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How To Make Your Hair Stay Down For Guys Without Gel Or Hairspray

Poofy hair is an attractive look on plenty of guys, but it’s also hard to control on bad hair days. Learning how to make your hair stay down can give you a predictable, sleek styling outcome, perfect for those special times when you need every hair to stay in place.

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How To Make Your Hair Stay Down For Guys Without Gel

So why shouldn’t you use gel or hairspray? They’re arguably the best products for keeping your hair down.

Aside from that gross crunchy feeling, gels and hair sprays can create product build-up on your scalp. That buildup causes dryness, irritation, dandruff, redness, and other scalp issues. Using alternative products and methods keeps your scalp happy and your hair on-point.

Style With A Blowdryer

The most effective way to shape your hair is with a blowdryer. It lets you skip out on the funky shapes and textures that your hair creates while it’s drying naturally.

You can use a setter beforehand, like mousse, to add volume, protect your hair from heat damage, and give each strand of hair more definition.

Use Pomade, Hair Clay, Or Wax

Pomades, clays, and waxes are all re-moldable, and they don’t have that crunchy, stiff gel feeling. You’ll just want to make sure that you thoroughly wash your hair at the end of the day to remove the product (see how to properly remove pomade).

Here’s the downside: if you have thin or fine hair, clays and pomades are known for looking and feeling heavy. That experience isn’t universal, but prepare for slightly less volume just in case.

Braid, Ponytail, or Man Bun

Throwback to the 2014 man bun craze! Sometimes the best way to tame your hair is to tie it up entirely. Ponytails and man buns tend to have the best hold (and you can re-do them easily if they fall out). Braids look cooler but may unravel themselves if you’re unlucky.

Catch Flyaways With Hair Oil

Skip out on pomade, hair clay, or wax if you decide to use hair oil. It’s best if you just have a few unruly strands of hair that tend to stick up and get staticky. Oil will slick it down, the trade off being that if you use too much, you’ll look greasy.

Wear A Hat

I know, it’s the bad hair day walk of shame – a baseball cap, and a face that says, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”

But hats don’t have to be a last resort. I have a coworker who wears a beret once a week with some snazzy shoes to pass the office vibe check. If you work outdoors or somewhere casual, it’s even easier. Choose between a ballcap and a beanie depending on the weather, and make it look intentional.

DON’T Use Water To Restyle Hair

Contrary to what many men’s blogs will tell you, I DON’T recommend restyling your hair with water. You set yourself back to square one, where your wet hair picked up a funky shape while it was drying.

How To Make Your Hair Stay Down In The Back

To keep your hair down in the back, use the pomade, wax, or hair clay that we talked about in the strategies above.

You probably know what pomade and wax are – they’re remoldable, shiny, and good for a polished look. On the other hand, if you’re more casual with your hair, learn how to use hair clay for that sleek but effortless hairdo. It’s a lot like pomade and wax, but it’s not shiny, and it looks incredibly natural.

You can use a comb or your hands to apply some product and pat your hair down in the back.

How To Make Your Hair Stay Down For Black Guys

Do you want a few wispy curls to hang down on your forehead? Sherrese & Nana, two Black hairstylists on YouTube, recommend styling your hair like normal, then isolating a few curls, pulling them downward, and blow drying them into place.

Or maybe you have an afro right now, but would prefer some hanging-down curls. Koby Lomax, another YouTube stylist, has a great tutorial for that. The catch: he does use gel on his hair. Start with a washed base, then apply water and a leave-in conditioner, gel and oil on top and gently dry the curls with a hair dryer and diffuser attachment. I don’t recommend substituting pomade, hair clay or wax for the gel in this case. 

If your aim is hair protection, wear a durag during the day and sleep on a silk or satin pillowcase to preserve moisture overnight. For locs, use the best shampoo for dreads.

The real key is to protect your hair’s moisture. In a dry climate, you may need to use a deep conditioner more often to shape your hair into your preferred style.

How To Make Your Hair Stay Down Naturally

So you’ve never touched a blowdryer, and you’re not about to put any products on your scalp. I get it. Ultimately, the best way to protect your hair health is to avoid too many unnecessary styling products.

The truly 100% all-natural best way to keep your hair down if you won’t touch styling products is to use a hair accessory. Wear a hat, put in a bandana or headband, braid it back, use some discreet bobby pins to keep strands down. 

And pair that commitment to all-natural hair with an all-natural shampoo for men.

How To Keep Hair Down After Shower

The best way to shape wet hair is by blow drying it. That’s especially true for curly-haired guys – if you want a straight-hair look, you have to blow dry your hair after showering.

It’ll take some practice for guys who are new to the blow-drying game. Remember to blow dry in the direction that you want your hair to fall, and take it in sections with a brush if you have long hair. You might need to use a hair straightener afterwards.

Among our list of best charcoal shampoos, check out Drybar On The Rocks shampoo. It’s specially formulated for blowouts and styles that start with a hairdryer. 

If you’re thinking about using hair clay or pomade, don’t blow dry your hair completely. Leave it slightly damp, and finish off the style with your product. The opposite is true for hair wax: blow dry your hair until it’s perfectly dry, then style with the wax.

How To Keep Your Hair Down All Day Long

Most of us have jobs that inevitably mess up our hair. Whether it’s a long day of heavy lifting, or your boss at the office who likes to greet you with a hair ruffle, it’s nearly impossible to keep your hair down all day long.

For maximum hold, here’s the optimal order for all the hair-taming strategies we just talked about:

  1. Wash your hair
  2. Shape it with a blow dryer (or towel-dry it)
  3. Use clay or pomade on damp hair, or wax or oil on dry hair
  4. Style it (leave it down, braid it up, or create a ponytail or man bun)
  5. Headbang to see if it worked
  6. Get out a hat if it didn’t

You can probably skip steps 5 and 6.

Jokes aside, your scalp will thank you for avoiding gels and hairsprays. You might even discover your new favorite hair style.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.