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Should You Apply Hair Gel Before Or After Blow Drying?

January 30, 2022
Should You Apply Hair Gel Before Or After Blow Drying?

Contrary to popular belief, there is a correct way to apply hair gel. The tricky thing is that this “correct” way can be different depending on a variety of factors. So, should you apply hair gel before or after blow drying? 

Hair gel should be applied before blow drying if you’re looking for a lighter, more pliable, and more matte finish. Alternatively, it should be applied after blow drying if you want a stiffer, shinier, and more defined finish. 

Although that’s the short answer, there’s more to it. Let’s go through the three factors you need to consider when making this decision for yourself. 

After that, I’ll give you some tips on using hair gel both before blow drying and after. 

How To Decide Whether To Use Gel Before Or After Blow Drying 

These are the factors that determine which option you should choose. Consider them carefully. 

1. Stiff Vs Pliable

If you want a stiff hold, apply the hair gel after blow drying. If you want a soft, light, and pliable hold that’s easy to restyle throughout the course of the day, apply a small amount of hair gel before blow drying. 

Anyone that’s tried hair gel before is fully aware of how stiff and crunchy it can make the finish. 

slick back medium length hair
The stiff, shiny, and defined finish you can expect when applying hair gel after blow drying

Image From Deposit Photos

In fact, it’s kind of notorious for doing so and it causes many people to shy away from it. 

But what they often don’t realize is that this stiffness is mainly caused by them applying the hair gel to dry hair. 

Applying hair gel to blow-dried hair will usually lead to a stiffer and often crunchier hold. While this may not sound appealing to many, some people actually quite like it. 

At the end of the day, a stiff hold is a strong hold. If you’ve got plenty of stray hairs and flyaways that just won’t stay put, hair gel should force it into place. 

It’s a sort of “set it and forget it” type of hold where you can apply it in the morning and leave it for the day without having to worry about things coming undone (to an extent). 

So, hair gel after blow-drying hair = stiff hold. 

That’s the obvious part. 

What isn’t so obvious is that applying a small amount of hair gel before blow-drying (i.e onto damp hair) will give you a pretty nice, soft, and pliable hold. 

example of a textured finish
Applying hair gel before blow drying will often produce a more pliable, matte, and textured finish

Image From Deposit Photos

It actually acts a lot more like a pre-styler. Something you apply before blow-drying to set the stage for the finishing product, whether that’ll be clay, wax, pomade, or anything else. 

Alternatively, you could leave it at that and not apply any finishing product at all. 

This is a great option for people that love how easy hair gel is to spread through the hair, but want a light and pliable hold instead of the stiff, crunchy hold that hair gel is pretty famous for. 

2. Matte Vs Shiny

If you want a shiny finish, apply hair gel after blow drying. If you want more of a matte finish, apply hair gel before blow drying. 

When people think of hair gels, they usually think of shine. Much like water-based and oil-based pomades and hair waxes, gloss is the name of the game. 

Hair gels are usually used in to produce glossy styles like slick backs and comb overs. They’re a lot easier to apply than oil-based pomades and are super simple to wash out too. 

But much like the stiffness, this shine is also partly dependent on whether you apply the gel before or after blow drying. 

Applying the gel after blow drying will give you shine and gloss. As this is what most people do, it’s what they’re used to seeing with hair gels. 

Another glossy finish. Great for slicked back hair

Image From Shutterstock

But what they don’t realize is that applying a small amount of hair gel to damp hair before they blow dry will give them a lot less shine. 

It’ll give the hair a more matte appearance. As this is the desired effect with most modern hairstyles, hair gel could become a secret tool for many people and they don’t even realize it. 

3. Defined Vs Textured

Apply the hair gel after blow drying if you want a more defined finish. Alternatively, apply it before blow drying if you want a more textured finish. 

Hair gel is generally known for how much definition it can produce. It’s great for styles where you want the hair neat, slick, and defined. 

But this is what you should expect if you apply the gel after you blow dry. 

