7 Stylish Queers Share Their Short Hair Secrets

Getting my first short haircut in college felt like a second puberty; I was eager and excited to play with my new look, even though I had no idea what I was doing or how to do it. Should I spike my hair? Slick it back? What about bangs? What is a blowdryer? How do you use hairspray?

Image via the author

I’ve heard similar “first haircut” stories from other people in the queer community, but from gender expression to hair type to aesthetic preferences, we all have different goals with our hair — which is why I asked several short-haired friends to share their widely varying hair routines with you all. Whether you just got a short haircut, you’ve had one for many years, or you’re thinking about a change, their tips might help you make sense of your mane.


Baylea (me)

Image via Britney Jones

I tried a lot of crappy products before I found American Crew Fiber. It has a high hold and matte finish, which keeps my fine waves in place without looking wet; the only thing is that it’s waxy, so you really have to emulsify it to get it into dry hair. When I ran out of Fiber recently, I bought Kevin Murphy Night Rider from my salon, which is softer and easier to run through my hair than Fiber, though more expensive. Kevin Murphy products are $15-$20 more online for some reason, so I recommend hunting down a salon that stocks his brand.

Right out of the shower with wet hair, I use my wife’s Briogeo Rosarco Heat Protectant Creme, which makes my hair silky and smells sweet and flowery. I blow dry for about 30 seconds, combing the opposite way to add volume. Then, while my hair is slightly damp, I take a fingertip of Night Rider, rub it through my hands, and slick my hair back, up, and to the right (I do this quickly because when the product dries, it gets sticky). The hold is strong enough to keep my hair in place while still having a pliable, natural look. I’m weaning off of hairspray because it flattens my hair, but on windy days or when a cowlick sticks out, I spray TRESemme Extra Hold for good measure.


Keegan

Image via Keegan E.G.

Sexy Hair Concepts Slept In Texture Cream gives my kinky curls some shine, and keeps them in place without that hard gel feeling. I also love Mixed Chicks, whose entire line of hair products is geared towards people of mixed race. Alternatively, when my partner had a short masculine cut, she used Original Sprout Natural Styling Balm. They have a line of natural, organic, vegan, and cruelty-free products.

I style my hair right out of the shower. After towel drying and combing it, I work a few good sized dollops of texture cream into my hair, then use a brush and to style and a pick to bring my curls to life (the pick is my secret weapon).


Shoko

Image via Shoko Morikawa

My favorite brand is VERB; I started getting queer haircuts in Austin at Birds Barbershop, who stock it because it’s local. I have really thick, tough hair, so I use the brand’s Styling Cream (to keep my hair’s natural puffiness at bay), followed by their Forming Fiber to give it shape.

After I get out of the shower, I towel dry my hair and use my fingers to work the styling cream through. That helps my hair dry naturally without frizz, and gives it a light bit of hold. Once it dries a bit, I use my fingers (or a comb for more volume) to apply the forming fiber.


Shay

Image via Shay Wilson

My hair is pretty low-maintenance. I use Garnier Fructis Brazilian Smooth Flatiron Express, then style it with Old Spice Paste. The paste is great because it doesn’t make my hair hard or greasy; just gives it medium hold and a “messy” look. I’ve been using the same flatiron cream and paste for the past four years — at least in the autumn and winter, when there’s less humidity in the air. In the summer, I swap the paste for TRESemme Anti-Frizz Smoothing Creme.

After showering, I squeeze as much excess water out of my hair as possible — but when I first comb through to get any tangles out, my hair is still pretty damp. I put about a quarter-size dollop of the Flatiron Express and run my fingers through my hair, let it air dry for about 15 minutes, and then use my CHI Damp to Dry Straightener. I personally like to have my hair stand up a little, so I straighten my hair it upwards for volume. Once it’s as straight as I can get it, I add about a dime-to-nickel-sized dollop of Old Spice paste or TRESemme creme, run it through my hair with my hands, and finger comb everything to the side.


Lizeth

When it comes to styling my hair, there’s nothing more important or more challenging than volume. My hair has been short for all of my adult life, and I’ve spent all of that time looking for the perfect combination of hair products — despite the dream that single (expensive) products sell me, it takes at least two products to get the hair that I want. I’ve used everything from high-end pomade to giant three dollar tubs of gel, but my current routine involves Reuzel Grooming Tonic (a game changer for my hair’s volume) and, shamelessly, Gorilla Snot Extreme Gel for shape and hold.

Right out of the shower with damp hair, I put a quarter-sized amount of the Grooming Tonic in my hair and use a comb to distribute it evenly. Then I blowdry with my head upside down, and use my fingertips or a round brush to create the most volume possible. Once my hair is almost dry, I work in the Gorilla Snot little by little while still using the hair dryer. When my hair is completely dry, I use a little more Gorilla Snot to shape it and put it in place, and then hit it with a touch of whatever hairspray I have on hand.


Leticia

Image via Leticia Crespo

I have thick, coarse Harry Potter hair, so I use Cantu Shea Butter Leave-in Conditioner to ward off frizz. I also use Paul Mitchell Sculpting Foam when I first get my hair cut (since there’s not much to style), but once it grows out, I switch to Pantene Extra Strong Gel. The combination of leave-in conditioner and gel tames my frizz, and keeps my hairstyle intact all day.

I don’t wash my hair every day because it gets super stiff and hard to manage. On wash days, I get out of the shower and apply the Leave-in Conditioner while my hair is damp; on off days, I wet my hair a little and do the same thing, but with less of the leave-in conditioner. When my hair is short I use the Sculpting Foam and straighten out my hair with my hands. If my hair is sufficiently grown out, I comb and gel it with my hands. When my hair becomes really frizzy, getting it relaxed helps a ton.


Sylas

Image via Sylas Draco

I use different products depending on whether I want a wet or dry look, but I always start right out of the shower with Paul Mitchell Texturizing Sea Spray, which gives me nice texture and volume. Then I put my blow dryer on a moderate setting (too high and my hair gets windblown, too low and it won’t stay up). If your hair sticks straight up like mine, you’re good to go; if not, a round brush is very effective for a pomp-style look.

Next, if I want a dry style, I mix Visible Changes Signature Paste and Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Shaping Cream in the palm of my hand, then massage the roots of my hair (this method keeps my hair from getting heavy at the top and falling throughout the day). If I’m going for more of a classic barber style wet look, I apply Suavecito Pomade Original Hold Pomade, which doesn’t give a seriously hard hold, but still makes my ‘do look nice and smooth (the company also sells unscented options for people with sensitive skin, and firmer hold pomades if you prefer). Then I comb it through the front of my hair upwards and to the right (that’s how my hair lays), and it stays easily for over 12 hours.

Any products or methods you want to recommend? Leave them in the comments!


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Baylea Jones holds an MFA in fiction from Western New England University. She lives in Houston with her wife and enjoys bourbon, brunch, and bow ties. Check out her oft-neglected Instagram.

Baylea has written 2 articles for us.

36 Comments

  1. May I just comment on the excellent festool advert that is making me jones for a shed of my own. NOT EVEN KIDDING.

    Got to borrow one of their track saws a while back from a mate, and now my tender butch heart waits patiently for the day that their tools are in my price bracket.

    Also my poodle/sausage dog / ringlet mohawk requires no product unless I try and tame it into liberty spikes which mostly requires a good number of bobby pins as interior scaffolding, whatever extreme hold matte products I can find and an entire can of hair lacquer.

    • Gelatin. I usually used Knox original unflavored gelatin. Takes a touch of getting used to being able to use it fast before it sets and slow enough not to burn the shit out of your fingers. Put it in, hold the spike in place, blowdryer to dry the gelatin. Bam! Done and when you wash it out, your hair is soft as hell.

  2. i chopped my hair off for the first time as a quasi-adult my last year of high school, and it’s been short since. i’ve had undercuts, fauxhawks, buzzcuts, and shaggy sheepdog styles, but never the patience to try out products and style my floof into anything but floof. thanks for the rec roundup, baylea!

  3. Am I the only one who cut their hair short in order to avoid the whole rigmarole of styling? Mornings I run a brush through it. Once a week I wash it. That’s it, and I so enjoy not needing to do anything more.

  4. so i used to work for a bumble and bumble salon and am still obsessed w/ their products. my ultimate fave is the all-style blow dry cream – it reduces oil so i wash my hair waaaaay less, and heat protects like a champ. i mix that with their grooming creme to take care of my poof. their hair primers (leave in conditioner sprays, basically) are A++++ too.

  5. My hair product addiction knows no bounds. Lately, I’ve been into Layrite products, specifically Super Hold Pomade. Having short hair/quiff does not really mean “low maintenance”. Low maintenance for me was when I had my naturally curly Italian/Jew fro (I legitimately had Justin Timberlake Ramen Noodle Hair). Now that I straighten my hair, and get a fade, the up keep is more. Leave in conditioner, heat protectant, blow dry slick back then use a round brush to do the quiff on the front, pomade, then hair spray…it’s a lot more time consuming but the outcome has me looking handsome so it’s worth it.

    If you’re unsure about what products to use on your hair, or how to style short hair in general I highly suggest looking up BluMaan on YouTube. His tips are wonderful when it comes to how to perfect fades and undercuts.

  6. My barber introduced me to Layrite, and it works really well for me. My mostly-white hair has a mind of its own, so I need a little something to keep it manageable. I like Layrite because it doesn’t take much and the hold lasts, and it can be natural looking or coiffed, depending on how I feel. I also appreciate my barber’s trick of finishing the blow-dry with cold air, it does something to the finish that’s really great.

    Wow the day I got up the courage to walk in to my local barbershop. And when I walked out of there, 30 minutes later. Best. Day. Ever.

  7. when I had a bob I could cut it myself, didn’t need to style it or even blowdry it, it just did what it was told.

    I got a pixie cut in august and I still don’t know what I’m doing? I tried to cut it myself and it was a disaster, I have accumulated a collection of hair products to play with, and it still mystifies me.

    Thanks for this! I just have a lot of feelings about how much harder it is to deal with my hair now that it’s short 🙁

  8. Ahh, thank you for this! I cut my hair short for the first time in September but I don’t think it was quite right on the first go. So I recently got it trimmed and had the sides/back shaved a little bit. Still not perfect, but I didn’t even think about using product or trying different methods with a hairdryer!

  9. Does anyone have decent product recs for wavy/curly hair in copious quantity that has a mind of its own that is still in a short-ish undercut?

    Like okay, I KNOW I need a hairdryer with a diffuser if I want to have any hope of getting the hair to be close to the same amount of curl throughout, but product-wise…I really don’t know. I’ve tried a few different pomades and…those seem to be more for straight-ish hair? Which, sometimes my hair does that so it’s mostly fine (I have yet to find anything that has enough hold to keep my hair in place but that’s been my hair for my entire life and now that it’s short, excessive product use at least comes WAY CLOSER TO KEEPING THINGS IN PLACE than when it was long)…but on days that it’s like NOPE IT’S CURL TIME pomade just…looks really bad.

    And like hey, right now it’s winter so you can pry my beanie off my cold, dead ears, but…once it warms up, it’d be nice to have something going for me style-wise instead of just transitioning to snapbacks (or cutting off most of the hair).

    • I second this curly product recommendation request!

      I have masses of curly, black celtic hair that recently went from waist to pixie length, and my obsessive reading of natural hair blogs has taught me that I can’t use the same products on my hair because of different oil requirements. I currently use a relaxing balm with coconut oil (which is probably really the wrong thing, I don’t know? I think I’m also supposed to use a water based product before oil to add moisture) and a sculpting wax immediately after washing and then don’t touch for a week until the next wash. I’m getting a lot of floof about midweek though, and it’s not good! Also it’s summer in Aus, and the pool is terrible for it.

      Maybe next instalment could include a range of curlz styling tips? <3

      • It will take a while to train your hair, especially if it’s newly short. Styling wavy and curly hair depends on your goal.

