The Thorough Guide to Hairstyling: Part 4 : Product Reviews

Specific Product Reviews

This section is pretty straight-forward, I will be reviewing the products I’ve used in the past, as well as talking briefly about how I used them. I will start with a brief description of the product by the company which produces it, usually taken from the jar itself or their website, to provide context for my own experience with the product.

Following that, I’ll give my own opinions on its hold, shine, texturizing effects, and smell. I should make it clear right now that I have NOT been paid by any brands or companies to endorse their products. None of my products were received for free, I either bought them myself or my family members bought them for me at some point. I am not against receiving promotional product samples, but I doubt any companies even know I exist, so I won’t hold my breath. :P EDIT: For reference, my hair is moderately curly/wavy, fine-medium strands and abundant.

One last thing before I begin: there are many good lines of products, and I haven’t always had the chance to use them enough to give a detailed review but I’ve had them used on me at salons/barbershops enough to vouch for them. These include Redken, Bumble & Bumble (I do review one of their products, but it’s more of a hair care product than a styling product), Moroccanoil, KMS California, Johnny B., and Kevin Murphy. Generally speaking, you will find quality products in these lines, though I haven’t had the chance to sample enough of the line in enough detail to provide full reviews. But if your local salon/barbershop uses them, don’t be afraid that they’re not as good as what I’m reviewing here. Anyways, on with the reviews!

American Crew Pomade:

Brand Description: “Medium hold with high shine. Works well for curly hair and provides a modern, flexible alternative to styling gels. Use it to create classic, slicked-back looks or for control in any hair type”.

My ratings:

Hold: Low

Shine: High

Texture: Greasy, wet, good for separation and messier looks if used on its own.

Smell: Musky, masculine, a bit like a cologne, but not overpowering. As long as you’re not using too much of it, a very nice smell.

My overall thoughts: Well, well, well…the first hair product I ever used, and still one I keep in my cabinet now. A good example of modern-style pomades, this product gives you a tremendous amount of shine and a very wet, soft look. It feels a little bit greasy, but it washes out quite easily, and won’t leave any undesired residue in your hair. All in all, it is a quality product. I do, however, have my gripes with it. It says medium hold, but I honestly feel like it has hardly any hold at all. And I’m not even a fan of super strong-hold products…but this stuff just feels weak on its own. This makes it nice for curly hair and messy looks, as it won’t do much more than help lock-in moisture, but if you really want to set a style in place you’ll need to cocktail this with something else or use hairspray. Overall, I recommend it, as it actually works rather excellently in cocktails with almost any other product you can think of, but on its own it’s not worth nearly as much.

How I use it: I usually prefer to apply this to dry or very slightly moist hair, as if my hair is still completely wet it tends to have trouble adhering evenly. I generally just mess my hair around a bit, letting it accentuate my curls, which it does a rather good job of. I won’t typically finish with any hairsprays, since if I’m using the pomade on its own I want a light-hold style, and hairspray would undo that. If I want something a bit more interesting, I’ll cocktail the pomade with Hanz de Fuko Quicksand or American Crew Forming Cream to provide more hold and thickness, which the pomade lacks.

American Crew Forming Cream:

Brand Description: “Medium hold with medium shine. Easy to use styling cream works well for all hair types. Forming cream provides hold, excellent pliability, and a natural shine. This product also helps hair look thicker and is ideal for easing new users into the potential of styling jar products.” My ratings/Experience:

Hold: medium-high (can become surprisingly firm if you use a lot, it’s very tacky/sticky at first)

Shine: Medium, fairly natural shine.

Texture: A bit sticky at first, feels kind of like glue in your hands, but isn’t sticky once it’s been in your hair for a few minutes. Feels very light in the hair unless you use a ton, really. Leaves a nice smooth texture in the hair, very pliable.

Smell: Coconuty and a bit medicinal. Less conventionally masculine than the AC Pomade, but pleasant.

My overall thoughts: An excellent product, probably my favorite Crew product that I’ve used to date. A little bit will add some lovely thickness, moisture, and control to your hair, it applies evenly without much hassle, and will last most of the day. You can also add quite a bit more and really strengthen the hold, and I would argue that this actually holds better than the Fiber if you use enough, because it sticks to your hair much more firmly. This stuff is really just great, and the description by Crew themselves is quite accurate, as its excellent for beginners.

