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Men’S Hair Styling Products: Which Is Which?

Posted by: Mia Hudson, on: Monday, 31 August 2015

Latest Men's Hair Style from ShangrilaHair.com Image courtesy of shangrilahair.com

Gone are the days when holding your hairstyle in place automatically meant reaching for a bottle of hair gel.

Today, a plethora of products exists in the domain of men’s hair grooming—for every finish, strength, and texture imaginable. While the selection increasing a hundredfold fittingly begets a hundred more possibilities, trying to choose the right product for yourself can get frustrating. The advent of clays, pomades, and waxes can be quite overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to understand what each one does.

Well, here’s some good news for you: the confusion ends right here.

Some things to note when choosing the right product for you.

As each styling product excels in its own unique niche, it’s helpful to view things from the right frame of mind. Before anything, ask yourself. What’s my hair type? What hairstyle am I gunning for?

Knowing these things will help you determine your perfect match. Identify your end goal—the texture, level of shine, and hold you want—as it makes the selection process a lot easier for you.

Let’s start, shall we?

Redken for Men Stand Tough Extreme Gel
Redken for Men Stand Topugh Extreme Gel


Let’s start with the classic. Ah, the gel: the immortal workhorse of hair grooming. The trusty creation that started it all, it is every man’s first styling product.

Gels, to put it simply, keep your hairstyle stationary by giving it maximum hold. If you want to keep your hair set in place all day, opt for this product. It comes in different variants with light- and firm-hold versions available. As a general rule, choose which variant to buy according to your hair type. The lighter or finer your hair is, the lighter your gel should be.

While gels provide a hold that waxes, pomades, and clays cannot simply measure up to, using it usually leaves you with rock-solid strands that aren’t exactly pleasing to the touch. Another disadvantage is that gels are prone to flaking. How to avoid this? For one, you have to be careful with the product volume and ensure that you’re not putting on too much. You should also avoid touching, brushing, or combing your hair after the gel has dried.

A great thing about gel is how easy it washes off with just water. Oil-based styling products (such as pomade) can be a pain to remove. Luckily, you wouldn’t have to go through this struggle if you go for this product.

Lastly, while gel is generally more suitable for thicker hair, you can actually use it to give thinner hair some additional body. Just put a little product on damp hair and blow dry afterwards. You can also use this technique as a pre-styling ritual as it gives you additional control without the dreaded freeze up.

Perfect for: Gels are perfect for hairstyles that require maximum hold such as spikes.

Recommended for these hair types: This is generally suitable for short and medium-length hair.

How to use? Spread the product evenly on your hands and then run your fingers through dry or damp hair.

Why use it? No other hair product offers the same amount of hold as a gel.


Mister Pompadour Natural BeesWax Paste
Mister Pompadour Natural Bees Wax Paste

If gel isn’t your thing, try wax. One of the main selling points of hair wax is its versatility. In fact, it’s so versatile that you couldn’t actually come up with just one definition for it! This product is great whether you’re aiming for a messy bed-head look or a neatly-groomed hair style.

Waxes were designed to provide a combination of hold and shine when they first came out. These days, however, there are variants that offer low-shine finishes, as well.

So what sets it apart from a gel? Well, waxes provide a decent amount of hold without hardening it like the way a gel usually does. The finish is generally more pliable, which means that you can restructure your hair throughout the day. This is perfect if you’re the kind of guy who likes to take his look from office to party easily and conveniently!

Similarly, what makes wax different from pomade is that they are on opposing edges of the shine-hold spectrum. Unlike the latter, wax does not contain petroleum. So while it does provide some shine, it doesn’t give the ultra-glossy look that is associated with pomade. Conversely, the level of hold that pomade brings, while decent, is usually weaker than wax’s. Wax being petroleum-free also means that it’s not going to weigh your hair down—which is perfect for lads with oily hair.

Texture-wise, waxes feel pasty and rather creamy. It’s generally recommended for straight and wavy hair as it’s prone to clumping in curly hair. However, you can minimise this by warming the product up with your palms and distributing it evenly. Noticeable goo on your coif is the last thing you want.

