Confession: I’ve been a hair-product junkie for as long as I can remember. After the ‘90s era of gel (thankfully, we’ve moved onto better stuff since the There’s Something About Mary spiked-hair look!), the grooming gods brought us a range of different hair styling products to keep you looking good and groomed.
When this new golden age of hair products began, I made it my mission to try them all ... and I almost went completely broke in the process. No one — I repeat — no one wakes up with perfectly coiffed hair. Take advantage of the wide variety of sprays, creams, pomades, waxes, and even clay hair products, and you'll find what works for you. On my quest for the perfect hair product for myself (I have fine, straight hair at usually a short or medium length), there were days where a new product failed me — we’re talking crunchy hair, product flakes, and greasy texture. But when you find the right products, you truly feel like a new and improved version of yourself. It’s the hair version of a glow-up.
I did the research, and now you too can have a good hair day every day with our guide to the best styling products for men. Beyond finding a good styling product, you have to know which type of haircare product for men is right for your hair texture, and which one will give you the desired look you’re going for. To help you avoid some hair trauma and save your hard-earned money, I'll break down the different types of haircare products, and which ones get the gold star for giving a dapper ‘do.
How to apply hair products: Put a dab between the palms of your hands and rub together. Then run them through damp hair from back to front. Applying to damp hair will give you more control (especially with creams), while applying product to dry hair helps control the texture. Less is more, so use less and repeat if needed. For spray, you should spray the product from back to front so the front of your hair isn’t overloaded with product that’ll make it look too stiff or overdone.
Best for: Dry, curly, longer, or thinning hair.
The Results: Smooth hair, light hold, slight shine, hydrated hair.
You’ll see hair cream labeled as “hair lotion” sometimes for a reason. Hair cream, like any lotion, will moisturize and repair dry or frizzy hair. It’s the lightweight hold that’s perfect for curly hair or longer hair, and it'll keep your locks from looking wild. Have thinning hair? Some hair creams are meant to pump up the volume to give it a fuller look with a hint of shine. It’s also totally great to mix a dab with thicker waxes, but save that type of hair experimenting for a lazy Sunday. Some hair creams are stronger than others, whereas lightweight versions are simply meant to de-frizz and give a healthy shine. You should always start with less and add as needed. If you want a less-coiffed look that’s really just going to give your hair a healthy, well-managed appearance, cream is the way to go.
Best for: All hair types.
The Results: Ultra coiffed, usually slick with medium-to-high shine and medium hold. Think Mad Men style.
Get the slick look, without the dry helmet-crunch of gel and more flexibility! Pomade is a classic product that used to be primarily oil-based, but thankfully now we have water-based options to easily wash pomade out of your hair, without stripping it of natural oils. Also, be careful to avoid oil-based pomades if you're prone to acne breakouts! Pomades usually have a high amount of shine and are best to use with a comb (to avoid the clumpy-hair look!) for a style that can go totally rockabilly or boardroom boss. This is the next level of hold after a cream, but it’s a pretty big step up, so use with caution.
Best for: All hair lengths with a straight or wavy texture. Normal or oily hair.
The results: Matte look with a high hold with texture and volume.
Clay is the new haircare product craze for men, and it actually has bentonite clay in it. It sounds weird, but clay is great for absorbing excess oil for a voluminous, textured look with zero shine. Usually combined with beeswax and oils, it’s similar to hair wax with a flexible hold, but stronger and without weight. Just like how you think of clay, it has a super smooth texture that’s almost powdery. Best of all, it’s easy to move through your hair no matter the thickness. For some men, this is the dream haircare product to rock the effortlessly styled look.
Best for: Shorter to medium-length hair and all hair types.
The Results: Medium hold, shine, and flexibility with either slight shine or a semi-matte finish.
Hair wax is probably the most used term for men's haircare products, and sometimes for products that would be better classified as a pomade or paste (though paste is basically the same as wax). Beeswax is the key ingredient in hair wax. Think of hair wax as the Goldilocks of haircare products for men. It can be slightly shinier or matte, but generally it has a good medium hold to shape your hair. If you’re starting to explore a hairstyling product, this is a good beginning pick to add to your dopp kit. Whether you go for a bedhead disheveled look or for a slight spike, this product will keep your hair in place. It tends to also give your hair some thickness, while still controlling your hair from flying in the wind or going static.
The Finishing Touch: Hair Spray
Best for: Depending on the type of hair spray, it can work with multiple hair lengths and textures.
The Results: Volume and texture, with variations of hold based on the type of spray.
Hair spray has come a long way from the days of '80s aerosol cans! Sprays are a great finishing touch or for giving a slight style addition to any hair look. While there are different kinds of hair sprays out there, the majority guarantee they'll give you great volume and texture. The flexibility is also totally up to the spray you go with, but a great hair spray isn’t sticky. Give yourself a little bit of a beachy vibe, or keep it sleek and matte with a hair spray that works like clay. Sprays are a great way to add something extra to your look without making a full commitment.
And there you have it, guys! Good hair days are coming!
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