How to Slick Your Hair Back (Properly)
Slick-backed hair has evolved through the years: You can still wear it like a stock trader, or opt for a more casual-cool, less shiny finish. (Same idea, less slick.) Regardless of your intent, we wanted to know how to get long-lasting, good-looking results every time. For that, we sought expertise from Gregorio Ruggeri, owner and lead stylist at Salon Ruggeri in NYC.
The Best Products to Use
First, you should always style clean hair. If you’ve got remnants of yesterday’s product, or if your hair is the least bit greasy, you’ll compromise any effectiveness. “The greasier the hair, the flatter it will become & quicker the slick look will become undone,” Ruggeri says. So, start by shampooing it (we like Evo Normal Persons Shampoo), or if you prefer not to wash it every day (since it can dry out the hair), then at least rinse it with conditioner prior to styling (ditto Evo conditioner). This will give you a clean canvas for the rest of the process.
As for the best hair stylers, you have a few options for the slickback, depending on the amount of hold and shine that you want. Here are your best bets:
For high hold and shine use gel We highly endorse R+Co Motorcycle Flexible Gel. This isn’t the liquid cement of your childhood: It does the job without making you look like a junior Trump.
For high hold and no shine use fiber Imperial’s Fiber Pomade is your sure bet. It can also be applied to dry hair for medium hold and piecey, surfy texture.
For medium hold and high shine use pomade Our standby is American Crew Pomade, since it gives you more of a modern-day Suits finish, instead of an outdated Mad Men slickness. (Less greasy, really.)
For medium hold and light shine use paste V76 by Vaughn Molding Paste gives you “touchable” hair that can be mussed up after work for a more Happy Hour-friendly style.
For light hold and medium shine use oil Jack Black MP10 Nourishing Oil is as good for your face as it is for your hair. But, applied to hair, it’ll give you a pinch of sheen with no grip whatsoever. This is a better bet for longer styles that won’t otherwise suffer from flyaways. It’s also good to mix with crème for more effectiveness and control.
For light hold and light shine use crème we love love love Fatboy’s Boss Dog Styling Cream, which will give your hair the control and style you want, but will make it look as if there’s no product added at all.
For extra hold use hair spray If you want to zap your finished look with a light layer of hairspray, just point Oribe’s Superfine Hair Spray eight inches from your head, to ensure that the style holds all day, no matter the “hold” you designated with an initial product selection. (The product weighs it down, the hairspray restricts movement.)
How Damp Should Your Hair Be?
Towel-dry, says Ruggeri. In other words, gently rub out the bulk of the water from the shower, but style it quickly thereafter. Don’t let it air dry any further.
How to Style It
Ruggeri says: “With a wide tooth comb, gently comb your hair back, starting with the ends of the hair. If you start straight at the root, you will yank your hair and probably pull some out in the process. Let this sit for a few moments, while you tend to your skincare or shaving regimen. By now your hair should be 50/50 damp dry.”
Pick your products from the list above – Ruggeri likes paste best, or a paste and gel blend for higher hold and medium shine – then gently pat the product into the outer layer of your hair, without massaging it in. Let the product settle for 15-20 seconds, then run your hands through your hair, to distribute the product all the way through. “If this is slightly difficult or your fingers are catching, there is not enough moisture,” Ruggeri says. “To fix, simply run your hands under warm water and then pat your hair. This will make it easier to distribute product and get a good comb through.”
Next, take the comb and run it straight back from your forehead. “You will see where your hair wants to go, whether to the left or the right,” he says. Follow that natural part. Finally, once it’s in place, refrain from touching it. The more you touch it, the less slick the result. “Remember your hands get oily, so every time you touch your hair, you distribute a little more oil that will break down the products.”
At this point, you can also finish with a light layer of hairspray (again, roughly eight inches from the head), if you want added control over the style.
How NOT to Style It
The most important things are to make sure that the hair is the perfect amount of damp, and to not overdose on the product. Start with a large pea-size if you aren’t sure how much to use. But you’ll want to use a grape-sized portion at most. Anything more will start to look “dusty”, as Ruggeri calls it. He also says to not comb the hair in any direction except the natural part, otherwise it’ll start to fight its way back, or look somewhat off to the trained eye. “It’ll look like a comb over if you force it the wrong direction,” Ruggeri says.