Here Are Healthier Alternatives To Strong-Hold Edge Controls

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In 2019, a class action lawsuit against the popular Eco Styling Gels claimed their “no flake” formula was misleading. Meanwhile, another lawsuit over the harmful cancer-causing chemicals in hair relaxers spread in the news this year. Although unrelated, these two occurrences draw attention to harmful ingredients in some of the most popular hair staples in Black beauty. Edge control is no different. “Edge control is a staple in Black hair care because no other community has it,” natural hair content creator Donnetta Monk tells ESSENCE.

After sitting in a hair salon chair for hours, edge control is the finishing touch to slick down the short, delicate hairs around the hairline. “It gives the appearance of a ‘put together’ look,” stylist and lead pro educator at Amika, Rashuna Durham says. As the key detail to even the most dramatic hair looks (as seen on FKA Twigs), the strong-hold styling product is used daily with brands like Moco de Gorila’s Gorilla Snot Gel (not to be mistaken for gorilla glue) and Got2B Glued Styling Gel as beauty supply store front runners. But at what cost?

“Just like any other hair product, edge control can be damaging to your hair if you are using edge controls that contain more chemicals than natural ingredients,” Monk says. “I’ve definitely dabbled with different brands of edge controls that contained harsh chemicals and it left my edges dry and flakey– ultimately leading to breakage.” Just like with traction alopeci – hair loss caused by high tension hairstyles (like braids)– harmful ingredients in edge control can break your baby hairs off as well.

Not to mention, if you have kinkier baby hairs, you may also be cycling through different brands as your texture adapts to the product, rendering it ineffective. “When choosing an edge control, be sure to stay away from gels,” Durham says. “Alcohol-filled edge control products left on the hair are more likely to cause damage.” Although gels with high alcohol content may give you a longer hold, many result in dry, hard and flaky edges, which can cause breakage and hair loss. 

“I try to find balance by adding castor oil to my edges to maintain edge health,” Monk says. “But sometimes [alcohol] is hard to avoid because most popular edge controls contain Ceteareth-25 which is a fatty alcohol that can dry out your hair,” Monk adds. However, “ingredients matter, so finding an edge control that has less alcohol and using it sporadically is always a better option,” Durham adds, recommending beeswax, aloe vera, and coconut oil. “These alternatives benefit the hair because they allow the hair to be tamed and frizz-free, without making it hard or drying it out.”

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