Hair gel has been around for years, in fact it’s origins can be traced all the way back to the days when the Egyptians were discovering the slick benefits of looking their best in both life and death.
Enough harping on what good ol’ King Tut was slopping on his hair, today’s hair gels are nothing like the products of 3,500 years ago (or even just 15 years ago).
In fact, just the opposite is true. The best hair gels that men are using aren’t going to always deliver that wet, spiky, or crunchy mess that will rest upon your head and ultimately flake.
Instead, the top-line hair gels contain a mixture of ingredients that can really vary from one product to the next and ultimately deliver a look that can range from one that is a bit wetter all the way to looks that evoke more of a natural or textured appearance that will rival even the best clays on the market.
Here’s a look at a few we think you will love:
Best Hair Gels For Men
Jack Black Body Building Hair Gel
Ahh, Jack Black knows how to make a men’s grooming product or two. A regular here at Tools of Men, Jack Black is often showcased for their ability to construct a top-notch grooming product without the reliance on nasty or harsh chemicals.
This Body Building Hair Gel is no different. Relying on a mixture of natural and organic ingredients that will make your head spin (yes this product actually contains wine extract), you won’t know if its going to be the very best for your hair or if you are putting a basket of fruit on your head Chiquita Banana style.
But unfortunately with this product, one feature does fall flat – and it’s simply from a marketing stand point.
If you are looking for an extremely strong hold for your hair that remains in place throughout the day, then there are some great alternatives on the market. With this product from Jack Black, while it can work with just about any hair style, it only delivers a light hold for your famed follicles.
So don’t go expecting to sport a full on Mohawk shortly after application.
While the hold may be light, another great feature of this styling gel is its size. With the ability to travel well by adhering to strict TSA standards, you never need to worry about compromising on hair products simply because you need to take a flight. This styling gel will fit snuggly in your favorite dopp kit.
American Crew Men’s Firm Hold
Simply put, American Crew knows a thing or two when it comes to styling products for your head.
But, here’s the deal – American Crew isn’t some sort of new kid on the block either, they have been making quality products in the states for years – and this styling gel included.
Speaking of this styling gel, it checks the boxes for many men out there. First and foremost, this is absent of any alcohol – therefore prolonged/daily use shouldn’t be a problem with application.
Given that there is no alcohol within the American Crew gel, you shouldn’t have to worry about dried out or frizzy hair follicles either. The cuticles on the shaft of your hair should retain incredibly well.
Overall the hold is really well and works great for men with medium to longer hair.
Last but not least, the travel friendly size is perfect for flying anywhere in the U.S.A. It’s 3.3oz size squeaks just .1oz under the size restrictions set by the TSA. So unlike other gels on this list, you don’t need to squirt any of this gel into a travel tube for those overnight business trips or quick weekend getaways.
Brooklyn Botany Hair
Among the best hair gels that we reviewed comes this terrific medium hold gel from Brooklyn Botany Hair (NYC represent!).
Crafted from a unique set of ingredients including aloe leaf juice (organic), witch hazel, and vitamin B5 – this hair gel will provide some great benefits for your hair and scalp.
But like the Smooth Viking that we also reviewed, this product does unfortunately contain a bit of alcohol within the label (the short-chain kind we covered earlier). While not always a dire consequence for all men, prolonged use may lead to some irritation or flaking. Now Brooklyn Botany does stick by their product offering a 100% satisfaction guarantee and says that this product should be 100% flake free.
Therefore, if you are willing to take the leap of trying a hand crafted small brand – then you can do it relatively safe.
One thing we want to also speak to is the heritage of this company. Unfortunately, some times products use the NYC moniker to ‘look cool’ but in actuality they are made halfway around the world. But when flipping over this tub of hair gel, you will see that this product is made in the USA and subsequently has their home headquarter in Brooklyn (i.e. its authentic).
Now when it comes to the hold, this hair gel will be perfect to achieve a medium hold without any sticky feeling on your hands. The smooth texture of the product should do a good job at keeping moderately unruly hairs in check.
The 4oz tub sized container just puts it a few points above the TSA recommended weight making this not suitable for air travel.
