How to Do Slick Back Hair: Step-by-Step Guide

From up to down to in between.

<p>Marina Danilova/Getty Images</p>

Marina Danilova/Getty Images

Slick black hair is the latest trend we can get behind for a couple reasons. Not only does it look super chic and make you look pulled together, it also does a fantastic job of hiding dirty, oily, and unwashed hair.

According to Brandie Devillier, a Hair Color Sales/Education Partner for Aveda Hair Color Purefessional, platform educator for the Aveda Arts & Sciences Institute, and certified color educator at Elevate Hair, the sleek look, or slick back hair, is a trend that has your hair off your face and as slick to your head as possible. “This can be done in a half-up look, a pony, a bun, or with your hair down,” says Devillier. “It's become popular because of the ‘clean girl aesthetic’ that has been trending since last year—plus, it's easy, classy, and has you looking put together with minimal effort.”

Interestingly, the slicked-back hair look first gained popularity in the 1920’s, but has had a resurgence due to its versatility and edge. “It’s also super easy to achieve,” says Andrew Fitzsimons, a celebrity hairstylist. “This look is also great to do in between wash days.”

There are a few different ways you can rock the slick back hair look—think down, in a bun, in a pony, or half-up half-down. Below, we asked multiple experts to guide us on how to achieve each slick back hair moment.

How to Get the Slick Back Hair Down Look

Step 1: Start with clean, damp hair. Prep the hair with smoothing balm to avoid frizzing and blow dry with a round brush. “Depending on hair type, it might be best to follow up with a few passes of a flat iron,” explains Jamie Brice, a hairstylist and amika Pro Educator.

Step 2: Apply a shine cream from your root area down through your mid-shaft. Using a grooming brush and a little hairspray, continue to brush everything in the direction you’d like it to flow. “My pro tip is to use flat clips to hold everything in place,” suggests Brice.

Step 3: Once everything is placed precisely where you want it, generously spray hairspray, focusing on the roots and mid-shaft. Allow a moment for everything to set and remove clips.

Best Products for Slick Back Hair Down Look

1. amika Velveteen Dream Smoothing Balm

Buy on Amazon

The last thing you want for a slicked back look is for your hair to be frizzy. This pick from amika works to smooth down locks and tame any flyaways before styling your hair.

2. Mane The Three Way Multi-Use Flat Iron

Buy on Mane

If you have wavy or curly hair, you might want to flat iron your hair before attempting the slick back hair down look. You can also use this flat iron to straighten the back of your hair once you’ve slicked back the front part of your head.

3. amika Supernova Moisture and Shine Cream

Buy on Amazon

The slicked back look is all about shine. Use this amika pick from your root area down through your mid-shaft  to add a touch of slickness, especially if your hair is on the dry or dull side.

4. Andrew Fitzsimons Hard Strong Hold Hairspray

Buy on Ulta

If you are someone who needs a little extra hold for this look, you can apply the Andrew Fitzsimons Hard Strong Hold Hairspray for a style that is guaranteed to last.

How to Get a Slick Back Pony

Step 1: Decide whether you want a part or not for your pony look. “Middle parts are still in, but the side part is coming back, too,” says Devillier. Using a paddle brush, brush your hair back in sections, using product for hold. Once all back, wrap a ponytail holder around the hair—for thicker hair, use two ponytail holders.

Step 2: This step is all about refinement. Spray any loose hair, flyaways, or baby hair down. “Use a fine tooth comb to tighten up that sleek look,” suggests Devillier. “I love spraying the comb with the hairspray before combing.”

Step 3: Finally, you want to spray down your look. “Bow, clips, and bobby pins are in right now—if you want to add some extra pizazz, add some cute accessories,” says Devillier.

Extra tip: For any loose baby hairs, Devillier loves using a mascara wand/spoolie to refine the look even further. Spray the wand with hair spray, lay the baby hairs down where you want them, then spray again for extra hold.

Best Products for Slick Back Pony

1. Aveda Wooden Paddle Brush

Buy on Aveda

You’re probably going to need a hairbrush for just about all of these slicked back looks. This one from Aveda is ideal for smoothing hair and is made with high-quality materials that will last.

2. Aveda nutriplenish™ Deep Moisture Treatment Mask

Buy on Nordstrom

Another great tip that Devillier offered was to use your slick back pony look as a hair mask day. “Instead of a gel, put your favorite deep conditioning masque in and use that as your slick product,” she says.

How to Get a Slick Back Bun

Step 1: Using a little heat protectant, smooth your hair out using a blow dryer and a paddle brush. “Depending on the wave pattern of your hair, and if you plan to create a pony, you can follow with a few passes of the flat iron to make sure everything is sleek and smooth,” says Brice. “In addition to heat protection, hair oil will also add a little extra shine.” If your hair is towards the end of your wash cycle, you can skip this step, as adding oil to dirty hair can lead to hair just looking greasy. If that’s the case, feel free to add a little dry shampoo at your roots to absorb the oil.

Step 2: Using a grooming brush, start brushing your hair back. Emulsify about a nickel size of shine cream in your hands and apply to hair. This helps to calm flyaways but also helps give control as you secure your pony.

Step 3: Secure your ponytail using a bungee. “These are my favorite and help avoid creating bumps and lumps or sagging in your pony or bun,” says Brice.

Step 4: Wrap your pony around the base, into a bun, and secure it with bobby pins.

Step 5: Using a small detailing brush and touch of hairspray, smooth away any flyaways and lay down any baby hair.

Best Products for Slick Back Bun

1. amika Water Sign Hydrating Hair Oil

Buy on Amazon

Not only does this pick from amika protect your hair against heat up to 450 °F, but it will also add in the shine that you’re looking for with the slick back bun hairstyle.

2. Andrew Fitzsimons Discreet AF Dry Shampoo

Buy on Ulta

If your hair is just way, way too oily and greasy, consider spritzing some of this dry shampoo from Andrew Fitzsimons at the roots, before creating your slick back bun look.

How to Get a Slick Back Half-Up Half-Down Look

Step 1: Apply a generous amount of gel or styling cream to the top half of your hair.

Step 2: Using a hair brush, brush the top half of your hair back into a small ponytail.

Step 3: "If the bottom half of your hair needs a little styling, you can do so by curling the hair or just using a texture spray for some movement and volume,” explains Jenna Spino, a hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago. “Finish with a hairspray if needed.”

Best Products for Slick Back Half-Up Half-Down Look

1. Oribe Rock Hard Gel

Buy on Blue Mercury

Spino likes to use the Oribe Rock Hard Gel because it’s great for slicking back the hair, and makes everything stay in place.

2. Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray 

Buy on Sephora

If you want to add some texture to the bottom half of your hair after putting it up in the half-up half-down look, Spino suggests spritzing with the Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray. “It’s my favorite for adding texture to styles,” she explains.

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