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The Best Men’s Hair Products

There’s a dizzying array of men’s hair products on the market, but finding the one that works best for you can be a frustrating and expensive trial-and-error experience. We experimented with a wide range of men’s hair products and determined that American Crew – Defining Paste is the best product overall for grooming all hair types. If you have thick hair, American Crew – Fiber will give your hair body and control with a salon finish.

Our Top Choices

Best Overall

American Crew

Defining Paste

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Best for Thick Hair

American Crew


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Best for Fine Hair

Smooth Viking

Hydrating Fiber Cream

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There’s a dizzying array of men’s hair products on the market, but finding the one that works best for you can be a frustrating and expensive trial-and-error experience. We experimented with a wide range of men’s hair products and determined that American Crew – Defining Paste is the best product overall for grooming all hair types. If you have thick hair, American Crew – Fiber will give your hair body and control with a salon finish.

Important Features to Consider

Our tester has thick, straight hair that’s been cut to lengths varying from one-half inch at its shortest to eight inches at its longest. This cut allows him to style his hair for an upswept formal look or a finger-combed casual look, which both need different hair products to achieve. The tested products can be grouped into the following categories:

Pomade: Traditionally an oil-based product, most pomades are now water-based and have a gel-like consistency. Pomade can be applied to wet or towel-dried hair and usually has a high shine and strong hold. Generally, pomade is used on hair styles that are combed. Think Mad Men.

Fiber: There’s actually no fiber in hair-styling fiber. It’s a blend of beeswax, lanolin, oils and other ingredients in the form of a hard paste. Fiber needs to be warmed between your hands before applying and is most effective on dry, short or medium-length hair. Fiber has a matte (no shine) finish and adds texture to hair so it can be molded into shape.

Paste: Hair paste is the most versatile of men’s hair products. True to its name, it has a thick, paste-like consistency that can be applied to all types of hair and lengths. Once the paste is worked through, hair can be styled in any manner repeatedly after one application. Hair paste has a firm hold with a matte finish and no shine.

Cream: This is one of the easiest hair products to apply and is often combined with pomade and fiber. Hair cream is lightweight and doesn’t have a strong hold, so dry or barely damp hair can be styled loosely for a more casual look with a matte finish. Creams work on almost any hair length, but because they don’t have a strong hold, they’re not ideal for a spiked-up hairstyle.

Spray: We’re not referring to hairspray, but to products that are marketed equally to men and women: sea-salt sprays. The salt in these light sprays absorbs oils and adds texture and body, giving medium-length or long hair a tousled, surfer look.

If you’re looking for hair gel, we’ve reviewed the best hair gel in a separate article.


American Crew - Defining Paste: Best Overall

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The American Crew – Defining Paste is a great product for short-to-medium-length hair. It’s a thick paste that feels like softened wax, and for good reason, since one of its main ingredients is beeswax. Also blended into the paste are several oils and lanolin, all of which moisturize to your hair.

The American Crew paste can be applied to dry or towel-dried hair, but we found that we had more control when we used it to style dry hair. The paste needs to be warmed up by rubbing it between the palms of your hand and then using your fingers, raked through your hair. The paste separates hair into malleable strands so it looks naturally finger-combed.Read more…

The American Crew Defining Paste leaves your hair soft to touch but also held in place without stickiness. We also like its slightly herbal scent that dissipates soon after you’ve styled your hair.


American Crew - Fiber: Best for Thick Hair

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For a refined, just-out-of-the-salon look, American Crew – Fiber adds body and shine to thick hair. This is a traditional paste-like fiber, so it needs to be pre-warmed in your hands before applying. Initially, your hair will feel stiff, but as you finger-comb it through, your hair will loosen and can be molded into any position.

What we like so much about American Crew – Fiber is the holding power: Hair can be restyled any time throughout the day without reapplication.Read more…

American Crew Fiber has a light lemon scent, and even though its ingredients are similar to other hair products, it also contains cetearyl alcohol, a fatty alcohol derived from coconut and palm oil that’s often found in skin emollients and hair conditioners. Rather than dry hair out, cetearyl alcohol moisturizes it, which accounts for American Crew Fiber adding softness and fullness to our tester’s straight hair.


Smooth Viking - Hydrating Fiber Cream: Best for Fine Hair

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Despite Smooth Viking – Hydrating Fiber Cream’s instructions that it can be applied to dry or damp hair, we had better results with dry hair. On damp hair, it didn’t add much body and had a sticky finish. But on dry hair, it was a different product: It added volume and texture, which made hair easy to shape into a tousled or intentionally messy look.

Other fibers are stiff and waxy, but Smooth Viking has a creamy consistency and can be applied with your fingertips without warming it in your palms first. Its ingredient list includes rose hips, coconut, chamomile and green tea, which add a light, pleasant scent that won’t overpower your cologne.Read more…

Because it gives so much height to hair, Smooth Viking is ideal for short or medium-length hairstyles. Male and female reviewers on Amazon who have thinning or fine hair praise Smooth Viking for making their hair appear fuller. We tested it on a man with fine, thin hair, and Smooth Viking did make his hair thicker and more pliable.


Suavecito Pomade - Strong Hold

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Suavecito Pomade – Strong Hold is a favorite pomade for men and ladies who want to jack up their pompadour into a rockabilly style. It’s a water-soluble pomade that can be applied to either dry or wet hair, but it’s most commonly combed into damp hair. Suavecito is a strong-hold pomade with a gel-like consistency and a trademark scent that’s fresh and clean. Like most pomades, Suavecito is better for thick hair since it tends to weigh down thin hair, which gets plastered in streaks on the scalp.

