When it comes to styling products for men, hair gel is a popular choice. Hair gels are frequently dismissed as a remnant of the 1980s when spiky gelled hairstyles were the rage. While some gels really haven’t changed much, the best hair gels have been reformulated to help you style and keep your hair healthy at the same time. Some guys like to use hair gel for thick hair because it has a strong hold, while others prefer light styling gels with a great smell and soft touch for a unique look. No matter your hair type or hairstyle, the right hair gel can get you a stylish look. To help you choose the right product, we’ve compiled a list of the best hair gels for men to try right now.
15 Best Hair Gels For Men 2021
Our top pick is the American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel because it comes with a firm hold that won’t go stiff or get hard, creates a nice texture that is not sticky or greasy, and works on all types of hair and hairstyles. We recommend Jack Black’s Body-Building Hair Gel for men with thinning hair who are experiencing hair loss and want a healthy, natural gel that provides more volume for a fuller hairstyle. Lastly, Got2b Ultra Glued Invincible Styling Gel is perfect for guys who just want the strongest hair gel on the market.
American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel
The alcohol-free American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel makes your hair look good, and it’s good for your hair too. American Crew has three special ingredients — quillaja saponaria bark, panax ginseng extract, and safflower seed oil — which stimulate the scalp and provide fatty acids that promote hair growth. It has a subtle soapy scent, and application is easy and smooth since it’s only slightly sticky.
Although American Crew gel is strong enough to hold your styling throughout the day, you won’t have that helmet-hair look. Instead, your hair will look healthy, shiny and full. This hair product comes in a huge 33.8-ounce bottle, but since you only need a small amount each time you style, it should last you quite a long time.
As one of the best men’s hair brands on the market, you can’t go wrong with American Crew’s Styling Gel. With a strong hold that won’t flake or stay hard, an excellent cologne-like scent, and a quality texture, this is the best hair gel for most men.
Johnny B. Mode Styling Gel
Johnny B. Mode Styling Gel is one of the best gels for all hair types and a product that’s frequently recommended by barbers and stylists. Its proprietary ingredient mix has no alcohol and hydrates your hair, which accounts for its viscous texture, and lets you style wild, thick, and out-of-control hair into an ultra-spiked look or a soft, natural look that holds its shape.
The neon-blue gel has a fresh scent and if applied to damp hair and not blown-dry, it adds a gleaming sheen. Johnny B. Mode doesn’t have a super-firm hold, so it doesn’t feel crunchy, and it can be reactivated with a little water and running your fingers through your hair.
Johnny B. Mode Styling Gel is a top-rated hair gel for men to use because it has just the right long-lasting hold, smells great, and easily washes out of hair.
Got2b Ultra Glued Invincible Styling Hair Gel
With the slogan “feels like gel, holds like glue,” it’s a pretty sure bet that Got2b Ultra Glued Invincible Styling Hair Gel can hold your hairstyle at invincible heights throughout the day and well into the night. Its lightweight, no-flake, non-sticky formula was designed with upswept hairstyles in mind and, despite its name, can be easily washed out with shampoo.
As the strongest hair gel on our list, Got2b’s styling gel is perfect for styles that need to defy gravity with maximum hold without flaking, crunching, or going stiff.
Luckily, this gel actually adds volume to thin, fine hair and height to full, straight, thick, wavy and curly hair. It comes in a convenient tube, so since you don’t need much for each application, Got2b Ultra Glued Invincible Styling Hair Gel is not only a great product but affordable and long-lasting.
StyleSexyHair Hard Up Gel
With a hold level of 10 and a shine level at 9, StyleSexyHair Hard Up Gel lives up to its name. It doesn’t add the body, volume, or texture of other gels, but it certainly makes your hair — no matter the type or length — stand straight up. This sky-blue sticky gel will keep your hairstyle elevated and firmly in place whether you’re working out or zooming around town in a convertible.
Made with quality ingredients including carnauba wax, lanolin wax, and mineral oil, this gel offers a very strong hold with no flaking. However, you will need shampoo to wash this product out. But this gel’s long-lasting firm hold is its main selling point, since you only need a dab to shape your hair any way you want.
If you like to get creative with your hair, then StyleSexyHair Hard Up Gel will let you transform from mild to wild.
