Styling one’s hair is both a matter of craft and a matter of philosophy.
It is a process that combines taking a hard look at your self-image, to where you came from, and where you hope to be heading while honing a set of skills and building an outlook that brings together self-reliance and a spot-on sense of judgment.
Still, no matter where you draw inspiration from or what your exact goals are, there are some tips and tricks that could be employed by anyone who sets out on a journey to completely own his own hairstyle.
So here is the definitive rundown on how to achieve the best results.
9 Best Men’s Hair Products: Best Sellers
How can products enhance your hair?
You must have already had it with advertisements boasting barely discernible qualities and benefits of hair products that are on the market.
This arcane jargon only barely touches on the actual tenets of what it advertises at best, and bombards you with non-specific, superfluous language at worst, making up nonexistent properties and using fleshy metaphors that do not help the serious customer at all.
So if you want to move past all that nonsense, you should start looking for these abilities that a hair styler can hold and make all your purchases based on judging these properties of each product.
The most substantial quality of a hair product is its ability to mold and hold your hair in the desired shape and configuration.
Based on what type of hair you have, and what kind of hairstyle you want, you may choose from a variety of options here.
Medium hold is generally for thinner hair to be molded into less elaborate, more casual styles that are supposed to have a natural look.
High hold is generally for people with thicker hair, and for those who are looking for more elaborate, harder to create hairstyles.
Now, there are generally no low-hold products on the market, but it is important to note that these categories are not standardized at all – companies are free to label their stuff according to their own sense of judgment, which can lead to some inconsistencies when juggling different brands of stylers.
What might pass as high hold for some will fall into the medium category for others, and some medium hold products are so weak that, in fact, it’s fit to call them low-hold.
Once again, to truly grasp the deal, you have to keep experimenting and learning where each brand stands.
With shine, brands generally offer a wider variety than withhold: you can find anything here from full-blown fifties pomade-style flair to understated, natural-looking varieties that might be able to hide the fact that you are wearing any hair product at all.
High shine gives you the classic, gleaming look that is somehow still pretty hard to pull off – you have to be extremely conscious of your styling choices to make it work for you, but if you are clever, consistent and professional enough, high shine will lend you a uniquely distinctive look – but if you by any chance fail to make it work for you, you will immediately look rather silly with it.
Medium shine is considered more versatile and less extreme than high shine, with the ability to give your hair a distinct flair without the capacity of being an eyesore to your surroundings.
The other benefit is that you can practically adjust the amount of shine you want to apply by putting on more or less medium shine products on your hair – you can even achieve a high shine look if you apply enough.
This quality makes medium shine the best option for those who wish to experiment with this quality of a hair product.
Low shine and matte stylers are for the most natural, subdued look.
Still, most products that are marketed as low shine generally contain some shine, while a real matte spray or gel will look absolutely dry – once again you need to test out different brands, because some will claim this or that product is matte, when in fact it is low shine – for the untrained eye this might not be that big of a difference, but if you want to take hairstyling seriously, it is important to be on the watch for this.
Texture is one of the most important aspects of a hair product, yet it is a bit harder to define, and most companies manufacturing hair products do not even bother – so don’t be surprised if you don’t see any pointers whatsoever on the packaging about it.
From greasy, waxy, dry, sandy, there’s a wide range of how a gel or spray could make your hair FEEL like, especially upon touching.
Making matters more complicated, texture also depends on the natural qualities of your hair.
Therefore different products could have different outcomes for people. But as always, with enough experimenting, you will no doubt be able to find the one that works you the best.
Types Of Men’s Hair Styling Products
Without further ado, here is a definitive guide of the different types of hair products you can apply:
Gel is the most trustworthy option to lend your hair a firm hold, although the texture could be problematic for a few reasons.
Even gels of the top quality will turn your hair crunchy and rigid.
With its even more extreme variant, glue, gel works best if you are aiming at creating an extreme, mostly vertical hairstyle for yourself where nuance and texture both take a backseat.
