After 38 hours of research evaluating 56 products, we picked American Crew Forming Cream as our top choice.
In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in men’s hair styling products. It’s not that men weren’t using hair creams and styling gels in the past; it’s that hair cream for men had not caught on as a popular hair styling product.
According to statistics released by Google, there is now more interest in men’s hair than women’s. So finding the best hair cream for men is an important quest for guys these days.
Are there different types of styling creams?
Absolutely! But, there isn’t as much variation as you might think. You’ll find that creams range in texture between lotions all the way to almost-wax. And, some are more committed to offering stronger hold than to reshaping your do as the day wears on.
Generally speaking; however, they’re all committed to medium hold and texture without too much shine.
What about the skin?
For a styling cream, this has a relatively short ingredient list. There are no parabens or petroleum, but you will find alcohol inside. However, there is some protective and healing tea tree oil, which balances it out a bit.
It's a little thicker than most styling creams and carries a glue-like texture.
Dip your finger into the cream and apply a small amount to your hair. It's not a high hold cream, but will give you control over your hair.
A bit woodsy, a bit fresh, and nothing at all like the heavy, perfume-y aroma you think about when you hear this brand's name. Promise.
At less than $7 per tub, this is one of the creams you have to include in your grooming kit. It works out to $2.65 per ounce, which is quite amazing for a quality hair cream.
Hybrid product with the moisturizing properties of a cream and the flexible hold of a gel. Suitable for all hair types, but it works best for fine to medium hair.
Some men complain it feels a bit sticky once it’s applied. It can also make your hair crisp if you use too much at once.
It’s difficult to manage thin hair without weighing it down. Fatboy Hair Boss thickens and lifts limp locks, creating the illusion of a fuller head of hair.
Key Ingredients: Fatboy Hair Boss relies on sunflower seed oil for its lightweight formula. Many other hair creams use a combination of oils, but that’s overkill for fine hair.
Sunflower seed oil smoothes hair into place and also offers UV protection. It’s a mild-scented oil, so the scent doesn’t overpower the hair cream. In fact, it’s really not noticeable at all. More on that below.
Texture and Appearance: Similar to most hair creams on our list: Thick, smooth, and creamy. Think of a lotion or conditioner, and that’s basically what you’ve got with this hair cream.
Application: Squeeze a nickel-sized glob of Fatboy Hair Boss into your hands and work the product through your hair before you blow dry it. This is a heat-activated product, which means it helps protect your hair when things get hot. If you decide to let your hair air dry, Fatboy Hair Boss functions more like a gel than a cream.
Regardless of whether you air dry or blow dry, start by massaging the cream into your roots, then work your way to your tips. This helps distribute the product evenly so you can have fuller-looking hair.
Some men hate the silver tube that holds this cream; they say it’s hard to work with, especially when product gets low. It’s similar to the tubes that hold hair dye in the DIY kits.
Scent: Clean and subtle. It’s got hints of white peach and floral blossoms, but we promise you’ll still smell manly.
Price: Just over $20, which isn’t too bad for a quality hair cream.
Alongside plenty of tea tree oil, you will find castor oil. While it is paraben-free, it does have plenty of alcohol in it.
It's a non-sticky but wax-like cream that's wonderfully lightweight.
All you need is a pea-sized drop, and it's best applied to damp hair.
We'll give you one guess...of course it smells like tea tree extracts. It can be a little strong for some users, though most people absolutely love it.
This can run as much as $19 for the 3-ounce container, and you'll pay a little less than $6.25 per ounce. That's definitely pricey, though people swear by it.
Works on wet or dry hair (but put it on dry hair for the best hold!) and rinses out easily. Smells better than nearly every hair cream we’ve tried with the exception of D:fi D:struct Pliable Molding Creme.
Not strong enough for super thick hair. Has a hint of gloss on very fine hair, so it’s not the best choice if you want a 100% matte look.
Kaolin clay gives hair its flexible hold without stripping away moisture. Waxes from Brazilian palm tree leaves and coal smooth away frizz and leave behind a hint of shine.
Guys rave that this Layrite hair cream has a creamier formula than competitors. That’s important because it makes it easier to run this cream through your hair and work it into the perfect style.
Smooth a small amount through wet or dry hair and style hair as usual. If you want a long-lasting look, remember Layrite’s slogan: “The dryer the hair, the higher the hold!”
Adding Layrite to wet hair creates a soft, natural style. Applying it to dry hair results in a firmer finish.
You can work the cream through your hair with your fingers or a comb. Use a comb if you want definition, but be prepared for some leftover residue. Luckily, this water-soluble formula washes out of combs - and your hair - easily.
One praise-doling guy declares this hair scream smells like “coconut and dreams,” and we can totally relate. Layrite describes the scent as mild cream soda, but numerous men swear it has a hint of the tropics.
Regardless of what the hair cream actually smells like, nearly everyone agrees it smells incredible. Some guys confess they love it just because of the smell. The fact that it does what it's supposed to is just an added bonus.
For less than $20, you can make your hair smell like cream soda while creating a style that’s truly you.
