How to create an on-trend slicked-back look – without it looking greasy

The eternal question – how do I create cool, slicked-back hair without looking like it’s been days since the last hair wash? We asked the experts

From a light touch of the Clean Girl aesthetic to a more intense style choice, we need some professional advice on how to create the perfect slicked-back hair look, every time.

We asked a whole host of hair styling experts to explain how they get the perfect slicked-back look, including which products to use, how to prep the hair, whether the hair should be dirty or freshly washed and the mistakes to avoid during the styling process.

The products

The gel

“For the perfect Slick back look you need the perfect product. Something with strong hold but no residue. I recommend the More Inside Hair Gel from Davines,” suggests Barry Maddocks, UK creative director of Haringtons. “The gel is easy to work with, offering a lightweight but strong hold. Plus, it is quick-drying, residue-free and workable and it also leaves hair with a wet effect and eliminates frizz.”

Likewise, Darrel Starkey of Taylor’s Hair Studio also loves working with gel to achieve the wet look finish. “I absolutely love a slicked-back look, so would recommend using the ASP MODE Tough Stuff Strong Hair Gel. This keeps hair in place whilst leaving that much loved wet look. Use this across the slick back to add definition and keep the style frizz free. Distribute this evenly to allow the gel to gently fade out throughout the style as it reaches the crown and lower lengths,”

The mousse

Stacey Whyte, director of Cheveux Salon is also a fan of using a mousse and serum to achieve a similar finish “For the best results, prep the dry hair with Schwarzkopf Professional Session Label The Mousse, then blow-dry the hair back and central to really hold its style longer,” says Stacey. “This is where you add volume at the root, if it’s the look you desire.”

“Then start working through Schwarzkopf Professional Session Label The Serum heavy handed right through to the ends,” she adds.

The prep

Dirty hair is good

“With this hairstyle, the dirtier your hair is, the better,” explain Tina Farey, editorial director at RUSH. “So if it’s been days since the last hair wash, that’s completely okay!”

But if you do shampoo, make sure it’s hydrating

“Prep the hair using a professional shampoo and conditioner, possibly a smoothing or moisturising duo to help keep frizz at bay. Once prepped, use a high quality oil through the hair, to add an extra layer or nourishment – this is also a great way to begin the slick process,” says Darrel Starkey.

The styling

Create some volume


“To get the clean girl aesthetic look, as seen on the likes of Jodie Comer and Chloe Grace Moretz, which is more subtle, with maximum effect, the hair should be blow dried back with the use of Oway Volumising Root Spray and use of a round brush on top to create texture and volume,” says Barry Maddocks.

“I always start by combing some serum through the hair- drying it in and layering on some shine spray as I go! The key is to not make it too wet and I don’t really use gel, as that can start to crumble and go flakey – not a good look!” Barry continues.


Distribute the products evenly

“The key is to distribute the product on the hair from root to ends, or just on the root to give direction and keep the ends clean. In this case, you could use the second product through mid-length and ends,” Angelo Seminara, of Angelo Seminara Salon at Urban Retreat, Knightsbridge, advises. “Start light with the product, to avoid that greasy look, you can always add more.”

If you do want more structure…

“For a more slick and structured feel, seen on Euphoria’s Hunter Schafer and Elvis’s Austin Butler, apply a heavy gloss, wet look cream/gel on towel dried hair (Oway Shabby Mud or Oway Frozen Glue would work) and sculpt the shape you wish to achieve,” says Barry. “Use a comb to hold to down the volume on the sides, and a paddle brush for the top to allow for slight movement and volume if you wish.”


Don’t forget to accessorise!

“Slicked back hair is a trend which has become shot favourite for the summer, with festival goers and sun worshippers embracing this look,” explains Tracey Devine-Smith, ASP global ambassador. “It’s low maintenance but also a real unique look which can be heavily accessorised with a head chain or large earrings to really bring the look and the outfit of choice together.”

The slicked-back pony


“Going down the festival look slicking the hair back to a gorgeous ponytail is super easy and it is a look that can last. You want to begin by brushing the hair into a high ponytail, secured at the crown, using a paddle brush, gather the hair at the crown, pulling back the hair and continually brushing until there is not bumps or loose hair. This can take time to get it completely smooth, or as smooth as you can so be patient.

“Once gathered secure with a hair tie. Next, let’s create the sleek slick look. Spray the hair with ASP MODE Work-It Flexible Hairspray, then take a fine tooth comb and gently brush the hair from the front of the hair back towards the ponytail, smoothing out any frizz and creating the sleek look – again this can take some time. Finish with a professional shine spray,” says Tracey.

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