Hair wax is one of the most versatile styling products for men - but only for guys with certain hair types. Named for it’s appearance (not it’s actual content), you might also find hair wax under the names glue, paste, or, the totally awful, molding gum. Most guys, however, and their stylists will stick to wax as it is the simplest.
What kind of hold do hair waxes offer?
The short answer is that you’ll get a medium to strong hold with a hair wax. The stronger ones will hold more like gel, but will still remain pliable enough for reshaping during the day. The weaker hair waxes will not hold as well as pomades.
Realistically, waxes offer firm but flexible styling that can appear naturally styled in the end. Since they don’t dry hard, you can move your hair around all day. And, a tiny amount on your finger tips will help you renew the shape after the gym or before heading to the bar.
What kind of shine do hair waxes offer?
Hair waxes add a medium shine to your hair. It’s difficult to be more specific than that as there are those with a lot of shine and those that are on the matte side of the spectrum. To make it a little more complex, you should know that the moisture level of your hair during application also affects the shine. If you add the wax while your hair is still wet, expect a shinier finish. The converse is true if you’re styling totally dry hair (you know, after deciding to skip the hair washing part of the shower… please don’t pass on the shower itself).
If you want a hold that’s approaching gel or is similar to clay, but you need some natural shine, wax is probably the right choice for you.
What types of styles benefit from hair waxes?
If you have the right hair for it, you can use wax for a lot of different styles ranging from the college boy that just rolled out of bed to a super formal, black tie look. It will add some volume and it will keep your hair up as long as it’s not too long. (If you need a serious gravity-defying do with long hair, go directly to gel - without passing go.)
You should be able to pull off a messy bed head style like Ewan McGregor often sports. Wax is also fantastic for the spiky look that Brad Pitt occasionally has. If you have shorter hair, you can also use hair wax for a little extra volume (think Matt Damon). While these are all on the more natural side of the style spectrum, you should never rule out wax for duck tails and pompadours. Men with straight hair often find wax is the best product for a classic side part that retains a bit of sheen (if you prefer matte, you should consider working with a clay product).
What types of hair can make the most of hair waxes?
Typically speaking, guys with straight or wavy hair do better with hair wax. It’s not that you can’t use it with curly hair, but you may find it clumping when you don’t want it. Still, no guy has textbook hair, so you’ll probably want to look at all of the hair types that describe yours before you make up your mind.
- Straight hair. Hair wax is perfect for straight hair (though, you can probably make the most of any styling product out there - lucky devils). The risk you generally run is a do that looks flat, so the natural appearance of hair wax, which adds a touch of volume and shine, is perfect - depending, of course, on the final style you’re after.
- Wavy hair. Again, you’ll probably be very happy with hair wax - as long as your hair is closer to straight than it is to tight curls. It’s one of the few products that should work for you when your hair is too short for waves (usually less than an inch and a half) and will do reasonably well as those curls start to grow in. You may, however find it’s a little too drying if your locks are on the wiry side.
- Short hair. Don’t think twice about it, you need a wax on your bathroom counter at all times. You’ll find they add good volume, a healthy shine, and allow you a lot of play with your style.
- Thick hair. Rejoice! A hair wax offers the hold that you need for a smooth or piecey style. If you have a longer style, you may find yourself in need of a pomade or a clay (depending on the finish you want), but you should start with a wax first. Remember, a touch of hairspray can add a little more hold, though you will lose some of the reworkability of your hair wax.
What types of hair may find a hair wax does not work for them?
Hair wax isn’t for everyone - especially guys with kinky or curly hair. Sorry guys, you may do better with a styling cream; this is why.
- Kinky hair. Not only will wax be a little too drying, but it’s likely to create clumps and it’s not going to do anything about controlling the frizz. Your tight curls probably won’t hold with hair wax.
- Curly hair. A pomade is probably a better choice for you as wax is likely to dry out your hair. Worse, you’ll find clumps of product that you’ll fight like crazy to hide.
- Long hair. If your hair is really long, you can’t expect a wax to provide enough strength to create a mohawk. Instead, you’ll find a look that’s a little too floppy with hold in all the wrong places. That said, if your hair is on the long side of a short cut, you’ll probably do alright with a wax.
- Thin hair. Not only do you not need this level of hold, but you may find it clumps a little in your hair. If you really like working with a wax, choose one with a lighter than average hold.
What sort of texture should you expect from a hair wax?
Hair wax looks like… well, melty candle wax. Be grateful that it’s not. Hair wax isn’t wax at all; it just looks that way and the feeling of it isn’t too far off either. It’s definitely thicker than gel, you’ll need to scrape it with your fingernail when you open a new container. There are some variations on texture, but we’re pretty sure that anyone reading this understands what candle wax looks and feels like.
What’s the deal with hybrid hair waxes?
You may notice there are some wax hybrids on the market - such as wax pomades. These tend to have the hold of waxes with the creamier texture of pomades. That makes them a better option for guys with curlier hair. They’re also not as drying, though you may find yourself with a little more shine than you typically achieve with a wax.