Jack Black Body-Building Hair Gel
Jack Black Body-Building Hair Gel is for guys who want a clean, natural look. Its organic, alcohol-free, fragrance-free, and cruelty-free ingredients are packed with essential oils and nutrients that nourish dry scalps and add volume, control, and fullness to thin, fine hair. Botanical extracts, such as ginger root, basil, grapefruit peel, and sea kelp hydrate hair and repair split ends.
This high-quality all-natural hair gel doesn’t have the firm hold of other gels, so it’s better for keeping your hairstyle flexible and touchable without any sticky residue. With a light to medium hold and a matte finish for a natural textured style, it is the perfect choice for men who want volume, flow and movement. Consider using this styling product when doing a comb over or slicking back hair.
If you want a natural healthy hair gel that will keep your scalp and hair clean and stylish, Jack Black’s Gel is the product to use.
TIGI Bed Head For Men Power Play
If you have long, wavy, or thick hair and want a tousled look, give TIGI Bed Head For Men Power Play a try. This hair gel has a medium hold and a matte finish, and when applied to damp hair and blown dry, TIGI Bed Head adds volume and texture, which you can then finger comb into a natural, lived-in style.
This gel can also be applied to short, dry hair for a more groomed look. Versatile and well-made, its alcohol-free, non-greasy, creamy formula is rich with antioxidants that treat both your hair and scalp.
While this gel doesn’t have a firm hold for spiked haircuts, if you like your locks free-flowing with lots of body and control, you’ll want to invest in TIGI Bed Head Gel.
Redken Brews Extreme Gel
Redken is known for making high-quality hair care products, and Redken Brews Extreme Gel is one of the best products from the brand’s recently launched line. This is a lightweight gel with a medium hold and moderate shine that was formulated for curly hair, especially if you want to add a bit of bounce and movement to your hair.
Although it’s called an “extreme” gel, it actually has a medium hold that strikes a balance between control, volume, and flow. This wouldn’t be the right gel if you want a faux hawk or spiky hair, or are trying to hold down out-of-control thick hair. However, it would work well for slicked back hair and longer styles.
This gel is best applied to damp hair, then when dried, combed or brushed through. It doesn’t have a crunchy feel and will leave your hair soft and full. The Redken Brews Extreme Gel is lightly scented, doesn’t leave any residue, and washes out easily.
Old Spice Swagger Hair Gel
Old Spice Swagger might make you think that it’s scented with the fragrance your grandpa wore, but it’s actually surprisingly subtle and mildly fruity. Even better, the gel has a matte finish and a strong hold that, when dry, can be shaped with your fingers into a natural, softer look.
Old Spice Swagger has a list of unpronounceable ingredients that are commonly found in other hair products, and they protect against UV rays and humidity. Though this gel is not alcohol-free, it does have castor oil to help prevent your hair from drying out. Like most Old Spice products, Swagger Hair Gel is reasonably priced and a great choice if you’re budget-conscious.
L’Oreal Paris Studio Line Clean Gel
L’Oreal has been in the hair business since 1973, and thanks to the big-hair days of the 1980s, its hair gel was everywhere. The L’Oreal Paris Line Clean Gel is still incredibly popular because it’s cheap and it works. It’s a transparent gel with strong hold and medium-level shine and rinses out easily. The L’Oreal gel adds definition to any hair type and length and can be applied to damp or dry hair.
Because it’s so thick, you won’t need much, and it doesn’t give your hair that stiff and crunchy feel. This gel has a light, clean scent, and though it’s not alcohol-free, castor oil has been added to help prevent drying out. L’Oreal Paris Line Clean Gel is a classic hair gel that stands up to its more expensive competitors.
Clubman Styling Gel
Clubman Styling Gel has long been a favorite for men who want that “old-time barbershop” look. This is a lightweight gel that lets you adjust how much hold you want. Depending on the amount of gel you run through your towel-dried hair, you can go from a slick 1920s Gatsby gentleman to a relaxed, surfer dude. Clubman is good for almost all hair types with short or medium lengths.
Its ingredients include wheat protein and castor oil that condition and nourish your hair and scalp. Not only will your hair feel and look great, but its famous barbershop scent is also pleasing. It comes in a huge 16-ounce jar, and though it may seem like a budget brand, Clubman Styling Gel is one of the best and most respected hair gels on the market.
