You may have retired that go-to bottle of hair gel years ago after watching Friends one too many times and realizing that you never want to feel like Ross when Rachel admits he wears too much of that gel in his hair. But the Y2K trend is back and better than ever, and that goes for the early 2000s love for hair gel too. And let’s set the record straight.
Hair gel has evolved since then, and it’s nothing like those spiky hair days you may remember. The formulas are elevated with styling and nourishing benefits that make for some of your best hair days yet. Plus, you’ll find a lot of them skipping out on alcohol, which cemented those crisp, wet looks of the 2000s but did some drying damage to hair and scalp.
Hair gel is also a great multi-functional product to have in your hair care arsenal. Whether you want to experiment with a slick side part, define your curls, or tame pesky flyaways and cowlicks. To help you find the best of the best (and rediscover your love for hair gel), we’ve rounded up our top 10 picks for 2021.
1. Harry’s Firm Hold Hair Sculpting Gel
You really can’t go wrong with a firm hold and a polished finish. And Harry’s has knocked it out of the park with this hair sculpting gel that gives you the perfect, long-lasting firm hold without any flaking – all for less than $8. Whether you’re styling and enhancing your curl pattern or slicking back straight locks, this gel is great for all hair types who want to cut down on frizz, have their style last all day, and have the ease of washing it out at the end of the night.
The alcohol-free formula won’t dry or damage your hair and can set your bold style in place without any worry of flaking or fading. Plus, the product goes a long way and is good for two years after opening – talk about a good investment.
2. Baxter of California Thickening Style Gel
This one’s for the laid-back Cali guys who need their style to last all day and the corporate guys who also dig a high hold, high shine styling gel (and all the guys in between). This paraben-free hair styling gel by Baxter of California thickens and strengthens hair to ensure that any style you choose stays in place without flaking, crunching, or visible residue.
This beloved award-winning gel uses unique ingredients like ginger and birch juice to soften and smooth all hair types (straight, thick, wavy, curly) and add a little something special to your everyday grooming routine. This hair gel is perfect for defined, slicked back, and side part styles and can easily be layered with other styling products to craft your go-to look.
3. Dove Taming Gel
Dove is one of those timeless brands that know how to do men’s grooming, and they know how to do it right. And their modern men’s taming gel lives up to the hype (oh, and did we mention that it’s under $7?). This alcohol-free hair gel works for all hair types to give the appearance of thicker, healthier-looking hair with its unique, caffeine-infused formula that never leaves hair looking thin, greasy, or flat.
It’s only full, healthy volume with this one. Dove’s Taming Gel creates a wet look style with a smooth, stronghold finish that is resilient enough to keep up with the most active men and easy enough to use that it fits seamlessly into your morning routine.
4. Kiehl’s Clean Styling Gel
What began as an old-world apothecary in the 19th century, has now evolved into one of the best modern brands for high-quality skin, body, and hair care products. And yes, they’ve even mastered men’s hair gel. Kiehl’s Clean Styling Gel creates a firm hold with natural-looking shine using a flake-free, non-grease formula. It’s long-lasting, holds your hair in all the right places, and smooths and conditions with botanical ingredients like pracaxi, castor, and ginger root oils.
The hair gel is also fragranced with skin and hair benefiting essential oils like cedarwood, sandalwood, and eucalyptus that create a fresh, woody aromatic experience every time. It’s the perfect formula for those who want minimal shine but still want all of the hold.
5. R+CO Motorcycle Flexible Gel
Whether you own a motorcycle or not, R+CO’s flexible hair gel allows you to live out your bad boy fantasies – or just sport really good-looking hair all day long. This unique gel blend combines the support and control of a hair gel with the flexibility and shine of a styling wax so you can have a defined style without the heavy buildup.
The sulfate, paraben, mineral oil, petrolatum, and cruelty-free hair gel skimps on all the ingredients your hair doesn’t need and loads up on those beneficial ingredients like Brazilian coconut oil, sunflower seed extract, and keratin (the building block of hair) to support healthy, well-conditioned locks. While any hair type can have a try at this flexible gel, it’s best for those with wavy (2C), tight (3A, 3B, 3C), or oily (4A, 4B, 4C) hair who want to define those curl patterns.
6. American Crew Firm Hold Hair Gel
A classic hair gel, but make it elevated. American Crew’s Firm Hold Styling Gel is an alcohol-free, non-flaking formula formulated with a low pH to respect the skin barrier and prevent drying out your scalp. Its high hold formula features a dual polymer complex to create a long-lasting shine and hold without feeling tacky, sticky, or flaky.
This firm-hold hair gel is also backed with botanical extracts and vitamins like Panama bark, ginseng root, sage leaf, and vitamin B5 for healthy, thicker-looking hair that boosts natural shine. The gel is also incredibly easy to add to your routine. Simply apply to towel-dried hair, working from scalp to ends, and style as desired.
7. Old Spice Swagger Gel
For the men who want incredible-looking hair that also smells incredibly delicious, because yes, it matters. Behold Old Spice Swagger Gel. This barbershop-quality hair styling gel has a high hold and moderate shine (not too much, not too little) that will ensure your hair is always in place but isn’t too glossy.
The formula contains hydrating ingredients like aloe vera, plus the sharp scent of cedarwood and lime to seal off the end of your hair care routine in a smashing finale of self-confident scents. And trust us, you’ll want to go on to do the encore. To use, add a small amount through damp or dry hair and style as usual.
8. Huron Hair Gel
Sometimes, when it comes to hair care, simplicity is best. But simplicity doesn’t mean you need to skimp on greatness. Huron’s Hair Gel is a light gel-cream consistency that smooths and tames hair while adding definition, shine, and that all-day hold you’re looking for in a hair gel. It’s even designed to combat and protect hair from the cruelty that can come from being outside in too much humidity.
Huron also follows a clean formula philosophy. So you won’t find any parabens, sulfates, silicones, phthalates, alcohols, or aluminum inside. What you’ll find are natural plants and extracts like sunflower seed oil, glycerin, hydrolyzed rice protein, as well as horsetail, burdock root, and mallow flower extracts to condition, smooth, and moisturize hair while adding strength, shine, and long-lasting hold. Huron also offers buyers a subscribe and save option so you can save money and time by having your hair gel delivered to your door every 30, 60, or 90 days.
9. Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Firm Hold Gel
John Paul Mitchell is another hairstyling professional who has paved the way for salon-quality products to hit the mainstream markets. In his Tea Tree Firm Hold Gel, you’ll find a gel formula that offers a firm, flake-free hold that adds thickness, body, and the right amount of shine to the hair.
The versatile formula can be used on all hair types (from fine to coarse) and applied to wet or dry hair. The formula’s signature tea tree scent (plus notes of cool mint and fresh citrus) creates an enlivening, spa-like experience. Tea tree leaf oil and aloe vera leaf juice also team up to hydrate and protect the hair shaft.
10. Jack Black Body Building Hair Gel
Jack Black’s Body Building Hair Gel is an alcohol-free gel formula that creates a natural-looking hold while offering you control. You can skip the unnecessary crunch, buildup, and flaking that other gels offer since Jack Black’s unique, fragrance-free, medium hold gel dries completely without weighing down the hair and leaving behind a sticky residue.
And if that didn’t sell you, just wait until you hear about its nutrient-rich ingredients like white lupine protein, vitamin B5, vegetable protein, grapefruit, ginger root, and sea kelp (to name a few) that supply the hair with the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and peptides it needs to maintain its health, volume, and shine. To get your perfect style, simply work a small amount into slightly damp hair and do your thing.
See more about – The 10 Best Men’s Hair Care Products In 2021