There’s an old saying that a good workman never blames his tools, but we’d be lying if we said the right ones don’t make a difference. When it comes to hair products, it can literally be life-changing.
The list of lightbulb moments we’ve had includes: the first time we tried John Frieda’s original Frizz Ease; when we discovered ceramic hair straighteners; that time we had a scalp makeover at Philip Kingsley; and when we learned to co-cleanse curly hair so that it actually looked good.
Much like modern skincare, haircare has evolved well beyond the basic steps of cleansing and moisturising. You’ve got options now – hundreds of them – in refined, state-of-the-art formulas that are designed to tackle every hair concern under the sun.
Knowing how to tame frizz, control curls, fix a tricky scalp, successfully de-oil greasy hair or heat style without making everything a hot mess is going to make your hair look better on the daily.
That cheap bottle of shampoo? Sure, it’ll clean your hair, but it’s more likely to strip the natural oils, making it dryer and duller over time. So, while some brands may be pricier than others, these are some of our most tried-and-trusted. And as the saying goes, you’re worth it.
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Let’s start with the basics: do you have hair to brush? Ever given any thought to the type of brush you are using? Time to start.
Denman has been making hairbrushes for over 80 years. In 1938, on a visit to New York, John Denman Dean discovered a revolutionary new product, nylon, brought it back home to Northern Ireland, and started a line of brushes. In the 1960s, super snipper, Vidal Sassoon picked up the Denman D3 Original Styler and cemented its status as the ultimate styling brush.
Today, there’s a brush for every hair type and purpose. The go-to products in our kit include the Jack Dean Luxury Beech Wood Club Brush, which has super-soft, natural boar bristles to smooth and shine short, fine and weak hair and sensitive scalps. It’s so gentle you can barely feel it.
The D6 Original Scalp Massager and Shower Brush is the perfect palm styler to get right to the roots, massage in strengthening tonic or beard oil, and to detangle and comb product through wet hair or stubble. And the Jack Dean D200 Skeleton Vent handles easily without snagging or pulling, adds root lift and volume, and offers express heat styling thanks to the clever vent design.
Mother Nature is a cruel mistress. Unless you’re blessed in the genetic lottery, that lustrous head of hair that you take for granted will slowly wither on the vine with the passage of time. Of course, it might not – but are you willing to risk it?
Prevention is always better than a cure (which is, most likely, a Turkish hair transplant down the line). Male pattern baldness isn’t the only cause of thinning – stress and poor diet can be factors, wearing it tied up can cause traction alopecia around the hairline, and even a pesky virus can cause temporary hair loss.
Want to make more of an effort to preserve what you’ve got? THIX has got those precious follicles covered. This tight routine of shampoo, conditioner and styling paste is infused with science-backed ingredients including essential vitamins, amino acids, proteins and stimulating caffeine.
Like a super green smoothie, it provides all the nutrients the hair needs with a cocktail of plant keratin, biotin (B7), niacinamide (B3), panthenol (B5), pyridoxine (B6) and vitamins C and E.
Is it a miracle cure for baldness? Nope – and it doesn’t claim to be. Will it help your strands feel thicker, fuller and healthier? Yup – with visible root lift and a lush texture.
It’s vegan, sulphate and GMO free, comes in fully recyclable aluminium packaging, and the invigorating minty fresh smell provides a more stimulating shower experience in the morning.
Bumble and bumble.
Every pro hair stylist has Bumble and bumble in their kit. A backstage favourite, Bumble and bumble opened their first salon in New York in the late 1970s, and quickly became known for a signature cutting style using a straight edge razor.
It launched Brilliantine, its first own label product in 1990, a best-selling oil-based styling creme to add shine and separation, and dropped its famous Surf Spray, which gives instant salty waves, in 2001. Bb. has been serving pro formulas that out perform the rest since the start, which is why it costs more than your average haircare brand.
Frequent blow dryer or heat styler? Right now, the Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer takes the top spot, with good reason: it cuts frizz, adds definition to curls, provides heat styling protection, sun protection and adds hydration without weighing hair down. You need this – stat.
For the wax and gel enthusiast, Sunday Shampoo is like a memory wipe to correct a styling gunk overload. This weekly detox will gently remove oil, grime and build-up. So, when your hair suddenly feels like it can’t get clean or your regulars feel less effective, re-set with this; it leaves the hair feeling lighter, bouncy and squeaky clean.
Timothée Chalamet’s work as the unofficial ambassador for loose, natural curls has done more for the cause than most other personalities in recent memory (not you, Timberlake). Knowing how to manage those rebellious coils it is half the battle when embracing one’s natural texture.
Whether your hair is coily, kinky or sits in tight spirals, the Curl Defining Cream is a designed to de-frizz and enhance the shape of your curls without leaving any tell-tale crunchiness.