Versatile formula soothes and smoothes all hair types, from long locks to short spikes. Can even be used on beards!
Smells better before it dries. Doesn’t have a firm hold, which is generally a pro for long locks but might frustrate users with shorter hair.
Meadowfoam oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, and grapeseed oil. If you’re wondering what the heck meadowfoam oil is, here’s a brief explanation: It comes from meadowfoam flowers, and it moisturizes the hair and scalp. The other oils basically do the same thing while also promoting shine and manageability.
That’s good news for guys with long hair because hydration helps prevent locks from becoming dull and damaged. You have to protect your hair if you want to keep it long.
Smooth and creamy. It’s thick, but not too thick, and it doesn’t leave a sticky residue on your hands.
Use this grooming cream whenever you’re ready! Apply it to damp hair before you blow dry, or apply it to dry hair and create your signature look. You can also use it to pre-style your hair before you add pomade.
We dig that you can also use this versatile cream this on facial hair. Work it through your beard for softer, smoother hair that the special lady in your life will appreciate.
It’s alright. It doesn’t smell awful, though some men complain of a chemical-like smell after it dries. The scent just isn’t as impressive as the other hair creams on our list.
The product works, though, so it’s a great option for long hair if scent isn’t a major concern.
Expect to shell out around $20 for a 3.4 fl. oz. tube of Baxter of California grooming cream.
Tames thick tresses and coaxes curls into submission without leaving hair stiff or greasy. A little goes a long way, so this tube of hair cream lasts a while.
It works best on hair that’s coarse, thick, or wavy, so it’s not ideal for fine-haired fellas. Not designed for complicated styles.
Jack Black Sleek Finish nourishes your hair with olive fruit oil, rosemary extract, beet root, and silk amino acids. These moisturizing ingredients gently smooth frizzy flyaways into place and keep thick locks from doing their own thing.
Lightweight and creamy, similar to hand lotion or conditioner.
Squeeze a nickel-sized dab into your hands and work it through your hair. You can use it on hair that’s damp or dry; we recommend towel-drying hair first if it’s totally soaked.
Style hair as usual, but don’t attempt an unnatural ‘do. This formula has a light to medium hold, so it’s not the right styling product for faux-hawks or serious spikes. You’ll need a wax, putty, or gel for that.
None! Many guys consider that a good thing, but check out D:fi D:struct Pliable Molding Creme if scent matters to you. That creme smells like pina coladas.
Around $15 via Amazon Prime, which means there’s also free 2-day shipping for members.
You will find parabens in here, along with some alcohol and petroleum. But it has a water base and good-for-your-hair castor oil.
It's a medium-weight product with the consistency of hand lotion and a little bit of stickiness to it.
Dry works best, but you can play through all the various combinations until you get the perfect style.
It does smell a bit like a pina-colada, so consider it more a night on the town product than one for a 7 am boardroom meeting.
The MSRP is just over $17, but you'll usually find this for closer to $13 for the 5.3-ounce container which works out to less than around $2.50/ounce which is actually quite an amazing price for a men's grooming cream.
First and foremost, you should know this is a cruelty-free brand, which is always a plus.
Inside, you’ll find a blend of lanolin wax, beeswax, castor oil, Abyssinian seed oil, Argan oil, soybean oil, green tea extract, and even quinoa.
There are no parabens, though they do have added fragrance, which is a little disappointing.
This has a thick creamy texture, which is as you would expect. It’s non-sticky and washes off hands and hair easily.
You can apply this to either damp hair or dry hair, both tend to be fairly easy for most men.
You’ll get a little more shine and less hold when you apply it to damp or wet hair, and you should expect the converse when applying to dry hair.
Some users have found that they need just a pinch more than they would of other styling creams, but you shouldn’t start with more.
It’s difficult to put your finger on the actual scent here. Clean is probably the closest you’ll get - it’s that neutral.
It’s an awesome choice for guys who just can’t stand heavily-perfumed products.
You’ll find this usually costs over $12 for the 2 ounce container, working out to more than $6/ounce which is on the pricey side to be sure.
It is available with Prime, so at least you’ll save on the shipping.
Absolutely no list of styling products for men would be complete without the now iconic American Crew brand.
American Crew has certainly earned their reputation with their affordable and effective products. This forming cream certainly lives up to the brand's reputation.
Its glycerin softens and swells hair shaft making hair appear thicker while providing a moveable hold. If you've got a new cut or you're going for a new look, this is the product to start with.
This is the sort of styling cream that works for nearly any man, most of the time. It provides a solid hold time and time again.
It smells great, works easily into the hair, washes out well, and is neither too shiny nor too matte.
In short, as Sharp Magazine aptly puts it, “it’s the good stuff.”
If you’re looking for more validation, you’ll find it on image consultants Yellow on Blue’s website. They illustrate the benefits succinctly, “with wide availability and quality and consistency of product I can whole-heartedly recommend this product to any young professional looking to add more polish and confidence to their appearance.”