Clubman Styling Gel By Ed Pinaud for Men
Primarily known for their wide array of shaving products including both aftershave splashes and lotions, Clubman also offers this extremely bright green styling gel.
Beyond making you think of Slimer from the Ghostbusters, the Clubman Styling Gel is perfect for the men out there of any age looking for an extremely strong hold on their unruly hair follicles.
Men love this product given its versatility. If you want an extremely hard hold, simply apply with your hands and leave in your hair. However, if you want a slightly more flowy hold, apply to your hair and then use your favorite comb or brush to thin out the formula leaving a much lighter and more even coating.
While our reviews of hair gels normally concentrate on the company and product performance, we would be remiss if we didn’t at least acknowledge the manly yet light scent that this gives off.
Next to boiling your first pot of coffee in the morning, applying the Clubman Styling Gel will be the second most intoxicating scent that you smell in the morning.
Lastly, we need to cover value.
The Clubman Styling Gel absolutely delivers a knock out punch when it comes to value. It’s incredibly low price tag for the size of the tub (16oz), it simply doesn’t get any better than this.
Got 2B Glued Ultra Styling Gel
From Got 2B comes the Glued Ultra Styling Gel. These guys basically defined the entire hair gel market as we know today. From their vast line up of gels at different strengths, this is going to be the one that keeps your hair in-tact whether you are in the board room in an intense meeting or simply playing some soccer out on the pitch.
This stuff is called ‘Glued’ for a reason!
But beyond the incredible strength, you will also find that the Got 2B gel will go on in a non-tacky feeling. So if you absolutely loathe that feeling (as do I) when you apply a hair product and it just sticks between your fingers for all the morning hours – the water-soluble design of this product will make removal a breeze.
If there is a single catch to this product is going to do with the ingredients. One of the core ingredients of this product is denatured alcohol. As we have covered previous, is a natural astringent. So while this product may dry quickly, it may lead to irritation with prolonged use.
Overall, men who do use this gel absolutely love it as evident in the extremely high peer review score (4.4 out of 5) that is only bested by a few others on this list of best hair gels.
Johnny B. Mode Styling Gel
From the onset, you might initially think of Johnny Bravo – I mean come on, not only did that guy have amazing hair, but the logo emblazoned on the side of this Johnny B. Mode styling gel bears an uncanny yet dapper resemblance.
But alas – as epic as Johnny Bravo was, so too is this gel from Johnny B.
Coming in a sky blue color, this no-flake and no-buildup gel will provide a medium hold that will make your hair look and feel absolutely great.
With the alcohol free designed (remember short-chained alcohol), this won’t be an astringent on your hair cuticles or scalp further ensuring that this gel will be comfortable with continued use.
Given its water-soluble composition, when you decide to take a shower in the evening or simply after hitting the gym, this product will rinse out with ease.
The perfect styling gel for men looking for a medium hold.
Krieger + Söhne Premium Styling Hair Gel for Men
One of the relatively new upshots in the men’s grooming world is going to be Krieger + Söhne. Evoking that warrior sense naturally found in men, they make by and far some of the manliest products on the marketplace.
As we have clamored about their anti-dandruff shampoo and conditioner, the K+S styling hair gel is no exception and easily makes the list of being one of the best hair styling gels for men on the market.
It’s incredible price point, coupled with an incredibly well made product makes it obvious why their product is quickly becoming ever more popular.
Relying on ingredients like tea tree oil in the composition in the hair gel, it will be a natural anti-fungal that will help to ward of prevalence of dandruff on your scalp.
But beyond all the great things about the product – you have come here to learn about the styling abilities.
First and foremost, this styling gel by Krieger + Söhne will provide a strong hold that is suitable for any hair type and hair length. So no matter if you have thick, thin, short, or long, this product should work in seamlessly.
As far as shine goes, there is a slight shine that will be evident after application.
The alcohol and paraben free design of this product will ensure that your hair won’t feel flaky with prolonged use.
Lastly, while some men may be skittish on trying out new products and brands – Krieger + Söhne does back up their product with a 100% satisfaction guarantee – how is that for peace of mind?
Paul Mitchell Men
There are very few products in the men hair care world that carry the prestige that Paul Mitchell does. But with such a high mark for admiration there is a lot of pressure of living up to that label.
