Know your mop needs taming but don’t know where to begin? Start here, with our quick guide to men’s hair products -- and how to use them.
Gel, goop, putty, pomade … it’s all scary enough to make a guy’s hair stand up straight. But it doesn’t have to be that way -- unless that’s the look you want, of course. In truth, you only need to stock your arsenal with five different kinds of lotions and potions and know two rules on using them:
First, don’t use too much -- a dime-sized glob does the job for most guys. Second, the drier your hair, the stronger the hold. “The rule of thumb with any product is you’ll get a stronger hold if you apply it to drier hair,” says Chuck Olson, a New York-based hairstylist.
Here’s what to use to get the look you’re after:
Level of hold: 1
What it does: This stuff feels like lotion and works as a light conditioner.
“Cream is good for reducing dryness and taming frizzy hair,” says Olson. “It gives shape without a lot of hold.”
What to do with it: After you get out of the shower, squirt the cream into your hands, run it through your wet hair and comb to distribute evenly.
Celebrity style icon: George Clooney
Level of hold: 2
What it does: This is a cool product because it does everything: It offers hold, it defines, it adds shine and it has a slightly pasty feel. “This is the product for a really slicked-back look,” says Cori Randall, New York City-based hairstylist and instructor. “In the old days, it created a cement helmet-head appearance, but new water-based pomades create the same look without all the stiffness.”
What to do with it: For a wet and shiny look, apply it right after you get out of the shower. For a more natural look, wait until your hair is about 50 percent dry, then apply. “It’s also great for curly hair,” says Randall. “It’s a humectant (a moisture-retaining ingredient), so it keeps hair tamed and under control.”
Celebrity style icon: Andy Garcia
Level of hold: 3
What it does: “This is the magic stuff behind the I-spent-20-minutes-on-my-hair-to-look-like-I-just-rolled-out-of-bed look,” says Randall. It’s fiber-based and matte, so it’s good for creating texture and separation.
What to do with it: Put a dime-sized amount in your palms and rub your hands together vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds (you want to really warm it up). Then use your fingertips to apply it to your hair -- first at the roots, then at the tips.
Celebrity style icon: Robert Pattinson in Twilight
Goop or Putty
Level of hold: 4
What it does: Use this when you want some shine and a strong hold without all the crispiness. “It looks a little more natural than gels or pomades,” says Randall. It also has a more versatile finish -- you can go back and play with your hair and restyle it throughout the day.
What to do with it: Squirt a dime-sized glob into your hands, rub them together, then run them through your hair, starting at the roots and working outwards. If you want to create spikes or chunks, separate your hair into large sections and apply some extra goop to each section, focusing on the tips, with your fingertips.
Celebrity style icon: Brad Pitt
Level of hold: 5
What it does: “Gels are good for guys who want a strong hold,” says Olson. “On straight hair, it creates a really slicked-back look; on wavy locks and curls, it adds definition.” Bottom line: Gelled hair is going nowhere -- this stuff makes your locks feel almost crispy.
What to do with it: Use on just-showered hair for a wet look with lots of hold; or apply on dry hair, then blow-dry for a slightly more natural look.
Celebrity style icon: Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight