Perhaps just as importantly as washing your hair is styling.

Although a regular trim will keep your follicles looking smart and neat, taking charge of those stray hairs is going to require the use of some basic styling products.

Years ago, the only thing a man could purchase was a jar of greasy hair gel. Those nasty beasts left hair feeling hard and crunchy, not to mention suffocated under the weight of oil bases.

Thankfully, modern technology allows for a far more enticing range of products that give a whole host of looks without the characteristic ‘helmet hair’ of old.

What to chose?

Your choice of product will largely depend on exactly what style you’re after. These products can be combined easily to create, with a little effort and experimentation, some breathtaking end results.

Image: Marcelo Moura

For that traditional ‘slick’ effect. Make sure you chose a premium ‘salon’ brand without alcohol to avoid white flakes and dry, damaged hair. Use a lighter gel for thin hair and a heavier gel for thick hair; this will help prevent ‘clumpiness’ whilst providing enough hold.

If the gel looks too hard, wait until it dries and comb the hair lightly. Conversely, you can add a splash of water if the gel isn’t quite strong or glossy enough.

Hair Sprays
These come in two varieties: dry and wet. Dry hair spray is the more familiar of the two and comes in an aerosol canister, offering neutral hold to fix the hair in place. By contrast, wet hair spray comes in an atomizer bottle and uses synthetic polymers to give hold that can easily be brushed out. Either way, be careful not to overdo it or you’ll be left with dry and crunchy hair.

These greasy bases make hair look ultra slick, but unlike gel or hairspray, pomade doesn’t dry out. These products can give great all-day shine and definition, but are harder to clean off and may require multiple washes to do so fully. Be careful not to use too much and avoid pomade if you have fine hair as it has a tendency to look too limp and wet. Pomade works best on men with short to medium length hair and is excellent at creating “messed up” looks.

Image: foshieWaxes
For strong, defined style use wax. Although it gives natural-looking hold, it’s only really suitable for men with short, or very short, cuts. Wax should never be applied to wet hair, and it can be extremely difficult to wash out afterward unless you have a specially-formulated shampoo.

Mud, Clays & Fibres
These are similar to both pomades and waxes, but give a greater degree of control over the hair. All are excellent at providing added texture to shorter locks and good separation for longer hair. The matte finish means that muds, fibres and clays are ideal for the disheveled “just-got-out-of-bed” look.

If you want control without the shine and hardness associated with waxes and pomades then go for a cream. Used correctly, they appear almost invisible in the hair and are even suitable for men with very fine hair (as long as it’s used very sparingly).

These products offer excellent pliability but, as the name suggests, with a strong matte (i.e. low-shine) finish. Another bonus is you rarely get the stickiness associated with traditional-style gels.

A good quality mousse can produce a wide array of hairstyles. Used on wet hair, mousse produces a slick shine. Used on dry hair it offers good hold and shape. Adds volume to thin, fine hair but lacks the molding power of stronger gels and waxes.

How to Use

The biggest hair styling mistake men make is incorrect application. No wonder guys avoid using styling products – all it takes is one person’s misuse to put the rest of us off. So get it right from the start, by memorizing these three simple commandments:

  • Less is more. Nine out of ten problems associated with hair care products can be put down to overuse. Unless you have particularly long or thick hair, a pea-sized amount is usually more than sufficient. If you do need more you can always apply a little extra – remember, it’s easier to add more product than it is to take it away. Read instructions carefully and always follow the manufactures’ advice.
  • Mix well before use. Always agitate, mix, stir or combine before application. Your product has been clumped solid in the jar for several weeks or months and will most likely require emollition before use. Thorough rubbing between your palms will ‘relax’ the product ensuring even distribution across the head and avoiding any tell-tale clumping problems.
  • Damp or Dry, but rarely wet. Too much water on your scalp can kill a product’s strength, and wax simply won’t stick to wet hair. Unless the instructions state otherwise, always assume that application is on either damp or dry hair.

In the next installment of the ‘Haircare 101’ series, I’ll be taking a look at your options for places to get your hair cut.

About The Author

Johnathan Bell is the founder, owner and main author of Guy Style Guide, a website dedicated to everyday male fashion, style and grooming. The primary mission? To guide clueless men through the tricky mindfield that is the growing world of male couture. Find him on , Twitter and Tumblr.

4 Responses

    • Johnathan


      Plus it’s relatively simple to get a great look using just a few simple products!

      Thanks for the comment.

  1. Gerald

    Hi, I have a more sensitive and oily skin. And I live in a country which has a hot weather all year round. This makes me sweat very frequently. The sweat can cause the hair products to melt and flow towards my forehead, which will cause me pimples on my forehead. Any suggestions on which product should I use to style my hair?