Hair Hold Levels: What Do They Mean, and Which is Best for Your Hair?

Hair styling products like gel, pomade, and hairspray come in different hold levels. The higher the hold level, the better the product will keep your hairstyle in place. You should choose your hold level according to your hair type and the look you want to achieve. Learn how to find the right hold level for your hairstyling needs, whether you want to go messy and casual or take your sky-high style to the third level.

In this Article: 

What Are Hold Levels and What Does Hair Hold Mean?

When shopping for hairstyling products, you’ve probably noticed they come in different hold levels (also known as hair holds). Products ranging from hair gels and styling pastes to pomades and hairsprays all have their own hold levels. As if choosing a styling product wasn’t complicated enough, right! But what do hold levels mean?

Hold levels refer to how well and how long a product will keep your hairstyle in place. Which hold level you choose depends on the style you want to create, your natural hair type, and also your personal preference.

What’s the Difference Between Hair Holds?

The different hair holds, or hold levels,


    • perform in different ways


    • suit different hairstyles and types


  • yield different results

You’ll usually find a product’s hold level on its packaging. Hold levels may be indicated by numbers. They may be referred to as light, medium, and strong hold. Or they may be shown as flexible, medium, and firm hold.

Confused by the different hold levels? Don’t worry, making sense of them is easy as 1, 2, 3.

Lower/lighter hold levels (hold level 1) tame your strands straight off the bat, but they typically don’t hold your style in place all day long. That’s not so good if you need your style to stay put while you’re hustling hard. There are perks to light and flexible holds though: your hair will look naturally tousled (hello, handsome) and you can easily restyle your hair when you want to switch things up

Higher/stronger hold levels (hold level 3) provide a more secure hold, lock your hair in place for longer, and keep frizz in check. That means you can style things up and not worry about stray strands spoiling your look during the day. The potential downside is that strong hold products can make your hair look unnaturally stiff. They can also be harder to brush or wash out of your hair.

So what about medium hold products (hold level 2)? They’re the midway point between other holds; the happy medium that suits most hair types; the accessible, inclusive, John Legend of hair products. In short, medium hold hair products keep your hair in place while still allowing some flexibility, so you get the best of both worlds.

To recap, here are the differences between the three hold levels:


    • Light/Flexible/Level 1 Hold is best for achieving a natural look and allows you to easily reshape your hair. It’s well-suited to fine or thin hair


    • Medium/Level 2 Hold is ideal for most hair types and lets you create a wide range of styles. You can restyle throughout the day too


  • Strong/Firm/Level 3 Hold locks hair in place all day long. This is your go-to for creating gravity-defying styles! It’s ideal for thick or unruly hair

When to Use the Different Hold Levels

Whether sleek, solid, or sexily ruffled, your hairstyle goes through a lot during the day. And it’s not just the weather that’ll threaten to derail your look – your lifestyle can wreak havoc too. When you’re busy, you need a hold level that won’t let you (or your hair) down. So what product holds hair in place?

If your vibe is laid-back and you want hair your lover can run their fingers through, then a light hold product is for you. A brilliant cream with a level 1 hold will give you that charming, easy-going, just-rolled-out-of-bed look that’s pretty much irresistible.

If you’re a hard-working, gains-making kinda guy, always running from the office to the gym to the bar, you’re gonna need a strong hold product. You don’t want your faux hawk becoming a faux pas during a training session, do you?

Maybe you like to play it safe with your styling products? Perhaps you like to mix things up, rocking a pompadour one day and a tousled mop the next? If so, then go with a versatile medium hold product, like a forming cream or a matte paste.

To ramp up the gloss, you could finish off your style with hair spray. Choose a hair spray hold that suits your needs and doesn’t weigh your hair down or make it feel crunchy.

Below are just some of the styles you can create with each hair hold level:


    • Light/Flexible/Level 1 Hold: Natural, tousled, laid-back, bedhead, casual quiffs


    • Medium/Level 2 Hold: Defined curls, straight and sleek, short and neat


  • Strong/Firm/Level 3 Hold: Spikes, slicked-back, pompadours, quiffs, faux hawks

Which Hold Level Should I Use for My Hair?

Finding the best hair hold level for men depends on the look you want to achieve, sure. But you should also consider your natural hair type and texture. Here’s why.

There’s little point applying a light hold cream to thick, unmanageable curls; a few hours in and you’ll be sporting an explosion of frizz. Likewise, you don’t want to douse fine hair in strong hold hairspray, since that will only hurt the style you are going for instead of supporting it.

Here’s our handy guide to finding the best hold level for your particular hair type:


    • Light/Flexible/Level 1 Hold: Best for fine or thin hair as it doesn’t feel heavy


    • Medium/Level 2 Hold: Ideal for most hair types and textures, from straight to curly


  • Strong/Firm/Level 3 Hold: Tames thick, full, unruly hair, especially wavy or curly


With the three distinct hold levels available, there really is a styling product for everyone and every vibe. Knowing the difference between hair holds and understanding your individual hair type is the key to successful styling.