We Tested 50 Men’s Hair Goops. Here Are The Best (#GotBitcoin?)
Though most fuzzy-haired fellas put some product in their hair, finding the exact pomade or wax that suits your needs can be maddening. We tried 50 so you don’t have to. We Tested 50 Men’s Hair Goops. Here Are The Best (#GotBitcoin?)
IN MY MIDDLE-SCHOOL years, filled with suburban tween angst, I began spiking my hair. It was my first stab at quasi-rebellion, one inspired by the Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, whom I admired though he had died well before my birth. Each morning, I would squeeze out a dollop of cement-strength gel and mash it into my hair until I looked sufficiently electrocuted. I prided myself on the look (my first instant-messenger alias was Spikekid13), but I’d never style my hair that way today nor squirt that particular product into my hair. Gel is too gloppy, too glossy and too glue-like for my thick, straight strands, which I wear slightly up, slightly pushed to the side (think Armie Hammer’s swoopy hair without the Hollywood polish).
Today, I prefer hair products that come in a jar rather than a tube. As a parameter, however, “comes in a jar” is next to useless. Given the paralyzingly vast selection—including waxes, petroleum-based pomades and clays—how do you choose one that coifs without overly crystallizing your ‘do a la “Tutti Frutti”-era Little Richard? I’ve had waxes that wilt by lunch, pomades that shine like the Bat-Signal and clays that harden my hair to the texture of burned toast. Like many men, I remain on a perpetual quest for the ideal hair product. “It took just years of experimenting with all these different products to find something that would hold but not be too sticky,” said Victor Solomon, 37, a Los Angeles artist who finally found Cool Grease, a Japanese pomade that collaborates well with his medium-length “pretty wavy” hair.
Once you find that acceptably priced product with the right degree of hold and no disqualifying quirks, allegiance comes easy. Caleb Spicer, 33, a showroom manager for a fitness company in Atlanta, has used Baxter of California’s pomade since 2010. One key selling point: It’s odorless. “A lot of the men’s hair stuff just reeks of fragrance,” he said. “Maybe you’re kissing your wife or your girlfriend and you don’t want your head to smell like perfume.”
Nick Belmonte, a barber at New York salon Blind Barber, noted that “off-putting” colors or smells can be reason enough to veto a product. Generally, he said, a quick dip into the jar can tell all you need to know about a product. “You can usually get a good sense of the hardness and how tacky it’s going to be in your hair.”
With that advice in mind, I set out to save the rest of you a lot of time by masochistically testing 50 different jar-based hair products over a week. I found (and Mr. Belmonte backed up this assessment) that most keep your hair in place. It was the minor differences—how long it lasts, how hard it is to wash out, how it smells—that make a major difference. At right, four that rose to the fore.
Our Top Picks
Take these recommendations with a grain of salt; needless to say, every man’s hair is different so try a few, Goldilocks-style
Best Light Hold
Redken Brews ‘Outplay Texture’
Pomade is the right option if you comb your hair over to the side and want a natural look that won’t fall out of place. Unlike many pomades, it doesn’t have a shine, for a more modern, less Mad-Men-glossy sheen. Pomade, $18.50, ulta.com
Best Medium Hold
Shu Uemura ’Master’
This wax achieves a highly textured, natural look even as the day goes on, without melting. Caution: This stuff can rub off on one’s hands and leave a slight residue.Wax, $39, shuuemuraartofhair-usa.com
Best Heavy Hold
Hanz De Fuko ‘Heavymade’
Many of the stronger stylers froze too “hard” on my head, but this water-based pomade had a pliant texture that allowed me to ease my hair into place before it set with a windproof hold. Pomade, $23, hanzdefuko.com
Bumble & Bumble’s ‘Sumotech’
This elastic compound—“part wax, part paste, part creme”—gave my hair lift that lasted. Plus, no extraneous shine or scent factor. This is the one I’ll keep using. Cream, $29, bumbleandbumble.com