Go ahead, rub it in... to hair.
August 29, 2011 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I have managed to reach the age of forty-mumble with no idea how to deal with hair-care products. I shampoo regularly (Head and Shoulders for the dandruff works fine), keep my hair fairly short (but not buzzcut, because my head looks stupid when the hair is too short), and sometimes blow it dry, but all this other stuff - pomade, hair spray, the stuff the salons call 'product' is beyond me. Where can I go to find out about how to use them?

I've tried, for example, askmen.com (but when I go to their page, I get an ad and a "click to go to askmen.com" link, which brings me back to the ad page). Most of the other things I find online through google have a base assumption you know how to use the stuff, and here's reviews of it. I don't know how to use it, so this is not helpful at all.

I tend to go for cheap (being unemployed and all right now), and the people at Supercuts aren't good at teaching (but then they don't get paid for it, so I shouldn't expect that). Going to a higher-class salon for it may be out of my budget at this time. (I did go to a salon school back in the 90s for a cheap haircut while jobhunting and it took the teacher half an hour to de-experimentify my hair, which is part of my worries about doing that again.)
posted by mephron to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any friends, male or female, who have what you would consider good hair? Ask them. Ask if anyone has a friend or family member who is a stylist or is in school to become one; offer to pay that person ten bucks to show you how to use product. And many, many beauty supply stores are staffed by friendly people who can show you how to use the stuff they're selling...just be sure you specify that you really don't know what to do with it.

Are you going for a particular look? Find a picture of it and bring it with you when you do the asking.
posted by corey flood at 2:42 PM on August 29, 2011

Is there a problem with your hair that you're trying to solve? Because if you like how your hair looks, there's no reason to put any of that junk on. If there's something you're trying to fix, maybe the thing to do is on a one-time basis go to a fancier hair salon, tell them what you don't like, ask them how to fix it, including any product recommendations. (My personal experience with this: my hair just didn't stay parted the way I wanted it. Finally a smart barber said I should shift the part to the other side of my head. It's been fine ever since without any artificial ingredients added.)
posted by beagle at 2:45 PM on August 29, 2011

Go to a barbershop for your haircuts. A proper one, that's been around for years. Unlike Supercuts and other chains, the person who cut your hair this month will still be there next month and the month after that. They'll remember you when you come back, engage you in actual conversation and answer any hair related questions you have.

Barbershops in my town are about the same price as the chain places. The one I use is actually cheaper. The woman who cuts my hair there has been there for 30 years, some of her customers came in as kids with their Dads and now bring their own kids.
posted by IanMorr at 2:53 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to use "products", but now I just use olive oil. I have lots of thick hair; If my hair is too poofy, I put olive oil in it.
posted by krilli at 2:54 PM on August 29, 2011

Is there a beauty school near you? The students all have to learn this stuff, and they generally give haircuts at the same price as the folks from Supercuts. While you're there, you may ask to speak to an instructor.
posted by xingcat at 2:54 PM on August 29, 2011

I think you may have to provide us with a little more information honey! There are so many hair types and styles that there is no way to simply answer this without a novel of an answer! For example, if you a have very curly or dry hair you need a totally different product than a man with thinning, oily hair. And that is just a brief example of different hair types, don't get me started on different hair styles, the "tousled look" take a totally different product than the combed and well polished look.
posted by Jayed at 3:35 PM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: Okay, as a dude with short hair, you can pretty much narrow yourself down to two products: gel and pomade. You will probably never have to use hairspray, mousse or putty unless you decide to do something creative with your hair, which you don't seem to want.

Gel is a liquid and after you put it in and style your hair, it sets. It can set faster if you blow dry it, but blow drying hair is generally something I would avoid. Gelled hair looks slick and feels crunchy. After the gel sets, you can't really change what it did without washing it out and trying again.

Pomade is a thick creme that more-or-less stays oily when in your hair. It's less apparent, although it can look slick if you use enough of it. It can become even less apparent if you blow-dry it, and your hair will almost look like it naturally grows in whatever you pomade-ed it into.

Hairspray is for getting "big hair" or for setting long hair into place. Guys rarely use it.

Mousse is a lot like gel, but lighter -- it comes out as a foam -- and can be combed in better, to make it less apparent. If you like what gel does, but want to be a little less intense, try mousse.

Putty is for gravity-defying hair. Big spikes, mohawks and the like. It's a really thick variation on pomade.
posted by griphus at 3:39 PM on August 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

Also: YouTube is your friend. There are lots and lots of instructional videos for hair, and there's enough for dudes that you can see how to put in different products, and how they look after you've put them in.
posted by griphus at 3:44 PM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: You have hair like mine, down to the Head and Shoulders. Go with pomade. I use a jar of it, brand name Crew that I buy at Walgreen's for $20. Sounds expensive, but it lasts me around a year.

