It doesn’t matter whether you have thick, unruly hair or fine strands that always seem to fall flat: you have the potential to have amazing hair. If you don’t believe that to be true, we’d argue that’s only because you haven’t found the right hair products for the job. Or maybe, you have found them, and you simply aren’t using them the right way.
Either way, it’s time to stop blaming your folks for the hair you were born with and start learning how to work with what you’ve got. Enter: this simple, no-fuss guide to hair products for men. If you’ve always wanted to know what hair paste does or whether a sea salt spray will actually change your hair life (the answer is yes), then sit back and let us hit you with some hair product knowledge.
Men’s Hair Product Terminology Explained
Before you can learn the ins and outs of hair products for men, you first and foremost need to know some basic hair terminology. Nothing too extensive—just a few simple terms so you can choose the right hair product with confidence.
- Shine. Shine refers to how much light will reflect off your hair. If you want hair to look super sleek and glossy, you’d use a product labeled as high-shine. If you prefer your hair to have just a hint of shine, you’d use a product labeled as low shine. For something that falls in the middle of the two, look for a medium shine product.
- Matte. Not a fan of the shiny, greaser hairstyle? Although shine has been making a comeback lately (you can thank the 90’s resurgence for that—and perhaps Don Draper), some guys prefer their hair to have a more natural finish. If you’re part of the au naturel hair fan club, stick to matte hair products that offer a more textured finish with no shine.
- Hold. Have you ever wondered how some dudes can keep their medium-length hairstyle slicked back or their short pompadour in place all day? It all comes down to products with strong hold, gentlemen. Products with high hold will keep thick strands in place for hours on end, while men’s hair products with medium to low hold are ideal for guys with thin hair who need to secure hair in place without weighing it down too much.
Types of Hair Products for Men
OK, moving onto the most common hair products for men. There are a LOT of options out there for dudes these days, which is both a blessing and a curse.
It’s a blessing in that you’re all but guaranteed to find a hair product that works flawlessly with your hair type. It’s also a curse because—for the love of hair—where do you even begin?
If you’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of hair products for men, allow us to make things a lot simpler for you. Below, a breakdown of the most common types of hair products for men—including what each one does and how to use them.
Sea Salt Spray
If there is one hair product that guys are definitely underutilizing, it’s gotta be sea salt spray for men. This miracle-worker can magically revitalize flat hair by giving it greater volume, texture and grip. It’s no wonder the spicy senoritas have been using it for years!
But it’s not all about volume and texture: sea salt spray also doubles as an incredible pre-styler. In other words, you can use it in tandem with other products to help tame hair before you style it.
Who it’s for. Although sea salt spray works for virtually all hair types, some guys will benefit more than others. If you have thin, fine or limp hair that needs a serious volume boost, your hair game will be forever changed by sea salt spray—and no, we’re not kidding.
How to use it. Apply 3- 5 spritzes on damp hair before you blow-dry. If you have thin hair, try spraying it at the roots to achieve greater lift. For longer locks, try applying sea salt spray at mid-length to the ends to avoid overloading your roots.
Do you love that messy, yet controlled bedhead look? Are you a big fan of piecey texture? If you answered yes to both, hair putty is sure to become your go-to product. Sometimes referred to as “mud,” hair paste provides strong hold with just a hint of shine for a sexy, conditioned look. The result is a natural-looking ‘do that can be re-shaped throughout the day.
Who it’s for. Although hair putty generally works for all hair types and lengths, guys with short to medium-length hair stand to benefit the most from it. Longer hair types may find a hair paste (see below) to be more to their liking.
How to use it. Hair putty can come with a bit of a learning curve, so heed our advice: allow it to warm up to room temperature. Once it’s warm enough, scoop a dime-sized amount onto your finger and rub it between dry hands (wet hands won’t distribute it evenly). Rub it between your hands until the product disappears. Apply to damp hair, massaging it evenly throughout your hair.
In terms of sheer versatility, perhaps no men’s hair product is a match for hair paste. This all-star player offers medium shine, medium hold and maximum sexiness. Similar to hair putty, hair paste is great for achieving an artfully-tousled hairstyle that looks purposeful as opposed to sloppy.
Who it’s for. All hair types. It doesn’t matter whether your hair is fine, thick or curly—paste is the product for you. But like we said, paste is a true godsend for medium and longer-haired dudes who want an everyday hair styling product to tame their locks.
How to use it. Scoop a dime-sized amount of hair paste and smear it on the palm of your hand. Rub it between your palms until the product disappears and apply it to damp hair. Blow-dry into your preferred style and boom—you’ll have textured, touchable hair that the spicy senoritas will go bananas for.