Suavecito is easy to apply by simply rubbing it between your fingers and massaging it into your hair. Our tester noticed, however, that it dried a little too quickly as he combed his hair, and he needed to moisten his comb with water a few times so it wouldn’t get stuck. That said, the final result wasn’t a “wet look” but was more like the freshly groomed haircut you’d get at a barbershop.Read more…

A four-ounce jar of Suavecito goes for about $12, but a little of this pomade goes a long way, so it’s a good value.


Challenger - Matte Cream Pomade

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Challenger – Matte Cream Pomade is for gents who want a pomade that won’t leave a high shine. Challenger combines the benefits of a water-soluble pomade with hair cream: a firm hold without looking shiny. Its consistency is like thin toothpaste, and it can be effortlessly applied in seconds with your fingertips without warming it in your hands first.

Challenger should be applied to damp or towel-dried hair and combed through. This pomade dries hard like all pomades, but since it has a matte finish, it doesn’t give your hair that wet Elvis look. Once it’s dried, you can leave it as is, or you can brush or comb it out. If you have thick hair, Challenger adds body and height.Read more…

It does leave your hair a bit stiff, as a light-hold hairspray would do, and although it can be washed out without shampoo, it takes a lot of rinsing to wash it all out. Challenger packages the matte cream pomade in a 3-ounce size for $18 and a travel-friendly 1.5-ounce size for $11. It’s a bit pricey, but this is a superior product and worth trying.


Beauty by Earth - Sea Salt and Texturing Spray

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Beauty by Earth – Sea Salt and Texturizing Spray is a product that’s primarily marketed toward women who want to simulate “beach hair” without breaking out the curling iron. But if you’re a guy who couldn’t be bothered with grooming your hair into a coif, you should check out this sea salt spray.

Not all sea salt sprays actually have sea salt; some have epsom salt, but the Beauty by Earth spray contains sea salt, herbal ingredients — such as aloe vera (its primary ingredient), green tea, raspberry — minerals, oils and vodka. (Many hair products have alcohol, but it’s pretty funny that Beauty by Earth actually lists it as vodka.) We researched its ingredients, and overall, they’re beneficial for hair health. (Yes, even the vodka, which fights dandruff, reduces frizz and stimulates hair growth.)Read more…

Beauty by Earth has a floral, perfumy scent, which dissipates once it’s dried. Our tester needed to spray quite a bit on before he could work it into his hair. The spray doesn’t have much hold, but it did leave his hair looking and feeling like he’d taken a dip in the ocean.

It’s expensive stuff, though, $17 for a 6-ounce bottle, so we wouldn’t recommend it for everyday hair care. But if you occasionally want a fresh, sea-swept look, Beauty by Earth – Sea Salt Spray delivers.


Viking Revolution - Pomade

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We love Viking Revolution – Pomade’s scent — basil, mint and pine — and it has similar ingredients to its competitor, Suavecito, but it’s much thicker, almost resinous, which gave our tester problems with working it through his hair. This pomade is so thick, it’s like rolling a ball of wax, and no amount of pre-warming in our tester’s hands loosened it to a smooth consistency.

Unlike Suavecito, Viking Revolution wasn’t easy to comb through hair: Strands stuck together in clumps and made our tester’s hair appear shaggy rather than well-groomed. It’s water-soluble, but even with a lot of rinsing, it didn’t quite wash out and left a slick residue.Read more…

Viking Revolution has many fans who switched from Suavecito because it’s cheaper. We weren’t as impressed by Viking Revolution, but if you use a lot of pomade for hair and beard grooming (as Vikings do), then the $3 difference between the two pomades can add up. Viking Revolution – Pomade is a cost-effective option you might try.


Layrite - Natural Matte Cream

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Layrite is famous for its line of pomades created by barber Donnie Hawley (who promotes his products with instructional, if unintentionally amusing, YouTube videos). Layrite – Natural Matte Cream is similar to the Challenger Matte Cream Pomade; it has a creamy consistency that’s easy to apply with fingertips.

The Layrite cream has a medium hold and matte finish so it won’t firm up into a shiny helmet. It also rinses out easily with just water. The major difference between the products, however, is Layrite’s strong vanilla scent. It’s pleasant when the cream is applied, but hours later, our tester found it cloying and couldn’t wait to wash it out.


18.21 Man Made - Hair Paste

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Two things are immediately apparent when you open a jar of 18.21 Man Made – Hair Paste: its thick, almost rubbery consistency and an overpowering “sweet tobacco” aroma. 18.21 Man Made is a cross between a paste and a cream, but it really needs to be worked vigorously into your hair to avoid clumping.

Depending on how much you use — and we had to use more of 18.21 Man Made than the other products we tested — it has a medium hold and doesn’t dry hard. It also added body and pliability to our tester’s hair. Because it’s so thick, 18.21 Man Made cannot be washed out without shampoo.Read more…

As to the scent, for Amazon reviewers, it’s love or hate. Described as honey, caramel, “dark woods” and “powdery musk,” we think it smells like a room full of pipe smokers, and it would definitely clash with your cologne. It’s the most expensive of the products we tested, $24 for 2 ounces. This one isn’t worth it unless you really love the scent.

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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