As with all content that begins with 'best or top', 'best hair products for men' articles are a dime a dozen online, and ironically, are written by people who usually have no actual experience with the products. Over the course of 2019, we accrued a handful of hair styling products from a host of brands, so I thought I'd collect ten, including some popular additions from other lists around the web and actually test them all, one product a day over the course of 10 days and share my experience on each. Of course, I didn't end up doing 10 consecutive days but the format allows for the inclusion of more products as 2020 rolls on.
As a precursor, it's important to know that my hair is quite long and I wear it combed back to reveal an aggressive receding hairline and shining forehead. I tried to choose a mix of creams for longer hair and more textural clay and pomades for readers with shorter hair, or blokes who want a messier look. In all cases, I’ve applied the product to my hair after drying it, no more than 5 mins out of the shower, so still damp. It's also worth noting that the test began five days after a trip to the barber and spanned two weeks, so there was a bit more length at the conclusion - not that it affected the outcome.
My commentary on each product can be found below, followed by an overall rank.
Seb Man The Dandy
With a name like ‘The Dandy’ and a colour palette and packaging I find far from appealing, I didn’t hold hopes high for this product but they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, even though that’s exactly what covers are for. Unscrewing the tub reveals a creamy white substance with a pleasant but indescribable scent. The formula is soft and sticky when rubbed into my hands and initially feels the same when it first graces my damp thinning locks. It soon acquiesces to my demands, softens and becomes an absolute dream to comb with characteristics more like a Brylcreem.
Once combed, it looks voluminous and not overly shiny. It washes off with ease leaving no sticky residue whatsoever. Running my hands through my hair on my walk to the office I discover the dried product isn’t stiff but smooth and soft, almost like it has conditioner in it. Impressive. Throughout the day it holds its shape, even after some sweating. It also pulls up well after wearing my motorcycle helmet, maintaining some sort of volume instead of getting flattened into my scalp like other products. A quick brush sees it back to the same pristine state my hair left the house in. I’m seriously impressed with this product, in fact I may fob off the rest of this experiment.
Weather: High 26
KMS Hair Play Hybrid Claywax
I don’t know much about KMS, I think it’s a salon brand trying to make a play at the men’s styling space. I quite like the stubby little pot but I’m not so into the texture of the formula which is dense and very fibrous. You’ve really got to push your finger into it and then make sure it’s evenly distributed around your hands before applying. I do this twice to get enough paste to tame the shrew, but feel as though the majority of the product has landed in only two spots of my hair, where my hands landed first. It’s not a nice feeling and requires a solid scrub to remove from my hands. I opt for quite an aggressive brush and pull it through the product and it brushes quite harmoniously in the end with a matter finish than yesterday. My hair is looking flatter, however, with a few rogue strands falling from the top of my scalp.
At 10.30, I give it a brush with a Quiff Roller and it sits up a bit more but feels and sounds like I’m combing a Japanese rock garden in the process. Interestingly, my hair feels softer for the effort and appears more natural than when I left the house. By 3, the KMS Hair Play has dried and the strands on the side of my hair are getting unruly, requiring a bit of water to be stuck back down. It hasn’t been a bad experience but I won’t be using it again.
Weather: High 25
Redken Brews Outplay Texture Pomade
Redken Brews Outplay Texture Pomade is another fibrous formula that makes me reflect more honestly on yesterday’s very ‘meh’ product. It’s softer than the KMS, you require less of it and it spreads with more ease, onto your hands and into your hair. Once worked into the hair it combs more like a cream, which is right up my alley.
I cop a bit of rain on my walk to work, then an hour of perspiration as we rearrange the office and I mop the floor, but the Redken Brews isn’t phased. I gingerly run a brush through it before heading off to lunch at Cho Cho San - and I'm looking good if I do say so myself. Post lunch, it has lost its way a bit but is easily manoeuvred back into place with a flick of my hairbrush. I certainly wouldn’t call it maximum hold like the description states but I’d definitely give this or another Redken men's hair product another run, especially if you can find it on sale for $15.99, as I did.
Weather: High 22
EVO Hair Casual Act
Evo Casual Act feels like I’m putting my finger into a really wet panna cotta and it smells incredible. I feel distinguished, like I’m in a posh spa or overnight in a Mandarin Oriental hotel, in a robe. Gosh, this smells good. Shame I dislike the packaging so much.
It works easily into my palms and hair, but initially clumps together. I don’t love it to start but it brushes without a problem and supports a fair amount of lift at the front. It dries harder than any of the previous products, and while it doesn’t appear set (it actually looks very natural), it feels like it, with firm - bordering on crunchy strands - which I’m not a huge fan of. By 1pm the product has pretty much dried out and given up, granted it’s a muggy day with a bit of rain but it hasn’t endured any harder conditions than the Redken yesterday. If I was going out this afternoon/evening I’d either need another dose or a new product altogether, which is a damn shame because the sweet aromas are still lingering. Definitely the most disappointing performer so far.
Weather: High 23
American Crew Grooming Cream
Disclaimer here, I’ve used this product numerous times but I’ve never approached a day of use with the goal to comment on it, so I thought I’d include it anyway. Let me start by saying that I literally have night terrors thinking about rubbing this product into my hands. It is SO sticky and thick, like a Manuka honey. As I type this at 10:53 am, I fear it’s still on my hands, and I'm beginning to doubt if all of the water in all of the oceans would be able to wash my hands clean.
Understandably, it’s sticky when it first hits your hair, pulling aggressively at strands but it quickly relaxes and is suddenly agreeable. I run a wide bristle brush through it first to pull it into line, then a finer comb to finish with pleasing results despite it looking a tad greasy. My hair is the most secure it has been since this trial began. By the afternoon, rogue curls have begun to separate from the pack and it’s looking greasier than this morning but the American Crew Grooming Cream has held up pretty well - perhaps this is why I continue to use it. I don’t love it but I certainly don’t hate it and being American Crew, you can find it cheap. At the time of writing, I found one online for $16.92.
