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When we ask dudes in our chairs what they are using for hair product, we often get a blank stare. Or we get a response of "paste" or "gel," which, upon further questioning, we determine to be a product that is neither one of those things. It's like how in certain places, all soda is referred to by a sound effect, or one single shortened brand name. Don't @ us.
A lot of folks, men in particular, seem completely confounded by hair product, and for good reason. There is a lot to know as far as general categories of hair product, not even getting into those obscenely complicated ingredient lists.
Today we are going to give you a brief overview of all the basic varieties of hair product, what they do, who should be using them, and how to get the best out of them.
These labels can apply to a variety of products that can range from low to medium shine, and usually medium to high hold. Most give you moderate to heavy stick and solid texture, and can be restyled throughout the day.
Despite what the product calls itself, what you are really looking for is the hold and shine level. Low shine varieties are best on fine to medium hair, while the medium shine (usually natural shine level with a little extra definition) are good for medium to thicker hair.
Remember, low shine adds bulk to hair, high adds definition and reduces the hair helmet look. Thick hair paired with matte product can make you look like a Lego man. Choose accordingly.
Apply to completely dry to ever so slightly damp hair (we highly prefer fully dry and pre-styled). Emulsify a small amount between hands and touch them to the hair, moving it this way and that, allowing the hair to pick up product off your hands as opposed to working it into the hair to get good distribution without gooping it up too much.
Once you get enough on there, wipe your hands off and style with your fingertips. These products can be a bit variable in hold, so start small and you can add more for additional hold.
Clays and muds have a form and function really close to pastes and fibers, but this category's products, as the names imply, have earth stuff in them. Because clays aren't usually as dry as pastes and fibers, they are generally more reworkable throughout the day.
If you have oily hair, we will generally recommend a clay over a paste, because clay actively absorbs oil! That being said, not all clays are dry products. The dry matte clays are great for textured styles, while softer clays are excellent at combing up classic styles.
The same way as pastes and fibers, although softer clays do well with a combing.
Wax isn't a product you want all over your whole head, it is more for adding texture and definition through the ends of the hair.
Wax is best used on medium to thick, straight hair. If you want to look like an anime character, this is your goo.
Spread a small amount over your fingertips and work through ends of hair to add definition.
In the days of yore, most pomade was made with bacon fat. Straight up lard in your hair. Today things are more of the vegetarian variety (although many are not vegan) because beeswax is a common, if not universal, base. Some pomades are even water-based these days, and will rinse out as easily as a gel would. And MY do we have a lot of varieties of all the types these days.
While not recommended for thin and/or fine hair, a pomade is perfect for medium to thick hair and slick, old school, classic styles. Gel-lovers, meet your new best friend.
Scoop out a dab, work between your palms to warm and emulsify, and work in to completely dry, pre-styled hair, root to tip, paying special attention to the middle of the top of your head. Comb through thoroughly and style with long comb strokes, adding more pomade if needed (start lighter, but you can often go real heavy on this stuff.
We often hear reports of men putting hairspray in wet hair and letting it air dry, which is about as opposite of its intended use as you can get. Hairspray is a finishing fixative, used to set an already done style.
Any type is fine for hairspray if your style needs some finishing. There are softer hold sprays, like a texturizing spray to add a little oomph to overly soft, flat hair, stronger sprays for finishing everything from pomadours to updos, and everything in between.
Style your hair however you do, dry naturally or with a blowdryer, apply product or not, and finish with a bit of spray, held 8 to 12 inches from your head.
We should probably begin by saying that we do not even carry what folks commonly think of "gel" in our shop (the 90s-style giant tub o'goo), because we believe those should burn in the fires of Mount Doom (and they might, with the sky high alcohol content many of them have). More modern gel products have their place in many parts of hair styling, but in the cuts that are our specialty, anything gel can do, pomade can do better.
We like to use gel's tacky nature to give some grip to super soft, silky hair, especially blow dried in.
Gel can have many uses, but for us we like it as a pre-styler, adding some to damp hair and blow drying in to add movable, touchable hold that doesn't even feel like you have anything in there, or using a little in dry hair to add some more solid hold.