If clothes truly maketh the man, then your hairstyle should be recognised as the single most important accessory to completing the transformation. Whether thick and unruly, shiny and slick, short and rigid – one’s haircut of choice often says more about you than what you wear, say or do. Having said that, one can hardly be blamed for getting lost in the overwhelming shuffle of hair products that easily inundate our favourite store’s shelves.
Which is why Ape has produced the definitive guide to the best men’s hair products on the market – from shampoos and conditioners to pomades and hair sprays – to help ensure your barnet always looks on point.
How to Use This Guide
Like picking a haircut that suits your face shape, the type of products you choose should be determined by your hair’s length and texture – otherwise known as hair type. Below you’ll find a variety of common hair types, along with appropriate product recommendations.
From there, choose your desired look in terms of hold and shine. Everything that falls in the ‘Medium’ box should be suitable for most hair types. Only when you stray outside of the box do these hair products for men become a little more niche. Within each category you’ll find Ape’s key recommendation, based on our own experiences and feedback from readers.
For those lucky enough to have straight hair, there really is no restriction in terms of usable hair products. Mould to any style with almost any product. The biggest considerations will be the amount of hold and shine you require to suit your chosen look.
Curly hair, once a target for the playground bully, is now highly desirable. Thick, full and textured, it can be left alone for a natural style. However, for a little more control of the hairs’ overall shape, apply a styling cream. You might also consider a mousse for definition, texture and a healthy-looking appearance.
Given the nature of short hair, similar to straight hair, most styling products will work well here. Just consider hold and shine to suit a chosen look.
Despite a large proportion of men dealing with hair loss, believe it or not, some men do ‘suffer’ with thick hair. Thick, weighty and dense by nature. A stronger hold styling product is required here to maintain a chosen style. A high-hold pomade or clay is your weapon of choice, depending on your required shine.
The focus for thinning or receding hair is texture and volume. No need to book in for a hair transplant just yet, gentlemen. Instead, choose a lighter, matte styling products to avoid weighing hair down. Solutions include root boost powders, salt sprays, clays, pastes or hair spray.
Ape’s Hair Products for Men Matrix
Hair Products for Men Explained
You have two choices to make here. High-shine or Low-Shine (matte) and High-Hold or Low-Hold. High-Shine will reflect light, making hair appear glossy. Low-Shine, on the other hand, will absorb light and provide a more natural, matte appearance.
Hold is self explanatory: the choices comes down to whether or not you prefer a High-Hold, which offers little or no movement, or Low-Hold for a more natural-looking style, but with a little control.
High-Hold with Low-Shine
Easy to mould, but once you’re done styling, clay stays in place with a high-hold and dries to a matte finish. In truth, they do range from thick and sticky to a creamy consistency (our preference is the former).
Many contain bentonite, a natural ingredient from volcanic ash. It makes hair feel ‘fatter’ by adding body, thickness and structure to individual hairs. The result is a strong hair structure and stability throughout the day.
Other benefits include the ability to draw dirt and impurities from the hair without drying it. It’s also naturally stimulating and nourishing, thanks to a rich mineral and nutrient content.
Recommended: Baxter of California Clay Pomade
Conceived in 1965, Baxter of California has consistently strived for greatness as the West Coast-based brand continues to churn out products admired and consumed by some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest. Ideal for all hair types, the natural clay based pomade offers a firm hold with a clean matte finish.
Generally providing a lighter hold than a clay or putty, fibre is good for casual, everyday texture. It provides reworkable styling with a medium-hold and low-shine.
Recommended: American Crew Fiber
Fiber, from men’s hair specialists American Crew, is wildly popular. Optimal for gents with shorter hair, this fiber-like resinous wax adds volume and texture helping to create a firm, pliable hold with low-shine.
Not to be confused with hair paste, putty boasts a similar or slightly firmer hold but with a softer, reworkable finish. It’s more tacky and almost glue-like in consistency. They will traditionally produce a matte effect.
Recommended: Sebastian Matte Putty
This powdery paste is soft on the inside, yet supple on the outside. Moisturising and malleable, it provides a solid hold and low shine finish.
A good paste will act as a texturiser while providing a medium hold and low shine/matte finish. It offers increased volume and the ability to restyle easily throughout the day. Rub a little in your palms first to warm it, allowing easier distribution. It will rethicken and harden once it cools and sets in hair.
Recommended: Mr Natty Paste
Developed by celebrity hairstylist Matt Raine, the artistry of his brilliance is on full display in his collaboration with Mr Natty. Subtly fragrant, the paste masterfully achieves that natural groomed aesthetic with a clean, silk-like finish.
High-Hold with High-Shine
Gel might have been popular 20 years ago but for good reason – it delivers a strong hold and plenty of healthy shine. Choose a gel with conditioners to avoid that ‘crispy’ look, which can cause flaking or unwanted residue. It’s worth noting that gels are available in varying strengths so choose wisely to suit your desired outcome and hair type.
