How Does Hair Gel Work?
Hair gel is a hairstyling product that is used to stiffen hair into a particular hairstyle. Cationic polymers are one of the main functional components of hair gel.
The positive charge in the polymers causes them to stretch, making the gel more viscous. Hair gels resist natural protein conformations and allow hair to be styled and textured.
This is because the stretched-out polymer takes up more space than a coiled polymer and thus resists the flow of solvent molecules around it.
The positive charges also bind the gel to the negatively charged amino acids on the surface of the keratin molecules in the hair. More complicated polymer formulas exist; i.e., a copolymer of vinylpyrrolidone, methacrylamide, and N-vinylimidazole.
The polymers are dissolved in water or alcohol which forms a clear film between each hair strand, attaching them to one another.
Chemical experts call this “capillary power” because it’s similar to how blood capillaries work. When gel is applied to wet hair, the polymer absorbs water quickly. When the gel dries completely, it forms a fixed connection between hair strands.
In 1929, the British company Chemico Works invented Brylcreem, which became the market leader among hair styling products in both the U.K. and the U.S. during the following decades.
Modern hair gel was invented in the 1960s in the United States, by what would later be renamed the Dep Corporation.
Marketed under the brand name ‘Dep’, modern hair gel was given this name by its inventor, Luis Montoya, in recognition of the substance that gave it its unique, non-greasy consistency: diethyl phthalate commonly abbreviated as DEP.