Hair gel was invented for hair utility and fashion almost a century ago. Over the years, the ingredients and different types of styles have changed. But the main purpose for hair gels has never changed, and it keeps gaining popularity with the diverse range of types, from mild- to strong-hold, from “bed-head” to “preppy,” and specialized formulas, from color-treated to coarse and thick.
Before hair gel was invented, men used substances such as petroleum jelly, corn oil and macassar oil. In Birmingham, England, in 1929, a company called Chemico Works decided to market a product called Brylcream that it invented in 1928. Chemico Works was known for creating strong kitchen and household cleaners. Brylcream, or brill cream, was used to keep combed hair in place. It was the first hair gel on the consumer’s market. The appeal behind it was that the consumer puts a little of the product between his palms, rub them together, and you can style your hair however desired.
After gaining popularity throughout England and Europe, it moved to North America and quickly spread as a fashionable product for hair styling. Men and women used it, and Chemico Works developed different types of hair gels specific for genders. Over the years, other companies started for the purpose of selling hair products to the masses, and the market evolved to what it currently is today.
Hair gel was created so men could keep their combed hair in place, while supplying hair with a glossy or shiny appearance. The shiny “wet” look was popular in men’s hairstyles from the 1920s through the 1960s, when the fashionable style was more of a “dry” look. Hair gel became more popular in the 1980s when stiffer hair styles came into play. Hair gel and other products have always been significant in culture over the decades for fashion purposes.
Companies started to market different types of hair gels in the late 1930s, targeted toward men and women. In the 1980s and 1990s, hair gel was being created by companies in everything from gel or liquid consistency, spray form or thick wax, depending on the type of “hold” people wanted in their hair. Dozens of companies work hard to create superior products that are specifically for hair, while many more just create hair gels on the side. There are hair gels available for different races, hair types, and even colors. The main types of hair gels used today range from gels, liquid spray, pomades, wax, creams and serums–all using oil, wax, or petrolatum to give it a sleek and easily styled appearance, and all containing different amounts of the agents for more or less hold.
Hair gel is used for men and women to create hair styles, from mild to extreme. Styles include slicking hair back, sticking hair straight up as in a mohawk style, keeping curls in place or keeping hair straight, making hair have a “bedhead” look (tousled but stylish, as if the person just rolled out of bed), sideswept bangs, “preppy” styles, “punk” styles and many, many more. You can use as much product or as little as you like, since it depends on the length and amount of hair that is being styled.
In the 1920s, hair gel was originally constructed by an emulsion of water and mineral oil, and thickened with a type of wax, such as beeswax. Currently, hair gel also consists of different fragrances, calcium hydroxide, magnesium sulfate, stearic acid and BHT. Cationic polymers are the main component of hair gels, as the polymer’s positive charge causes it to stretch and make the gel more flexible and useful.