If you’re a fan of classic hairstyles such as the slick back, side-part or the pompadour, then pomade is the hair product for you. Although this gel-like product can deliver a wide range of shines and holds, the most classic pomades typically provide a generous helping of shine and hold for a super sleek look (think: Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street—or Leonardo DiCaprio in anything, really).
Another thing you should know about pomades: they can be water-based or oil-based. Oil-based formulas are the OG of pomades, but these days, most guys gravitate towards water-based pomades because they’re much easier to rinse out.
Who it’s for. Pomades tend to work best on guys with short and medium-length hairstyles. It’s also a great gel alternative for guys with thick or curly hair because, unlike gel, pomade won’t dry out hair or make strands feel crunchy.
How to use it. Start with damp hair. Apply a few spritzes of sea salt spray as a pre-styler. Scoop a dime-sized amount (or a little more for dudes with longer hair) and work it into your hair, targeting the roots first. Use a fine-tooth comb to distribute the product evenly throughout your hair. Last but not least, lock your hair into place with a hair-dryer (see our expert hair-dryer tips here for mucho bueno hair) and shape your hair into your preferred style.
In general, hair clays can be somewhat tricky to describe because they can vary by brand. One brand’s hair clay can be super thick, while another brand’s hair clay can have a creamier consistency.
But regardless of their consistency and feel, hair clays all have one thing in common: they contain a clay ingredient of some kind. If you’re looking for a matte hair product with medium hold, hair clay is a solid bet.
Who it’s for. Given how much hair clays can vary between brands, we’ll only speak to our hair clay: it’s slightly creamier and more versatile than other hair clays on the market. It has a light, non-gritty consistency and works well for all hair types. However, guys with thin and fine hair, in particular, will love hair clay because the main ingredient (most commonly, bentonite clay) makes hair feel fuller and thicker.
How to use it. To pump up the volume, apply a pre-styler to damp hair before applying hair clay. Take a dime-sized amount and rub it between your hands, nice and slow. Massage it into damp or dry hair and sculpt your hair into your preferred style. Now you’re good to go.
When you don’t want hair to move a single inch, that’s when you reach for a crazy-powerful hair gel. With high shine and Herculean hold, this hair product for men is guaranteed to keep hair in place, no matter how crazy the wind or the humidity.
Modern hair gels are a far cry from the dry, crunchy styling gels that were common in the 90s. Today, the best hair gels for men are actually a hybrid product consisting of gel and a high-hold paste. The result is bueno hair that won’t have you mistaken for a former 98 Degrees band member.
Who it’s for. Hair gel works for almost all hair types. However, guys with thick and unruly hair may have better luck using a high hold pomade since it allows for slightly more movement, which is exactly what unruly hair needs to cooperate. Sometimes, you just gotta work with unruly hair—not against it.
How to use it. For maximum hold that you can set and forget, apply a small (think: dime-sized) amount of hair gel to wet hair. You want to avoid using too much, lest you end up looking like a greasy, Wall Street banker. Note that you can also apply hair gel to dry hair to achieve strong hold with less intensity.
Every guy should have a lightweight hair cream in his hair product arsenal—period. Why? Because it provides a light hold that looks natural. And because it’s a rock star at combating frizzy hair and flyaways without weighing hair down. The end result is a natural, conditioned look that moves easily.
Who it’s for. Honestly, it’s hard to name a single hair type that can’t possibly benefit from a lightweight hair cream. That being said, hair cream is ideal for medium and long hairstyles because it can help nourish dehydrated strands and give hair a soft, natural-looking shine.
How to use it. Take a small amount of hair cream and work the product into damp or dry hair. Avoid applying directly on the roots, as this may lead to dandruff.
Can I use pomade on my beard? So, we get this question a lot. Although it’s probably safe to use most pomades in your beard, the far better option for your scruff is a quality beard balm or even a nourishing beard oil.
Beard balm is essentially a styling aid/conditioner for your beard. Unlike pomade, it’s formulated specifically for your facial hair. Not only will you find it far easier to sculpt your beard into a masterpiece with a beard balm, you’ll likely achieve a much better end result.
Who it’s for. Duh—anyone with scruff! It’s especially useful for taming big, bushy beards and controlling stray beard hairs without making your beard look or feel greasy.
How to use it. Apply a few drops of beard oil into your beard (for hydration galore) and massage it into the skin. Then, scoop a tiny amount of beard balm (a little goes a long way) and warm up the product by rubbing it between your hands. Distribute it evenly throughout your beard and voila—smooth, sexy scruff that won’t give your girl a serious case of beard burn.