2. Old-style Pomade
Great for old-school looks with a tight hold, pomades practically have their own cult.
Most of them offer a high shine finish, although there are variants in matte. One thing is for sure: each brand of pomade has its own set of subtle differences, but no matter which one you choose, you will have an easy job styling your hair in odd, unique ways as well as giving yourself the most traditional fifties look.
3. New Pomade
Water-based and water-soluble, this variety is a sleek twist on the old-school pomade for those who are looking for a smoother, wet-looking styling.
But the lack of the overall greasiness of the older variety there comes a price: these variants are not very strong with regards to hold. Therefore they will fail you at creating more extreme stylings.
Usually, a good choice for beginners, creams lend your hair medium hold and shine and are considered a fair compromise between messier and greasier products and ones that barely give you any hold.
They also retain the flexibility of your hair, which makes it perfect for people with light, curly, or wavy hair types.
On the flip side, if your hair is thicker and you find it to be product-resistant, creams will usually have zero to no effect. But for any other type, this absorbent and easily spread option is worth at least one shot.
Wax is the best choice if you don’t mind a stiff, rigid texture in exchange for a trustworthy, firm hold and a pronounced matte or low shine finish.
Although it is fairly hard to distribute evenly, it gives you the chance to experiment with more extreme hairstyles while retaining the illusion that your hair had just naturally grown like that.
Also, these products work well with longer hairstyles as well, a feat that can be difficult for most of the other types discussed in this list.
Low versatility and high hold define hairsprays that work better as the finishing touch to solidify a hair styling that had already been done, rather than being a styling asset on its own.
Hairsprays can also complement the use of light creams and seal their effects, making them last longer.
Also, hairsprays generally work better with longer hairstyles and do not add much to shorter varieties.
Not a styler per se, mousse is better used when being applied to the still wet hair to prepare it for further styling.
Best to be applied to the roots and strands of the hair to give it a basic texture and some light hold before drying it and applying some other products that will have more of a defining effect.
Powder is a special hair styling product as it does not work in the context of hold and shine, but rather to give your hair more volume and lift.
These natural-looking, mostly vertical styles can then be further complemented by different products, but minimalists might find the sole use of powder satisfactory enough.
9. Grooming Spray (aka. Tonic or Serum)
Essentially, one ground rule applies for these: if it’s not a bonafide hairspray but is of a liquid consistency, it’s a grooming spray.
Similar to other miscellaneous types of groomers, grooming sprays also work best when combined with the use of other, more prominent hair products, and in and of themselves, they can only achieve a slightly lifted, low hold, low shine, natural look.
Some of these products though, could have higher efficiencies in those areas, but mainly with curly types of hair – it is truly a niche variety, and it is highly recommended you read the label thoroughly before purchasing any grooming spray.
In ninety percent of the cases, products labeled as ‘clay’ really perform in the very same way as most waxes.
On a few occasions, this denomination goes with products that offer an even tougher hold and shinier complexion than a general wax.
So if you have settled on using wax, but are up for picking up something that gives you a firmer finish, it is advised to consider using clay.
Mud is just another marketing term for products that look, feel and act like wax and clay.
It is important to mention that these lines of items generally vary in terms of hold and shine qualities, so it is possible to catch one that does not do the job at all or one that gives you a pleasant surprise.
If you see a product with any other name than the ones above, two possibilities remain: either they are incredibly unique and have drastically different effects than them, or that they are one of the regular hair stylers marketed under a different name. The only way to find out is to research the product and give it a try.
How To Apply Hair Product To Men’s Hair
First and foremost, before you get into styling your hair in any manner, it is important to wash it thoroughly so that you can have a clean slate and a clear picture of what’s going on with your hair before trying anything out.
If that’s done, start with a pea-sized amount of whatever product you are planning to use, and make sure you really work it into your hair: do not miss strands or roots and be completely positive that the material is combed into your hair as deeply as possible.