When it comes with hair gels, Paul Mitchell delivers. Their Steady Grip hair gel is perfect for many reasons.
First and foremost, its compact tube size is great in easily accessing the required amount of hair gel with very little in the way of waste.
Unlike some other containers that may be over 10oz, the Paul Mitchell gel is a stout 5.1oz design. Trying to get this online can be a bit tricky for some, but given the amount of inroads that Paul Mitchell has made to barbershops around the nation, be sure to check the next time you get your haircut. Your barber should be able to point you in the right direction.
While the side of the label on this Steady Grip gel may claim to be a firm hold, most men when using this product regularly find that it’s just a bit more looser than firm.
Therefore, if you are looking to have your hair stay in place all day long, you may want to reach for one of the alternatives that are covered on our list.
Smooth Viking Strong Hold Hair Gel
Evoke your inner Viking with this incredibly strong hair gel from Smooth Viking. This water based formula (with the inclusion of alcohol) will ensure that you get your hair on point every day that you head out the door.
Housed in a stout 8oz container, you should get plenty of use out of this gel before you even have to think of clicking that reorder button.
Smooth Viking themselves, has been making many inroads into the wide world of men’s grooming. Beyond just the hair gel pictured above, they also sell creams, clays, hair rubber and more.
Beyond providing a strong hold, this styling gel will work great for just about any hair type out there. In addition to its variety of hair types, it also can work well to add volume to thinning hair follicles. So if you are getting a bit thinner on top – then this might just be the silver bullet to a fuller looking head of hair.
After application, expect the Smooth Viking hair gel to leave a shine on your luscious locks.
Lastly, while there is a mark off for containing alcohol, this product does contain castor and Vitamin B5 which will naturally help to nourish your follicles and make them look brilliant and their absolute best.
TIGI Bed Head Men Power Play Gel
As a replacement to their highly touted Power Trip hair gel, TIGI reenters the hair gel vertical by offering up their Power Play gel.
The Power Play gel when compared to their previous Power Trip and other hair gels on the market similar in nature and composition is a worthy product that may belong on your bathroom counter.
Packed in a sizeable 6.76oz tube (note: not travel safe), you should get many of days use out of this solid hold of a gel.
While providing a bit ‘wetter’ of a look on your locks, its going to be perfect for men with short to medium length hair. Men with overly long hair may not like the ‘wet’ appearance.
But beyond the styling hold and appearance, the Power Play gel is also great for those men looking for an alcohol free alternative.
With it’s flake free design, you shouldn’t have any little white flakes appearing on your shoulder sat the end of the work day.
How To Properly Apply Hair Gel
Applying hair gel is incredibly easy – and a reason why this product is found in so young men’s cabinets.
Depending on your hair length their may be a bit of trial and error before you nail down the look you are going for.
But for starters, you will simply want to go ahead and squirt out about a quarter sized amount into the palm of your hand.
Set down the bottle and simply rub your hands together for an even coating.
This is critical so you don’t have a clump of gel in your hair long after you have applied it to your head.
With your hands evenly coated you will want to work the product fully through your hair – make sure that you get all the way down to the base. An even application will ensure that the tips don’t get stuck together ultimately looking like icicles on your head.
For a more natural finish, be sure to comb or brush your hair shortly after gel application.
Some gels, largely depending on the composition of ingredients and the hold that they deliver, can be further worked on throughout the day.
Therefore, if you find that your hair needs to be a bit sharpened up, be sure to check out the reviews below so you find the best hair gel that will fit into your styling preferences.
Tips On Selecting A Hair Gel For You
When it comes to selecting hair gel, are you a man that is looking for a hold that is a bit more stronger or weaker? Or are you looking for a gel that can be worked on throughout the course of the day or one that you want to simply ‘set it and forget it’? No matter your preference, you should be able to find a hair gel that largely checks all the boxes that you are looking for in a product.
Different Types of Gels
When you are looking at the different hair gels in our lofty list below you are going to notice some stand-out ingredients often discussed.
One of the most common ingredients always mentioned on hair blogs is alcohol.
But here’s the deal:
Not to knock any sites in particular, but they often do an incredibly poor job of knocking down alcohol and never explaining the reason why.
