8 best hair styling products for men

From pomades to clays, and from low shine to high hold, find something for every look

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The Independent Online

Bored with your barnet? It's time to experiment. 

The trend in men's hair products recently seems to have shifted towards ones that won’t give you much in terms of shine, but focus more on texture and shape. If you are still after that glossy look, however, then a couple of the products we tried will be for you.

Consider how strong you want the product to be – do you want your hair to stay in particular shape throughout the day, or would you rather it be relatively malleable? 

For the best results, follow the brand’s recommendations when it comes to application. And when you're choosing whether to buy a pomade, or a wax, or a cream, it's best to not get too bogged down in the names. Rather, think about what kind of style you're going for, and find the products that claim to match your needs. 

When testing, we used the products both on dry and damp hair, focusing on how well they fulfil the claims set out by the brands, as well as how easily they were applied and used to style. All of them washed out easily with shampoo.

1. Aveda Men Pure-Formance Styling Clay: £18.28 for 75ml, Look Fantastic

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Aveda strives to use natural plant products wherever it can, shunning the peculiarly named chemicals which make up many of the other products on this list. The biggest difference practically, we found, is the smell. Rather than that synthetic fragrance which most give off, this was a mild, earthy aroma. The wax is creamy and easily applied, adding natural-looking texture with no shine at all. Apply on damp hair for the best results.

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2. American Crew Pomade: £6.39 for 50g, Look Fantastic

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This product, which sits somewhere between a wax and a gel and comes out of the tub thick and translucent, is one of American Crew’s best-sellers. It gives a decent hold and doesn’t require too much to be used during each application. The main draw of this one is the shine it provides – if you’re after something that stands out for its style but isn’t too intense, this is for you.

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3. VO5 Extreme Style MattClay: £4.19 for 75ml, Boots 

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A mainstay on the supermarket shelves, VO5 is the go-to for many men who don’t want to blow the budget, but need something reliable and effective. We used a small amount on medium length, damp hair, and then dried with a towel, resulting in a natural, non-glossy, formed look. Add more and the strength holds up admirably, although there is a danger of the effect becoming a bit too stiff.

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4. Kiehl's Creative Cream Wax: £16 for 50ml, John Lewis 

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This soft wax has a fruity, almost minty scent, and is equally adept on dry or damp hair, but we think it's best when the hair is closer to dry than damp. Kiehl's suggests this one is best for medium to coarse hair, and leaves hair with a discernible shape, which is able to be changed once it's dried. It's a little on the expensive side for how much you get, but the product itself left us with no complaints otherwise.

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5. L'Oreal Professional Homme Poker Paste: £9.80 for 75ml, Look Fantastic

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The strength of this one is labelled as "Force 7" with little explanation on how this relates the rest of the scale. But we can confirm: it's very strong. You only get 75ml, but you just need to use a small amount each time, and for less than tenner, we think you'll get your money's worth. It works best on dry hair and has a fresh scent, with a waxy texture, a lot less creamy than others. It gives little shine, but is good for adding texture and definition to certain parts of your style.

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6. Redken For Men Working Wax Maneuver: £9.75 for 100ml, Look Fantastic

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This product has a creamy, waxy texture and an aftershave-like scent. Once applied, it will easily shape your hair and gives a medium-strength hold, which allows you some degree of control over changing things up during the day. It works equally well on damp or dry hair, although we found damp hair gives the best texture. For less than £10, too, it's good value.

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7. Malin + Goetz Sage Styling Cream: £19 for 118ml, Space.NK.apothecary

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Unlike most products on this list, this one comes in a tube, which can make it easier to measure out the right amount. The cream itself is like a lotion, and has a fresh, herby fragrance, perhaps down to the sage extract. Malin + Goetz claims that any hair type will be suitable, and we found that it certainly did the job for our short but thick hair. It was easy to style once applied, and washes out without a problem.

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8. Mitch Construction Paste: £12.95 for 75ml, Look Fantastic

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Another product that comes in a tube, this one is labelled as a paste, but is much more like a lotion in its consistency. Best applied to damp hair, it gives a decent, natural hold, which means it's able to be manipulated once it's dry. It's free of paraben and gluten, and is suitable for vegans. There's only 75ml in the tube though, which we think you might get through quite quickly.

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The Verdict: Hair styling products for men

We're big fans of the Aveda Men Pure-Formance Styling Clay, thanks to its focus on natural ingredients and its versatility, able to either leave you with a loose shape or strong hold. If you're after something cheaper with good shine, go for the American Crew Pomade

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