If you were to apply the gel before you blow dried, the outcome would be different. 

The hair would have more strand separation and layering, especially if you were to finger-tousle and twist the hair while blow drying. 

In other words, it leads to a more textured appearance. 

This may sound strange to some, as “texture” and “hair gel” are rarely used in the same sentence. 

But that’s the beauty of it. Hair gel is a lot more versatile than people give it credit for. 

You’ve got options. It all comes down to the technique you choose and the order in which you do things. 

It’s funny how one simple change in your routine can make such a big difference. 

3 Tips For Using Hair Gel Before Blow Drying 

Here are a few tips to see you through if you’ve decided that applying gel before blow drying is the best option for you. In other words, you want a lighter, more pliable, and more textured finish. 

1. Don’t Apply To Soaking Wet Hair

Applying hair gel to soaking wet hair is pretty pointless and should be avoided.

Hair gel is extremely water-soluble and will dissolve very quickly after being applied to water-soaked hair. 

It’ll lose its effect even before you start blow drying. 

Instead, apply the gel to damp, towel-dried hair where you still maintain enough moisture to get that nice, pliable finish. 

2. Use The Minimum Amount

If you use a heap of hair gel, it really won’t make that much of a difference whether you’re applying it before or after blow drying. It’ll give you a pretty stiff hold regardless. 

Use the minimum amount necessary to achieve your desired look. The smaller the amount of gel you use, the more subtle, light, and airy the hair will appear after blow-drying. 

The “minimum” amount can vary depending on hair type and texture, but try starting with a quarter-sized amount and increase it if necessary. 

3. Finger-Tousle

While applying the hair gel to damp, towel-dried hair (pre- blow drying), try twisting and finger-tousling the hair to really start adding texture and strand separation early. 

You can definitely do so while blow-drying as well, but doing it while applying the hair gel should help you get more texture once the blow-drying is finally done. 

3 Tips For Using Hair Gel After Blow Drying 

Using hair gel after blow drying may be the option for you if you want a slick, defined, stiff, and shiny hold. 

However, it’s important to do so the right way if you want to ensure that the style still looks sophisticated. 

1. Try To Leave Some Moisture

It’s absolutely fine to apply hair gel to blow-dried hair if you feel as though it’ll give you the finish you want. 

But at the end of the day, not many people love a super stiff and crunchy hold. 

If you want to avoid this, try leaving a little bit of moisture when you blow dry. In other words, it doesn’t need to be completely dry. 

Leaving just a little bit of moisture when you blow dry could mean the difference between an ultra-crunch and a subtle stiffness. 

2. Quality Makes A Difference

Not all hair gels are made equal. 

Everyone knows the cheap brands you can buy off the shelf at practically any convenience store you can think of. 

They may do the job (just about), but they rarely give you a finish that looks and feels mature. 

They often cause too much stiffness and sometimes even flaking. It isn’t ideal for most people. 

It’s quite easy to tell the difference between a more “premium” hair gel and a cheap one, because it’s one hair product where you often get what you pay for. 

A good quality hair gel looks and feels more like a water-based pomade, with a more subtle stiffness and an understated shine. 

While there are plenty of premium hair gels out there, Bumble and Bumble’s Sumogel (Amazon Link) is a good one you can check out. 

3. Consider Applying While Blow Drying 

Applying hair gel while blow drying instead of before or after is something that people don’t usually consider. 

But it can actually be a great way to get the best of both worlds. 

The funny thing about doing so, however, is that it can be quite difficult to predict how it’ll look on your specific hair type. 

In general, it’ll produce some shine, but not as much shine as it would if you were to apply it after blow drying. 

The same goes for texture. It’ll produce some texture, but not as much texture as it would if you were to apply it before blow drying. 

It’s a fun option to experiment with and it may actually end up giving you exactly the look you wanted all along. 


When it comes to applying hair products, the order in which you do things does make a difference and hair gels are no exception. 

Hopefully, you should now have a much better idea of whether applying it before or after blow-drying would be a better option for your specific hair.