Review: Wash and Go with KeraCare GELESSENCE

Review: Wash and Go with KeraCare GELESSENCE on Natural Curly Hair

Since WetLineXtreme decided to roll out a product reformulation that absolutely nobody asked for, I've been on the hunt for an affordable, accessible replacement wash and go gel to add to my rotation.

Of course, EcoStyler will always be there (hey red lid!), but something a lil' more forgiving in terms of moisture and playing well with other products is always a priority.

And that's exactly where my hopes landed with KeraCare's new GELESSENCE collection.

One day, I was scrolling on the 'gram, minding my curly business, and bam! I got served with an ad that hooked me in right away. Four bright jars of gel. Available at Target, too. I had to investigate. The KeraCare GELESSENCE line contains four different gels — a Moisturizing Gel with Jamaican Black Castor Oil (pink), a Strengthening Gel with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (yellow), an Anti-Shedding Gel with Biotin (blue), and a Super Hold Gel (purple).

At my local Target store, I was able to get my hand on the pink Moisturizing Gel and the yellow Strengthening Gel. I was hoping to come across the Super Hold Gel, but perhaps I'll just order that from the KeraCare website down the line.

Review: Wash and Go with KeraCare GELESSENCE on Natural Curly Hair

Anywho, I was hype to at least have half of the collection in my possession. Next up was the work of figuring out:
  • Do these gels actually work?
  • How do they compare to WetLine Xtreme?
  • Is there any actual difference between the two?
  • Could they become a part of my wash and go gel rotation?
If you're wondering any of the above yourself, keep on reading!

$4.49 each for 16oz

Where to Buy
Select GELESSENCE gels are available at Target, on the Target website, and at

Active Ingredients
Note: The ingredient lists for these two gels are very similar. Where the Strengthening Gel has extra virgin olive oil and apple extracts, the Moisturizing Gel has Jamaican black castor oil. Everything else is the same. Dassit. Not gonna get into what that means right now, but I just wanted y'all to know!
  • Water
  • Glycerin: Generally vegetable-based humectant that absorbs and retains moisture from the air.
  • Betaine: Amino acid that acts as a humectant and anti-irritant in hair products. Betaine molecules are great for hydrogen bonding, which helps them retain water and impart hydration and moisture to the hair. It also cancels out the "stickiness" of glycerin in product formulations while smoothing over areas of damage on the hair.
  • Polysorbate 20: Emulsifier that enables oil and water to mix. It helps product disperse, is a thickener, and stabilizer of essential oils.
  • Olive Fruit Extract (Strengthening Gel): Extract rich in fatty acids and Vitamin E. Great for hair growth, moisturizing, nourishing, and protecting the hair. Aids in strengthening hair and preventing hair loss.
  • Apple Fruit Extract (Strengthening Gel): Pholyphenol-enriched extract believed to promote and stimulate healthy hair growth.
  • Jamaican Black Castor Oil (Moisturizing Gel): Oil derived from roasted Jamaican castor beans believed to stimulate hair growth and promote scalp health. Also serves as a sealant that helps the hair retain moisture over long periods of time.
  • Carbomer: Blend of acrylic acid monomers that acts as a viscosity controlling agent (thickener).
  • Aminomethyl Propanol: pH adjuster and buffering ingredient
Review: Wash and Go with KeraCare GELESSENCE on Natural Curly Hair

Protein Free?
Yes! All GELESSENCE gels are protein-free.

Curly Girl Friendly?
At this point y'all, I gotta be honest. I don't know. And quite frankly, I don't think anyone should be riding the curly girl method wave anymore... in light of what's happening with the brand that created it. Don't come after me with pitchforks and torches — I'm just connecting the dots. But that's another story for another time.

For those that care, these gels are silicone-free and do not contain drying alcohols. 

