As someone who both blow drys and straightens his naturally curly hair to achieve a sleek, side-parted pompadour as well goes fresh out the shower to embrace my curls, I’m always on the lookout for a hair product that will keep my hair in place without making it too greasy.
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In our recent article on washing out hair pomade, we briefly touched on some of the finer products available to the discerning gentleman.
Truth is, buying hair products can be something of a mind-boggling experience. Unless it’s something your barber or stylist has used on your hair, it’s hard to know what’s going to keep that quiff high and mighty and what’s going to quickly descend into a flat, greasy mess. So what are the best hair styling products for men?
Clay, paste, pomade, wax or gel? Matte or shine? Big name brands or plucky newcomers? It’s a jungle, but the monkeys are hurling little pucks of product instead of faeces.
Luckily, we’ve turned our follicles into figurative guinea pigs in order to bring you a list you can depend on.
What’s the Difference?
Before we dive into this product roundup, let’s define the differences between clays, pomades, and pastes:
- Clays typically provide firm-hold, volume, and a matte finish.
- Hair Pomade provides hold and shine simultaneously.
- Pastes are typically thicker and provide a matte finish with a medium to firm hold.
(For lighter-hold and hands-off application, also check out hairsprays for men.)
Reader, we’ve bought many, many hair products in our time on this earth. This New Zealand brand, by way of Brooklyn, was recommended by our recent interviewee Josh Ritter and Mr. Ritter knows his stuff. It’s without a doubt one of the best hair pomades for men.
An incredibly pleasant-smelling concoction that spreads easily, holds brilliantly and never looks greasy. It’s more towards the matte end of the spectrum but less so than a clay. A deserved winner in a strong field.
Sachajuan is a top-notch Swedish haircare brand brought to our attention by our barbering friend Sam Nosworthy at Ruffians. Top dog in their range is this superb fibre paste, a very pleasant-smelling hair paste that holds brilliantly and offers a subtle sheen that isn’t totally matte but isn’t super shiny either. If your do of choice is quiff-esque or requires a strong hold, you can’t go wrong.
Sheffield has given the world many great things, from Ned Stark to Pulp. It’s also home to Dapper Dan, a brand that makes something of a holy grail for pomade devotees: an oil-based hair pomade that washes out easily.
A lot of water-based pomades dry and hold like a gel, whereas Dapper Dan’s offering feels much closer to the real deal, albeit without the necessity to rely on scorched earth tactics to remove it. The scent is also much milder than most of its contemporaries, making this one of the best pomades for men and one that is easy to recommend.
Thankfully nothing to do with the star of School Of Rock, Jack Black is a men’s skincare brand whose range runs the gamut from deodorant to moisturizer and includes this excellent clay pomade. We’ve experimented with a few different uses for this and found it excels at adding a flexible, messed-up texture to shorter, choppier styles.
We’ve been so overwhelmingly impressed by Fatboy that they’ve made our top ten twice. The Perfect Putty doesn’t grip with the same vicelike hold of the Sea Salt Pomade, instead offering a bit more flexibility and ruffled scruff. If you tend to like your hair more the day after you’ve washed it, this putty will give that effect right out of the shower. Like its sea salt brethren, it smells amazing.
There’s a weird time machine thingy that happens when you open a tin of Uppercut Deluxe Matte Pomade. Instantly, the smell transports you back to that small barbershop where a much younger you got your locks shorn among black and white photos of high-cheekboned men with gravity-defying haircuts. At least, I was. Performance wise, this is a medium hold hair pomade that is true to its word, providing a great blend of movement, hold and texture.
What Aveda’s clay offers over the others on this list is an abundance of volume. So, if you like a bit of pomp in your pompadour, reach for this fragrant clay and watch it pump up the volume. It might be a bit much for gents whose hair is already quite thick, but it’s manna from heaven for anyone with finer locks.