It is the easiest to start at the back of your head or your crown, then make your way to the front and finally finish on the sides.
Do not get hung up on looking yourself in the mirror, because that is the most common way to lose focus of parts of your hair that are not visible upfront.
Always start slow and only add more material if you are sure than what you have already put on won’t do the job perfectly.
Once you’ve got the hang of how to apply each product, you can move on to some slightly more advanced techniques. These are the two most important ones:
1) Layering – Layering means using two or more products, but not mixing them, rather applying them one after the other in one or more rotations.
It is pretty fun to play around with them this way, but you get the best results and the most interesting stylings if you are using products that do completely different things and even contradict, rather than complement each other.
For example, it might be a good idea to layer some firmer wax with a dash of cream, pomade, or powder, but you would not get much out of doing the same thing with hairspray and grooming spray.
There is no prescribed or advised order for doing your layering, so feel free to go with what you like the most.
2) Cocktailing – A method that is a little less sophisticated, but equally fun as layering.
When you are cocktailing hair products, you mix them before applying them to reach a consistency and mixture of effects you desire.
Different products could balance each others’ negative effects, and even help bring out the strength of your favorite mousse or wax.
This method is harder to control and adjust over time than layering, but it is definitely the best move to start your experimentation with.
Men’s Hair Product Reviews: Final Verdict
- American Crew Pomade – Offering medium hold with a high shine, this pomade has a nice, manly musk that is not too intrusive unless you use a truly ridiculous amount of this product. It is of top quality and a great example of modern-age pomades. Some may find it a bit too greasy, but it leaves zero to no residue as it is possible to wash it out quite easily, and it’s worth cocktailing with sands and creams for tighter hold and more thickness.
- American Crew Forming Cream – Giving you medium hold and shine, this forming cream generally works well with any hair type, lending you some thickness and texture. Although the smell is not as characteristically masculine as some might prefer and it’s a bit tedious to deal with its stickiness, American Crew Forming Cream is a fine all-purpose hairstyling product and works especially well when cocktailed with AC Pomade.
- American Crew Fiber – With a medium to high hold that softens over time and an artificial, citrusy smell, this might not be the product of choice for everyone, especially because it tends to act quite weird on your hair in hot, humid weather. Works best if you would rather stick to only one choice and want to adjust the shine based on how dry your hair is when you are applying the product. Still, against all its faults, AC Fiber is a formidable styler for casual, natural looks.
- American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel – The ultimate non-flaking gel look that this product will give you might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It dries fast, and it gives your hair a pronounced crustiness, taking away much of versatility, meaning that there’s no going back once you’ve made the initial styling.
- Bumble and Bumble Prep – Obviously, this is a prepping product, so do not expect it has any effects on hold or shine. What it does perfectly, though, is that it untangles your hair and makes it super smooth so that any other products you will apply are going to make a real difference. You should not expect this to sooth out properly damaged hair, though: for those purposes, the use of tonics is highly recommended. However, if your hair is in generally healthy shape, this prep product will work wonders.
- Keune Man Matte Effect – As the name suggests, this Keune Man styler is possibly one of the closest things you could get to a bonafide matte styler. It also lends your hair a firm, high hold, which makes it perfect for those who want something quasi-natural looking yet rather elaborate. It is also one of those clays that are immediately distinguishable from waxes as it is much harder to spread – but if you put in the work, your hair will thank you for it. The only downside might be the price and the availability – it’s rather hard to find, and you usually have to cough up between 20 and 25 bucks for one puck.
- Hanz de Fuko Quicksand – If you are looking for the ultimate matte product, you shall look no further. This type of quicksand will give your hair a crazy firm hold whilst not affecting shine at all. The texture of it is also quite something: it makes your hair lift and thicken like there’s no gravity. It also mixes well with different sorts of pomades, making it a must-buy for anyone who would like to start experimenting with hair styling. For similar, but trustworthy effects, we suggest that you look into trying other Hanz de Fuko products as well.