How to Choose the Right Hair Product for Men

Finding a great hairstylist is no easy task. It's about as easy as finding a great boss - they're out there, but it takes a lot of trial and error. In this post, we will break down the overwhelming number of hair products out there, help you understand the differences between the products and help you choose the right ones for your hair.

#1: Know Your Hair Type

Choosing your hair products without knowing your hair type is a bit like buying shoes without knowing your foot size. What’s worse, choosing the wrong product for your hair can even be damaging to your hair. For example, using an ultra-strong hold product on very fine, thin hair will not only weigh down the hair but may also damage it.

Common hair types: thick, fine and straight, curly and wavy.

#2: Hair Styling Products

Once you dive deep into the rabbit hole of hair styling products, you’ll realize that the sheer number of products and interchangeable terms will make it seem like the hair industry is playing one big marketing ploy on us. Sometimes a company will use terms such as “pomade” rather liberally – it can be more like a gel product at times and a wax in others. The key to pinning down the nature of the styling product is knowing what key words to look for in the descriptions. So, we’ve done the work for you and laid out some basic hair styling terminology you should know:

Hair Gel

These typically are somewhat translucent in color and generally thinner in consistency than pomades or waxes but can be considered "lightweight" or "heavyweight" depending on hold. Unlike waxes and pomades, gels actually harden on the hair leaving a stiff feeling and a shiny, wet look. It is beneficial to use a gel that is alcohol free to avoid flaking and a good gel will moisturize and condition your hair.

Styling Tip: Use on damp or dry hair. Spread evenly on fingers and top of palm and run your fingers through your hair to style. Avoid touching your hair after drying as it may break the hold and/or cause flaking.

Good for these hair types: Thicker hair and short-to-medium hair lengths.

Hair Pomade

Pomade is a greasy or waxy substance used to style hair with a wet, shiny and slick look. Hair pomades are soft semi-solid products, it can range from a light shine to a high shine, but its biggest advantage is that it’ll create a more natural, wet look. So why pomade over gel? Pomade can achieve that same strong, wet and neat look without drying out or flaking like gel.

Styling Tip: Rub a little bit on your palm and style on damp or close-to-dry hair.

Good for these hair types: Thinner hair and wavy-to-extremely curly hair. Good for all hair lengths. If you have oily hair, avoid pomade as it will make your hair greasier.

Hair Wax

Waxes will sometimes be considered a “matte” hair product, but the legacy of a waxes rivals pomade, and thus, warrants its own category. How does it differ from the pomade? If you’re looking for hold, wax is the way to go. Since true waxes don’t contain the oils found in pomade, they usually won’t provide that “wet” look that’s characteristic of pomade, but will generally have a stronger hold instead. If you have oily hair, wax is usually a better option as oil-based products like pomade will result in even greasier hair.

Use Tip: Wax can be used on wet or dry hair but is easier on wet hair. Warm up a small amount on the palm of your hand and distribute wax on your palms before using.

Good for these hair types: Thicker hair and medium hair lengths.

Matte Products (Clay, Putty, Paste, Mud, Fiber, etc.)

Looking for that yeah-I-just-got-of-bed-and-yeah-I-look-this-damn-good-when-I-did look? Look no further than matte products. Matte products come in many varieties such as clay, putty, paste or fiber, but all have one defining characteristic: a dry or “matte” finish as the name suggests. Matte products provide a pliable hold while adding texture to your hair without that wet shine. This makes it the perfect candidate for those messy, tousled hairstyles.

Styling Tip: Rub a small amount on your palm and apply to damp-to-close-to-dry hair.

Good for these hair types : Thin-to-thicker hair, wavy hair and all hair lengths.

Hair Styling Creams

Styling creams are probably the least recognized hair product, therefore, probably aren’t starters in most morning lineups. It can make some clutch appearances though, especially when you need to really tame that out-of-control “bed-head” look after a boozy night. Styling creams will usually come in the form of a soft, opaque wax, and as a result, be less “clumpy” and generally be much lighter (relative to wax) when it comes to hold. So it’s a great option for those looking for that subtle control while looking like you have nothing in your hair.

Styling Tip: Rub a small amount on your hands and apply as needed. If you want to get fancy, you can use it as a finishing product after your main product (wax, pomade, etc.).

Good for these hair types: Thin-to-thicker hair, wavy/curly hair and all hair lengths

#3: Finishing Products:

Finishing products are supplementary hair products you apply after you’ve already styled your hair. If you want full control over how every strand of hair looks, finishing products are good for holding those minor details in place.

Hair Spray

While hair spray has lost some of its “cool” over the last few decades, it is by no means extinct. In fact, many stylists and grooming experts tout hair spray as one of the best ways to finish any style, as long as it’s used in moderation. Applying a quick mist of hair spray after you’re done styling can lock in your look nicely for the day. Remember, you want to avoid turning your head of hair into a hockey helmet-shaped fire hazard, so go easy on the application.

Styling Tip: Use sparingly. Spray from about 8 – 12 inches from hair until your hair is covered in a fine mist.

Good for these hair types: All types, especially thinner hair that’s likely to be weighed down by heavier products.