Murdock deviates from the standard pomade smells with this fresh, citrusy, water-based hair pomade, a pleasingly gooey orange hair paste that looks and smells like it might taste of Starburst (it doesn’t). If your style of choice is a slicked back, glossy quiff then this is just the ticket. It spreads through the hair well, holds steady and doesn’t dry stiffly. It also works nicely when used sparingly to take the dullness of a more matte product.
Baxter have a range hair pomades, all of which can be used individually or combined to create the perfect look. Whether you prefer a matte, natural or high shine look, the Clay Pomade makes the perfect base to create the style with a firm hold. If you then want a bit more sheen, you can choose from the natural shine of the Cream Pomade or the super glossy Soft Water Pomade.
One for fans of watermelon flavor Jolly Ranchers and firmly fixed styles. Imperial’s water-based hair pomade keeps your hair exactly where you want it, although it dries a little stiff. It can be reactivated by just running a wet hand through your hair and it washes out without fuss.
I really liked this Texture Clay and it’s great for when you want a little more movement in your hair but still want a strong hold.
The unique thing about this Texture Clay is that it is made with Bentonite Clay which has stimulating and healing properties to promote scalp health!
I will say this product is very similar to the Baxter of California Clay Pomade but the product does have a little more play and is less stiff.
R+Co’s CONTINENTAL Glossing Wax is easily one of the most versatile hair products I’ve ever used.
I work about a pea-sized amount of the shimmering blue water-based wax between my hands and run it through damp hair before I blow dry.
The product is super lightweight and gives shine without making my hair look greasy.
I also love to use this product when I’m wearing my hair curly. Again, I apply a pea to dime-sized amount of product between my hands and then to damp hair.
I then define my curls and the glossing wax helps give shine and also definition to my curls.
On top of its performance, the fragrance is fantastic with a bright and earthy composition with notes of eucalyptus, green tea, tree moss, and crisp amber.
The Martial Vivot Paste is a versatile styling product that provides a soft to medium hold. I use this when I’m going for a more disheveled, curly style.
The paste provides a nice texture and definition to my curls without being too sticky, greasy, or crunchy. One thing I really love about this product is the packaging.
The sleek, matte black container looks great sitting on my bathroom counter. Additionally, it’s full of ingredients that are good for you scalp and hair like hemp seed oil, castor seed oil, and Vitamin B, to name a few.
Typically, when I use a hair clay, I expect the product to be stiff and waxy when I’m scooping it out of the container.
One surprise with the 18.21 Man Made Hair Clay was that it was much looser and wetter than I was expecting.
However, once I rubbed it between my hands, it started to quickly dry down and behave like other hair clay.
It provides a strong hold and matte finish that lasts all day.
This hair paste is a bit firmer than other hair pastes I’ve used in the past, but it smoothes down nicely when worked between the hands.
This is the perfect balance of shine and hold. It’s especially great for when you’ve just washed your hair and want to get some moisture and shine back into it without being heavy on the hair.
I’m definitely on a convert from always using hair wax to using this hair paste!
Of the three different hair products, the pomade provides the highest shine and the lightest hold.
The hair pomade is all about providing flexible hold and shine which is perfect for creating that classic, sleek, side-parted styles.
My favorite thing about all the 18.21 products is the scent.
Their signature Sweet Tobacco oil blend is rich and not overpowering with initial notes of spicy saffron and dried fruit dry down to reveal notes of manuka honey, dark-toned vanilla a touch of tobacco, exotic woods, and powdery musk.
I’m a huge fan of the IGK Beach Club Texture Spray so I was excited to try the Broken Dreams Texture Paste.
One thing I hate is after I wash and dry my hair, it looks dry and a little frizzy and doesn’t cooperate.
This texture paste is a medium hold and gives freshly cleaned hair that second-day, lived-in look.
The paste also includes argan oil which naturally strengthens and nourishes hair while providing a light shine.
The scent is also great with sophisticated notes of black pepper, blackberries, dewy violet, geranium, and leather accord.