In a perfect world, your hair would do exactly what you tell it to. No fuss, no cowlick, no products or problems.
Unfortunately, whether you’ve got long, curly locks or a shorter, crew cut style, chances are that your hair is pretty unruly and wild.
If you want to achieve a bold style, you’re going to need the help of some products. Thankfully, hair wax is there to help.
What is Hair Wax
As one of the best-selling hair products on the market today, you’ve probably already encountered hair wax at least once in your life.
Along with hair spray, hair gel, pomade and other similar products, it aims to hold your hairstyle in place throughout your day.
Unshockingly, it’s consistency is usually a bit waxy and hard.
Especially if you grew up in the ’80s or ’90s, there’s a pretty good chance your experiences with hair wax thus far have been straightforwardly horrendous.
Thankfully, the waxes on the market today are not the same ones your mother used to slather back your bowl cut before the middle school’s annual Christmas choir concert.
So if the words hair wax have you thinking of adjectives like stiff, flaky or outdated, toss out those associations. Today’s wax products, when applied appropriately, are essential to any men’s styling routine.
Benefits of Using a Hair Wax
Especially beneficial for curly or frizzy manes, hair wax is a great tool for smoothing hair.
Even if you’re going for a wild, unruly look, a good hair wax can help you get there by smoothing out frizzy ends.
After all, your hair can look free and wild without having to appear unhealthy or unkempt.
These days, many wax products are jam-packed with nutrients. On top of adding style and hold, they actually deliver much-needed vitamins to your hair and scalp.
In coating your strands lightly with a pliable product, wax actually can help protect your hair.
Elements like harsh sun, wind or extremely cold temperatures can take a toll on your hair’s overall health.
However, a quality wax product locks in moisture and protects from dirt, grime and the elements.
Though nothing can substitute a quality hair conditioner, using wax can help lock in moisture and keep your strands hydrated.
This doesn’t just keep your hair looking great, it also improves each strand’s overall integrity.
Added moisture keeps your hair from becoming brittle and stops breakage and split ends before they happen.
Quick and Easy Application
If you’re always waking up twenty minutes late and rushing through your morning routine, a wax is probably for you.
Of the hair styling products, it’s the quickest, easiest and most drama-free.
After application, it’s also easier to wash it from your hands than pomade and clay alternatives, making it much easier to get out the door and on your way with shaped and stylish hair.
Features of the Best Hair Wax
Hair wax hold ranges from light to heavy. Which you decide on will depend entirely on your hair’s thickness and length, as well as your desired style.
Duration of the Hold
Duration refers to how many hours the product will hold your intended style. A stronger hold aims to maintain a look’s shape for the whole day.
Its only drawback is that the same properties which make a product have a strong hold will also often make it more difficult to apply and remove.
If you’re after a hair wax with a long duration, you’ll be sacrificing precious morning preparation minutes.
However, if you’re dedicated to having a great hairstyle, you probably won’t mind.
Strength is determined by the product’s ability to hold the hair firmly in place, even when it comes to drastic styles.
If you’re asking your hair to do things it wouldn’t normally ever dream of, you’ll probably need to go with a stronger hold.
If you merely want to coax a couple stray hairs back into place and add a bit of body, a lighter hold will get the job done just fine.
Additionally, when considering strength you’ll probably want to consider your hair’s thickness.
Thicker hair can take stronger styling products, while thinner hair tends to be more manageable and requires less.
One of the highlights of hair wax that sets it a notch above other styling products is that it usually smells pleasant.
Capitalizing on this strength, hair wax manufacturers have taken the time to develop a wide range of scents that appeal to just about anyone.
A few of the popular, manlier options on the market include pine, warm vanilla or gentle musks.
Just remember that if you want a scented product, seek one out that is naturally scented using natural oils rather than unnecessary chemicals.
Alternatively, you can opt for an entirely unscented wax.
One of the wax’s strong suits is that it doesn’t make your hair greasy or overly slick like some other styling products.
However, some products do deliver a shine that varies from low to high. Which you select will depend entirely on your own personal taste.
Low shine is ideal for more natural, low-key looks.
If you’re a man who wants a hair product that glides on invisible and does its job without boasting or announcing itself, you’ll want to go with a low-shine, matte finish option.
Alternatively, some glitzy, loud-and-proud styles call for a wax with a little bit of shine and swagger. For these, you might want to go with a high-shine wax.
It’s inevitably a bit bolder, but fun in the right scenario. If you’re looking for a glitzy look, scan ingredients list for natural oils.
Natural oils like olive oil and coconut oil are what give a product its higher level of shine.
Types of Hair Waxes
Most waxes come standardly in a tin or pot. This makes them easy to travel with and use.
However, there are some unique alternatives. These days, waxes can come in all shapes and sizes.
Here are just a few:
Not to be mistaken for hairspray, the wax spray has all the flexibility of a traditional wax but comes packed in a spray bottle.
It’s great for creating extra volume or zero-in on specific areas.
Similar, in truth, to a glue stick, hair wax sticks pack wax into a tube, which can be applied directly onto the hair.
Though it doesn’t allow for as much precision, it might be an ideal product for those who travel frequently.
