Wearing hair gel doesn’t transform you into Don Johnson circa Miami Vice. Rather, gel, along with wax, pomade, and mousse, helps you get your ‘do under control, so it’s never a don’t. Choosing the right hair styling products and tools for your needs is vital in ensuring you look as good (and with as little effort) as possible, but navigating the grooming aisle can be admittedly intimidating.
From pomade to mousse, each styling product has distinct playbook, and can help (or hurt) the hairstyle you want to achieve. Whether your style of choice is something high maintenance, like a pompadour or a quiff, or something a little easier to maintain like a crew cut, these are all the styling products you’ll want to consider, and how to select what’s right for you.
Best hair products for men: Hair pomade
The right pomade can take an average hairstyle and make it shine, quite literally. Pomade is essentially a mash-up of wax and gel and is mainly used to add a little shine and a lot of hold to any hair style. Use it directly on freshly washed hair to create just about any look. If you only have one styling product, pomade is a great option to have on hand.
It's almost as good as a day at the beach. You get winning combo of the texture and finish of a sea salt spray with the flexibility of a cream pomade.
Pros: You get that effortless look like you just went surfing and towel-dried your hair, thanks to this lightweight pomade. It gives you texture and separation. And it smells like a day in the sun.
Cons: It may be too lightweight for some, especially if you want a sleeker look.
Expect strong hold, and a less shiny, natural finish from this clay-based pomade by Baxter of California.
Pros: Ingredients such as clay and beeswax mean you can feel good using this every day. The natural, matte finish creates a day-to-day shine, which may feel more appropriate than a glossy pomade if you plan on using it before heading into the office.
Cons: The clay base is considerably more dry and not as malleable as a basic pomade would be. You may find that it requires more patience to use.
This unique pomade is infused with hops, which creates a stronger hold and actually helps prevent dandruff. It provides a lasting hold without making your hair feel stiff.
Pros: This pomade is water-based, which means it’s extremely easy to wash out of your hair at the end of the day. It also boasts a pleasant tonka bean scent, which will last all day. Blind Barber is also cruelty-free, so you can feel good about your purchase.
Cons: It can dry out quickly, according to Amazon customers.
American Crew's water-based pomade offers medium hold and high shine.
Pros: This pomade works particularly well on curly or wavy hair. It helps you create classic, slicked-back looks.
Cons: You get what’s advertised, which is medium hold. If you want something tougher, look elsewhere.
If you're going for maximum sheen and shine, this is the pomade for you.
Pros: The Reuzel pomade has a very high sheen. It holds like wax, but rinses out easily like a gel. It’s very concentrated, so it works on any hair type, and gives you a style that lasts all day.
Cons: Because of its strong hold, it’s ideal for thick, unruly hair.
Best hair products for men: Hair gel
The thicker, shinier cousin of pomade, gel is great for guys who want their hair to stay in place all day long. It does this by stiffening the hair into the style you want. Unlike pomade, gel keeps your style from moving at all, so don’t expect to run your fingers through your hair until you wash it out!
This styling gel offers guys flexible hold, works on all hair types, and has medium shine to it.
Pros: We like this gel because it doesn’t get crunchy when it dries. It’s formulated to stay flexible, so you never wind up looking an extra on Beverly Hills, 90210.
Cons: It’s not cheap.
This is a brushable, non-flaking hair gel that adds thickness and body to all hair types and provides strong hold.
Pros: This gel provides great hold, doesn’t get crunchy, and has no strange or strong odors.
Cons: Again, it’s not the cheapest option out there.
It's neither a gel or a pomade but something in between. This styling product is great for active guys who sweat a lot, but don't want to look like a hot mess.
Pros: This styling clay gives your hair a matte finish, and add thickness and texture. Your hair won’t look crusty or shiny. It’s ideal for shorter hair.
Cons: It’s got a super-strong hold, as advertised, so if you want something looser, don’t use this product.
This popular gel tames stubborn hair. We love that it's alcohol-free, and it's thicker than similar products. Which means you get way more control. It's best for medium to thick hair. If you want to refresh your hair once the gel has dried, simply run a little bit of water through it.
Pros: One of the best things about this hair gel is how much hold it provides, and how easily it washes off in the shower.
Cons: As stated, it’s best for thicker hair. So if that doesn’t apply to you, don’t use this product.
Best hair products for men: Hair wax
Hair wax is a great option for guys who want to achieve a more easygoing look. It gives you a medium hold, but it still allows you to reshape your hair as the day goes on. Unlike gel, most hair wax doesn’t contain any alcohol in the ingredient list, so your hair will stay moisturized.
Like its pomade counterpart, Blind Barber 60 Proof Wax is infused with hops from beer, which helps defend against dandruff while providing a great look.
Pros: This 60 Proof Wax offers great hold that will last all day, even through strong wind. It smells appealing (like soothing tonka bean) and doesn’t make the hair feel crispy, which some wax is known to do.
Cons: Depending on your hair type, it can dry out your hair and leave it rather stiff.
Designed for guys who want a little natural movement in their style, you can expect a light shine and medium hold from this V Rated Natural Wax from V76 by Vaughn.
Pros: V76 by Vaughn prides themselves on their natural ingredient list and the V Rated Natural Wax is no exception. It’s infused with soybean wax, which helps soften the hair, as well as wild geranium extract, which helps balance oil on the scalp while nourishing and protecting the hair.
Cons: Customers say it has a very strong smell of scotch, which can be off putting for those who don’t care to smell like booze.
Great for the summer months, Bedhead for Men Workable Wax was specially crafted to provide strong hold in humid weather.
Pros: This unique wax is great for people who want serious hold, without committing to the same style all day. Customers love it for its ability to create a more tamed style without the intense hold (so you can re-work your style throughout the day).
Cons: It can be too dry and heavy for thicker hair types.
Best hair products for men: Hair mousse
Mousse is a stellar option for guys with longer hair who prefer to spend as little time on their hairstyle as possible. The foaming cream is easy to work through long locks and can be worked into the hair right out of the shower. Expect little hold, since mousse is mainly to smooth over longer styles while adding a bit of body.
Made in the USA from natural, cruelty-free ingredients, this styling foam is a great option for sustainability-minded consumers.
Pros: Packed with certified organic botanicals, the Giovanni Hair Styling Foam nourishes the hair just as much as it styles it. The texture, bodifying, voluminizing ingredients ensure you’ll have a smoothed-down look, without having to worry about your hair looking too flat or weighted.
Cons: If you accidentally use too much, your hair might clump together.
This thickening gel mousse helps smooth and hydrate the hair while adding body and a slight shine.
Pros: Thanks to its ingredient list, the Shea Moisture for Men Thickening Mousse helps to provide a long-lasting hold without unsightly build up or flaking. It also washes out easily, so you don’t have to worry about scrubbing your locks for longer than you need to.
Cons: The medium hold might not offer enough strength for thicker hair.
This is the unicorn of hair mousse, because it's basically perfect. It provides volume that lasts all day without collapsing or becoming stiff and unwieldy.
Pros: Living Proof’s styling products make your hair look like you just woke up like this, and the mousse is no exception. This is a lightweight mousse that provides flexible volume to help fine, flat hair to look as thick and bouncy as possible.
Cons: As stated above, it’s ideal for fine hair, so use it accordingly.
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