Recommended: Bumble and Bumble Sumogel
“It’s gel, all grown up.” In a nutshell, a modern gel. An evolution of that flakey, wet-look gel you used to slather on at school. The solid formula adds a reflective quality, ideal for slicked back haircuts that require high-hold with added shine.
For a long time the styling weapon of choice for women, hair spray is becoming increasingly popular for men. And for good reason: it offers the perfect balance between hold and volume. There are many varieties with varying degrees of hold but its original purpose was to fix hair in place, and ensure it stayed fixed, so we’ve categorised it as high-hold.
Recommended: Schwarzkopf got2b Glued Blasting Freeze Spray
For an extremely strong hold, to fix a chosen style in place all day long. Schwarzkopf claim your hair will metaphorically freeze – until the next shampoo.
Wax delivers a firm-yet-pliable hold with moderate amounts of shine, although the finish can vary from product to product. More pliable than gel and hair spray, wax can be restyled as desired and won’t harden. It should retain a healthy shine throughout the day.
A water-based wax with medium hold and a satin finish. Iridescent mica delivers a natural shine, while a blend of oils including clove leaf, eucalyptus and sage will moisturise and condition your hair and stimulate hair growth.
The original hairstyler now comes in a variety of options, but a classic formula will deliver a generous amount of hold and a high-shine. The result is a neat, slick style that won’t dry out. We advise a water-based pomade, which is easily washed out. Oil-based pomades are a cheaper alternative but can strip hair of its natural oils and clog pores.
Recommended: Malin+Goetz Hair Pomade
Industry acknowledged for the its clever blend of ‘nature and science’, Malin+Goetz’s firm-hold styling pomade sculpts without the hassle of residue, irritable scalp and heavy-feeling hair. Meadowfoam seed, cannabis sativa seed and soybean extracts hydrate the hair and give it a healthy looking definition.
Low-Hold with Low-Shine
Salt spray is best used on wet or damp hair before applying something heavier. The salt acts like a dry shampoo to absorb grease, and delivers a textured look that you usually only get from a day at the beach.
Recommended: Murdock London Monmouth Sea Salt Spray
Designed to add instant volume and matte texture to your hair. Natural oils and extracts provide a refreshing scent, while sea salt delivers unrivalled performance. Spritz through wet or dry hair before styling for that fresh-from-the-beach look.
For those seeking light hold with very little shine, try a cream styling product. Best applied to towel-dried hair, you’ll see light control and direction without locking hair in place. The result is natural-looking hair but with a subtle hold.
Some may contain moisturising ingredients like silk amino acids, olive oil or chamomile for added hydration.
Recommended: Bumble and Bumble Texture Creme
Beauty and grooming giant Bumble and Bumble more than live up to the hype with the creation of this innovative styling crème. Suitable for all hair types, this cutting-edge product allows for a firm and tousled, shine-free finish.
A lotion provides light control for a natural look with slight definition. A great choice for those who want a little control, a natural look and not a lot of styling product. Perfect for creating that barely-styled look, with minimal effort.
Recommended: American Crew Light Hold Texture Lotion
Providing light control for fine or thin hair of all lengths, resulting in a natural look. Formulated with natural extracts like ginseng to make hair look thicker. This is an excellent choice for those who want light control in their hair without using a lot of styling product.
Also known as volumising powder, except texture sounds a little more manly, apparently. Shake a small amount into your palms and distribute into dry hair. Focus on the roots and you’ll see instant volume. Texture powder can be used alone but it’s more of a layering product – so again, add a something heavier after.
Recommended: American Crew Boost Powder
Designed to give hair an instant lift, increase thickness and create a matte finish. A weightless powder which adds ‘grit’ for improved texture. Just sprinkle it lightly and evenly on dry hair, making sure the product lands at the root for maximum volume.
Low-Hold with High-Shine
Not always a popular choice for men but a foamy mousse will surround hair strands with chemical compounds called polymers, resulting in a fuller appearance.
Many mousses are specifically formulated to thicken fine hair with agents like rice protein and rosemary, making it perfect for men with hair that’s starting to thin.
Recommended: Moroccanoil Volumising Mousse
Designed to achieve full-bodied volume and lift. Its flake-free formula and medium, flexible hold provides ‘memory’ factor for natural-looking styles that last longer. Infused with antioxidant-rich argan oil and an anti-static agent for healthy-looking hair and improved manageability.
A shaping balm can enhance, nourish and hydrate dry hair. It will condition, soften and shape hard-to-manage hair too. The result is a healthy shine and a medium-hold.
Best avoided if you have oily or greasy hair as the added moisture in a hair balm will only exacerbate the problem.
Recommended: Aesop Violet Leaf Hair Balm
Delivers volume and conditioning to soften and shape hard-to-manage hair. A welcome alternative to all-too-common greasy, sticky, silicone-based shaping products.
