I often wonder, what is the purpose of hair?
Yes, apart from the evolutionary reasons…
What else does hair do outside of adding aesthetic value to a man's appearance?
To complicate things – without any outside help – hair would suffer a limp and dreary existence.
That's why a huge hair-care market exists, to spice things up by creating art through defined styles. But how are we expected to choose from the myriad options of hair styling products?
Pomades, waxes, gels, clays, fibers, creams…. it’s enough to make us want to adopt a monkish attitude and shave it all off.
To make it easier for you – I'm going to break down the ABC's of hair products for you.
There are two common terms you need to understand about hair products.
- Any product labeled shine will reflect light and make your head look glossy. Anything labeled matte will make your hair absorb light and therefore – not shine.
- Pay attention to the holding power of the products because that’s the main distinction between hair products. They are categorized as low, medium, or maximum-hold.
Best Men’s Hair Product #1: Gel – High Hold & High Shine
Hair gel is the most commonly used hair styling product for men. It's safe to say that almost every guy has tried using hair gel at some point in his life. Gels comes in varying hold strengths from light to strong – giving hair a sculpt hold that won't budge all day.
The extreme hold of using hair gel comes at a cost:
- Flaking or residue as a result of running your fingers through your gelled hair.
- Excessive drying and hair damage due to the type of alcohols that are used to help the gel dry.
- Moisture is stripped from the hair and scalp because of the chemicals used in some hair gels – resulting in dandruff and itchy scalps. You can avoid this by going for a natural men's hair gel which does not contain alcohol or harmful chemicals.
- Hair becomes brittle over time and prone to breakage.
- Hair turns more frizzy – making it dry, rough, limp and unmanageable in its natural state.
- No flexibility to style your hair throughout the day.
A strong-hold gel provides a stiff hairstyle. A lighter gel makes your hair more manageable and emphasizes waviness. In general – gels provide a high shine.
It's worth noting that not all hair gels are made equal. Those formulated with natural ingredients – such as this natural Hair Gel for men from VITAMAN – are less likely to flake off during the day.
Best Men’s Hair Product #2: Wax – Medium Hold, Medium Shine
Hair wax is used for a range of hairstyles – from messy bed-head looks to more structured styles. It can have a shiny or matte finish and can be used to create spikes or hold the hair down for a well-groomed look.
Wax is more suitable for straight or slightly wavy hair. It tends to clump in curly hair. As wax is more pliable than gel – hair can be restyled during the day. They do not harden over time and typically have a shiny finish.
Waxes are similar to pomades but typically have a lighter hold. They typically provide a medium to a high shine, but lack in overall hold. Waxes are ideal for hairstyles that require a comb such as the classic side part, pompadour or ducktails.
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Best Men’s Hair Product #3: Pomade – Medium Hold & High Shine
Originally made from mineral oil, pomades are designed to showcase your hair in a neat, slick manner. They work extremely well with combed hairstyles.
Unlike gels – pomades do not make your hair dry, hard or crunchy. You can style your hair at any point throughout the day.
Pomades can be broken down into two major categories…
- Oil-based pomades are made from grease or petroleum, which makes it an inexpensive option compared to water-based pomades. Wash out oil-based pomades will also strip the natural oils in your hair, leaving it looking quite unhealthy. They can also clog the pores in the scalp – resulting in unwanted buildup and acne.
- Water-based pomades deliver similar holds and shines to oil-based pomades, but they wash out easily with water.
Water-based pomades may not provide holds as firm as the oil-based type, but they maintain flexibility and can be restyled throughout the day. Always go for a natural pomade for men because they won't leave an oily or greasy build up in your hair.
Pomades are creamier than waxes – making them more suitable for thick or curly hair. They range from light-medium to light-hard hold and are used for slicking, defining and grouping/chunking anything from wavy to straight hair.
Best Men’s Hair Product #4: Clay – High Hold & Low Shine
A stickier version of a pomade that tends to have a firmer hold.
Clay makes your hair feel fuller by adding thickness and body to the individual strands. Its lightweight formula is easily absorbed into the hair without leaving any residue.
Hair clays are perfect for hairstyles that require volume without having the product weigh down your hair.
Using hair clay products offers some benefits:
- Clay tends to draw out impurities and dirt without drying the hair of its natural oils.
- It nourishes the hair and scalp because it’s rich in mineral and nutrients.
- Clay controls and maintains frizzy hair – an essential requirement for men with curly or longer hair.
Clay provides a matte to semi-matte texture and gives your hair medium to high hold.
Best Men’s Hair Product #5: Paste – Medium Hold & Medium Shine
In general hair pastes have a thicker consistency than pomades.
Hair pastes are probably the most versatile men’s hair products and can be used for practically any hairstyle. They are usually water-based – so washing them out is easy.
Rubbing thicker hair paste between your palms will soften the product, allowing even distribution throughout your hair. Once your hair is styled, the product will begin to cool and re-thicken – providing the hold your hair needs.
Pastes give your hair separation and flexibility. They also add volume and texture if added prior to blow-drying.