The spray wax from Toni & Guy is also an interesting concept as are the waxes specifically for adding volume or texture. In general, you can expect all of them to behave like a wax, whether or not they have the same feeling or application. And, that’s important to note with hybrids; pay attention to the instructions on the first use; you may find a few unique surprises.
How much hair wax do you need?
The most important thing you need to know about applying hair wax is that you should use as little as possible. We’re going to repeat that in case you believe your hair is too thick or that a little more will help you keep your coif longer - use as little hair wax as possible. It’s way too easy to use too much. And, when you do, you will notice that your hair is greasy and gross in a matter of hours.
It’s almost impossible to over-stress how little you need. A little dime-sized, finger tip worth of product is likely to be the max - even if you have thicker or longer hair. You can (and probably will) add another layer of wax if you have a more complex style, but you don’t want to make the mistake of too much at first (which will demand that you wash it out of your hair, condition it, dry it and start from scratch).
Does hair wax work best with dry, damp, or wet hair?
Let’s talk first about the moisture level of your hair before we even deal with hair wax preparation.
Hair wax doesn’t work well with wet hair; it just doesn’t adhere as nicely as you will want it to. That said, if your hair is on the wetter side of damp, you can probably get it to work. The end result will be a little shinier than you’d find when applying hair wax to dry or slightly damp hair.
Hair wax really does work best with lightly damp or dry hair. And, remember, the more moisture in your hair when you apply hair wax, the shinier it will be. If you only want a slight glean, work with dry hair only. (And, if even that’s too much, opt for a hair clay instead of a hair wax.)
How is hair wax applied?
Remembering that you only need a tiny amount of hair wax to style your hair, scrape a finger nail sized amount out of the tub and work it between your hands. You want to keep as much of the product on your fingers as you can, but don’t be afraid of it getting on your palms. It can’t hurt and you can always transfer it to your fingertips before working it into your hair.
It’s more important that you loosen the hard wax by heating it - so rub vigorously to soften the product. Work until it’s almost invisible and there isn’t a single lump or bump left. It’s much easier to deal with now than it will be when it’s in your hair.
Run your hands over the entire surface of your hair without working your fingers through your hair. This will apply a slight layer of wax.
Once your hair has this “base”, you can start working with pieces to work it into the style you want. Most hair wax styles tend to work best when you work it into sections of your hair, one at a time. Work from the roots to the ends, but do not let the hair wax touch your scalp. Hair wax and scalp are not a good combination; your hair will look greasy and it’s horrifyingly difficult to wash off skin.
Hair wax is best applied and styled without a comb or brush; just use your fingers. And yes, you can achieve a side part without a comb, though it may take a bit of practice to get it right. Work a section using one hand and then use the next hand for the next piece as this will help you to apply the product evenly. As you approach the ends of your hair, you may find it’s easier to close your hands (so your fingertips are pointing at your wrist) to distribute the product at the ends.
Once you’ve worked in the tiny amount of product that you started with, you can focus on your style. It’s better to see if you can get it right before turning back to the tub for more hair wax; you can always layer the product, so hold off until you absolutely know you need it. Finally, use whatever product is left on your fingers to smooth back fly aways.
Want a little extra help figuring out how to style your do with hair wax? This video should clear it all up.
Is it difficult to wash out a hair wax?
Sadly, yes. We don’t want to lead you astray - waxes aren’t water-based so you will need to spend time washing them out of your hair. A deep cleansing shampoo is likely to be your best bet - though there are some products that will be easier than others. Additionally, we would suggest adding a conditioner into your routine if you habitually use hair waxes; they can be a little drying and your locks will benefit from a little extra moisture with your cleansing routine.
What counts in a hair wax? When should you turn away?
Even the best hair waxes are a trade off - you’ll need to look for the right balance of shine, hold, and the residue that all waxes leave on your hair. You may want to start with a middle of the road product and work your way towards more hold or less shine in future purchases. Generally speaking though, you can expect hair waxes to range in the following ways:
- Hold. Medium to strong holds that are something less than a gel or a pomade, though you will find strong holds that come pretty close to those.
- Duration. Hair wax will typically last all day, but it’s not a hard hold like gel, so you may want to check yourself in the mirror every now and again. If you’re going out straight after work, it’s not a bad idea to rub a fraction of wax between your palms to buff the outer edges of your hair for a little more hold. You can totally do this with wax; it doesn’t mind being layered.
- Reshapeable. Yes, you should get this out of every hair wax on the market. If you can’t reshape your hair with a wax, it’s probably not what you’re looking for.
- Shine. Wax doesn’t appear very greasy, but it will give you some shine. It will range from low shine to medium shine; the extremes are generally found in hybrid waxes.
- Flakes. You may experience a little of this as waxes leave some residue in your hair. Generally, flakes won’t be visible until the second day without washing your hair, however, so it’s usually bearable. If you find extreme flaking, your hair probably doesn’t like wax and you may need to move onto a pomade or clay to get the style you want.
- Washability. You will find some hair waxes that wash out easier than others (especially water-based pomade hybrids), but mostly, you should plan to give your hair a good wash every day or two. And, you’ll need to spend some time doing that.