Key ingredients: It's water based, so it shampoos out easily and has a lanolin-wax base. While American Crew is a cruelty-free brand and we applaud that, we would love it if they would take the parabens and alcohol out of their formulations.
Texture and appearance: It's pliable and very creamy, but a little sticky. Think of a combination of school glue and thick hand lotion.
We know that doesn't sound appealing, but it's really comfortable to work with.
Application: You can experiment with wet and dry application, though you’re likely to find that damp to dry hair works best. A tiny amount is all that's needed.
Scent: Think light and sweet, but with an overwhelmingly masculine aroma. There are some citrus notes - and there are plenty of men (and women) that believe it smells better than the brand's iconic fiber product.
Price: You should expect to pay between $10 and $11 for a 3-ounce container on Amazon. It usually works out to less than $3.50 per ounce which is about average for a reputable hair cream.
It is eligible for Prime shipping - and since it usually lasts for ages, there's no reason to feel uncomfortable about the fact that it's not available for Subscribe & Save.
There are plenty of guys ready to turn up their noses at hair creams, simply because they don’t offer a whole lot of hold.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s not a styling aid; it just doesn’t hold your hair in place the same way other products will.
What kind of hold do hair creams offer?
Hair creams provide a low, soft hold with just a touch of natural shine.
What types of styles benefit from hair creams?
You should think about bed hairstyles when you think about hair creams. It’s the sort of product stylists would use on actors such as Adrian Grenier (Vincent Chase on Entourage) or Robert Pattinson (in just about anything he’s ever done).
In other words, styling cream is good for flexible, natural-looking hair.
Comb-overs (of the George Clooney variety, as opposed to the Homer Simpson type) work really well with styling cream. Though, remember, a comb is the other essential part of this equation, and you will definitely need a hairdryer (take a look at the application tips below).
Hair creams are great at taming frizzies, fluffies, flyaways, and static. Additionally, they can be used as a pre-styling product as they’ll add some volume and separation.
From there, you can add more definition and hold with another product.
Alternatively, if you’re after a soft finish with a light shine, you may want to start with another product and add a little hair cream at the end.
What types of hair can make the most of styling creams?
Hair cream can be used with just about every type of hair. Well, almost. It’s really good for:
What types of hair may not find a hair cream works for them?
It’s also important to note that short hairstyles may or may not benefit from hair cream; it depends on the texture of the hair and the cut.
If your style doesn’t have a lot of layers and lays relatively flat, you’ll need more definition than a styling cream can add.
What sort of texture should you expect from a hair cream?
As you would expect, hair cream has a creamy texture. It’s much less sticky or stiff than gel or wax, though it's usually quite thick. Although creams often contain moisturizers, they shouldn’t feel greasy when applied to your hair.
What’s the deal with molding cream?
Molding creams fall under the category of hair creams as it has a cream base. But, molding creams also incorporate wax to provide a little more hold.
If you have fine or straight hair, you may want to reach for molding cream rather than a straight cream product. These are applied in exactly the same way, with damp hair as the base.
How is hair cream applied?
Towel dry, freshly washed hair; creams work best on damp hair.
Take just a drop or two of the product to the palms of your hands and rub together to distribute through your fingers and then run through your hair. Working from the back to the front offers the best results.
You can apply styling cream to wet hair, but it won’t add the same amount of volume, and you may find yourself needing to restyle your hair a few hours later.
However, guys with curls may benefit from a wet hair application as it helps to tame wild waves.
Conversely, you’ll get a stronger hold when you apply styling cream to dry hair, but it won’t look as natural.
Cover all of your hair, using a comb if your hair is on the thicker side. You can always tousle your hair once you have the product distributed to get the definition you want.
The first couple of times you use hair cream, you may accidentally miss back parts of your head. Don’t do it! It will be obvious to absolutely everyone that you’ve switched to a new styling product.
Once you’ve applied all the products you need, it’s not a bad idea to add a hairdryer to the mix for a softer – even more, natural look (and perhaps even a little extra hold).
Run your fingers through your hair while drying to lift and add texture to your hair. When your hair is dry, be sure to use a comb or your fingers to complete the style.
Styling tips for hair creams
For a comb-over, apply the product in the same way (from roots to tips and from back to front), then use a comb to create a part.
Aim for your natural part (following the direction of your cowlick – if it swirls clockwise, you’ll need a left side part) and drag the corner of a comb from the front of your hair to the crown of your head to separate your hair.
Hold your hair in place while using a hairdryer to lock the part in place.
Remember, you never need to work with a single styling product. You can always use hair cream to add definition and texture and then add another level of hold with a wax or a hair spray if you want.
Just a note about the application - individual products offer their own suggestions, and you may want to pay attention to them.
We should add, your barber or stylist can always provide you with the best tips for styling at home, especially for your hair type. And, you can always check out this video if you’re really battling to get it right.
Is it difficult to wash out styling cream?
No. It’s rather like a leave-in conditioner. You should be able to wash it out relatively easily. Molding creams are even easier to wash.
As long as you get your scalp clean, you probably don’t need to worry about the buildup.
What counts in a styling cream? When should you turn away?