How I use it: Apply to slightly damp hair, usually just towel-dried till it’s about half-dry. I don’t like applying it to dry hair as much, as the stickiness of the product can make it difficult to distribute evenly. Do note, however, that this stickyness isn’t a problem once the product has sat in your hair for just a little while, so it’s only really an issue if you’re trying to get this into dry hair. It will, however, still work with dry hair, so feel free to try it; damp hair is just my preference. Finally, this is another excellent cocktailing product, and works very well in combination with the AC Pomade, as well as being useful to add after a firmer wax to provide just a tad more shine without as much as the Pomade would. Only word of warning, if you have fine hair, too much of this can weigh the hair down somewhat, so use it sparingly until you find the right amount.

American Crew Fiber:

Brand Description: “High hold with low shine. Fiber-like, resinous product helps thicken, texturize and increase fullness to hair. Provides a strong, pliable hold with a matte finish. Works well in shorter hair, 1-3 inches in length.”

My Ratings/Experience:

Hold: Medium

Shine: Low, and fairly matte after it settles in.

Texture: Hard and dry, but softens quickly after you work it in your hands for a bit.

Smell: Super-citrusy, a bit artificial, but not unpleasant. I’ve actually gotten compliments on the smell. Fades quickly, though.

My Overall Thoughts: Really more of a medium hold, in my experience, in spite of being marketed as high-hold. It’s a bit of a peculiar hold, however. It starts of quite strong, when first applying, and can actually be a little bit difficult to apply at times because of this. Once it sits in your hair for 5-10 minutes, however, the product softens up tremendously, and your hair becomes very soft and moveable. It will stay held where it is, though, for the most part, unless you move it again yourself. Word of warning, though, if you live in a hotter, more humid climate, this product tends to have some endurance issues throughout the day. In terms of shine, it’s true to its word: low shine, with the potential to make a matte finish. If you want the matte finish, though, you should apply the product to dry hair. If you apply it to wet hair, you’ll lock in some of the moisture, giving a slight amount of shine. In terms of texture effects, I find that this leaves my hair a bit fuller and thicker, as advertised, but this isn’t really a selling point for this product as other products can do the same things better. Still, not a bad feature, and if you’d rather stick to only one product it comes in handy.

How I Use It: Apply to completely dried hair, then just mess it around with my fingers. This isn’t a product you should really be getting a slicked back sort of look with, since it has no shine, so I just use it for more unstructured, casual looks.

American Crew Firm Hold Styling Gel:

Brand Description: “Non-flaking formula. Firm Hold Styling Gel, the ultimate in holding power, is enriched with natural extracts like Vitamin B5 to help hair look thicker with added shine. This alcohol-free gel is superior in hold and shine and has a low pH to prevent drying of the scalp.”

My Ratings/Experience:

Hold: High

Shine: Medium/High

Texture: Typical gel “wet-look.” For my hair, it seems to make it appear thinner rather than thicker.

Smell: Subtle, kind of woodsy/piney. Probably the mildest of the Crew products I’ve used.

My Overall Thoughts: A mixed product. If you want a gel look, it’s perfect, and it is indeed non-flaking. But I just never found it that good with my hair. It made my already fine strands seem even finer if I went for the wet look, and if I applied the gel to dry hair it seemed to make my hair frizz out without providing any real hold. There’s no denying that this is a quality product, but it just does not work for me or what I like when it comes to my hair.

How I Use It: I tried the typical slicked-back looks, and the gel dried fairly quickly and ended up with a typical gel crustiness. Love it or hate it, really, depending what kind of feel you want. It’s not really my thing, but it does what it does well.

The one method I did enjoy was slicking my hair back while wet, letting it dry, then playing with it with my hands or combing it through to get rid of the crusty gel feel. I could make my curly hair very straight and malleable once I did this, and once all the crustiness was combed out my hair was excellent to play with. But most mornings I simply don’t have time to wait and have my hair air-dry and then re-style it before I leave. And for some reason, blow-drying instead of air-drying always got rid of the straightening/malleable effect I liked and went back to frizzy.

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