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The truth is, the right hair product can improve any hairdo. There are several varieties of men’s hair products out there, and each offers a completely different style. Many new products offer laid-back stylizing that’s barely noticeable to the untrained eye, which bucks the tradition of shiny, sticky hair gel that many guys were using in the mid-20th century (although some guys still rock that look).
Looking to nail a messy ‘do, à la Timothée Chalamet? Pick up some texturizing paste. Going for that clean-cut Don Draper look? Grab a pomade. In short, men’s hair products aren’t just for peacocks: they’re something every guy can use to be more attractive.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a New Hair Product
Although there are seemingly endless men’s hair products out there, they all exist on an axis of just two features: shine and hold. If you can figure out the right balance of shine and hold for your desired ‘do, shopping gets easy.
Shine: If a hair product is high shine, it’ll make your hair look sleek, slightly wet and, well, shiny. High shine is great for classic crop haircuts inspired by the fifties and sixties, and usually comes in the form of gels or sprays. However, a truly high-shine product is usually too much for the average dude. Instead, most modern guys are opting for low shine (often labeled “matte”) hair products such as texturizing clay, powders and creams.
Hold: The main purpose of a hair product is to control your mane, giving you more control over how it’s styled. High-hold clays, putties and pomades will keep your hair exactly where you styled it in the morning, even through exercise and wind.
Using a medium or low-hold hair product might seem unnecessary, but that’s what many dudes are using today. These low-hold products give just enough control to refine your hairstyle (or give it a perfectly messy look) without appearing like you’re using any product at all. In other words, you get to decide when you have a great hair day.
How to Use: Once you pick a product, remember to experiment a little bit. Put a dime-sized amount in between your palms and rub the product between your fingers. Work the product into the hair using your fingers to smooth out frizz and tame fly-aways, while you comb, blow-dry or finger-style your look. Use different amounts and try applying the product when your hair is damp and also when it’s dry to see what works best. Damp application will lead to more pliability throughout the day, while dry application will stay in place.
To help find the right hair product we’ve rounded up four options that will work for almost any guy. The products are each meant for very different looks, but all are proven performers.
1. Smooth Viking Hair Fiber Cream
Smooth Viking was founded in 2014 with the purpose of updating the beard care market. After killing it in the beard industry, Smooth Viking moved on to haircare products and nailed it again.
This fiber cream is Smooth Viking’s most versatile hair product with a medium hold and just a hint of shine. It’s meant to thicken and texturize hair, which is something most of us guys could use. The cream will give some pliable control that works with a wide variety of hairstyles from the tousled surfer, to the suave businessman.
The texture of this fiber cream means that results will change quite drastically depending on the dampness of your hair while applying. We recommend starting with a slightly damp head of hair for a more casual look and dry hair for a more secure ‘do.
Although Smooth Viking’s cream is versatile for different styles, it’s best for shorter hair. If you have a longer mane, we suggest trying a different product.
PROS: Great for a variety of hairstyles, good brand.
CONS: Not for long hair.
2. TIGI Bed Head Wax
The messy, just-got-out-of-bed hairstyle is one of the biggest trends for men right now, exemplified by the likes of Harry Styles and Robert Pattinson. The trend makes sense as all of fashion is currently moving towards casual athleisure and streetwear.
If you want to rock the laid-back look, we recommend this aptly-named Bed Head wax from TIGI. It simulates a perfectly-rustled bed head with a matte finish and a firm hold. The matte finish texturizes hair and keeps its presence under wraps while the firm hold keeps it all in place throughout the day and adds some rigid volume. The firm hold can be odd at first if you’re not used to hair products, but after a few days of looking great, that uncomfortable feeling will go away.
Another reason why we like the TIGI Bed Head is because it uses many natural ingredients. Instead of a heap of chemicals, TIGI uses ingredients such as beeswax and cera carnauba.
For best results when going for the bed head look, TIGI suggests applying the wax to slightly damp, towel-dried hair. Once it’s applied, you can ruffle and slightly tease your hair for more texture. This will provide the most natural look.
PROS: Textured messy look, natural ingredients.
CONS: Application may take getting used to.
3. Rocky Mountain Barber Company Pomade
Going for that classic, suave look? Try this pomade from the Rocky Mountain Barber Company.
Maximalism is key when nailing throwback hairstyles such as the pompadour, slick back or classic businessman. That means high hold and high shine. Rocky Mountain Barber delivers this in their pomade but offers a few upgrades over the hair products of yesteryear.
The hair products that your dad or grandpa used in the Sixties were great for this kind of slick look, but those products are just not good for the scalp. Plus, they usually smell very strong and are tough to get out. This pomade fixes those issues with a natural, water-based formula that’s easy to get out with a nightly rinse. It also boasts a light scent that won’t overpower your cologne or aftershave.
Even though the pomade is powerful stuff, you can still use it for a slightly less intense hold by applying it when your hair is damp. But for the authentic, well-groomed look, apply it after thoroughly drying.
PROS: Powerful, classic hair product.
CONS: High shine may be too much for some.
4. American Crew Defining Paste
This defining paste from American Crew offers a medium hold and a matte finish, making it great for guys who don’t have much experience with hair products. The paste is best for natural yet pulled-together looks such as a modern side part, fade or any other hairstyle that requires a little bit of extra control.
Another benefit of the paste is its resilience in humidity and during exercise. One of the most difficult tasks for haircare engineers is to make a product that washes out when you want it to, but also stays in through sweat and weather.
Overall, American Crew’s paste is simple and low-key, making it worth considering for any modern man.
PROS: Laid-back natural look, great with sweat.
CONS: Won’t have same versatility as other styling products.