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Lookin’ Good: A Man's Guide

What to look for in male grooming products, from skin and hair care to shaving and razor burn.

Men’s shampoo and hair-styling products

Despite the proliferation of men’s shampoos and conditioners, there is little difference between the sexes when it comes to hair. Shampoos are designed to remove oil and dirt from hair, regardless of your gender. “Most of these products distinguish themselves with a manly-looking bottle and a manly-smelling fragrance,” Glaser says. “My husband has his own shampoo and conditioner, for instance, but mostly because he doesn’t want to use a girly-smelling pink shampoo and pink soap.”

Conditioners contain ingredients that coat individual hairs so they look thicker and don’t tangle as easily, making hair easier to comb or brush, Glaser says. Some conditioners contain emollients that are absorbed into the scalp, which can help prevent drying and flaking. The best choice of shampoo and conditioner depends on the type of hair. A few rules of thumb can help:

  • Dry or thin hair: Use a creamy shampoo, which will clean and restore moisture to hair. Using a conditioner is especially important if your hair is dry or thin.
  • Oily hair: Use a clear shampoo, the best choice for washing out excess oil. You may not even need a conditioner unless you wear your hair long. Then a conditioner can help keep it from tangling.
  • Coarse or kinky hair: Use a creamy shampoo. The curlier your hair, the drier it is likely to be. So a shampoo that also restores moisture and oils is the best choice.
  • Dry, flaky scalp: Try a “medicated” dandruff shampoo. A wide variety are available over the counter. Because different products contain different active ingredients, experiment .until you find one that works. Excessive dandruff may be a sign of eczema or psoriasis. So if standard dandruff shampoos are not enough to stop the flurry, talk to your doctor.

Once a man is out of the shower, he has a choice of dozens of hair styling products. American Crew, a leading maker of men’s hair care products, offers several hair styling creams, gels, and sprays, including classic pomades. According to David Cannell, PhD, senior vice president of R&D at Redken NYC, gels typically contain polymers that coat individual hairs. The more polymers, the firmer the hold. Gels are water-based, so they also can be diluted simply by applying them to wet hair, softening their effect. Hair waxes, which have been around for years, clump strands of hair together so they stay in place. Pomade, another perennial men’s hair product now making a comeback, is traditionally made of oils such as castor oil or petrolatum. Creams and pastes are hybrids - mixtures of gel, oil, or wax designed to combine their qualities.

With all the new men’s hair styling products, the advice of the old Bryllcream jingle - “a little dab’ll do ya” - still holds true. “Too many guys end up looking like a Ken doll,” says Eric Roos, founder of Nancy Boy, which manufactures a range of men’s grooming products.

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