More often than not, the harsh criticism is sorely misplaced and leads to some incredibly bad information out there, especially when selecting products.
Here is the 10,000 ft view on what you need to know, and more importantly, why you should care on the type of alcohol that matters in your favorite hair gel:
These are the ones that many people scoff at and normally associate all the horrible things with alcohol. Typically coming in many variants including ethanol, propanol, denatured alcohol and more, this variety of alcohol is incredibly effective at being an anti-bacterial (i.e. remember going to the nurses office and they splash this on a cut – yeah that sucked) and also are incredibly good at being an astringent (i.e. found in aftershave splashes and lotions).
But while these short-chained alcohol are great for cleaning wounds and closing up your pores, there are a lot of downfalls with this simple ingredient when found in hair care products. Namely, its the astringent property is so damn powerful, it will completely ‘close’ up any thing it comes in contact with to an absolute crisp.
This means that when its found in your favorite hair gel, its going to dry can close up your hair cuticles upon application. This is great if you are looking for a quick drying gel, but on the longer term, it may spell disaster not only for the delicate structure of your hair, but also your scalp as well.
The biggest complaint among men, and often the harshest association that comes with hair gels, is that they will cause flaking.
This by and large is mostly misplaced, as you will see many of the best gels don’t contain this single-chained alcohol. In addition, another reason for flaking is due to men not regularly bathing and washing the product fully out of their hair when they do eventually take a shower.
Beyond the short-chained alcohols that we just covered above, you have another alcohol called a ‘fatty alcohol’. Like Rachel in high school, these alcohols spent way too much time at the dessert bar of the Golden Corral porking up and over indulging on molecules.
But in actuality, these alcohols are just a variant on the alcohol chain with some of the more popular ones being lauryl alcohol, cetyl alcohol, stearyl alcohol, and more.
Now you may notice that like many things in chemistry, fatty alcohols have a very strict naming convention in that the first word in the alcohol type had a ‘-ly’ at the end. While it might seem logical to associate any fatty alcohol with ‘-ly’ this simply isn’t true. So if you have a question on the alcohol type, a quick search of Google or referencing the Alcohol Wikipedia page will likely lead you in the right direction.
So what’s the deal with fatty alcohols?
Well in short, these alcohols don’t have the astringent property. In fact, its just the opposite.
Fatty alcohols are terrific at being emollients and retaining moisture on the surface of your skin. Therefore, when found in your favorite hair gel, they will make both your hair and scalp feel incredibly smooth and soft to the touch.
When you really look closely at the shaft of your hair follicle, it’s coated in scales (i.e. cuticles). When these cuticles are laying flat on the surface of your hair, it will naturally look shiny.
A top-notch hair gel (or any hair styling product for that manner) that contains this fatty alcohol and will do an effective job at making these cuticles lay flat and give off a great appearance.
Strength of Hold
Strength of hold on your prospective hair gel largely comes down to personal preference.
Are you a man that wants to just simply apply hair gel in the morning and never think about it for the rest of the day, or are you a man that likes to shape up their hair during the lunch hour to ensure that everything is looking on point?
Depending on your preference, you should have no problem selecting a hair gel that fully conforms to what you are looking for.
Differing hold types:
While it may be easily inferred for many men, just to ensure there is no confusion here’s roughly the scale of the strength of hold and firmness:
If you are looking for a product that doesn’t provide any sort of brittle-y feeling or one that is much closer to your natural hair texture, then a light hold hair gel may be the perfect fit for you (see the Jack Black hair gel we reviewed). Keep in mind though, these products aren’t going to retain that look for long – so be sure when you head out the door in the morning that you slide your favorite comb into your back pocket for midday touch ups.
As you may guess, this hold is going to be somewhere in the middle of the hair care strength spectrum. Medium hold is great for men who are looking for some light midday styling, while also providing enough structure to the hair follicle to retain your look throughout the day. Medium holds may be preferred by men who undergo light activity (i.e. office work, midday gym workout, etc).
Products like the Got 2B hair gel will give off an incredibly tight hold. This is perfect if you are looking for a single application at the beginning of the day and that’s it. Of all the hold types, ‘firm’ or ‘strong’ is considered to be the toughest.