Mousse can be used for a variety of reasons, but we like to suggest it for adding volume while helping your ‘do to stay in place. Yup, not only does it give your hair a fuller look, but it will also hold your hair in place, even on windy days.
After you’ve applied the mousse, try blow drying your hair for a more classic, polished look. If you want a bit of a natural look, you can let your hair air dry with the mousse in it. Try both to see what looks better on you.
Who it’s for. Mousse is great for men with thinning hair. The volume it adds helps protect your look from any unwanted thinning or hair loss. It’s also great for men who want to keep their ‘do in place during special occasions.
How to use it. You’ll want to use about the same amount of mousse as you do shaving cream. Once you rub the mousse between your hands, apply it to the base of your hair first and move your hands upward toward the tips of your hair. Make sure your hair is clean and damp when you apply your mousse evenly throughout your hair.
Heat Shield Spray
We all know that various hair tools can cause damage to your hair with the extreme heat they need to work their magic. So, before you take a curling iron, flat iron, or hair dryer to your beautiful locks, apply a heat shield spray to your hair to protect your glorious hair from damage and dehydration.
Who’s it for. Anybody who uses hair tools that heat the hair. Even blow dryers.
How to use it. Apply your heat shield spray to either dry or damp hair before styling with any heat. Make sure your hair is coated evenly to give yourself maximum protection.
Argan oil has a wide variety of purposes. When used for your hair, it helps to hydrate, moisturize and promote strong hair. It has Vitamin E, which has been known to help grow healthy hair, and the argan oil can also be used to curb dandruff.
Who’s it for. Anybody looking to keep their hair healthy, strong, shiny, and moisturized! If your hair’s looking a little brittle, throw in a little argan oil.
How to use it. This one’s pretty easy. You can use argan oil anytime. Just apply an even layer throughout your hair. You can comb the argan oil into your hair, but you’ll want to make sure you get it down to your scalp as well.
The great thing about hair spray is that you can use it in conjunction with lots of hair products. It helps to add volume to your hair and to hold your hair in place. You can use hair spray with different levels of shine and different strengths depending on how much you want to allow your hair to move.
Who’s it for. It’s really great for anybody with thinning hair or people who need their ‘do to look good when there’s a ton of humidity in the air.
How to use it. The main key here is to make sure you don’t spray too close to your hair. You don’t want to over apply or your hair will look greasy. If you spray to close, you’ll hit a lot more of your scalp than the hair that you want to fashion.
Wax is like a pomade, but it allows you to continue to change and rearrange your hair without feeling locked into one position. You can use wax with multiple ‘dos and it’s often considered to have middle-of-the-road shine and hold.
Who’s it for. Wax generally works better for gents with straight hair that is not super long. Short and medium length hair dudes, this one’s for you.
How to use it. Wax works great for ‘dos that work best with combs. So apply your wax and comb it through your hair as you set your do.
Shampoo is basically soap for your hair. It takes all the grease and dirt that builds up throughout the day and helps you wash it all away after a nice scrub. There are so many different types of shampoos. Whether you’re looking for shampoo that handles dandruff, volumizing, moisturizing, oily hair, dry hair, or just normal hair, there’s a shampoo for you.
Who’s it for. Well, just about everybody. Almost anybody looking to keep their hair clean and free of grease or dirt should use shampoo at some point during their hair care routine.
How to use it. Once you’re in the shower, wet your head and scrub the shampoo well into your hair and scalp. Let the shampoo sit for a few minutes and then rinse. Voila! Clean hair.
Conditioner seals the hair in order to protect it and lock in moisture. It also helps to make sure that your hair does not get twisted and entwined together. It keeps your hair looking fresh, moisturized, and healthy.
Who’s it for. Really anyone who wants to keep their hair strong and healthy. There are many types of conditioners for different hair types, so make sure you pick a conditioner that’s right for you.
How to use it. Conditioner works best in the shower. Once you’ve washed, shampooed and rinsed your hair, apply a dollop of conditioner. Make sure to rub the conditioner into your hair and scalp and let it sit while you wash the rest of your body. After the conditioner has soaked in for a few minutes, simply rinse and enjoy your strong, moisturized hair!
Expand Your Grooming Knowledge
We know that finding the right hair products for men can seem overwhelming at first. If one hair product doesn’t work out for you, don’t throw in the towel! You may need to experiment with different men’s hair products before you find something that works for your hair type and style.
If you have any more questions about hair products, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! You can also check out our hair advice section for more grooming tips, guides and general help.