Given that hair is technically dead (in as much as it has no blood, nerves or muscles), it’s surprising how much TLC it requires to look its best. And it’s not just the actual strands that need care and attention – the scalp does too.
So how can you deal with hair-raising problems like greasiness, breakage and product build-up? What’s the best way to tackle a receding hairline? And how on earth do you find a decent barber that doesn’t cost it?
We’ve gathered 23 experts in the field – from award-winning hairdressers to grooming savants – to provide the answers to all these questions and more when it comes to men’s haircuts and beyond.
Switch To Matte Products If Thinning
“For many men, hair thins out as they hit their thirties and forties,” says Belfast-based grooming expert and barber Jason Shankey. “To make it look thicker and more manageable, use a matte styling paste or clay. Matte products absorb light and instantly make hair appear a little thicker.”
Give Yourself An Egg Wash
“The best tip I ever received for looking after hair came from an old aunt of mine,” says international male model, actor and TV presenter Paul Sculfor. “You may laugh, but it’s to wash your hair in eggs once a month for the protein.”
Pick The Right Moment For A Haircut
To get the undivided attention of a barber or stylist, timing is everything. “Most salons are quieter at the beginning and end of the day, so it’s worth asking for the very first or last appointment,” says British Hairdressing Award winner Anita Cox. Go for the former and your stylist is likely to be at their freshest and most enthusiastic too.
Use A Pre-Styling Product
As true a saying in the bathroom as it is in the bedroom: it’s not all about the big finish. In the case of hair, TJ Hunt, a barber at Ruffians’ Shoreditch outpost in London, suggests laying a base layer before adding paste, pomade or wax.
“Guys often know exactly what products to use to ‘finish’ a style,” he says. “However, they commonly miss the vital element of adding a pre-styler when the hair is damp. Mousses, sea salt sprays and even serums can have a real impact on the finished style when used correctly.”
Less Is Often More
“One of the biggest hair mistakes men make when it comes to styling is using too much product,” says barber Lachlan Watson, from the Covent Garden branch of Murdock in London.
“A little can go a long way and if you use products sparingly you’ll find yourself sporting a more natural look while avoiding a heavy and greasy appearance.”
Apply Shampoo To Dry Hair To Remove Wax
Fan of hair wax but struggle to get it out of your hair? Here’s a great tip from Head & Shoulders style director Michael Douglas.
“The best way to deal with wax is to apply shampoo to dry hair and rinse, then follow this with another application of shampoo. You’ll find that this method helps to breakdown the product and leave hair clean.”
Pat Dry, Don’t Rub
We men tend to think that the harder we rub our hair after washing the quicker it’ll dry. In reality, an over-zealous towel drying technique will just cause breakage – especially bad news if your hair already isn’t quite as thick as it used to be.
“Hair tends to be weaker when wet (and hence more prone to damage) so don’t rub too hard,” warns Ben Skervin, who has worked on campaigns for the likes of River Island, H&M and Bally. “Instead, pat dry to avoid putting any extra stress on it.”
In the same way that your teeth are only as good as your gums, your hair is only as good as your scalp, so Linda Frawley, senior master at Charles Worthington, suggests looking after it.
“Regular stress can tighten the scalp and cause hair thinning. To de-stress and boost circulation to the scalp, ensuring healthy hair growth, think about getting regular, stimulating head massages.”
According to barber and men’s grooming expert Carmelo Guastella, a common mistake men make with dry and coarse hair is over-washing it.
“If that’s your hair type, limit washing to once or twice a week and always apply a conditioner,” he advises. “Washing it every day will just make it even drier. If you reduce washing and use a conditioner, the result will be smoother, healthier looking hair.”
Don’t Fiddle With Greasy Hair
If you have greasy growth on top of your head, it’s always a good idea to avoid using hot water. However, according to Nicholas Clayton, author of A Butler’s Guide to Gentlemen’s Grooming, how you handle your hair is just as important.
“Don’t scrub and rub like mad; this only serves to further activate oil producing sebaceous glands that are already overactive,” he says.
Protect Hair When In The Pool
As any regular swimmer knows, chlorine can play havoc with hair. “Chlorine chemically bonds with the proteins in the hair and causes the cuticle (the hair’s protective outer layer) to lift, which makes hair dry, brittle and dull,” says legendary hairdresser Trevor Sorbie.
To minimise chlorine’s effects, Sorbie recommends wetting hair thoroughly with clean water before swimming, as this dilutes the chemical. Or try applying a small amount of conditioner before diving in.
Forget The Comb-Over
“If you’re losing your hair a short, cropped haircut is the best option,” advises celebrity stylist Oliver Woods, who’s tended the tresses of everyone from Robbie Williams to Jude Law. “Keeping it shorter at the sides and longer on top is a good idea too, as it draws attention away from the thinning areas.”
