Whether you’d like to add volume, definition, or simply eliminate frizz, there’s a styling product that can get the job done and help ensure you have a great hair day—sans barber.
You’re out of bed, coffee is on, and you’re ready to start your day. But before you step out the door, you’ll face one big challenge: your hair. It often seems like a great hair day only happens when the barber messes with your mane, and somehow, it always looks perfect.
Sure, your barber knows some tricks, but the products he uses make all the difference. Hair care has made headway since the days of mousse and gel, and now you have a handful of creams and pastes to help you tame your tresses.
Types of Styling Products
Types of Styling Products
Hair wax is truly versatile, letting you shape and reshape your hair throughout the day. Though it’s strong, it doesn’t harden like gel, so if you notice a flyaway you can simply shape or comb it back into your ’do.
It’s great for mid-length or short hair, and can be used to create smooth hairstyles or a tousled bed-head kind of look. Hair wax gives your hair some definition, and is made for long-lasting style without looking too shiny or adding grease.
Perfect for: All-purpose styling without added shine.
Like a hair wax, putty will give you a strong, flexible hold, but with a matte finish that looks more natural. Putty also gives hair more volume and texture, which helps to make thin hair look thicker.
This styling product is perfect for creating a tousled, undone look, or adding a bit of volume to your mane.
Perfect for: Adding volume and creating messy hairstyles.
If you’re a fan of the slick, Mad Men style, pomade is for you. Similar to wax, pomade gives you all-day hold while still being moldable. The big difference between pomade and wax or putty is that pomade has a glossy, high-shine finish that looks more polished, making it perfect for the office or formal events.
Pomade works well in just about any hair length, and can help create the perfect smoothed-down style with strong definition, without looking too wet or greasy.
Perfect for: Creating a polished look.
If you need your hair to stay in place all day, gel is your go-to. This styling product helps tame thick hair, and is perfect for creating some retro ’dos, like John Travolta’s style in Grease.
You can apply gel to wet or dry hair for different looks, but once it’s dry, your hair is set for the day. Though gel dries hard, it creates a high-shine, wet-looking finish.
Perfect for: A style that will stay all day.
For a natural look with a light texture, try a styling cream. Unlike other styling products, cream adds just a touch of hold and shine to create healthy looking hair. Styling cream is perfect for curly, wavy, or long locks, and helps tame frizz when used in wet hair.
Overall, it doesn’t add volume or help to hold your hair firmly in place, but it will help you look effortlessly put-together.
Perfect for: Taming frizz and creating natural-looking styles.
A day at the beach can be great for your tan, but even better for your hair. Salt water adds a little oomph to your locks for a natural, slightly wind-swept style that’s effortlessly cool. Like a beach day for your hair, salt spray adds texture to bring out tousled waves for a laid-back surfer look.
This product is great for mid-length to long hair with a natural wave, and is easy to use: simply spray and scrunch, and you’re on your way.
Perfect for: Creating tousled, beachy waves
This classic, all-purpose styling product has been a grooming staple for generations, and for good reasons. Hairspray is versatile, and helps keep hair in place without the heaviness of a wax, putty or pomade, or the shine of gel. It can also add a bit of volume to your ’do, or be used to tame fly-aways and frizz.
It comes in a number of different formulas for different hair types and styles, but the main difference is the amount of hold it provides: light, medium or strong. Like any styling product, less is more with hairspray. It should only take a bit to set your hair in place, and using too much can add a lot of shine or create a hard, sticky shell.
Perfect for: Setting a style while maintaining a natural look
If you’re looking to add volume without too much texture, this is the product to use. Mousse rose to popularity in the 1980s when big hair was the rage, and even though styles have tamed since then, mousse is still quite popular. It’s fairly versatile, and can be used in wet or dry hair to enhance curls, or simply to add volume and hold.
When used in wet hair and air-dried, it gives a wet, shiny look like gel, but it doesn’t dry quite as hard. When it’s used in blow-dried styles, it adds volume and hold. Like hairspray, there are many different kinds of mousse for different hair types and styles, and it comes in light, medium and strong holds.
Perfect for: Adding volume and hold without too much texture
Hair styling tips:
- If you’re not sure how much product to use, start with a very small amount, then add more if needed.
- If you’re styling with wax, putty or pomade, rub some between your hands before applying. This makes the product easier to work through your hair.
- Adding too much product can weigh hair down or make it look greasy. Less is more.
- Wash your hair regularly to avoid product build-up.
- If you’re washing wax out of your hair, start by applying shampoo to dry hair, rinse, then repeat with wet hair.
- Pat your hair dry—don’t rub! This creates frizz and can cause breakage.
A touch of shine in your style can help pull your look together, especially if you’re dressing for business casual, semi-formal, or formal occasions.
Products like gel, pomade and mousse can all add shine to your coiffure to look a little extra polished.
On the other end of the hairstyle spectrum, a matte product won’t add shine to your hair. This type of product can still be used to create a style that complements formal wear, but it’s also perfect for laid-back looks, like a tousled ’do or a quick, slicked-back style.
Putty and wax are usually matte, but it’s always best to check the label first.
Every hair product is formulated with a holding strength: strong, medium, or light. This feature is usually labelled clearly on the packaging, and the variation is more common with hairspray, gel and mousse.
If you need your hair to stay in place all day, try a strong hold. If a little movement is okay, try light or medium.
Products like wax, putty and pomade all hold a style in place, but stay pliable after they set, unlike hairspray, gel or mousse.
This makes it easier to fix your hair throughout the day, in case you need to re-shape or re-touch your ’do.