A little less waxy and a little gooier, gummy wax has a consistency a bit more like jelly.
These products are new on the market and range from strong to light in the hold.
Hair Wax vs Other Styling Options (Alternatives)
If you’re after a product to give your hair shape and hold its style, you should be warned that gel isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Different styles call for different products.
You wouldn’t use pomade in all the same situations you’d use a gel and clay and wax are in no ways interchangeable.
Learning the differences of the many styling products might seem a little daunting at first, so here’s a quick drive-by approach at what’s what and when to use each.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to commit to one product for life.
It’s common to use a variety or combination of a couple of these products in order to achieve the exact look and feel you’re after.
Gel vs Hair Wax
Typically, best hair gel has a much firmer hold than hair wax. The major styling difference between hair gel and hair wax is that with time, hair gel dries and settles.
This locks the style in place, making it impossible to alter or adjust in the middle of the day. If you want to change your style after applying gel, you have to wash and restart entirely.
Wax, however, never dries or hardens. If necessary, throughout the day you can twist, curl or push back your hair to readjust the overall style.
Though it may not hold as firmly as its gel or wax counterparts, it provides more flexibility and overall plasticity.
Clay vs Hair Wax
Because hair clay is the newest of the common hair products, it’s possible you don’t have much experience with it. For all intents and purposes, clay functions much like hair wax.
The defining difference is that clay products contain a substance called bentonite, which is formed naturally and originates from volcanic ash.
Because it’s often organic, products like natural hair clay will sometimes have healing and repairing qualities that wax lacks.
Unfortunately, these products are generally more expensive than waxes. They are also standardly matte in finish and don’t have the potential for desired shine as waxes do.
Pomade vs Hair Wax
Pomade is the long-distance runner of the hair styling products. It holds much longer and is often significantly stronger.
If you’re aiming to slick-back your mane into a more formal hairstyle, you’ll want to use a quality pomade for men instead of wax. Much like hair gel, pomade dries after application.
This holds the style firmly in place but also makes hair inflexible.
Therefore, like with gel products, if you need to restyle or adjust your look, you have to wash it and start over.
Spray vs Hair Wax
Not unusually, hairspray isn’t a competitor to hair wax, but rather a finishing product used in addition to it.
While the wax is malleable and soft to the touch after application, hairspray is much firmer. While it can be used to achieve an overall style, it’s more ideal for placing unruly hairs or taming your rogue curls.
In this sense, consider it a spot-treatment method for problem areas, not a blanket-product for overall shape and style.
Unfortunately, even the best hairspray looks awful when it’s overapplied. If you decide to go with hairspray to keep stray strands in line, you’ll want to use it sparingly, with the can placed at a distance.
In contrast, the wax is much simpler to apply. Because it doesn’t dry hard or stiff, there’s less chance for your hair to accidentally end up looking frozen or rock-hard.
Cream vs Hair Wax
Ideal especially for longer hair, a cream is lighter weight than waxes or other products.
While it can’t create the exact form or shape that products like wax can, it’s ideal to smooth a fuller head of hair into a uniform direction.
In short, a high-quality natural hair cream isn’t going to help your mohawk stay in place during a gust of wind, but it might help take your mane from a frizzy mess to a set of well-kept locks.
How to Choose the Best Hair Wax
Because wax can masquerade on labels under several aliases (some of which include paste, putty, glue or molding gum), you should always consult a products ingredients list to know for sure if what you’re buying is truly wax or not.
By definition, it shouldn’t shock you that wax hair products must contain some type of wax as a primary ingredient.
This serves to add volume, coat the hair for protection and hold the hair in place without drying it out or making it brittle.
Popular wax base ingredients include beeswax and carnauba wax, just to name a few.
Outside of its star ingredient, wax can contain a whole slew of oils, vitamins and additives (some of them better for you than others).
Here’s a quick list of what to look for and what to avoid when it comes to quality wax products.
Good Ingredients To Look For
As one of the most common ingredients in high-quality hair waxes, beeswax is great in helping your hair stay in place and healthy.
Besides holding its intended style, it also adds body and fullness to your hair.
Sometimes used in lieu of beeswax, carnauba wax is perhaps the second most common, natural ingredient to look for in a quality product.
It’s ideal for those seeking a gentle product that promotes flexibility and softness, while still gently adding shape and structure.
Tea tree leaf oil
Along with other leaf oils such as sage and organic basil, tea tree oil helps reduce dryness and itching.
If your scalp becomes red or irritated with the use of other hair products, it might do just fine with a wax containing organic leaf oil.
Tea leaf extract
If you’re looking to strengthen and nourish your hair, seek out a product containing tea leaf extract.
By stimulating hair follicles, tea leaf extract helps strengthen hair and promote growth, which is ideal especially for men with thinning or receding hairlines.
This ingredient is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals that can help not only to nourish hair but reverse years of damage too.
Bad Ingredients You Should Avoid
If you’ve done any research on skin care or hair care products, you probably already know to avoid parabens like the plague.
Because they’ve been linked to the disruption of the endocrine system and in some drastic cases even cancer, you’ll want to pass on any products containing them in the ingredients list.
