“The best hair gel?”, you might be thinking to yourself incredulously. “Hair gel?!” That’s right, folks: Once indelibly associated with the crisply coiffured boy bands of the early aughts, hair gel was the type of hair product that, until recently, we’d steer you away from. Why not a classic pomade or a light-hold hair cream?
But in this era of anything-goes style, over-the-top grooming moves are suddenly feeling kind of right. If you haven’t noticed yet, some of the telltale style tics from those heady day at the turn of the millennium are back in a big way—Bootcut jeans! Timothee Chalamet in Juicy!—and it’s high time you reconsidered the go-to grooming product beloved by every 2000s teenybopper two-stepping his way to worldwide adulation.
Plus, the best hair gel on the market today are nothing like their crunchy, shiny predecessors. There’s a whole range of holds and finishes available—they’ll slide effortlessly into your grooming regimen regardless of your hair type or the look you’re after. In particular, more than a few of the gels spotlighted below are specifically formulated to deliver a matte finish, so you don’t have to worry about overdoing it on the sheen.
But fear not: we’ve got some shiny options, too. Apply sparingly, and then carry on like you’re Joey Fatone absolutely nailing the choreography to “Bye Bye Bye” in front of a throng of clamoring fans.
The Best Drugstore Gel
Dove Men+Care hair styling control gel
Dove’s alcohol-free styling gel offers the sort of rock-solid consistent results you’ve come to expect from the big-box grooming giant, at a fraction of its competitors’ prices. Best of all, its caffeine-infused formula upholds its promise of delivering thicker-looking hair without rendering your mane too greasy.
The Best Gel For Curly Hair
Briogeo “Curl Charisma” frizz control gel
Briogeo’s curl-defining gel packs a hell of a punch. Fortified with amino acids that work to block out humidity—along with tomato fruit ferment (it’s a thing!) to enhance moisture retention and support curl formation—the brand’s signature light-to-medium hold formula offers flexible, heavily-textured definition sans any crispy stiffness.
The Best Gel for Thinning Hair
Baxter of California thickening style gel
It’s been a very stressful year, and your hairline should be forgiven if it’s receded by a few hundred follicles or so. Thankfully, Baxter’s thickening style gel offers volumes in spades, via a pomade-like formula enriched with ginger and vitamin B5 to help smooth and soften your hair. If you’re looking to reclaim the thickness of your not-so-distant past, this is the residue-free gel to do it with.
The Best Low-Shine Gel
Kiehl’s grooming solutions clean hold styling gel
Into the idea of a gel but worried you’ll look like you’re auditioning for a part in The Outsiders if you get your hands on the wrong one? Worry no longer. Kiehl’s has been making its non-greasy styling formula for years now, providing a lasting hold with minimal shine for all types of hair. Lightweight and infused with a blend of essential oils, the brand’s signature gel—unlike your friend who bails last-minute on your plans to day-drink in the park—is also blissfully flake-free.
The Best High-Hold Gel
Hanz De Fuko gel triq extreme hold gel
Aspiring to Gordon Gekko levels of slickness? This is the product for you. A flexible and fast-drying gel that provides extreme hold, this is the styler you reach for when you want to channel your inner titan of industry—or, y’know, that dude you saw on the street rocking tinted shades and two full sleeves worth of ink. The point is, ladies and gentlemen: Gel is good.
Three More Gels We Love
R+Co motorcycle flexible gel
Because any product that immediately calls to mind images of firing down the freeway, wind whipping through your perfectly coiffed hair, is a product worth picking up.
Firm hold, polished finish, can’t lose.
Your first line of defense against hairdo-torching humidity, made in the USA using a mixture of hair-strengthening proteins and natural extracts.