When it comes to styling hair, most guys reach for what they know — gels, pomades, clays, waxes. And that’s fine, until it’s not. “I think clays and pomades are really for guys whose hair is under three inches in length,” said Lexi Salkin, a stylist and educator at Blackstones salon in New York City. “Beyond that length, you start to feel like you have a lot of crap in your hair.”
For guys growing out their hair, or those looking for a more natural, “deflated” look, Salkin recommends a different category of product: grooming cream, a versatile, water-based styling agent that has the lightness of a leave-in conditioner, but still helps to control the way hair falls. “I always tell guys that it’s a way to get that third, fourth-day look immediately,” she said. “Grooming cream is a way for men to control volume without adding too much stiffness. It brings out that natural texture but still creates an effect that looks lived in.”
Grooming cream’s other purpose is to rehydrate or restyle hair without having to wash it, an upshot of its water content. “If a style is slept on, it can be brought back together the next day. It undoes frizz or flatness without making something feel sticky or overdone.” If that sounds like a good hair day, these are the creams to consider.
How to Apply Grooming Cream
“I like to apply grooming cream on hair that’s either completely dry or 80-percent dry,” Salkin said. “The reason is that I like for hair to air-dry undisturbed, and to let the natural texture develop on its own. When people run grooming cream through soaking-wet hair, it ends up looking like spaghetti — like too stuck together.
“I tell guys that when they get out of the shower, they should towel dry their hair and then forget about it for ten, twenty minutes. Then, emulsify a bit of grooming cream into the palms and pat it in their hair, rather than wringing it through. From day to day, it can be layered and reapplied.”
V76 by Vaughn Medium Hold Styling Cream
Best for Thin or Short Hair: Thicker than other grooming creams out there, the touch of extra hold in this product is ideal for adding volume and body to short or thinning hair. It also stays in line with grooming cream’s natural, understated aesthetic. The addition of grape seed oil moisturizes individual hairs, while rice bran oil protects against breakage and split ends.
Bumble and Bumble Grooming Creme
Best for Mid-Length Hair: Bumble and Bumble’s take on grooming cream is ideal for guys with mid-length hair or those caught in that awful awkward phase between short and long. It’s not-too-thick, not-too-thin consistency provides subtle hold and a soft, matte finish.
Baxter of California Grooming Lotion
Best for Thick or Long Hair: Baxter of California’s grooming lotion is ultra light and perfect for longer or naturally thick hair. It takes out volume, rather than adding to it, and gives that lived-in look — even after a good wash.