Keep It Cool
It may be tempting to put the wind up your hair with a dryer set on maximum heat, but according to Asgar Saboo, style director at the Daniel Galvin salon in London’s Mayfair, wherever possible you should allow hair to dry naturally. Or, at the very least, change the setting to low.
“If using a dryer, don’t overdo it, as this will leave the hair frizzy and damaged,” he warns. “Instead, set the dryer on the ‘cool’ mode. It might be a bit more time-consuming, but it’ll help keep the hair in good condition.”
Look To The Kitchen Cupboard For Shiny Hair
“Many store-bought and professional shampoos, conditioners and styling products not only build up on the hair but the scalp too,” says top hairdresser Denis Robinson, who has a novel suggestion for dealing with product build up.
“Once a month wash hair with a small amount of washing up liquid,” he says. “Do this twice and let the second one sit for a minute or two. Then, after rinsing thoroughly, douse the hair with household vinegar, to restore the Ph balance, and rinse again. This will make the hair shiny and freshens up the scalp, leaving it clean and healthy.”
Manage Yo ‘Fro
Afro hair comes with its own unique set of requirements – so it pays to build an arsenal of the right tools.
“Without a doubt, you must always invest in an afro comb or else grooming will be very painful,” says the master barber at Ted’s Grooming Room. “An afro comb’s teeth are specifically designed to detangle large clumps of curly hair that no other brush or comb can. We also suggest using a conditioner at least once a week to lock in moisture, especially at the ends.”
Skip The Cold Showers
“Cold rinses actually constrict the blood capillaries in the scalp,” says renowned trichologist Philip Kingsley, author of The Hair Bible. “These tiny blood vessels carry nutrients and pick up waste products from the skin’s surface and need to be active for optimum effect; suddenly constricting them with cold water does the hair no good at all.”
Check Your Barber’s Windows
“If you can’t see the guys inside a barbershop getting their hair cut, keep walking – they may have something to hide behind those nets and grime,” says Robert Johnston, director of The Gentleman’s Shop in Hungerford, Wiltshire, who’s been in the business for nearly 30 years.
“Good places advertise what’s going on inside.”
Spray To Play
“If you want to ramp up the styling product you normally use, pop a squirt or two of a traditional dry hairspray into the palm of your hands, rub together and tease into the finished texture,” says Gavin Cornwell of The King’s Canary hair salon in London’s Fitzrovia.
“This adds a little more hold and texture to your usual style.”
“If thinning, always pat hair dry rather than rub it. Rubbing hair can cause friction, which leads to breakage,” says celebrity hair stylist and SheaMoisture ambassador Diane C Bailey. “For extra care, use a soft cotton T-shirt as opposed to a towel to help further reduce friction.”
“If possible, try to avoid tight hats for the same reason. Hair rubs against the thread of the hats which pulls to breaking point and damages the cuticle, [hindering regrowth].”
Carry A Comb
Unless using industrial strength cement, all hair products benefit from a slight touch up throughout the day, especially before swapping the boardroom for the bar. But carry around a miniature pot of gel and expect to be ridiculed.
“Here is a cheeky hair tip for fellas on the go: always carry a comb with you,” says Paul Burfoot, founder of Fish barbers in Soho, London. “In the event of a hair crisis, most styling products can be reactivated by wetting a comb and running it through your barnet to re-style.”
Talk It Over With A Barber
There are plenty of tell-tale signs for spotting a bad barber. But Joe Mills of London barbers Joe and Co believes one more than any is a dead giveaway. “If they don’t make time to properly talk to you about what you want, then get out of the chair.”
To make the process easy, especially when changing up your style or visiting a new barber, Mills advises going armed with all the necessary information. “Take a couple of pictures on your phone of what you like, and what you don’t like. That way you have a starting point to work from. You want a barber to recommend products and also styling tips, so you know how to do what he/she does. This is all part of the service.”
Go With The Flow
As any man with a cowlick or widow’s peak will attest, it’s far better to work with the hair than against it. The same rule applies even without a noticeable hair quirk.
“If you wear your hair in a side parting, it’s always best to do so on the side your crown lies on, as this is where it will naturally want to part and will make styling a lot easier,” says Brent Pankhurst, owner of London barbershop Pankhurst.
Watch Your Mouth
What goes in your mouth affects your sideburns just as much as it does your six pack. While stocking up on individual supplements can quickly become an expensive habit, a multivitamin is an easy route to top notch locks.
“Thinning hair is an ever-increasing problem, especially with the nation now experiencing more stress, longer working hours and perhaps less focus on a healthy balanced diet,” says Nioxin ambassador Kay McIntyre. “I would always start any consultation with a recommendation for better vitamin intake, particularly zinc and vitamins C and D.”