Mens Styling Products

Haircuts for Men recommends the use of mens shampoos and conditioners and mens styling products purchased from professional barbers and stylists. Professional products, while a bit more expensive, are typically higher in quality than drugstore brands. I recommend products which are formulated specifically for men’s hair and scalps. They are packaged in easy to understand language and they smell masculine – your wife or girlfriend won’t touch ’em!  This article gives you the basics on mens styling products.


Here’s where things get confusing. There are so many styling products to chose from. Most men can get the results they are looking for from a simple bottle of gel. The basic types of styling produts are: gels, pomades, waxes, muds, and mousses (is that the plural of ‘mousse’?). Now, you’re probably asking, “what about hairspray?” HFM classifies hairspray as a Finishing Product and I’ll discuss those next. But first, let’s sort through the styling products.


Gels are normally water based products. Normally, gel is used by those who want to maintain a wet, slick look and do not require a pliable hold. Haircuts for Men strongly recommends the use of professional gels. Cheap drugstore brands can often turn white and flake as they dry. How ugly is that!? Normally gels come in light hold, firm hold, and spray. The key to choosing the right one is this: Fine hair = light gel, thick hair = firm gel. Using a heavy gel on fine hair can weigh the hair down. Light gels or spray gels are best for blow dried styling. Generally, there is a gel appropriate for all hair types. We like American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel – it retains memory and can be brushed out after the hair is dry and it will maintain the shape.


Pomades add shine and control while maintaining a pliable hold. Use a pomade to direct a strong hairline. Pomades are great for slicked back or heavily textured styles. A small amount of pomade will add shine and smooth the hair. Avoid using pomade on fine hair and avoid using too much pomade. Doing so can make hair look greasy and limp. To apply a pomade, scoop out a small amount and rub it in your hands until they become warm. Apply quickly and evenly to damp or dry hair. Pomades are generally used on shorter, texturizes styles but can also be used to give longer hair shine and separation.  Our favorite pomade is Baxter of California Hard Water Pomade.


Similar to a pomade, a wax is normally a petroleum based product used to control very unruly hair. Waxes are commonly used on flattops and crewcuts. Excessive use of wax can cause buildup and scalp problems. Waxes are quite often difficult to wash out. To apply a wax, scoop out a small amount and rub it in your hands until they become warm. Apply quickly and evenly to the hair. Since most waxes are petroleum based, they should be applied to completely dry hair (oil and water don’t mix, remember) Waxes should be avoided on fine hair as they weigh the hair down and can cause fine hair to look flat. Waxes are best for short styles with texture.  Our favorite wax is American Crew Grooming Crème.

Clay, Fibers, Creams

Typically, these thick products are used when maximum control is needed. Great for controlling curls and spikes. To apply a clay, fiber, or cream, scoop out a small amount and rub it in your hands until they become warm. Apply quickly and evenly to the area of the hair where maximum control is desired.  These products typically have a matte texture.  Our favorite strong hold clay is Hairband Moulder Hair Shaper, while we like Kevin Murphy Easy Rider for a lighter hold.  See more of our favorite products in this category on our Best Products Page.


Okay, so you’ve shampooed and styled your hair just the way you like it. How do you keep it there? Use a finishing products. Most of the styling products discussed above (with the exception of gel) will tend to dry out and lose control as the day wears on. It is always a good idea to set your style with a finishing product. The most common finishing product is hair spray.

Hair Spray

Generally used as a follow up to a styling product to secure the style and lock it in place. Sprays range in hold from light to heavy. As a general rule, chose the lightest one possible for your hair (remember fine hair = light hold, thick hair = firm hold). Many hair sprays contain sunscreen and additives to create shine.  For a great spray, we love TIGI Bed Head B for Men Power Surge Spray!

Smoothing/Shine Serums

Available normally in liquid or spray form, these products are normally used alone to create shine and just a bit of control. A smoothing serum will control frizz and flyaway.  Bumble and Bumble DeFrizz is a good one.

DISCLAIMER: The advice I provide is not intended to be a substitute for a personal consultation with a barber or stylist. Any information or materials posted on this service or transmitted from this service are intended for general informational purposes only. Determining a proper haircut or service depends upon a personal inspection of your head and face shape, hair type, and scalp condition. By using this service, you acknowledge that I am not liable for haircuts or services performed based upon the advice given or content posted on this service. The responsibility and liability for any service performed is that of the client and barber/stylist performing the service. Information posted on this service is not medical advice. Any information or materials posted on this service are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice, medical opinion, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information posted on this service is not a substitute for medical attention. See your health-care professional for medical advice and treatment.