French grooming specialist Horace prove that quality haircare can still be affordable. With a full range of styling aids, shampoos, conditioners (including solid bars for zero waste) and specialist treatments for every hair type and concern, you can look after your hair with a reasonable outlay.
The Wax Pomade is made with natural ingredients – beeswax, kaolin clay, sapote butter (to nourish the scalp) and glycerin – and without mineral oil, parabens and silicone. We love it because it lasts all day, looks natural, leaves no residue, and washes clean out without any effort.
When you’re dogged with an itchy, dry, flaky scalp it can be hard to find effective products that don’t make the issue worse. Unlike the major anti-dandruff brand found in the supermarket, Gentle Anti-Dandruff Shampoo is sulphate-free, so it’s less likely to irritate the skin or tax your hair. Use it 2-3 times a week for one month, and say goodbye to tell-tale flakes and bothersome itch.
Great for all hair types – especially fine, thinning or straight – the Texturising Hair Spray deserves a spot in your grooming arsenal. This salty spray has a pleasant flowery marine scent and adds much needed volume and texture when applied to damp hair.
As a certified B Corporation, this under-the-radar Italian brand has serious environmental creds and offers excellent hair/skin solutions that’s mostly sold through independent outlets. Davines strives to be circular, using locally-sourced, botanical ingredients and renewable or recycled packaging that can be reused and refilled at your nearest bulk supply.
So, what do we love? It’s easy to navigate and find the right products for your concern. In the essential range, Volu boosts fine or limp hair, Melu takes care of breaking/damaged hair, Momo replenishes dry hair and Love Curl does what it says on the tin.
SU offers sun protection, OI is for shiny, silky hair, while Naturaltech is a complete holistic range on top. The offer is huge, and the products are a pleasure to use.
Scalp care has ratcheted up our list of priorities in recent times and the Solu Salt Scrub, from the clarifying line for oily/clogged hair, is a deep cleansing, purifying treatment made with pure sea salt that removes pollution and impurities for a revitalised scalp.
Individually sealed in wrapping paper, every time we re-up our supply of This is a Forming Pomade it’s like a gift. One of our longest serving styling products for short, textured styles, this lightweight formula adds shine and re-workable hold.
Always burning your bonce? Make sure you’ve got SU Milk Sun-Protecting Leave in Hair Spray when you’re headed to the pool or beach. This leave-in spray has UV filters to protect scalp, hair and prevent colour fade, and it replenishes the hair and skin from the moisture sapping trio of sun, salt and chlorine.
Kiehl’s is an 170-year-old New York apothecary that occupied corner stores in Manhattan, and originally fulfilled prescriptions by hand. French beauty giant L’Orèal acquired the business in 2000, and – we’re going to be brutally honest here – most of the brand’s best-loved, cult products are original formulas which pre-date the millennium.
While skincare innovations are the current focus, it still has a tight edit of effective hair care products that we go back to time and time again – when they have them in stock. Crucially, there seems to be persistent supply chain issues both in the UK and in the US.
To the best of our knowledge, Creme with Silk Groom was one of the first hair creams on the market. This non-greasy, conditioning styling cream is made with wheat protein and jojoba oil, nixes frizz and flyaways and gives light structure when applied to damp or dry hair. One tube lasts for ages, which is just as well, because while the brand insist it’s not been discontinued, it’s been out of stock for two years.
Needs must, so we’ve been experimenting with substitutes and highly recommend these (cheaper) alternatives: Larry King A Social Life for Your Hair, Phyto 7 Moisturising Day Cream and Bumble and bumble Grooming Creme.
We still love you Kiehl’s, and we’ll ride out this storm together. Thankfully, all is not lost, because we can still get our hands on these hair saviours: Amino Acid Shampoo, a gentle cleanser with a soft scent of coconut that adds volume; and Hair Conditioner and Grooming Aid Formula 133, a super-lightweight conditioner for all types to detangle, soften and tame.
What began as a subscription shave club has morphed into a fully fledged grooming powerhouse. Harry’s USP is style and value for money – an appreciable bonus in these wallet-crunching times.
Harry’s still offer its original premise of subscribe and save, plus one-off purchases for the commitment-phobic, and you can source them online and offline via major outlets like Sainsbury’s, Boots, Target and Amazon.
Even if you don’t have dandruff (which is caused by a specific fungus), that doesn’t mean your scalp isn’t parched. Step forward, Dry Scalp 2 in 1 Shampoo & Conditioner, which is designed to soothe a tight, dry skin.
For styling aids that won’t break the bank, we’ve got Texturising Putty on repeat to keep our barnet from looking a dishevelled, sticky mess. Malleable with a matte finish, this putty can easily be reshaped.
