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The Best Men’s Hair Gels

We tested some of the best men’s hair gel on thick, straight hair and thin, fine hair to find out which ones have the most flexibility and holding power but also don’t make your head look like it’s been shellacked. The best men’s hair gel for all hair types is Johnny B – Mode, and the men’s hair gel that gets you more gel for your buck is Gentlemen Republic – Refined Molding Gel.

Our Top Choices

Best for All Hair Types

Johnny B


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Best Value

Gentlemen Republic


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Best Salon Look

American Crew

Firm Hold

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We tested some of the best men’s hair gel on thick, straight hair and thin, fine hair to find out which ones have the most flexibility and holding power but also don’t make your head look like it’s been shellacked. The best men’s hair gel for all hair types is Johnny B – Mode, and the men’s hair gel that gets you more gel for your buck is Gentlemen Republic – Refined Molding Gel.

A primary ingredient in all hair gel is water, and combined with thickeners and emulsifiers, it creates a substance that’s easy to apply and makes your hair look well-groomed. Many gels also have alcohol in the top three ingredients, and with daily use, they’ll dry out your hair. A few gels, like our top picks Johnny B – Mode and Gentlemen Republic – Refined, are alcohol free, and these can be used frequently without damaging your hair.

Hair gel might not give you the textured, natural look for your expensive haircut, so we’ve also reviewed other men’s hair products you might want to try instead.


Johnny B - Mode: Best for All Hair Types

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Johnny B – Mode is one of the few gels you could use to style your hair every day because it’s alcohol free. Its proprietary blend of ingredients adds holding power, hydration and moisture to hair that other gels don’t.

The neon-blue gel has a pleasant, fresh scent, and it can be applied to any hair type or length. Johnny B Mode leaves a high shine and a medium hold, so you can rock an ultra-spiked look or blow-dry for a soft, natural look that holds its shape. Johnny B is widely available online, and it’s frequently recommended by barbers and stylists.


Gentlemen Republic - Refined: Best Valuer

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Another alcohol-free, fresh-smelling gel is Johnny B’s main competition, Gentlemen Republic – Refined Molding Gel. It has a thick, whipped texture that holds peaks like meringue, and it seems to melt off your fingertips when you massage it into damp hair.

Gentlemen Republic has a high-hold factor, so a little goes a long way. We suggest experimenting with small amounts, as our tester did, to get the final look you want. It dries quickly, but you still have time to shape your hair into position before it sets. Even a few dabs of Gentlemen Republic adds a healthy shine.Read more…

Used sparingly, this is a great gel for any hairstyle. However, applied heavily, it hardens solid to an immovable mass. Gentlemen Republic – Refined comes in 8 ounces and, for a few dollars more, 16 ounces, which is a bargain for the number of applications you’ll get.


American Crew - Firm Hold

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American Crew – Firm Hold has many of the same ingredients as other gels, but it has a few additions that put this excellent product near the top of our list. Three ingredients — quillaja saponaria bar, panax ginseng extract and safflower seed oil — have been proven to promote hair growth by stimulating the scalp and providing fatty acids. We immediately noticed the difference: Our tester’s hair looked healthy and full.

The American Crew gel has a subtle soap scent, and it’s only slightly sticky, which made it easy to apply. You could let the American Crew gel dry on its own for a groomed, shiny look that won’t feel like helmet hair. Or you could you use a blow dryer for professional-salon results. After blow-drying, our tester’s hair felt like it had been treated with an expensive conditioner, and he was able to reposition the styling with his fingers throughout the day.Read more…

The American Crew gel is available in various sizes, and it’s well-priced, since you’ll only need a small amount every time you groom your hair.


Paul Mitchell - Extra Body Sculpting Gel

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Paul Mitchell – Extra-Body Sculpting Gel is a lightweight gel with medium hold that adds volume and softness to hair. It’s not really a gel for a wet look, since it has low shine, and when it dries, hair looks stuck together and crunchy. However, if you have the time and patience for styling your hair, then the Paul Mitchell gel helps you get that salon look when used with a blow dryer on damp hair.