Mitch Steady Grip Hair Gel
Paul Mitchell is a leader of salon-quality products, and Mitch Steady Grip Hair Gel is one of the products in the company’s premier hair care line. This alcohol-free hair gel is specially formulated for men and resists flaking or drying, thanks to the addition of moisturizing aloe.
Although it doesn’t have a firm hold, Mitch Steady Grip keeps hairstyles in place without limiting movement and volume. You won’t get a lacquered, ultra-sleek look with this gel, but it will give you the natural shine of a healthy head of hair.
Mitch Steady Grip has a clean, silky feel without any stickiness. This hair gel is great for all hair types, but it’s especially good for thin, fine hair, adding body and fullness. Mitch Steady Grip Hair Gel is 91% allergen-free so it’s the perfect hair gel for men with sensitive skin on their scalp and forehead.
R+Co Motorcycle Flexible Gel
R+Co Motorcycle Flexible Gel is a luxury hair gel with a unique formula. It’s absent of just about anything objectionable that almost all hair products contain. Nutrient-rich with Brazilian coconut oil, sunflower seed extract, and keratin, this gel’s ingredients are also cruelty-free and vegan. Its heady, masculine scent is an unusual blend of cedarwood, bergamot, wild fig, and lotus flower.
R&Co Motorcycle gel is marketed as a product that lets you be a free spirit in styling your hair. Actually, it isn’t all that different from other hair gels; it isn’t sticky or brittle when dried, and you can adjust the hold with the amount you apply.
It’s also the most expensive gel on our list, but if you’re a guy who supports animal rights and wants to avoid using products with chemicals, R+Co Motorcycle Flexible Gel is an excellent and ethical hair gel.
Paul Mitchell Clean Sculpting Gel
With a firm hold and gleaming shine, Paul Mitchell Clean Sculpting Gel can help you create a bold and dramatic hairstyle. If you have wavy or curly hair, this gel is especially effective in preventing your hair from frizzing out in humid weather. This is a clean, clear, and virtually odorless gel that goes on smoothly and doesn’t flake when it’s dry.
Longtime users who have limp or fine hair love how much weight and volume the Paul Mitchell Clean adds. Like other products from this highly-rated brand, the Clean Sculpting Gel is recommended by professional stylists.
Tea Tree Firm Hold Gel
Tea Tree Firm Hold Gel is a botanical hair-care product from Paul Mitchell, and it’s ideal for men with short or medium-length curly hair or coarse hair. This is a thick gel, so it needs to be worked into damp hair bit by bit. Using your fingers you can create soft waves or add definition to curls. Tea Tree has a moderate hold, so it’s not the gel for spiking hair or keeping flyaway hairs in place.
Among its ingredients is tea tree oil, which is an antibacterial and helps fight dandruff. Tea tree oil also has the benefit of moisturizing hair and soothing a dry scalp. This gel has a refreshing, masculine scent of mint and citrus when first applied and then dissipates as the gel dries.
Tea Tree Firm Hold Gel will help soften unmanageable curly or frizzy hair, and like all Paul Mitchell products, it has the bonus of being cruelty-free.
AXE Messy Look Hair Gel
AXE Messy Look Hair Gel has a strong but flexible hold that lets you achieve that freshly rolled-out-of-bed look. This is a great gel for hairstyles that are longer on top. You’ll only need to rub a dime-sized dab through towel-dried hair and shape your hairstyle as you like.
AXE Messy Look has a matte finish, so when it dries, your hair will have a bit of stiffness but will look totally natural. It has a light, slightly piney scent that won’t overwhelm your cologne, it doesn’t flake, and it washes out completely with just water. AXE Messy Look is the hair gel for a man who wants a subtle but groomed look.
How To Choose A Good Hair Gel
Most hair gels advertise a firm or strong hold, which means the product will keep your hairstyle in place all day long. You’ll want a firm hold for an ultra-groomed, sleek, or spiky hairstyle that you can set in the morning and don’t have to worry about touching up at night.
Medium-hold gels add fullness and natural bounce to your hair, particularly if you have curly hair or a style that’s longer on top. It won’t last the day, but the gel can be reactivated by combing or finger-combing a little water through your hair.