On the flip side, the Sculpting Gel offers firm hold and polished shine that won’t flake or dry out the hair.
Combining NYC cool with no-nonsense vibes, Malin+Goetz’ founding purpose was to deliver efficacious grooming products that were also fragrance-free, kind to sensitive skin, vegan and cruelty free – a big point of difference when it launched.
Scalp masks can be fiddly and/or time consuming, so we thoroughly high-five the Detox Scalp Mask. This express treatment takes just five minutes to work its foaming magic. Top line ingredients include a blend of glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and clarify, conditioning safflower, olive oil and coconut oil, and therapeutic spearmint leaf and peppermint oil to cool and soothe. Use it once a week for noticeably fuller, thicker, softer and shinier hair that stays cleaner between washes, and a healthier, happier scalp.
On the cleansing front, the Gentle Hydrating Shampoo is sulphate-free and kinder to hair that’s washed frequently, prone to frizz, chemically relaxed or colour treated hair, with a combination of amino acids, marine algae extract and panthenol.
The brand also sell Peppermint Shampoo by the gallon (3.78 litres), so if you can stump up for it then go full prepper and you’ll save almost 50% on a year’s supply or more.
Naturally, the makers of everyone’s favourite hand wash also do well in other departments, offering generous 500ml bottles of shampoo and conditioner to keep your shower stall well stocked (bulk options always offer the most economical price). Superior fragrances come as standard with Aēsop, so you can bet they smell great too.
Scalp issues? Sage & Cedar Scalp Treatment is a pre-shampoo oil for sensitive, dry or easily irritated scalps that can do with some extra TLC. This easy to wash out formula contains rosemary leaf, cedar atlas and sage leaf. Take a full pipette’s worth and massage all over, leave for 15 minutes, and shampoo away. Expect to see less dryness and redness as a result.
Dry, dull, wiry and coarse facial hair will love the Shine Hair & Beard Oil. With a herbaceous scent of petitgrain and borage, this multitasking product will give lacklustre strands a new lease of life, without any greasiness.
Baxter of California
The story goes that Baxter Finley couldn’t find any dedicated skincare products for men, so he started making his own. That was in California, way back in 1965. Now, Baxter of California has a global presence, and a barbershop on La Cienega on West Hollywood that carries his name above the door.
One of the best-known, classic products is Clay Pomade, which offers unbeatable, matte hold when applied to dry or damp hair, and a shine finish when applied to wet hair. Made with kaolin and bentonite clay and natural beeswax, it can wrangle straight, thick and short hair types into submission.
For longer lengths, straight, wavy and fine hair, the versatile Clay Effect Style Spray is a pre-styler that adds oomph, texture and semi-matte hold. You can even use it with Clay Pomade for extra grit. It only contains good stuff, like jojoba oil, bamboo leaf extract and green tea extract, and it’s seriously easy to use: spray into wet or damp hair, style with or without heat, and just get on with your day.
Daily Fortifying Conditioner gets rave reviews for it’s tingling, minty fresh scent and hair-loving ingredients of wheat protein, Vitamin E, and coconut extract. It offers weightless, silk conditioning and because you don’t need to apply generously, one bottle lasts for ages.
Hanz de Fuko
A relative newcomer to the men’s grooming scene, Hanz De Fuko was created in 2009 by childhood friends, David Alfonso and Christopher Zent. Born in San Francisco, the brand quickly gained a reputation for cult haircare products made with natural and organic ingredients.
While the full range covers skincare and haircare, the versatile, easy to use stylers are some of the best-known and best-loved in the business, and you only need to use a tiny bit.
When it’s all about bigging up the volume, we reach for Claymation. This hybrid wax offers excellent staying power and pliability with a semi-matte finish, lending a relaxed, textured look to the hair. Just warm up a small amount in the hands and apply.
For a beach-y finish with high hold, there’s Quicksand – an ingenious blend of wax and dry shampoo. This gritty paste is like a salt spray that keeps on giving; it adds volume, absorbs excess oil and gives a dead matte finish – with the benefit of weightless texture. The experts at HdF recommend it for second day looks (wash day plus one).
Untameable hair types will meet their match with Sponge Wax. Flexible, firm and with a matte finish, use it to create slept-in, textured styles on dry hair and smooth styles on damp hair. With long-lasting, pliable hold you can change it up throughout the day.
Horst Rechelbacher was heavily inspired by the science of ayurveda and founded Aveda in Minneapolis in 1978, creating his first product, a clove shampoo, over his kitchen sink with the help of two Ayurvedic doctors.
An early pioneer of holistic haircare, greater environmental responsibility, he established the Aveda Institute to train up the next generation of hair stylists, colourists and therapists.