        If you want to maintain the curls, you’ll need hydration. Less shampooing will keep the hair from drying out. Use a leave-in conditioner like the one Leticia talks about above, apply coconut or argan oil, then finish with a styling cream (like Keegan’s) or mousse. Avoid gels, waxes, and pastes because they are too hard/dry for curls.

        If you want straight hair, you’ll need heat. I would recommend a heat protectant cream (like the one I use or the one Shay uses) to keep your hair from getting dry and damaged. Condition you hair, apply oil, blow dry on high heat while using a flat (not round) brush, use a straightener if necessary, apply a high hold pomade, paste, or gel to cement the style.

        Consider a sea salt spray like Sylas mentions; this will restore volume and bounce to hair that’s stripped after shampooing.

        • Thanks for the tips! I have avoided mousse in the past just because it seems to not have good hold though? Maybe I just need a better mousse?

          I uh, definitely don’t need to restore volume to my hair. I have more volume in my undercut than most people have in their whole heads and it’s not as bad as it was when I didn’t have an undercut…but I’d still probably kill for a product that DECREASES VOLUME (for reference, my hair on non-humid days with no products looks like Lizeth’s hair in the photo, but more mad-sciency because it’s all over the place).

    • My hair is cut like and pretty much looks like this but thicker: https://78.media.tumblr.com/f5b21ebc66baf12cdb70290143a859e5/tumblr_meqvirSGx21qd6ii0o1_500.jpg

      and I swear by AG Re:coil Curl Activator. I’ve used it for years. My routine starts in the shower with AG Recoil shampoo, then a generous amount of Loma moisturizing treatment (an amazing heavy duty conditioner http://www.lomaforhair.com/Loma-Products/Loma-Moisturizing-Treatment.html). After the shower I squeeze my hair gently with a towel and then “plop” into a microfibre towel I bought in the auto section of Canadian Tire while I get dressed, do my skincare etc (about 15 minutes). Then I unwrap my hair, scrunch Recoil mixed with a tiny bit of Lush R&B, and twist small sausage roll type curls into my hair so it dries in a nice pattern. I let it air dry while eating breakfast/doing makeup, and then dry the rest of the way with a diffuser. Recoil seems to work best when rubbed between hands in order to make it kind of foamy for lack of better word.

      If I need a pomade/wax to hold little flyaways after it’s all try I use Lush Dirty. Hope this helps 🙂

  10. First of all, thank you for this article. It’s nice to know others fuss as much as me about hair grooming 🙂

    Three years ago I finally took the leap and got a short haircut, similar to Baylea’s. Although my hair is too wavy to get a well rounded pomp. I go for a wavy finger combed pomp/sidepart.
    Recently my sides are very short and I’m contemplating going shorter just shy from a skin fade.

    I got hooked on hair pomades when I cut my hair short. I found out there are many small business who make awesome (and healthy) home brewed pomades of all kinds – unorthodox water based, oil based, clay, paste and a lot of them even have vegan products. They blow big brands products out of the water. It has really become a hobby for me to try out these pomades. Some of my favorite brands are: Nostalgic Grooming, Shear Revival, Lockharts Authentic, O’Douds Apothecary.

    I spend months watching youtube video’s about short hair, styling it and home brewed pomade reviews. My routine almost everyday is: blow dry in style using a prestyler such as a paste (O’Douds), fiber (Lush) or sea salt spray (also Lush). Then I style it with a pomade I’m in the mood for. I went from years of hair in a pony tail all the time, to spending 15 minutes a day getting my hair done 🤓

    • Thanks for the underground brand recs! I’m always looking for new products to experiment with.

      Same concept as ponytail — for me it was years of middle part, tuck behind the ears, and go. It’s nice to actually care about my hair now. Even though short hair can be time-consuming and hard to figure out, I like the upkeep.

  11. I’ve had short hair (pretty similar to Baylea’s) for nearly a year and I feel like I’ve only just started to get it right. I’m still working on a combination of products but I use Mr Smith Seasalt spray and King Brown Pomade at the moment. It gives me a similar matte finish and I’ve worked out it’s all in the drying, which I don’t always have time for.

    Thank you for this article. I have a bunch of recommendations to try out if I need.

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