Hair gels come in different types of shine such as high, medium, and low shine. However, new gels are starting to embrace the matte finish, providing a natural textured look to your hair. Shine levels range between 1 and 10; the higher the shine level, the more gloss and shine your hair and hairstyle will have.
It’s a personal choice how sleek you want your hairstyle to look and different trendy men’s hairstyles look good with different levels of shine. An important factor to consider is matte finish gels have no shine, and when dry, give you a more natural look. However, you can give your hair a wetter look by applying water and a high-shine gel.
Almost all hair gels have a scent. Sometimes the scent will dissipate when the gel dries; other times, the scent will stay with you all day. Again, it really depends on personal preference. Scents can be masculine and cologne-like while others are herbal, floral, citrus, or sweet. If you wear a cologne, it’s better to stick to a hair gel with a light scent that won’t overwhelm your senses or clash.
The best smelling men’s hair gels are made by American Crew, Clubman Styling Gel, and Gentlemen Republic’s Refined Molding Gel.
If you read the ingredients list on hair gel, probably the only one you’ll recognize is water, and all hair gels list water as the primary ingredient. After that, the ingredients vary from brand to brand.
Most hair gels are made with alcohol as an ingredient, and although it works as an antibacterial agent, Cetearyl alcohol can also dry hair out, especially if the gel product is used on a daily basis. To counterbalance the alcohol, glycerin or a plant oil or protein is added as a moisturizer.
Lanolin wax is often added to retain moisture, and polymers act as a binding agent to hold the gel together. Sulfates can also be found in some lesser-quality hair products, and although sulfates clean away dirt and grime, they also strip away natural oils from the hair and scalp, which will leave your hair brittle and your scalp itchy.
Some companies like John Paul Mitchell Systems manufacture hair products that are cruelty-free, meaning that the products have not been tested on animals. If animal rights are important for you, then consider buying a hair gel that states on the packaging it is cruelty-free.
Hair Type and Hairstyle
Not all hair gels are right for every hair type. If you have straight hair, you might want to get a hair gel that adds fullness. If you have thick, wavy hair, you’ll need a gel that has a strong hold to keep everything evenly in place. The best gel for curly hair has a humectant that will add definition to your curls and help prevent it from frizzing.
Your hairstyle will also determine what’s the right hair gel for you. A sporty, slicked-back hairstyle or spiky hair needs a strong hold. If you prefer a tousled or just-rolled-out-of-bed casually messy look, a medium-hold hair gel will give you just enough control to shape your hair without looking overly groomed.
How To Use Hair Gel
Hair gel continues to be one of the most popular styling products for men. Learning the right way to apply and use hair gel is critical to getting the hold and shine you need to style the best men’s hairstyles. Moreover, using gel properly can also help avoid flaky, crunchy, or stiff hair. Here are some tips to styling your hair with gel.
Start with freshly washed hair. Natural oils keep your hair healthy, but they also act as dust and dirt magnets, which can build up over a few days. This residue will prevent the gel from properly being distributed through your hair. If you use gel a lot, you’ll definitely need to wash and condition your hair regularly. A quality men’s shampoo and conditioner are ideal for cleansing, rejuvenating, and restoring moisture and shine to your hair.
It’s best to apply gel to towel-dried hair because excess water will dilute the product. Some professionals advise blow drying your hair first since it will give you more freedom in styling. If you have short hair, you won’t need much, about the size of a nickel. For longer hair, start with a quarter-sized amount. Too much gel will bind your hair into clumps so start with a small amount and add a little more if needed.
Rub the gel between the palms of your hands, and then run your hands through your hair, distributing the gel evenly.
If you like your hair slicked back, comb it into place. But make sure to comb it through evenly, or you’ll wind up with clumps. If you prefer a less lacquered look, use your fingers to comb the gel through. Messy or spiky hairstyles just need your fingers lifting and plucking your hair upwards.
Finally, you can let your hair dry naturally, which will add shine to your hairstyle. Or you can blow dry your hair, again using your fingers or a brush for a fuller, softer look.
When it comes to styling hair, men have many hair products to choose from. From pomade to wax, clay, cream, mousse, spray and gel, it’s important to find the perfect styling product to balance out hold, shine, texture, and smell. Experiment with different options to help you achieve the best hairstyle.