As you blow dry this gel, you can actually feel your hair thickening and building up in height. Once hair is dry, it can then be shaped with a brush or, even better, with your fingers for a more natural style. Since the Paul Mitchell gel’s hold isn’t as firm as other gels we tested, you would need to finish your styling with a few spritzes of hairspray to keep it in place.


Sexy Hair Style - Hard Up

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Sexy Hair Style – Hard Up Gel certainly does as its name implies. With a hold level of 10 and shine level at nine, this gel is intended for spiked-up hair. Sexy Hair doesn’t add any body, volume or texture like other gels, but it does make your hair, no matter the type or length, stand straight up. Depending on how much you apply, this stuff can keep your hair elevated for hours.

Sexy Hair squeezes out of its tube like strawberry-scented, sky-blue toothpaste, and it’s very sticky to the touch. Think of it as super glue for hair. Our tester experimented with molding his hair into several positions, and it was actually pretty fun to see how wild he could go with it. Sexy Hair is water-soluble, but it takes a lot of rinsing to wash it all out.


Old Spice - Swagger Gel

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We admit we tested Old Spice – Swagger Gel with some trepidation. Its name, first of all, implied the gel was scented with the famous (or infamous) Old Spice fragrance that our grandpas wore. We were surprised and relieved that its scent is subtle and mildly fruity, but even better, it has a strong hold with low shine. Although our tester’s hair dried stiff, he could work it with his fingers and shape it into a more natural appearance.

The unpronounceable ingredients are actually common for hair products that serve as protection against UV rays and humidity. Unfortunately, Swagger’s third ingredient is alcohol, so like gels of yore, it could harm your hair with frequent use.


Garnier Fructis Style - Pure Clean

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Advertised as 98% naturally derived, Garnier Fructis Style – Pure Clean has a strong hold that can tame frizzy, curly and other unmanageable hair. It has a clean scent, like shampoo, and when dried, you can leave it as-is or style it with your fingers. Even worked through dry hair, Pure Clean imbued a sheen to our tester’s hair. However, once brushed out, the gel didn’t add any body, and his hair lay flat.

We were curious about Garnier Fructis Style’s marketing that this gel is naturally derived and researched its ingredients. They are, in fact, chemicals processed from herbal, vegetal and mineral sources, so their claim sort of holds up. Pure Clean’s other 2% is benzyl alcohol, which isn’t much overall. Even though Pure Clean is very inexpensive, we still prefer other gels with no alcohol at all.


Dove+Men Care - Control Gel

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Dove Men+Care Control Gel is one of several skin and hair products that Dove markets to men. It’s very much like Old Spice – Swagger Gel and Garnier Fructis – Pure Clean: a thick, clear gel that has strong hold. If you like the wet look, the Dove gel gleams when applied to damp hair. It can also be brushed out, and it left our tester’s hair feeling full and soft. The Dove gel has an interesting scent: Online reviewers call it “masculine,” but we’d describe it as smelling more like apple pie.

Although Dove performed well, we take issue with its claim that this gel is an “alcohol-free formula.” The third primary ingredient is propylene glycol, a commonly used humectant that’s in cosmetics and hair products. By definition, however, propylene glycol is indeed an alcohol, and as the third ingredient, Dove gel will likely dry out your hair.Read more…

Dove gel also has two preservatives — methylparaben and propylparaben — both of which have been deemed safe by the FDA, but are still being studied by the FDA for possible links to cancer. You can choose whether to use products with parabens, but we’ll play it safe and recommend our top picks over Dove Men+Care – Control Gel.

Gene Gerrard, Writer

Gene has written about a wide variety of topics for too many years to count. He's been a professional chef, cooking-appliance demonstrator, playwright, director, editor of accountancy and bank-rating books, Houdini expert and dog lover (still is). When he's not writing for Your Best Digs, he's performing as a magician at the Magic Castle in Hollywood.

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