While alcohol does have its place in products like hair sprays, it shouldn’t be a necessity in wax. Because alcohol works to dry hair and strip oils, it can lead to breakage and split ends.
If you’ve naively purchased a hair wax without checking the label and your scalp has become dry, irritated and itchy, propylene glycol could be to blame.
Though with light use it may go unnoticed, this ingredient (commonly found in everything from products for hair dyeing to gels and hair conditioners for men) damages hair proteins and causes long term damage.
This form of alcohol is a worryingly common ingredient in gels, hairsprays and sometimes waxes.
It’s included due to its use in holding hair firmly in place, but it also strips hair of its natural oils and moisture.
Additionally, it’s a common ingredient in antifreeze, wood finish and shellac, which makes you wonder why anyone would want it on their body.
How to Apply Hair Wax
Waxes vary in thickness and quantity needed, so always consult your product’s label before application.
However, the rules for applying wax are generally the same across the board.
Step 1 – Start with dry hair
While few waxes might instruct you to apply with damp hair, the general consensus is that dry hair is better for styling.
If you’ve just showered, blow dry your hair before starting the application to optimize effectiveness.
Step 2 – Remember that a little goes a long way
With waxes and any hair care product, it’s easy to overapply.
Oversaturated hair can end up looking greasy, wet and disgusting. If you use too much, you’ll have to wash your hair and restart entirely.
Always remember to start small. You can always add more product later on if you need to.
Step 3 – Soften the wax
Most waxes come out of the container hard and unmanageable. In fact, it can be nearly impossible to apply room-temperature wax to your hair.
Imagine, for example, trying to spread cold butter on a piece of bread.
Instead, you’ll want to rub your hands together in order to soften the wax. This softens it, so you can apply it without a struggle.
Step 4 – Apply wax to your hair
After softening, the product should be ready to style.
Spread it evenly on your palms and fingers, and then work your hands gently through your hair, massaging the product through your hair.
Do your best to avoid the scalp, as unintended contact can cause irritation.
Step 5 – Style your hair
Here’s the part where flair comes in. Now that you’ve applied the wax, style your hair to its desired shape.
You can do this by pressing, twisting or curling your fingers.
Ideally, you’ll want to shape your hair with your hands rather than a comb or brush. This ensures a more natural, stylish shape.
Step 6 – Lock in place
After applying wax, if your desired style needs a little extra help, you can use hair spray or another firm-holding product to lock your locks in place.
Step 7 – Adjust as necessary
The beauty of wax is that it doesn’t dry stiff. Throughout the day, you’ll have the ability to adjust your hairstyle as necessary, making sure it always has the perfect shape or curl.
How Often Should You Use Hair Wax
Unlike hairsprays and other similar hair products, hair gel generally has a one-and-done application process. During your day, you shouldn’t need to frequently reapply it or top up.
Waxed hair can be modified and tweaked throughout the day without the use of a continued application. Additionally, some products will damage hair with long term use.
Applying hairspray, for example, on a daily basis can sometimes lead to a slight dryer, brittle hair.
Wax, however, is much more flexible. This reduces potential damage and means you can use it daily without guilt or consequences.
How To Wash Off Wax From Your Hair
To remove hair wax at the end of your day, you’ll simply need to use a standard washing process and a trusted shampoo brand.
Some are much harder to remove than the others and how much effort you are willing to use to remove it at night should be a determining factor in which product you select.
Does Hair Wax Damage Your Hair
If you take care to purchase a wax product with quality ingredients, the short answer is no.
Because wax works to hydrate hair, it doesn’t run the same risks for dryness and breakage that other products might.
Additionally, many wax products include vitamins and minerals, which can work to improve your hair’s overall health.
What Are The Side Effects of Using Hair Wax
Back in the day, overuse of products like hair wax frequently led to dryness and breakage.
These days, wax is formulated with a bit more care. If they dry out your hair, it’s nothing a little bit of hair conditioner for men can’t quickly fix. However, overuse of hair wax can, in some cases, lead to hair loss.
This is caused mostly by the fact that it adds volume and weight to your hair, which can stress follicles. If you notice your hair is thinning, simply cease or lessen the use of your wax product.
If you’re after a classic style (you know, the kind you associated with a classic chair for barber shop and a set of high-quality professional hair clippers) you’re not going to achieve it by wishing.
Rubbing a lucky penny isn’t going to do much, but rubbing on a high-quality hair wax definitely will.
Photos from: pikselstock / depositphotos.com, belchonock / depositphotos.com, tonodiaz / depositphotos.com, Syda_Productions / depositphotos.com and Soyka564 / depositphotos.com.
- What is Hair Wax
- Benefits of Using a Hair Wax
- Features of the Best Hair Wax
- Types of Hair Waxes
- Hair Wax vs Other Styling Options (Alternatives)
- How to Choose the Best Hair Wax
- Good Ingredients To Look For
- Bad Ingredients You Should Avoid
- How to Apply Hair Wax
- How Often Should You Use Hair Wax
- How To Wash Off Wax From Your Hair
- Does Hair Wax Damage Your Hair
- What Are The Side Effects of Using Hair Wax