Hair is never easy, not unless you are an extremely lucky individual, or you managed to actually put together a recipe for success, choosing to permanently stick to it. But where’s the fun in that? With every men’s style and cut comes the chance to reinvent yourself, either it’s for a day, or for the long run, and in between those limits experimenting is key. In matter of styling, nothing comes the simple way, not even the “just rolled out of bed” look that appears to be so incredibly effortless.

The good news is that choosing the right hairstyle for your face shape and the right products for your hair type will definitely count in making the styling process feel a lot less complicated. And if the choice of styling products still appears to be much like a maze for you, we are ready to break down the essentials. So after the break, hair styling products demystified.

men's hair styling product guide

What is it: Gel.

Best for: keeping hair stationary, holding shape, creating that wet-look finish.

We are starting off with the most common choice for men, which is not to say there’s something wrong with using a gel product for your hair. Gels are bound to create that slick, wet look with strong hold, leaving the hair shiny. When it comes to hold, keep in mind that the finer the hair, the lighter should be the product (e.g. thin hair=light hold; thick hair=strong hold).

Use it on wet hair by spreading the product evenly on your fingers and top of your palm, before running your fingers through your hair to style. Gel can be revived by simply wetting your hands and running them through you hair every time it needs a fix up.

mens hair gels
Jack Black Body Building Hair Gel; Kiehl’s Strong-Hold Styling Gel.

What is it: Wax.

Best for: managing very thick hair, lending shine and control to short cuts, everything in between messier bed-head looks to more structured styles.

Wax is a relatively new product added to what is a man’s grooming routine today. It is extremely versatile, allowing you to create both a neat, well-groomed style and a messier, tousled look. Giving it is more pliable than gel, wax allows your hair to be reshaped and restyled whenever needed.

Use it on hair that’s dry or slightly damp, warming up and evenly distributing the product on your palms before using it on your hair. Giving its tendency to bundle, remember to never use it if you have curly hair, but do give it a try if your hair is slightly wavy.

mens hair wax
Kiehl’s Creative Cream Wax.

What is it: Pomade.

Best for: a wet, shiny and slick look, giving the hair definition and smoothness.

Pomade may sound like a really fancy hair product with some undistinguished qualities when in fact it is nothing more than a greasy substance (a blend of wax and oil) used to achieve a slick, but more natural wet look. Pomade is creamier than wax, which makes it a better fit for curly and thick hair, and can also recreate that strong, wet and neat gel look without drying out. If you’re seeking a softer, non-greasy version, pick-out a pomade with a water base for easier distribution.

Use it by applying a small amount to the palm of your hand and rubbing the hands together until they get warm. Proceed to styling on damp or close-to-dry hair. Avoid using pomade if your hair is oily to avoid a super-greasy finish.

mens hair pomade
Baxter of California Hard Water Pomade; Malin + Goetz hair pomade.

What is it: Styling cream.

Best for: controlling flyaway hair, giving shine and control to all hair lengths while maintaining your hair’s natural aspect.

Styling creams aren’t highly recognized as hair products but you may have heard them being mentioned by your stylist during your last trip at the salon. If not, know that they usually come in the form of a soft, opaque wax with a light hold, offering subtle control and an overall natural finish.

Use them on dry or damp hair to tame flyaway hair without risking greasiness or stiffness, and to gift the hair with flexibility and strong definition.

What is it: Mousse.

Best for: adding volume and thickening fine hair.

Mousse is a hair product generally preferred by the ladies, but it can be used by men as well, particularly to add volume to thin hair and create a fuller style. Mousse has a foamy texture, known for coating the hair with polymers, which results in the extra volume. Seek mousse products with agents like rice protein and rosemary if your hair tends to thin up top.

To use it, shake the container and dispense a small amount of mousse in one hand, using both hands to apply it to dry hair. If you’re after a stronger hold, blow dry your hair after utilization.

What is it: Serum.

Best for: reducing frizz and providing a silkier texture to the hair.

Serums come in the guise of glossy, smoothing fluids with slick consistency that work best in reducing frizz. Used on brittle, curly or longer styles, they are known for softening the hair due to the silicone and various oils used to build their formula.

Use the serum on your wet hair, but not near the scalp, starting off with a pearl sized amount. Avoid using serum on fine hair.

mens hair serum
Kiehl’s Silk Groom Serum.

What is it: Matte products.

Best for: a dry or matte finish, adding texture to short hair, adding separation to long styles, achieving those “bed head” hair styles.

When talking matte products we’re talking clay, paste, fiber, putty or any other variety that promises to deliver the same matte finish. Trust the matte products to help you achieve those messy, tousled hairstyles, without the wet shine, and to also impart your hair with texture while offering a manageable hold.

mens hair matte paste
American Crew Fiber; Sebastian Professional Form Craft Clay.

What is it: Hair spray (finishing product).

Best for: finishing any style, best when used in moderation.

Hair spray can sound a bit like a forbidden fruit, but as long as it is used in moderation, nothing beats its holding qualities when it comes to finishing any given style. Hair spray is a product fit for all types of hair, especially thinner hair that’s likely to be weighed down by heavier products.

To use it, spray from about 8 – 12 inches from hair until your hair is veiled by a fine mist. This is likely to lock in your style for the duration of the entire day.

More about men’s hair.

For more guides, tutorials and trend information about men’s hair, visit our men’s hairstyles guide here.

Above: bottles image by Shutterstock.

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