For a long time, guys were limited to a handful of hair styling products. But as of 2017, that’s all changed. Nowadays, men wear styles from pretty much every era of the last 200 years plus all the latest styles of today. So, what does that mean for men’s hair styling products? It means that there is more versatility now than there has ever been before to cater to the diverse needs of modern, rugged and stylish men everywhere.
Best hair styling products for men
Hair wax is one of the most versatile—and most necessary—hair styling products for men. It comes in many different degrees of hold (usually strong) and various finishes, but the general things that unite all hair wax for men are qualities like: pliability, great hold, separation ability and protection from destructive outside forces (like pollution, cigarette smoke, etc.). As a general rule of thumb, wax works best for short hair, but guys with medium hair can also get some use out of it too, depending on the look they want to achieve.
Top pick: TIGI Bed Head for Men
TIGI Bed Head for Men has a matte finish and is designed for both workability and a separation, making it a great choice for guys with short hair.
Fiber is the, arguably, the ultimate men’s hairstyling product for short to medium length hair. It’s designed to give you effortlessly tousled, you-just-woke-up-like-this ultimate bedhead look. But it’s far more than that. While looking effortlessly natural, it also gives you medium to firm hold all while boosting your hair’s thickness and texture making it, once again, ideal for short to medium hair, which sometimes needs that extra bit of texture to stand out (in a good way).
Top pick: Smooth Viking Hydrating Fiber Cream
Smooth Viking Hydrating Fiber Cream features medium hold and a matte to minimal finish for an extra natural result.
Pomade is the ultimate hair styling product for rockabilly guys, and frankly any other guys who want that old school look, whether a pompadour or a dapper, old-school movie star vibe. Also, it’s just a great styling tool for anyone wants a water soluble, more workable alternative to wax.
Top pick: Suavecito Pomade in Original Hold
Suavecito Pomade in Original Hold is a truly classic pomade designed to bring out the best in both old school and new school hairstyles for men. It has a medium finish (as many pomades do), but Suavecito recommends adding some water for a wet look shine infusion.
Gel is the perfect styling product choice for when you want maximum hold and a lot of shine. When you think of gel, you may think of past iterations that were akin to styling your hair with cement. Modern gels not only work better, but they feel and look better too. Make sure you go for a quality hair gel and not one of those cheap options from China.
Top pick: American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel
American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel comes in a gigantic 33.8oz bottle for guys who can never have enough hair gel. The hold is extra firm and American Crew says it can be used on wet or dry hair, so it’s highly versatile to boot.
Hair glue is like hair gel’s superhero alter ego. It’s got the texture and appearance of a good gel in hand, but when applied, it has a far stronger hold.
Top Pick: Got2b Ultra Glued Invincible Styling Gel
Got2b Ultra Glued Invincible Styling Gel features the feel of a hair gel, but with maximum/extreme hold, perfect for guys who like their hair spiky. Better still, Got2b Ultra Glued promises no flakes or stickiness; simply apply it to damp hair and style as desired.
Hair paste is one of those hair styling product staples that are so versatile and beneficial for men with short to medium length hair that every guy who falls into that category should keep some at home. It has a medium hold, being far more workable and touchable than wax. If you apply it damp, you can boost the hold while still feeling like you have on less product than a wax, too. Paste is also one of the top texture and definition boosters too, so if you have thinning hair, that is just yet another reason to get some ASAP.
Top pick: American Crew Defining Paste
American Crew Defining Paste provides the classic matte finish and medium hold that most guys look for in a good paste, with the addition of being able to touch up your style throughout the day without adding extra product.
Strong hold grooming/molding/styling clay
Strong hold clays that are designed for grooming, molding and/or styling all generally do the same thing: They are a clay-type hair styling product that is designed to allow you to shape and style your hair to look the way you want it while providing maximum hold in the process. (Remember, there are variations of this product type that have a light or medium hold if you prefer it.)
In general, clays are more flexible than styling cream for instance, but remember, once hair is styled, strong hold products pretty much lock your hair in place, so take that into consideration.
Top pick: Lamel’s Fine Grooming Clay
Lamel’s Fine Grooming Clay has a strong hold and matte, shine-free finish, which allows you to do some nifty advanced styling without all the buildup that other products that aren’t designed for this purpose can bring.
Strong hold hair balm
Strong hold hair balm is like the shiny finish cousin of a matte styling paste. It’s designed to give you the hold of pastes and waxes but with a shinier, frizz-free finish.
Top pick: V76 by Vaughn Strong Hold Control Balm
V76 by Vaughn Strong Hold Control Balm is infused with soy protein for stronger, healthier hair, and features shine-boosting ingredients like honey and shea butter. Meanwhile, argan oil gets rid of frizz. With this balm, you get the power and hold of a tough wax with the added bonus of moisturizing shine.
Hair putty is an ideal alternative to styling clay for men with short hair, though it can also be used on medium hair too. Putty has high hold and a matte to low shine finish, depending on the product.
Top pick: Redken for Men
Redken for Men Outplay Texture Putty is purpose-designed to bring out that disheveled look in your hair. It can be applied to damp or dry hair and features a strong hold with matte finish.
Styling cream is one of the lightest hold men’s styling products out there, and features a hold even lighter than the closely related shaping cream. Styling cream is perfect for men with longer hair who won’t get any benefit out of a heavier styling product, which would only weigh their hair down. Likewise, it’s a light, effortless alternative for men with medium length hair. Most guys find styling cream works best when it’s lightly applied to towel-dried hair. The more heat you apply afterward, the firmer the hold will become, so air-dry if you want to maintain the ultra-light hold that styling creams afford.
