In the 1970s and 80’s the Jheri curl was in and the wet look was perfected with curl activator gel of course. Unfortunately, many people still link curl activator to this wet look and avoid it as a result. However, it can be a very useful product especially if your hair is prone to dryness, the key is simply to know how much to use and when.
First though, let us be clear, curl activator gel referred to in this article is the non-drying type with very little to no hold. The ingredient label will start with water and then follow on with a humectant such as glycerin and/or aloe vera. The high concentration of humectants is the primary reason why curl activator gel is so effective at holding moisture for very dry hair. Examples include World of Curls Activator Gel, S Curl No Drip Activator Moisturizer, Care Free Curl Activator among others.
1. Using Curl Activator as a Moisturiser
There are two tricks of the trade in getting curl activator to work as a moisturiser. The first is you need to apply it to hair that has some water on it. This can be wet, damp or misted hair. The water is essential to stop the product just sitting on hair and giving it a greasy look. The second trick is to use very little of the product. The more you load on, the more wet your hair will stay and therefore look. Try to use no more than a teaspoon per quadrant of hair, focus on spreading it thinly and evenly. You can use additional products such as oil or if you wish another moisturiser over the curl activator.
The Downside: Curl activator does induce shrinkage and if you are keen to wear your hair in a stretched out style, it is best to avoid it. If you are however intending to do twists, braids or a tucked in style where shrinkage does not matter, curl activator will be good.
2. Using Curl Activator to detangle hair
Yes, you can use gel to detangle your hair! As curl activator is not a drying gel and can have good slip, it is possible to use it to detangle your hair. In this case, you can use a lot of the gel to ensure good coverage before either finger detangling or combing. The trick of the trade here is to work in sections and apply the gel onto only the hair you are working on. Twist or braid the detangled section afterwards to cut down on shrinkage and make your hair easier to handle. Curl activator is water based, highly water soluble and very easy to rinse off after detangling.
The Downside: Curl activator does soften hair and as a result when hair is breaking during detangling, you may not hear a snapping noise at all. Be very careful when finger detangling, combing or brushing to avoid any unnecessary extra force on the hair. Do not repeatedly run the comb through the softened hair, stop detangling once the strands and separated enough.
3. Using Curl activator as a Curl enhancer
If your natural hair forms clumped spiral curls, it is absolutely possible to use the curl activator to enhance those curls. Curl activator is very good at creating shrinkage due to the high water and humectant content. This shrinkage is an essential component in getting the curls to the right conformation to create the clumped spiral so do not fight it.
The Downside: Most curl activator gels have very little to no hold. If you would like to keep your clumped curl style for several hours, you may need an additional thin layer of a holding gel to help. Alternatively, you could use a curl activator gel that tends to dry a little more and has more hold for example ecostyler gel or fantasia ic gel.
Ladies, have any of you use curl activator gel? What was your experience with it?