Review: Wash and Go with KeraCare GelEssence on Natural Hair

The Good
To get a good feel for both GELESSENCE gels, I repeated this experiment twice on both sides of my hair — once using a leave-in, and once using the gel alone with no leave-in. For the first go-round, I parted my hair down the middle and applied one on each side. On my left, the Strengthening Gel. On my right, the Moisturizing Gel. I used Miche Lavish Leave-In underneath, and applied both gels on soaking wet hair using my Felicia Leatherwood Detangler Brush method. Once complete, I sat under my hooded dryer to lock the style in.

The second time around, there was no leave-in — just damp hair. Same sides. Same Felicia Leatherwood Detangler Brush method.

Performance-wise, I had a very hard time separating the two GELESSENCE gels on both occasions. I LOVED the thickness, texture, and feel of both in terms of applying them to my hair. They both played nicely with my leave-in, and left no weird flakes or globs. Upon drying, I really liked how my hair looked on both sides. Both the Strengthening Gel and the Moisturizing Gel did the thing I love about carbomer-based gels — clumping my curls and leaving them feeling supple and plump when dry.

Review: Wash and Go with KeraCare GELESSENCE on Natural Curly Hair

With or without a leave-in, neither of them left a true gel cast. There was an ever so slight crunch, but nothing like what I'm used to in terms of thick gels. With the absence of a true gel cast, both sides of my hair felt incredibly moisturized... a little too moisturized. Sticky, if you will.

But take this with a grain of salt — because I also use a TON of gel. On the up side, my curls didn't frizz up or lose definition easily. In fact, they pretty much looked the same on days 1-3. And by day 3, most of that sticky feeling had dissipated.

As a note, I did use the Strengthening Gel alone (no leave-in) on some chunky twists I rocked during the first week of #TheRonaLockdown. The twists were soft, shiny, and held up nicely with minimal stickiness. Like because I used less gel on them than I would a wash and go. Check it out:

Review: Wash and Go with KeraCare GelEssence on Natural Hair

The Bad
The first time around, I attributed the sticky feeling to the super-moisturizing combo of the leave-in and gel. But the second go-round with gel only quickly proved that idea wrong. Looking back at both ingredient lists, I shouldn't have been surprised — glycerin is the second ingredient. But if your hair loves glycerin (or you're not like me and use appropriate amounts of product), this probably won't even be a factor.

The only other thing I did lightly take issue with is the fragrance of each gel. I'm a fresh and natural kinda girl — perfume-esque isn't really my jam. While neither GELESSENCE fragrance is strong, they're both a little too flowery for my liking. If I had to pick, though, I'd go with the fresher smell of the Strengthening Gel over the Moisturizing Gel. The Moisturizing Gel is just a little too church-vestibule-on-Sunday-morning perfume-y sweet for my liking. 🙈

Review: Wash and Go with KeraCare GELESSENCE on Natural Curly Hair

What's the Difference Between Them?
To be brutally honest, aside from fragrance and color, not too much. Perhaps there's more to the story with the Anti-Shedding and Super Hold Gels. But as for these two, I found them on par with each other moisture and performance-wise. The only differences I experienced were in fragrance and color.

The Bottom Line
If you love thick, humectant-rich gels (think Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker, Uncle Funky's Daughter Curl Stimulator), then you'll probably love the GELESSENCE Strengthening and Moisturizing Gels as an affordable alternative. But if you're used to some crunch, some hold, and a gel that makes you wrestle (but gives you amazing results), the quest to replace WetLine Xtreme shall continue.

Review: Wash and Go with KeraCare GELESSENCE on Natural Curly Hair

Would I Buy Them Again?
To be honest, no — primarily because I have no plans on changing how I style my hair. For the amount of gel my curls require to stay defined for longer than one day, the GELESSENCE gels will always give me sticky results. More than likely, I'll pass these along to my mom who prefers moisturizing gels for her low cut, type 4 coils.

But for me, it's a no, dawg. Have you tried the KeraCare GELESSENCE gels? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

For more wash and go tips, check out these posts:
How to Perfect Your Wash and Go
Tips for Managing Hair with Two or More Textures
My Curl Defining Method

Stay Connected!
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