A hair paste usually gives your hair a medium to very firm hold and can leave your hair with a touch of shine.
Best Men’s Hair Product #6: Cream – Low hold & Medium Shine
To add a natural shine and control to your hair, creams are the way to go.
Ideal for thick, coarse or curly hair, they generally contain moisturizing ingredients like natural oils or silk amino acids.
Hair cream gives hair flexibility and strength and tames flyaway hair without the greasiness or stiffness of wax and gels.
Hair cream provides almost zero hold and act as a conditioning lotion that gives thick hair types the perfect bed hair look. They are an excellent option to de-frizz and de-fluff frizzy, curly and coarse hair.
Used sparingly – creams are a good option for men with thinning or fine hair who don't like the weight of pomade or wax.
Hair creams offer a very light, soft hold and they are recommended primarily as a pre-styling product because they add shine, substance and separation to your hair. Go for a men's styling cream which is pH based so it won't irritate your hair and scalp.
Best Men’s Hair Product #7: Mousse – Use For Volume
Most men tend to shy away from hair mousse. Possibly because it reminds them of the crunchy hairstyles of the 80's.
Mousse is designed to add light hold, body and shine to your hair.
It's foamy and surrounds the hair strand with chemical compounds called polymers, resulting in a fuller appearance. Even though men may not be chasing that thick look, some mousses are specifically formulated to thicken fine hair with agents like rice protein and rosemary making it perfect for foliage that's starting to thin up top.
Applying mousse at the hair roots and blow drying from the roots outward is key to achieving massive volume.
Using mousse with this method works well for all hair types. Unlike hair gel, if you disturb the crunchy hair you won’t be left with flakes and residue.
Use mousse to get the initial volume – then use another product, like a hair paste, to better define and shape the hairstyle.
Best Men’s Hair Product #8: Hair Serum – Low Hold & High Shine
Also called gloss, polish or smoothing fluid, it has a slick consistency and is used to reduce frizz and impart silkiness and sheen with silicone and various oils.
Use serum on long, curly or brittle hair its coating mechanism can soften the hair. For a quick shine fix, put a few drops on wet shampooed hair and then rinse it out.
For men with longer hair, a serum is used to control frizz and fly-aways by moisturizing the hair and providing a silky smoothness.
Most guys will never use a serum due to the application, but can be used to add a quick shiny finish by applying a little bit after your hair is towel dried.
Best Men’s Hair Product #9: Hairspray – Finishing Touches
Reminiscent of the age of shoulder pads and Top Gun screen savers.
A quick spritz of hair spray is like casting a protective net over your hair that keeps it set in times of humidity and when riding in convertibles.
Hair spray can be used by itself, or used in conjunction with any hair paste or pomade. They can also be sprayed on the outer layer of hair to lock in the hairstyle in place, or sprayed deep into the roots to coat the hair and lift them up.
Typically, hair spray is packaged in an aerosol can or bottle with a pump sprayer, and is primarily geared towards women – this does not mean that men can’t and shouldn’t use them as well.
- Flexible-hold hair sprays offer the least amount of staying power and work well for longer hairstyles. They provide just enough control to reduce frizzing but still allow some natural movement.
- Medium-hold hair sprays have a slightly stronger hold than the flexible types and should be used sparingly if movement is still desired. Suited for hairstyles that require volume without stiffness.
- Maximum-hold sprays keep every strand in the same place throughout the day. If your styling product isn’t giving you enough hold throughout the day, then blast it with a few shots of maximum-hold sprays and that’ll do the trick. You’ll still maintain the definition and texture of the hairstyle, but it’ll now be locked in place.
Just be mindful that some types of hair spray products may require washing with a clarifying shampoo to remove all residues.
Best Men’s Hair Product #10: Texture Powder – Instant Volume & Light Hold
The vast majority of men are not aware of the existence of texture powders. This product provides a lightweight hold but adds a crazy amount of volume to hair.
Used mostly as a pre-styler, the hairstyle is finished off with a pomade or paste.
All powders typically contain a base of silica silylate. This is a rough particulate (unlike other silicone-based hair products which are smooth and shiny). The roughness sticks to hair fibers and creates volume by increasing friction between the fibers.
There are certain chemicals in texture powders that absorb excess oil from your hair and contribute to the extra boost in volume.
Applied to the roots of hair using fingers to mix the powder within your hair – this product provides great hair separation. If applied to just the ends of your hair, a different effect is created.
Texture powders don't leave your hair soft like other products might – you end up with slightly stiff hair.
Apply it sparingly to ensure it blends well is the best way to use it. Using too much and you may notice it at the roots of your hair.
Choose the type of product based on your hair's length and texture.
If you have fine, short hair and want it to stand up – use strong gels or waxes. Longer hair gives you more options, depending on how full you want it to look.
Avoid heavier products like oil-based pomades or creams for thinning hair. It is always best to go for a natural men's hair products because harmful chemicals and synthetic fragrances can dry your hair and irritate your scalp.
Never slap product straight onto your hair. Rub a small amount between your palms and then apply from the back of the head forward.
Read next: how to make your hair grow faster.