent frizz from forming and tame flyaways. It’s particularly important while drying the hair, as it will set your curls, waves or coils in place and keep them defined until the next wash.

What if I Don’t like the Crunchy Gel Cast Look?

The most important thing that most people don’t get about the gel cast is that it is totally temporary! You don’t have to go around with crunchy curls, if that’s not your preference. If you leave the cast in after drying your hair, your style will last longer and be more protected from the environment, gradually softening throughout the day. But if you’d prefer to have soft curls from the beginning, you can break the gel cast as soon as your hair is fully dry! This will make your curls soft and bouncy while keeping them defined.


How do you Break a Gel Cast?

There are a few methods you can use to break your gel cast if you prefer a softer look. You can choose to release all of the crunch for your hair entirely, or just only scrunch out a portion of it to maintain some hold and stronger frizz protection.

  • The simplest method of breaking your gel cast is to use dry hands to gently scrunch out your curls after you’ve styled and dried your hair.
  • If you rub a hair oil between your hands before scrunching, it will help soften the hair and add shine while scrunching out the gel cast.
  • Using a diffuser is another way to release the gel cast in your hair. Set your hair dryer to low speed and warm or cool air and scrunch out your hair with the diffuser bowl until the cast is released. Do this only once your hair is done drying, or it may encourage frizz.

The one thing all these methods have in common is that they have to be performed on fully dry hair. Doing it before the hair is dry will prevent the cast from serving its frizz prevention function, and it will break the curl clumps. So always keep it as the last step of your routine!

Step-by-step guide to Scrunching Out the Gel Cast

Here’s how you can soften your gel cast while maintaining hold.

  1. Start with clean, wet hair.  
  2. Apply a leave-in conditioner and/or styling cream of your choice for moisture. Skipping leave-in or cream and only using a gel can result in brittle, dry curls.
  3. Thoroughly apply a gel. The stronger hold you choose, the stronger cast you will get. Curlsmith In-Shower Style Fixer and Shine Gel are the best option for strong hold, followed by the Curl Defining Styling Souffle.
  4. Apply gel liberally for additional hold.
  5. Style as desired.
  6. Scrunch out excess water and product with a hair towel or T-shirt.
  7. Apply another light glaze of gel if more hold is desired, but make sure you only gently glide over the curls and not comb in between, or it will disturb the curl pattern.
  8. Diffuse or air dry, trying not to touch your hair while you do it. Touching the hair will prevent the cast from forming. As the hair dries, you will feel it gets progressively more crunchy.
  9. Once hair is 100% dry, apply a hair oil to your palms and rub them together. A little goes a long way with oils, so avoid applying too much so your curls don’t feel greasy or weighed down. Smooth over the hair and gently scrunch. If you want to retain more hold, which will make your style last for longer, avoid scrunching out all of the gel cast.
  10. For more volume, reach underneath the hair and shake out the roots by gently massaging them. This can also be done throughout the day to boost hair volume for flat roots.


How to Choose an Oil to Scrunch Out the Gel Cast

The Curlsmith Bonding Oil is a great option for all hair types to use when scrunching out the gel cast because it’s lightweight and won’t weigh down the hair or make it look and feel greasy. It contains penetrating and sealing oils such as castor seed oil, apricot kernel oil, and plant esters. Using oil at the end of your routine helps to soften the hair, provide shine, and lock in moisture.

Another option is the Curlsmith Intense Treatment Serum, which is great for coarse or very dry hair. This unique blend of shea butter, jojoba esters, avocado oil, olive oil, macadamia oil and more is in solid form and emulsifies with the warmth of your fingers. It is multi-purpose and can be used to soften your gel cast and make your hair glossy at the end of your routine, or even as an overnight oil treatment before shampooing.

How to Prevent Frizz When Breaking the Cast

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you may still find yourself with some frizz after you have scrunched out your gel cast. There are a few common culprits of this event:

  • Your gel doesn’t have a strong enough hold. Look for ingredients such as Polyquaternium for maximum hold and humidity protection. The In-Shower Style Fixer is the strongest hold option from Curlsmith, followed by the Shine Gel, and both contain Polyquaternium-69. Alternatively, if you prefer a softer look, aloe and flaxseed are great film-forming humectants that provide a medium or light hold. The Curlsmith Styling Souffle contains both aloe and flaxseed, which provide long-lasting moisture and definition.
  • You scrunched out the crunch when your hair was still damp. Touching your hair when wet can cause it to frizz. Wait until your hair is completely dry before you scrunch out the crunch. It helps to let your hair cool down after diffusing to feel if it’s truly dry. Thick curl clumps can take longer to dry, so make sure they are not still damp within.
  • Your curls were not moisturised first. Applying gel to hair that is very dry can cause it to dry out quickly after your wash day and frizz up. Using a leave-in conditioner or styling cream as a base layer in your routine will ensure your curls are properly moisturised. Gel will then lock in that moisture and give you hold. Incorporating regular deep conditioners is also necessary to prevent dry hair.
  • Your oil is too heavy. Using heavy oils or butters may cause the gel cast to break up too much when scrunching out the crunch. Instead, use a lightweight oil like Bonding Oil to soften the hair without causing frizz.

Crunchy Cast is Nothing to be Afraid Of

Using a gel is the best way to create defined, frizz-free curls that last longer in between washes. Gel often gives a very defined, stiff feeling that is essential for frizz protection, but this is only temporary. Finishing off with the right hair oil will soften that cast and prevent crunchy, stiff curls. Incorporating these tips will ensure your definition is maintained while achieving frizz-free, soft, bouncy curls.
Gena Marie
Content Creator Expert in Naturally Curly Hair

US-based content creator with expertise in naturally curly hair. Through her blog, YouTube channel and social media, she shares educational content, step-by-step tutorials, and simplified instruction to help everyone achieve healthy hair. She is passionate about hair science, helping others master their curls, social media, and digital marketing.

Gena Marie
Content Creator Expert in Naturally Curly Hair

US-based content creator with expertise in naturally curly hair. Through her blog, YouTube channel and social media, she shares educational content, step-by-step tutorials, and simplified instruction to help everyone achieve healthy hair. She is passionate about hair science, helping others master their curls, social media, and digital marketing.