Weather: High 27
Patrick’s M2 - Styling Pomade
Today I’m using Patrick’s M2 Matte Styling Pomade. I’ve used the M1 in the past which is, arguably, the better solution for longer hair but thought I’d opt for the M2 here because it’s a bit more versatile with more hold for readers with shorter hair. The packaging is the clear leader in this test and the bergamot and sandalwood formula smells fresh and fantastic. The soft putty scrapes easily onto the finger and emulsifies with ease into the palms. I stuff up the distribution and rub a bit of clump into the right side, fortunately it combs out and I don’t require a restart. I use a fine comb to finish and it looks great.
I walk up the street to get lunch, in 30-degree heat and the M2 isn’t phased by the light perspiration. As the afternoon progresses the M2 holds steady and at 6.45 pm cops a ‘your hair has held up well today’ comment from the lady friend who knows I’m testing different products. I concur, despite it looking and feeling a tad greasy. A solid day’s work from the M2 but a stretch on the finances at $60.
Weather: High 31
Truefitt & Hill - Circassian Cream
What is Circassian Cream you ask? I couldn’t tell you - and strangely - the Truefitt & Hill website can’t either. I fear the worst with this product even before I open it, a real ‘all the gear, no idea’ contender - maybe it’s the gold accents on the tub trying to justify the price. The cream has a viscosity akin to a moisturiser but feels almost gritty as it pushes through my hair. It is cooperative to comb and presents well upon completion. From there, things go a little pear-shaped. The front dries quicker than the rear, which resembles rock hard, free-spirited clumps. There are stray singular hairs above my forehead that look like I’ve attempted to pluck them. By the time the hair-sprayed back softens, all my hair feels dehydrated and leaves an unpleasant coating on my hands. I wash them for a second time and remind myself not to touch my hair again. By 2.30 pm it has virtually evaporated, much the same as the EVO, except this one costs more and doesn’t smell as nice. Give it a miss.
Weather: High 28
Hanz De Fuko Scheme Cream
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Hanz De Fuko, so I opt for their first formula Scheme Cream, which I later read is a good ‘pre-styler’. It arrives in a small pot that you’d be happy to display on any shelf in your bathroom. There’s a hint of vanilla on the nose, and, continuing the butter analogy, wipes onto the finger like a Lurpak that has been left in the sun - much softer than then Imperial. It is very similar to the Imperial in how it distributes and combs which is interesting, although it doesn’t feel as firm in its hold. In fact, it’s very similar to the Imperial in a lot of ways, except it feels and looks more natural and I didn’t wash my hands after applying.
Aside from a quick photoshoot, I spend the whole day at my desk so don’t put the product through any real challenges in the heat, apart from my stroll to the office early. By 6.30 pm I’m at the pub and Jack comments that my hair is looking the best he’s seen it throughout the trial. In the bathroom I have a quick look in the mirror and agree with Jack’s opinion, it looks remarkably abundant for so late in the day, with just enough quiff upfront to resemble a young Alain Delon. I can’t see this one leaving my shelf.
Weather: High 30
Imperial Classic Pomade
After being bedridden with a ferocious illness for the better part of the long weekend, I was determined to start the week with a new lease on life and my hair. Imperial’s Classic Pomade had come recommended from a friend, and while we often clash on opinion, I hold his hair-related opinions in high regard. First thing you’ll notice is the huge 177g tub - aka VALUE. If you’ve ever pushed your finger into a firm serving of butter to grease a baking tray, you’ll have a fair idea of this clear pomade’s consistency. It emulsifies like a dream, disperses like a dream and combs, you guessed it, like a dream. As the day progresses it remains malleable. At no point does it feel crisp to touch. It also doesn’t appear overly maintained, like I paid my hair too much attention before I left the house.
Whether you use a hand, brush or comb to manage it throughout the day, it maintains shape and lift while assuring a cool but nonchalant aesthetic. I perspire while cooking dinner in my shoebox of a kitchen and the product begins to dilute and my hair to curl. To give the Imperial Class credit, it’s 8.30 pm - it has performed without fault. Hands down the best pomade I’ve used thus far.
Weather: High 29
MR MUK Flexible Hold Grooming Cream
MR MUK flicked us a care package some time ago and the boys have gotten around it hard. I chose their Grooming Cream to feature in this trial although I did rub a bit of their Gritty Finish Paste (which John uses for his much shorter hair) through my hair late last year and enjoyed that too. The Grooming Cream is very sticky - so sticky in fact I find a couple of strands of hair stuck to my palm when I go to wash my hands - I am balding aggressively to be fair.
It has clumped a bit which I find frustrating, definitely needed some additional emulsification. Once combed, it dries brittle with a bit of shine but then softens and mattes out by mid-morning. It's agreeable for the rest of the afternoon, although it certainly feels dryer as the day progresses. I shower before heading out that evening and opt for Seb Man - not a great sign but at $28 it's definitely worth a try, if you can find at your local barber.
Weather: High 28
- Imperial - Classic Pomade
- Seb Man - The Dandy
- Hanz De Fuko - Scheme Cream
- Redken Brews - Texture Pomade
- Patricks M2 - Styling Pomade
- MR MUK - Flexible Hold Grooming Cream
- American Crew - Grooming Cream
- KMS Hair - Play Finish
- Evo Hair - Casual Act
- Truefitt & Hill - Circassian Cream
Some of these products were sent to us, others were purchased for this test. Rest assured, gifting of products didn't influence our reviews.