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?
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!