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Should You Use Hair Gel, Putty, Wax or Pomade?

Here’s the simple truth: hair matters. Texture, thickness, style. All of it matters. Facial hair, too. Of course, there are about a zillion products out there vying for your follicles’ attention so it’s crucial to know which ones you simply must-have in your arsenal. Rather than share our own personal favourites we asked experts like American Crew stylist Phoenix Thomson, salon owner Anthony Nader, Master Barber at Murdock London and 2015 Men’s Hairdresser of the Year Jules Togini which grooming products every man simply must-have. These include a wide variety of hairstyle tools like gel, putty, pomade, and wax.

Read on for truly helpful tips from men who know style without needing to read about it in a magazine or on a website. With their help you’ll have hands running through that smooth hair of yours in no time, unless of course you take a “hands-off” approach, which we’d totally understand–preservation is key after all.

1. Phoenix Thomson – Stylist at American Crew

Deciding which product to use can be a challenge sometimes. There’s styling wax for thick hair, matte air gel, pomade for a wet look, or fibre putty for something different. But alas, let’s not get you too overwhelmed here. Keep it simple. What finish would you like your hair to have? Matte or Shiny? If you’re feeling casual and enjoy texture, try drying in American Crew Ultramatte gel for a great hold and maximum matte texture. Prefer a tub? Rough American CREW defining paste or Fibre through dry hair and away you go.

Wearing a suit for work and want a more polished result? Apply a load of American Crew Firm Hold Gel to damp hair and allow to dry. Or if you want to speed it up, give it a blast with a hairdryer. Complete the dapper finish by wiping a small amount of pomade and combing it into place. If you have thick and coarse hair, use American Crew Liquid styling wax as your base, and refine the shape when dry with American Crew Grooming Cream.

For curls and longer lengths, American Crew Medium Hold Spray Gel is an excellent foundation when sprayed onto damp hair. It will give you a natural texture without the heaviness of cream or if you have wild unnamable curls. Try American Crew forming cream to damp hair to moisturise the curls and hold them in place. So if you’ve struggled with the age-old question, should I use wax or gel? Well, this should provide sufficient options based on your individual needs.

2. Anthony Nader – International Stylist and Founder RAW Anthony Nader Salon, Surry Hills

A guide to remember is the thinner the hair, the thinner your product should be. So stick to liquids or if it’s a paste or dry clay, make sure its fine in texture otherwise it’s going to not only weigh your hair down but also it will appear oily.

The thicker the hair the more you can really play with it, as your strands really do soak up the ingredients so this is your time to experiment. There are many effective products for thickness, including styling wax for thick hair, hair molding putty, and stronghold gels.

3. Master Barber at Murdock London

Ideally use a fibre gum instead of a gel such as Murdock’s Elastick. These work best for men who want a separated, messed up look to the hair without an overly-wet, crispy finish and are also great for shaping longer styles and difficult frizzy hair.

Putty is a great, versatile styling product that’s perfect for men who like a matte, messy look but with more moisture than what clay can offer. Putty is good for hair that needs control but still requires a conditioned look.

Waxes have great shaping abilities that help to design textured looks with a great shine finish. Wax controls and sets hair quickly and easily and is the best choice for styling quiffs without weighing hair down.

4. Jules Togini – Philips Shaving and Grooming ambassador and Men’s Hairdresser Of The Year

Hair Gel: The most commonly used product, gels typically have a high shine, very stronghold and it’s unlikely your hair will move throughout the day. The main advantage is that it works well with all hair types and lengths, however, it is probably the worst product for your hair health as the alcohol dries hair out, making it prone to breakage.

Putty: A matte product, very similar to wax, that is designed to achieve tousled, textured hairstyles with a stronghold. Most men’s hair putty products are water-soluble.

Wax:  Gives you that old-school wet look. Great in straight, wavy and particularly thick hair, styling wax is a good product to use for strong strength hold, Try not to use too much without washing because it will build up in your hair.

Pomade: The perfect partner for men with finer hair and/or longer hair who are after a pompadour hairstyle or any style shaped with a comb. Generally speaking, pomade has a lighter hold with plenty of shine, which differentiates it from hair wax.

A few quick takeaways: sea-salt spray is more or less a mandatory grooming accessory, shampoo and conditioner are as important as ever, quality beard maintenance using oils and moisturisers is essential, the right shaving products can make or break your face, skin and scalp hydration is fundamental and one shouldn’t be afraid to slap some dry clay on his skull. Hair molding putty can transform your look in a moment’s notice, but there are many other options depending on the look you crave.

You’ll also like:

How to Deal With Grey Hair
How Often Should Men Shampoo Their Hair?
50+ Best Short Hairstyles & Haircuts For Men

General FAQ

What does putty do to your hair?

When used on damp or wet hair, putty will add bulk and thicken up the hair, creating body and lift at the roots. Putty is a great option if you are worries about thinning hair.

What is the difference between pomade and putty?

Putty is a matte product that creates body and lift in the hair with a very stronghold. Pomade is typically a lighter hold with plenty of shine.