Dry your hair with a towel until it's semi dry, then put a small amount in. Small as in the size of a pea at most. The best thing to do is to put it into mostly dry hair. The effect is that it slicks it down slightly, and keeps loose frizzy puffy parts from sticking up. So i sometimes put some through my hair, then take a little extra and sort of slick it down at the end.

If you use a small amount it doesn't really look like anything is in your hair. But your hair looks a little neater after using it. Pomade is also nice because it's in a small simple jar, and it's a stiff waxy gel that will not spill or leak.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:56 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: beagle: I don't know - I'm in that place where people tell me "your hair would look better if you did something with it" but when pressed they tell me "you'll need to work on it yourself".

jayed: again, the 'don't know enough to even ask the beginner questions' part. My hair is fairly thick, but can be oily (I have to shampoo minimum every other day or it starts looking greasy). I worked in a New York City banking environment, so that's the kind of short I keep it. It doesn't seem to be thinning, getting thin on top, and it's been a standard index-middle-ring finger distance between the eyebrows and the hairline since I was in my 20s, so it doesn't seem to be retreating either.

griphus: ah, yes, that helps a great deal.

jeff-o-matic: cool, thank you very much.

(Also, at some point, possibly my next Ask, I'm going to have to ask the next terrifying question, about getting it colored. I'm job-hunting right now and the last thing I want to deal with is grey hair and possible issues with that, to the point of not even knowing what my hair color is technically called. There appear to be several billion possible browns out there...)
posted by mephron at 3:58 PM on August 29, 2011

(I can wait until your next AskMe, but let me put in an early vote for you to keep the greys. They're hot, and a hint of gravitas is rarely a bad thing in a job interview.)
posted by argonauta at 4:25 PM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

posted by thefool at 4:54 PM on August 29, 2011

Mephron, sounds like a nice head a hair you got there, don't go gooping it up so much that a girl won't want to run her fingers through it and you will be fine! As for the grays... I personally have nothing against a distinguished older man, my husband can verify that... but the Just for Men products seem to be the way to go, you can even gradually darken it back up so that it isn't so obvious.

Good luck =D
posted by Jayed at 6:44 PM on August 29, 2011

Best answer: Ok, I don't know anything about men's hair products and I am not a man. But I do like men and date men, sometimes men who use hair products, and as a result I have a specific tip about using men's hair products. Well actually, it's a goal and a tip about reaching that goal.

Goal: You do not want your hair to look like you put product in it. No matter what you put in your hair, the result should never be slickness, crustiness, or overly-sculptedness. I think that guys sometimes overdo it with the product, because they think it makes them look like this. (Well maybe that's not who they're emulating. But I wish they were, because that is some good hair!) Unfortunately in reality it's much more likely that it makes them look like this. If you wanted to look like the latter, I'm assuming you'd already know more about hair products than your average pop diva.

Tip: Run your fingers vigorously through your hair after whatever product you're using has set. Or dried or soaked in or whatever men's hair products do. The trick is, let it get to that stage where it might look slick or crusty or sculpted, and then mess it all up again. I know that it works because sometimes when I'm dating a guy who's gone a little overboard with the pomade or whatever gunk it is, I playfully and affectionately run my fingers through his hair. It always fixes it. Just takes that Pauly D edge off, y'know?
posted by ootandaboot at 8:16 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Or you can put conditioner in after you shampoo. Might be surprised how well it keeps the hair together, compared to only shampoo. IMO, that combined H&S shampoo/conditioner formula isn't going to be as good as separate shampoo and conditioner application.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 10:07 PM on August 29, 2011

Use conditioner. Head and Shoulders make it, so you might as well use that one. Or rather, you might as well use whichever variety best fits your hair; I realise it may be slightly annoying to stand in front of the whole row of different colours and choose between 'ocean spray' and 'revitalising', but read the small print and find the one that best describes what you want and/or the problem you're trying to solve. Don't use the 2 in 1 kind.

Remember that with shampoo you're trying to get both your scalp and your hair clean, whereas the conditioner is just for your hair, so you don't need to try and massage it into your scalp or anything - as you've got short hair, it's going to touch your scalp, but don't worry about it. Leave it on for a while - e.g. if you shave in the shower, wash and condition your hair, shave, and then rinse the conditioner out.
posted by Lebannen at 3:19 AM on August 30, 2011

Best answer: Greying "distinguished older man" here (as described by my lovely young bride - thanks, dear) and I agree that product is often essential, but should be kept light, and should not be noticeable.

I use inexpensive Suave pomade. I apply it to damp hair after a shower, work it in and brush my hair. Takes no time at all, and doesn't look or feel like there's anything there. However, without it, my "distinguished" grey hair would be a frizzy mess.

Finding a good stylist to cut your hair is essential, but it needn't be expensive. Even at an inexpensive place, book with the same person every time so you can both learn what works for you. Give it some time, but don't feel obligated if it's just not working out.

If you do decide to darken, look into the reviews of different products. I have read that some can leave the hair unnaturally rough, so there may be some trade-off. (Have never used any darkening products myself.)
posted by The Deej at 6:47 AM on August 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

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