Available in a variety of formulas but most commonly as a liquid styling gel-like product. A texturiser will add definition, enhance waves and curls while delivering a flexible, light hold with a healthy shine. Use alone or underneath something heavier.
Recommended: Sebastian Texturizer
Made with wheat and soya protein, this liquid gel tones individual strands of curly or straight hair. The result is increased definition, enhanced texture and more volume.
With a slick consistency, serum is used to reduce frizz and impart silkiness. Ideal for dry, brittle hair, it can soften locks. For a quick shine boost, put a few drops on wet, shampooed hair and then rinse it out.
Recommended: TIGI Bed Head Control Freak Serum
Light and greaseless, your hair is left with a straight, glossy finish. Apply to wet or dry hair for an ultra-sleek and super-smooth look and feel.
Hair Styling Bundles
If you want to take the hassle out of picking the right styling product, try a bundle. Tribal Chimp offers a particular strong solution with two differing bundle options, featuring its bestselling products. They are split depending on whether you want a matte or wet finish.
Recommended: Tribal Chimp
Weekend Vibes Bundle: designed for those who desire a medium-to-strong, flexible hold with plenty of volume and a matte finish. Think intentional, unintentional casual style. The bundle includes 3 x Hair Styling Powder, 1 x Matte Cream, 1 x Styling Clay, 1 x Styling Comb and 1 x Exclusive Platinum Club Membership Card.
Everyday Hustler Bundle: delivers a medium-to-strong hold with a slick shine for all lengths and hair types. It’s ideal for creating slicked-back styles and ensures a strong hold with a wet finish. Think Don Draper in Mad Men or Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders and you’ll be on the right track. The bundle includes 3 x Hair Styling Powder, 1 x Classic Pomade, 1 x Styling Clay, 1 x Styling Comb and 1 x Exclusive Platinum Club Membership Card.
Ape readers will benefit from entering code ‘ape20’ at checkout for a flat $20 discount on the purchase of these bundles.
Shampoo & Conditioners
The key with any shampoo and conditioner is to ensure your hair, whatever its type, is reset back to its natural state.
For Normal Hair (Straight, Curly, Short or Thick)
If you’re blessed with straight, curly, short or thick hair, when it comes to shampoo and conditioner, you’re fine to use products designed for ‘normal hair’.
Recommendation: Aesop Shampoo & Conditioner
Aesop Shampoo: Aesop’s Shampoo utilises a suite of sophisticated ingredients, including Frankincense and Panthenol, to cleanse strands and scalp, and help effect soft, shiny, fragrant hair.
Aesop Conditioner: Light enough for frequent use, Aesop’s Conditioner leaves hair soft and clean without weighing it down. Enriched with amino acids to soften and hydrate most hair types, including fine, fragile and coloured.
For Oily Or Greasy Hair
If you have oily hair, a shampoo which removes excess oil but doesn’t strip hair of its natural oils is the pinnacle.
Recommended: Avalon Organics Clarifying Lemon Shampoo & Conditioner
Avalon Organics Clarifying Lemon Shampoo: For hair that is dull or lacklustre, with lemon essential oil, quinoa protein, aloe and vitamin E. It gently clarifies, brightens and remove excess oils and dulling build up. The result is natural highlights, colour and shine are restored.
Avalon Organics Clarifying Lemon Conditioner: Again, for hair that is dull or lacklustre, with similar lemon essential oil, quinoa protein, chamomile extract, aloe and vitamin E to gently condition and seal the hair cuticle. The result is shine restored without excess oil.
For Dry Hair
Those with dry hair need to quench its thirst with a shampoo that has moisture-boosting or ‘hydrating’ properties.
Recommended: Malin+Goetz Shampoo & Conditioner
Malin+Goetz Hydrating Shampoo: Featuring a range of natural ingredients including panthenol, amino acid hydration technology and a range of botanicals, hair is given a moisturising boost. The shampoo cleans hair and conditions whilst repairing damage caused by the sun, chemicals and other environmental factors.
Malin+Goetz Intensive Hair Conditioner: An intensive hair conditioner formulated with meadowfoam seed, grapeseed oil and olive oil, as well as essential fatty acids and wheat amino acids. Also included are antioxidants. The conditioner will hydrate, protect, and nourish hair. The result: hair looking and feeling lustrous and soft, with added moisture.
Recommended: Alpecin Double Effect Shampoo
Alpecin Double Effect Shampoo: made with a caffeine complex to fight against dandruff and hair loss. Firstly, the shampoo loosens scaly, keratinous cells and helps remove dandruff from the scalp. And then with the scalp cleared of dandruff, the caffeine complex can penetrate into the hair root and help strengthen it against hair loss. Two birds with one stone.
It’s a good idea to leave off the conditioner if you suffer with dandruff.