Top pick: Woody’s Flexible Styling Cream for Men
Woody’s Flexible Styling Cream for Men comes in a convenient pot and is super easy to use. Woody’s recommends it for normal hair (meaning normal thickness and texture); it provides a light and flexible hold, well-suited to longer hair.
Molding cream, also called shaping cream, is heavier duty than the other hair styling creams out there. It features a far thicker hold than styling cream, because it’s designed to literally allow you to shape your hair the way you want it, which makes it great for those guys with intensive styling needs.
Top pick: Billy Jealousy Headlock Molding Cream
Billy Jealousy Headlock Molding Cream has a matte finish and strong hold that is tough enough to tame any hair type. Better yet, it adds texture to your look and can be used on damp or dry hair, depending on the look you want.
Sometimes referred to as foam, hair mousse is a go-to product for when you need some volume in your hair. Today’s mousse isn’t the mousse your mom or your sister used in the ‘80s. It’s soft and not crunchy, while providing the lightweight, volumizing hold you need. Plus, there are guy-oriented and unisex mousses out there now too.
Alterna Hemp Natural Strength Volumizing Spray Mousse is a unisex mousse that’s popular with men and women alike. The botanicals it’s made of are certified organic and it provides long lasting volume from the root on down the hair shaft.
Hair spray is a classic hair styling product you’ve probably used before at some point of your life. If you haven’t done the hairspray thing yet, it’s important to know that a good modern hairspray is so much better than the stuff that women used in the ‘80s and ‘90s to make their hair poof up. Today’s hairspray for men boasts many touchable and non-stiff varieties to suit the needs of the modern man.
Top pick: Consort Hair Spray for Men
Consort Hair Spray for Men yields a firm hold designed to last all day without stiffness, for a more natural look. Additionally, it’s unscented so it’s guaranteed not to conflict with your favorite cologne—or give you a scent if you’re doing the whole anti-scent thing.
Texture spray is a lighter weight, hairspray like version of paste, essentially. What it does is it gives your hair texture without adding the weight that paste sometimes can, which makes it ideal for guys with fine or thinning hair.
Top pick: Thickening Texture Spray for Men
Thickening Texture Spray for Men by American Crew gives you that lightweight texturizing power with the addition of a volume boost.
Dry shampoo is such a versatile and useful hair styling product that it should be a staple for every man (and woman, for that matter), because it’s just that good. There are two main reasons it’s so awesome: 1.) it absorbs oil and greasiness that build up between shampoos to create clean-looking hair until your next shower; 2.) it can easily add lightweight texture and volume to any hairstyle.
Dry Hair Shampoo for Men by The Well Groomed Guy is a dry shampoo designed with the needs of men in mind. It’s made from kaolin clay and horsetail powder, among others, which are some of the best ingredients when it comes to a quality, natural dry shampoo. Its ingredients are also super conditioning, so it functions as a leave-in conditioner as well.
Dry shampoo paste
Dry shampoo paste is a hybrid product. On the one hand, you have the restorative and oil-absorbing ability of dry shampoo; on the other, you have the styling power and hold of a paste. It’s a win/win for the multitasking man.
Top pick: R+Co Dry Shampoo Paste
R+Co Dry Shampoo Paste is a unisex product that is gentle on the hair and big on benefits. Made with guy-friendly ingredients like volcanic ash and coconut oil, it nourishes hair while boosting texture while also working as a light hold styling paste. In other words, it gives you effortless bedhead.
Sea salt spray
Sea salt spray is the ideal hair styling product when you want texture with a subtle beachy wave to it that you can normally only get from a swim in the ocean. What makes it different than spraying your hair with saltwater is additional style benefiting ingredients that make hair more manageable. One of the great things about it is that it works for almost any hair length, so if you rock the man bun, this is definitely a product to keep in mind.
Top pick: Sachajuan Ocean Mist
Sachajuan Ocean Mist is a lightweight unisex sea salt spray that surf-inspired texture and can be used with or without a blow dryer.
Hair softening cream can be thought of as a hybrid between styling cream and hair lotion. It provides light to medium hold with an organically healthy-looking low shine finish—perfect for casual hairstyling.
Top pick: AXE Natural Look Hair Cream
AXE Natural Look Hair Cream, Softening, is explicitly designed to give your hair a naturally soft look while providing medium hold.
There are generally two different varieties of hair lotion: conditioning lotion and grooming lotion, but often they are one in the same. In general, hair lotion works as a lightweight cream to manage fine or frizzy hair before applying other styling products.
Top pick: Baxter of California Grooming Lotion
Baxter of California Grooming Lotion has a lightweight hold thanks to grapeseed oil, which is one of the lightest weight oils available, which doesn’t make your hair greasy or clog pores. Additionally, it’s suited to all hair types and features a natural finish for an effortless look. It can be applied to damp or dry hair, based on your specific needs.
There are a variety of hair oils ranging from the greasy greaser kind from the first half of the twentieth century to the modern, hair health-inducing kind to tame your crazy mane. Unless you’re going for that anachronistic look, the latter is better.
Hydration Remedy Hair + Beard Oil for Men by Dapper & Rugged is a two-in-one hair and beard product that hydrates your hair while it manages frizz and damage for easier styling.