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How To Slick Back Hair Without Looking Greasy

You can tell when a guy doesn’t know how to slick back hair without looking greasy. His head looks too shiny. His hair looks thin. It’s not an attractive style. Luckily, there are easy and quick fixes to get your hair looking slick but stylish again.

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How To Slick Back Hair Without Looking Greasy

One of the quickest fixes for greasy slicked back hair is switching your comb. 

Only use a fine-toothed comb when you style your hair backwards. It prevents your styling products from clumping up or creating a shiny, greasy look.

Remember season 1 of The Office? That Michael Scott hairstyle? That’s why we don’t use wide-toothed combs on our hair. His hair looked thin, greasy, and it had all those weird divots and parts running along his skull. It was a bad look.

But it might also be a problem with the type of hair product you’re using. There’s one offender in the slick-back hair styling world that will always make your hair look a little greasy: pomade.

Traditional, old-fashioned pomades are oil-based, so naturally they add a lot of grease to your hair. Modern water-based pomades don’t look as greasy, but they still preserve the original shiny style, so they have that slick, oily appearance. The irony is that pomade is one of the most common hair products that guys use to slick back their hair.

For a definite, non-greasy look, I recommend hair clay, hair paste, hair gel, or mousse and a fine-toothed comb.

And don’t overdo it on your hair product! Too much hair product inevitably looks shiny and greasy. Start with a small amount, and add more as needed.

How To Slick Back Hair Without Gel

One of the best non-shiny substitutes for hair gel is hair clay. It’s a newer product on the block, and stylists rave about it’s non-shiny (matte) finish.

Most guys consider it best for a casual hair style, but I’d argue that you can dress it up or dress it down. 

If you still want some shine, but don’t want to look greasy, hair paste is probably a better option for you. It has a high hold, so it’ll keep every strand slicked back, and most pastes are just slightly shiny without looking greasy. 

How To Slick Back Thick Hair

Thick hair has a lot of texture and character once you get it slicked back – the hard part is getting it to stay in place.

You’ll want to use a strong-hold hair styling product like gel or paste, blow dry your hair backwards, and add hair spray to the final look. It’s a triple threat that can’t be beat.

For especially hard cases, consider picking up some bobby pins. You can run bobby pins underneath your hair for more support. Just be warned, they have the tendency to make your scalp feel sore at the end of the day.

I’ve also seen lots of guys embracing the headband look recently. There’s really no way to hide a headband, but if you have the confidence to rock it, it can keep even thick, long hair out of your face.

How Do I Get My Wavy Hair To Slick Back?

The trick to slick back wavy hair is to get to it before it has the chance to curl.

While your hair is still damp, comb it backwards, then start applying your product of choice. (I strongly recommend mousse, but you can also use gel or pomade.) You can use a comb or your hands to shape your hair and slick it backwards as you use the product.

You can try air drying it, but if it still curls, you’ll probably need to blow dry it. Then, go to town with the hairspray so that it doesn’t curl throughout the day.

How Long Does Hair Have To Be To Slick Back?

I’ve seen some pretty creative guys with an inch worth of hair and a mountain’s worth of willpower slick back their hair. But without overusing hair products or putting in an hour’s worth of effort, the traditional slicked-back style calls for at least 6 inches of hair for it to stay in place.

You can still slick back short hair, but six inches allows for more volume, texture, and draping. With shorter hair, you sometimes risk the Draco Malfoy look from the Harry Potter movies.

If you’re slicking back short hair, one thing you can do is apply your hair product then blow dry your hair for volume – it won’t look shiny once you’re finished, but it will stand up away from your scalp so that you have a nice thick look.

Can You Train Your Hair To Slick Back?

Every hair follicle on your head points in a certain direction. That’s how you get cowlicks, swirls, and other hair patterns. So you can’t train your hair to slick back – no matter how often you comb it backwards, it’s not going to permanently learn how to grow backwards.

The good news is that you can still use styling products to slick back your hair, no matter which direction it grows. I have an awful cowlick near my hairline, but I use mousse and a blow dryer to pat it down most days, so few people actually notice.

And really, when you think about it, you probably end up doing your hair most days anyway so that it looks presentable for your job (and your cute coworker). There’s no “get out of hair styling for free” cure-all that will make every day a good hair day without any work. So if you want slicked-back hair, style it that way.

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.