What is the best way to "slick" my hair a bit, but won't make me look like a creep?
August 17, 2012 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Male, late 30s - what is the best way to "slick" my hair a bit, and won't make me look like a creep?

I'm a male with very fine hair that is thinning slightly on top. I have no idea how to brush it anymore and I have scars on my head from when I was younger that I don't wish to expose with a shaved head.

So, with the few things I've experimented with (paste products), it gives my hair a thin "crispy" look. I guess I'd like something that made my hair look slightly wet so I could brush it back, without looking like a 1950s greaser or a 1980s Wall Street guy.

Is there a product for fine-haired people that adds some texture and slight wetness that doesn't look too bad on a guy?
posted by deern the headlice to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Brylcreem. It's greasy as hell, but you'd need to use a lot of it for your hair to actually look "greaser" greasy. Mostly, it just gives the "slightly wet" look you're after, without being sticky or crunchy.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:27 PM on August 17, 2012

I am not a man, but I am the daughter of a hair stylist and the first thing that jumped into my mind would be a texturizing paste, to add volume and hold, without any gross hardness or stickness.

You could get that wet look by applying it to wet hair, otherwise it will have a pleasant sheen.

I would say from a female perspective that preserving touch-ability is key. My guy has thinning hair on top, but it is as soft as rabbit fur, and being able to run my fingers through and give him head massages trumps any hair product that would look marginally better. I can't even see the top of his head most of the time anyway.
posted by cakebatter at 1:28 PM on August 17, 2012

There are pomades with different grades of matte effect, from dry to wet/shiny. The next time you get your haircut, you might ask the stylist if you can try some.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:28 PM on August 17, 2012

My dad uses Groom & Clean. It isn't as greasy as Brylcream (which is what they used in the 50s). It is a water-based gel and gives you that slightly wet look. You should try it, starting with just a little bit.
posted by Area Man at 1:28 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like Redkin Rewind.
posted by 4ster at 1:29 PM on August 17, 2012

I have scars on my head from when I was younger that I don't wish to expose with a shaved head

I am fairly certain these are nowhere near as bad as you think they are.

Anytime I see a guy with thinning hair who's got product in it to move it back on top of the thin parts, my brain starts shouting INSECURE DUDE CANNOT ACCEPT THAT HE'S BALDING. And shaved-head guys (either intentionally shaved, shaved because of balding, or straight-up bald) barely even make a blip on my hair radar. Maybe this makes me a terrible person, but when I see the attempt at balding coverup, it's ALL I can focus on.

That said, how long is your hair, and is it straight/wavy/what? This will impact the product suggestions.
posted by phunniemee at 1:30 PM on August 17, 2012 [12 favorites]

If your hair is mostly straight, a low-hold creme or pomade should work. You can find them in tubes or pucks. They come in a variety of holds and levels of shine. Brands like American Crew, Jack Black, and Rooster's are common in the barber shops around me.

My hair is thin and wavy. I use American Crew Fiber, which is mainly a wax. Work through towel-dried hair, comb back. I comb again when dry to break up the "slick" look, but the hold remains.

It'll take some experimentation. It's easy to use too much.
posted by Boxenmacher at 1:46 PM on August 17, 2012

I guess I'd like something that made my hair look slightly wet so I could brush it back, without looking like a 1950s greaser or a 1980s Wall Street guy.

Tresemme makes a fine few gels for this. Pretty much anything that's called sculpting gel or sculpting lotion.

Here's the trick: Don't brush it back. Put a small amount in the palm of one hand, rub both hands together so they have an equal amount, then work it through damp hair with your fingers. You'll kind of need to experiment to find the right amount but that should do it.

The pros: It will give your hair a wet look while avoiding the creepster look - the creepy look comes from using a brush or comb to slick back hair. Your hair will still basically be slicked back but will look fun and slightly tousled.

The cons: No matter how realistic you think you're being about this, people can tell if you're using a hairstyle to cover up thinning hair. Always. It's nothing personal - just kind of a fact of life. There's a 90% chance the scars don't look as bad as you think, and certainly don't look as bad as a modified combover. But again, experiment with amount of product. I think you'll be pleased with the results.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:50 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I recommend American Crew. Look through the jar pomades for a combination of hold and shine you like.

