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How to Pick the Best Hair Styling Products

By Carly Cochrane - 3 years ago | Updated
best hair styling products

With everything from gel and wax to mousse and spray on the market, it can be hard to know which styling product to use and when. We provide a full and thorough guide on how to pick the best hair styling products so that you can give your locks the all-day wear that they deserve. Whether you want a curling cream, volumising spray, strong-hold gel or texturising mousse, your new hero hair product is here, ready and waiting.

Hair Wax

What is hair wax?

Hair wax is a hair product that boasts a paste, clay or balm-like texture. It is often used as the last step in a hair care routine to style, mould, shape and sculpt strands. Thanks to the wax formula, this styling product doesn’t stiffen or clump together hair, instead it adds a soft, flexible and natural texture that lasts throughout the day. Not to mention, it tames frizz, adds definition and enhances shine, making it an all-in-one styling aid.

Is hair wax good for thick hair?

Hair wax is a great option for thick hair as its light and airy texture not only provides a firm hold but allows you to mould your favourite styles. It works best on short to medium length hair, including curly and wavy textures. Oily hair types can also benefit from hair wax as the pomade-like formulas often deliver a matte finish.

How do you use hair wax?

Wax is best used on fresh, dry hair but can also be applied to damp hair. You don’t have to be a professional to achieve salon-worthy results, as wax works wonders on strands almost straight away.

Start by taking a pea-sized amount of wax and warming it between your fingers to make it more pliable. Once the wax has melted, you can run it through your hair. For layered styles, twist the wax onto the tips of your hair. To add bounce and definition to curls, scrunch the wax into mid-lengths. For volume, work the wax into the roots of your hair. For extra shine and an undone, tousled look, simply run the wax through the ends of your hair.

Schwarzkopf Professional Osis+ Whipped Wax

£11.50 £16.00 (29% off)

TIGI Bed Head Matte Separation Workable Wax

£6.99 £13.95 (50% off)

KeraCare Styling Wax Stick

£8.99 £13.45 (34% off)

Hair Gel

What is hair gel?

Hair gel is typically applied to wet hair to keep it in a firm hold throughout the day. You can use hair gel in the styling process after washing your hair, whether it's with a scrunching motion or with a smooth combing process with your fingers.

Hair gel can be used on any type of hair, from curly to straight, thick to fine. The strengthening ingredients allows you to sculpt your hair in whatever style you wish, and the long-lasting properties keeps it in place for hours. The texture is smooth with a transparent colour, making it easy to work into your locks.

What's the difference between hair gel and hair wax?

The difference in hair gel and wax lies mainly in the texture. Wax has more of a solid, thick texture whereas gel resembles a smooth, liquid form.

Wax works best in short or layered hair, whereas gel can be applied to hairs of all length. Wax makes hair easy to mould, adds texture and provides a matte, natural finish, whilst gel adopts more of a sticky texture and tends to make hair stiff.

The differences in how they are applied also varies. Gel is best applied to wet hair and soaks into your locks, whereas wax is best applied on dry hair and can be easier to sculpt later in the day.

How do I use hair gel?

Hair gel is pretty simple to apply, and there are often instructions on the bottle to give you a helping hand. It can be applied to all hair types and lengths, though hair does typically need to be wet to maximise its styling benefits. If you apply hair gel to dry hair it can often get caught between the hairs and create a brittle, sticky residue that looks and feels unpleasant.

Take a penny-sized drop in your hand, rub the gel between your palms, then either scrunch in your hair or smoothly run through with your fingers. After application, don't rinse your hair. Allow the gel to be absorbed into your hair, and if you want to shape it differently you can scrunch or twist with your fingers.

Sebastian Professional Gel Forte

£17.15 £22.60 (25% off)

R+Co Wall Street Strong Hold Gel

£18.62 £23.28 (21% off)

Cantu Maximum Hold Strengthening Styling Gel

£7.55 £9.00 (17% off)

Hair Mousse

What does hair mousse do?

Hair mousse helps to add volume to all hair types, whilst simultaneously delivering an unmatched level of conditioning and hold for the ultimate style. Arriving in a foam-like consistency, mousse sinks into the hair to deliver the nutrients and essential ingredients that will keep your style in place.