Silver fox in the making? Bring out that badger streak with the famed Blue Malva Color Enhance Shampoo. This vivid, purple-hued shampoo is a miracle for white, grey, salt and pepper, very blonde or bleached hair, cleaning up the brassiest yellows to icy white, with noticeable pop. It’s harder to find in smaller quantities than one litre, so shop around for the best deal.
The thickening men’s hair care line, Invati, targets the achilles heel of hair loss. A solid five-star performer is the Aveda Advanced Thickening Foam. So simple to use, this leave-in foam adds reassuring bulk to the weakest of strands and uses rice protein to reinforce fragile hair, smooth frizz, add bounce and shine. Use before styling or drying naturally.
Looking for the perfect gel that doesn’t leave an oil slick? Aveda Men Pure-formance Firm Hold Gel is the holy grail of gel products. It’s lightweight, so it won’t weigh hair down, leaves zero residue, contains UV filters for extra sun protection, offers great hold and does all this without smelling like tropical bubblegum or some kind of cheap plastic toy.
American Crew started out as a professional only haircare brand founded by hair stylist David Raccuglia, in 1994. Pre-internet, being a salon-only brand was a strong sales tactic; customers got a hands-on demo from their barber, and a recommendation they could trust.
The recognisable styling ‘pucks’ are sensibly divided by the strength of hold and level of shine. American Crew Fiber has by far the most reviews on Amazon, and 68% gave it a 5 star rating. There are thousands of satisfied customers commending it for its strong, pliable hold and matte finish.
It’s suited to short hairstyles between 1-3 inches in length, which want height and texture. It also contains lanolin and beeswax, so it’s definitely not vegan.
We’re also partial to the Boost Powder, which adds grip, height and texture – especially useful when sprinkled into floppy, freshly washed hair, or fine, flat and very straight hair. Combine it at will with other products in the line.
Of the newcomers to the range, we’ll tip our hat to the Matte Clay Spray for mid to long lengths, and dirty hair, due to the oil-absorbing, dry shampoo effect. The premise is similar to Baxter’s Clay Spray – at half the price. Spray in and style with your fingers for medium hold and a matte finish.
Shu Uemura Art of Hair
Originally from Japan, Shu Uemura was a legendary makeup artist who worked in Hollywood with screen idols Shirley MacLaine, Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball at their peak. In 1964, he returned home to Tokyo and opened the Shu Uemura Makeup School. His first product was a cleansing oil for the skin, which remains a bestseller to this day.
In 2007, the company launched Art of Hair, a professional first hair care line, just a year before he died. His parting gift to the world is a superior collection organised by hair type, with products that regularly nudge five-star reviews.
Taking inspiration from yu-su-ru, the Japanese ritual of bathing hair in rice water, the new Izumi Tonic range is dedicated to reinforcing weak hair. The Strengthening Energising Water harnesses this hero ingredient and ceramide to transform hair into smooth, strong follicles. It works like a lightweight leave-in conditioner that you just apply to wet hair.
Like St. Jude in a jar, Ultimate Reset Masque is our patron saint of lost causes; whether that’s overly chemically treated, coloured, chlorinated or heated, or simply parched and straw-like, this mask is like super bond for frazzled follicles. Enriched with Japanese rice extract, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals its a deeply restorative treatment that’s worth the splurge.
Art of Styling Ishi Sculpt is an extremely versatile styling aid for all hair types that can create smooth or textured, reworkable matte looks – add it to your styling cabinet.
With the motto ‘we can do better’ Aussie brand Patricks delivers high performance grooming products in super-stylish packaging. It’s so good, and looks so cool, DC Comics tapped the brand to create an energising, anti-fatigue moisturiser under the banner of Wayne Enterprises, for anyone who aspires to live like the Gotham City billionaire/Batman.
Expect no less of the haircare formulas, which perform beyond expectation. They’ve put significant R&D into the ultra thickening range, if you’re happy to part with £68 for a shampoo. At a significantly lower price point, Lite Shampoo is far from entry level. Expressly designed for universal, non-thinning hair, it uses an impressive list of high-spec ingredients that includes scientifically-proven botanical extracts, tetrapeptides, essential vitamins and fatty acids to support the skin function and follicle growth cycle.
Alternatively, start your addiction and sample the range with the Discovery Set, which contains six travel-size versions of the SH1/CD1 Daily Thickening Shampoo and Conditioner, SH2/CD2 Deep Clean Shampoo and Moisturizing Conditioner and minis of the Lite Shampoo and conditioner. Take it on tour this summer and it will leave every rubbish hotel amenity in the shade.
We can’t mention Patricks without shouting out the styling range. The M2 Matte Finish, Medium Hold Styling Product is the brand’s bestseller and rightly so, because it ticks all the boxes: it promotes hair growth, nourishes the scalp, protects with UV filters, has a luxurious feel and a high-end scent to boot.