But I will second everyone who is saying that you can tell. You can always tell, and it always just absolutely oozes low self confidence.
posted by griphus at 1:59 PM on August 17, 2012

First: slicking your hair over a bald spot or over a view of your exposed scalp will almost always look worse than just cutting it very short (like, buzzed short) or shaved. Looking like you're trying 'cover your baldness' will be worse than exposing some scars. (Also, you'll probably lose more hair eventually, and you won't have a choice about exposing the scars. So if they really bother you, maybe visit a dermatologist or plastic surgeous and ask how you can reduce their appearance?)

But to answer your question: you want mousse. Mouse gives volume, doesn't make your hair shiny, and provides a certain amount of hold. The pomades and pastes will all 'glue' your hair together and make it look more 'compact' - they are much too heavy for thin hair. Try something like this mousse or this mousse or this mousse.
posted by Kololo at 2:00 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

(To answer your next question: go find a old, established men's barbershop and tell them that you're thinning out, you know it and you want to look good without trying to cover it up. This is a problem as old as civilization and they'll know what to do.)
posted by griphus at 2:01 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might want to rethink going for a wet look. In my experience, anything that darkens and/or clumps or sticks your hair together is actually going to emphasize the thinness.

Mousse or possibly a lightweight pomade may be able to give you control and texture without losing the appearance of volume.
posted by moira at 2:06 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I kind of think the wet slicked back look always makes guys look a bit creepy. But obviously people's opinions can vary. When I use product, I use a grooming clay that provides a dry look that isn't crispy, and I'd vote for something like that.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:07 PM on August 17, 2012

Further opining that a short, slightly-tousled look is the way to go if you don't want to buzz or shave.
posted by moira at 2:11 PM on August 17, 2012

Seconding moira. You might want to rethink using any product.

Go to a local place of business that employs a team of young salesmen in suits with product-laden hair, either in short "fades with a flip" or modified faux-hawks. (Your local car, truck or SUV dealership will do.) Almost invariably, the product will cause the hair to bunch in clumps, exposing scalp even on non-balding men. Unless you're going for a longish, slicked back, 1980s Gordon Gekko look, product emphasizes the scalp. Experiment with a cut that can be worn free of product first.
posted by Gordion Knott at 2:54 AM on August 18, 2012

Two things that you could try:

American Crew pomade, I use it from time to time, in small amounts, and you really can't tell I'm using product.

Don't use shampoo daily, maybe once or twice a week. I've tried this and there is a happy medium of about 2-3 days wear my hair is great, and then it slides into greaser land, but I can generally maintain it by giving it a really lame shampoo. The theory is that your hair is meant to have some level of natural oil on it that shampoos kill. By not using it as much, your hair can begin to develop a natural coat of oil that makes it thicker and easier to style. I know it sounds a bit dodgy, but it has worked for me.
posted by neveroddoreven at 5:09 AM on August 18, 2012

I have rather "fine" hair, which I used to feel was completely unmanageable, particularly after shampoo. Things were better if I added some kind of grease or wax or leave-in conditioner, but I had a hard time finding a product that I liked. Gel never worked for me: too wet, too much hold.

As it turns out, coconut oil was the magic product I've been looking for. Work a small amount into your hair after a shower, and you'll get comb-able hair that stays put and doesn't feel crunchy or look wet or greasy. It is possible to use too much and get that slicked-back wet-otter look. Your mileage may vary; my mileage has been fucking great.

Related male hair tip: got greasy hair and need to look presentable? Cornstarch. Ladies buy $30-per-oz bottles of "hair refresher" that are literally just scented cornstarch. Skip the middle man. These two items have become the yin and yang, the alpha and omega of my hair care.

Overslept and don't have time for a shower? Cornstarch. Backpacking around Munich and need to meet friends at a restaurant downtown? Cornstarch. Slept in a tour van last night and have a meeting with important executive types? Cornstarch. Just showered and your hair is flying around all over and won't do as it's told? Coconut oil.
posted by sportbucket at 8:59 AM on August 18, 2012

I have short hair and I've found that a tiny amount of gel can give non-crispy, non-slick hold to hair. The same gel, applied thicker, may indeed give one crisp hair, but in tiny amounts, like a blob a few millimeters in diameter, will not overwhelm the hair's texture.

But if my reading between the lines is correct, please don't go for a combover. Whatever scars you have, if visible, I suspect will look more awesome than that.
posted by zippy at 8:30 PM on August 18, 2012

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