Perfect for: Its versatility makes it perfect for most hairstyles!

Recommended for these hair types: Again, wax is so versatile that it’s great for fine, normal, and thick hair.

How to use? Rub the product rapidly between your fingers to get it warm and emulsified. Smooth evenly through your strands, taking care not to put product into the roots/near the scalp.

Why use it? Wax is perfect for adding expression to your hairstyle and creating a ton of different textures.


Modify Pomade by Hanz de Fuko
Modify Pomade by Hanz de Fuko

If you’re after some serious shine, pomade is your best bet.

True pomade is petroleum-based with some wax blended in (while true hair wax is mainly just that—wax). In fact, bear fat was the common pomade ingredient back in the 1800s. Later on, they (thankfully) made the switch to other ingredients like petroleum and beeswax. Being based on mineral oil gives the product a glossy finish. However, the downside here is that it’s challenging to wash off.

There are now modern versions that are water-soluble for easier removal—although pomade purists maintain that it’s not true pomade without the oil base. Traditionalism aside, water-based pomade is softer, non-greasy, and it provides just the right amount of definition and smoothness.

There is also a range of variants available in the market, from low-shine to high-shine. Two other considerable advantages of going down the pomade route are its superior pliability (yup, even greater than wax) that lets you restyle your hair throughout the day and the more natural, wet look it offers.

This product is perfect for a slicked-back style. If you want a business-appropriate pompadour, pomade is the way to go. Wondering what sets it apart from gel? Well, pomade gives you the same neat, wet look without the potential flakes.

Perfect for: Pomades are perfect for pompadours and other sleeker hairstyles.

Recommended for these hair types: Wavy and curly-haired men may find the exceptional smoothness delivered by pomades greatly beneficial. However, you should avoid this if your scalp tends to be oily as it may exacerbate greasiness.

How to use? Rub a tiny amount on your palm and style damp hair as needed. Take note: if in doubt, use less.

Why use it? Pomades give a controlled, natural-looking finish without stiffening your hair.


Clay hair styling products are relatively new in the market and are easily confused with waxes (and we really don’t blame you). Both offer decent hold and control. Like waxes, clay also comes in a variety of consistencies—ranging from very thick to very creamy. The main difference, therefore, can be attributed to one thing: shine.

K-Gravel Texture Clay by Original Mineral
K-Gravel Texture Clay by Original Mineral

While there are waxes that offer a shine-free finish, the matte look is perhaps tucked neatly in the domain of clays. As such, it warrants its own category—and deservingly so. If you’re not the biggest fan of gloss, this is perfect for you.

Technically speaking, of course, what sets clay apart is that its main ingredient is—you guessed it—clay. The most commonly used kind is bentonite, an all-natural ingredient sourced from volcanic ash. This gives it a unique texture that’s almost velvety to the touch. Its particles add body and thickness to your strands, too. As such, it’s ideal for hairstyles that require added volume without the added weight. Stability-wise, clay offers a hold that is on the stronger side.

Perfect for: Clay is perfect for semi-matte and matte hairstyles that require medium-to-high hold.

Recommended for these hair types: Men with normal to thicker hair may benefit from clay products the best.

How to use? Because clay tends to be thicker and denser, it’s important to rub the product between your palms to make application easier. Afterwards, apply evenly on your hair and style as needed.

Why use it? Clay has natural properties that may benefit your hair and scalp. It also offers the best combination of high hold and a matte finish.

There you have it. Use this handy guide to have better insight as to what product can potentially be of best service to you. Remember, you have to consider both your hair type and the style you’re aiming for so you’d probably have to stock up on more than one product for different occasions. Best of luck, gentlemen!

Author: Mia Hudson

Graduated in late 2003 from School of Computer Science in RMIT University majoring in software engineering. Employed by Coles Group developing Coles Online until it was taken over by Wesfarmers in 2007. Co-Founder of FeelingSexy.com.au and Lead programmer since 2006.

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