Loved for its lightweight texture, mousse doesn't weigh hair down meaning you get the benefits of a styling product but without any commitment to a heavy, sticky feel. For curly hair types, mousse adds definition, hold and shine whilst straight hair types will receive more volume for post-salon results.

How do I use hair mousse?

Always apply mousse to clean, washed hair. Applying mousse to dirty, greasy hair will only emphasis the look of oil and will not provide much styling opportunity.

Depending on your hair length and thickness, apply a large palm-sized amount to damp, towel-dried hair. It is important to focus the product on your roots for that extra lift and volume. Then, go in with your hair drier and use whatever styling tools you require for your hair type.

L'Oréal Professionnel Tecni ART Full Volume Extra Mousse

£13.12 £14.75 (12% off)

Evy UV/Heat Hair Mousse

£20.00 £25.00 (20% off)

Wella Professionals EIMI Extra Volume Strong Hold Volumising Mousse

£13.12 £17.25 (24% off)

Styling Cream

What is hair cream?

Hair cream is your one stop shop for natural looking, styled hair. Depending on the specific hair lotion or cream you choose, you can achieve a range of looks and styles. Typically, it's a go-to product for beauty lovers with curly hair but it can also be used on all different types of locks to smooth, tame and detangle.

Unlike gel or wax, hair styling cream has a more natural and versatile finish. With low to medium hold you can create smooth, sleek strands or full-bodied, textured styles. Hair creams can also help with heat styling, locking in straight tresses or creating voluptuous curly waves.

How do you apply hair cream?

For specific instructions, see individual product descriptions. However, applying most styling creams is an easy and stress-free process, best applied to freshly washed, towel-dried hair.

Simply take a small amount of cream in the palm of your hands and work through the lengths of your hair. Then style as desired, either adding hydration and body to your curls or smoothing with your favourite paddle brush.

For a natural finish, allow to air dry. For a sleeker look, use a hair dryer and achieve an effortless blow dry in the comfort of your own home. Styling creams do also work on dry hair, helping to tame frizz and pesky fly-aways. Just take a small amount in your hands again and smooth over the problem area.

Can I use hair straightening cream instead of straightening my hair?

It all depends on your hair type and how straight you want your hair.

For curly hair, heat styling tools and creams may be required. But if you want to avoid heat altogether, try setting your hair dryer to the cold setting, applying the hair straightening cream and then brushing the lengths until dry and straight.

Hair straightening cream typically helps speed up the process of flat ironing, taming any frizz and locking in that sleeky, smooth feeling.

What is the best hair cream for styling?

Whether you want to add effortless, cool texture to your locks or you are searching for the perfect lotion to add definition and hold to your curls, styling cream is the answer.

From sleek hair straightening creams to gloss hydrating lotions, there's something for every hair care collection.

Noughty Wave Hello Curl Defining Taming Cream

£6.25 £7.99 (22% off)

Kérastase Chronologiste Thermique Blow-Dry Cream

£29.99 £42.95 (31% off)

Fudge Professional Styling XXL Hair Thickener Cream

£12.55 £15.00 (17% off)

Hair Spray

What is hair spray?

Hair spray is the best hair styling product for taming frizz, creating volume and holding styles in place. The fine mist can be used as the final step in your hair care routine to lock in looks, add shine and keep flyaways at bay. It can also be used to prep strands before you start styling, for extra bounce, volume and heat defence. For the full DL on hairspray, take a look at our 101 Guide to Hairspray: How to Find the Best Hairspray For You.

What are the best hairsprays?

Whether you want to add shine to a slicked-back look, give an up-do all-day wear, tame frizz or boost volume, there's a hairspray ready and waiting to do the job. The best hairsprays are formulas that are kind to strands and deliver visible results, without leaving hair feeling sticky, hard or greasy.

Moroccanoil Luminous Hairspray Medium Hold

£16.89 £21.50 (22% off)

Color Wow Extra Mist-ical Shine Spray

£20.80 £28.00 (26% off)

ghd Final Shine Spray

£14.25 £15.95 (11% off)
Carly Cochrane

Written by Carly Cochrane

As the Senior Content Editor for Cosmetify, Carly is the go-to for all the latest (and greatest) beauty tips, tricks and trends. With over six years of experience in the industry, she knows all the ins-and-outs when it comes to health, beauty and wellbeing. 

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