It can feel like a losing battle sometimes. No matter what you try, flyaways and frizz always seem to rear their head. So, how exactly do you flatten the hair on top of your head?
The hair on top of the head can be flattened in a number of ways including growing it longer, training it with accessories, combing on hairspray, and using negative pressure from a blow dryer. Fixing cowlicks is also an effective fix.
Although that’s the gist, as always, I wanted to dig deeper.
You’re about to learn some simple but reliable ways to lay down hair that sticks up on top.
It’s often down to not using the right techniques, tools, and products to really get the job done. Flattening it is one thing – making it stay that way for the rest of the day is another.
But before we talk through how to fix it, let’s discuss why it happens in the first place.
Why Does Hair Stick Up?
Common reasons for hair sticking up include it being too short, very thick, unwashed, poorly styled, or cut the wrong way. The best ways to prevent the hair from sticking up focus on correcting these common issues.
It sounds simple in theory – that’s because it is.
Simply concentrating on these reasons and figuring out whether they’re the cause behind your hair sticking up is the most important step to take.
Hair that’s too short is more likely to stick up. It just doesn’t have enough weight to lay flat or slick back.
If it’s too thick, however, it’s less likely to stay flat because the density will push out strays and flyaways. The dense hairs will prop each other up, giving each other strength and support and preventing each other from laying flat.
There are other reasons for hair sticking up that I’ll be talking about more as we go through the fixes.
It can be hard to determine which of these issues are most to blame for your specific hair problems.
The trick is to experiment – try different tips and tricks until you find something that works for you and your hair.
8 Ways To Flatten Hair On The Top Of Your Head
Keeping things simple is the key. You won’t have to go follow every single one of these tips long-term.
So, find what works for you and stay with them for the long haul.
1. Grow It Longer
Yes – it’s really as simple as that.
This won’t be an option for those that aren’t willing to put up with the additional maintenance requirements of longer hair.
But you’d be surprised by how you actually don’t need that much more hair to flatten things out.
You’ve got two ways of doing it.
You can grow it out enough to flatten things out – either forward or to the side. You don’t need as much length to achieve this.
The additional length will add weight and make it more likely that it’ll stay flat on its own, often even without the need for hair products.
But another way of flattening out the hair on top is by slicking it back.
When the hair is 4 to 6 inches long, it’s usually long enough to slick back and stay back.
A common problem is slicking back the hair only to have it spring forward again – this will no doubt lead to hair sticking up on top and will achieve absolutely nothing.
The most common reason for this problem is that the hair is simply not long enough. If it isn’t long enough, it won’t stay back.
If you’re trying to slick it back but you’re finding that the hair on top just won’t flatten out backward, grow it longer.
Even once it’s long enough, there’s a good chance you’ll have to train the hair to slick back as well. After a while, it’ll get easier.
Although there are ways of trying to get short or medium-length hair to slick back – it’s so much harder.
Make your life easier. Whether you’re trying to flatten the hair forwards, sideways, or backward, adding some length is a good place to start.
2. Comb On Some Hairspray
Sure – combing with the grain (i.e in the direction of growth) is extremely important when flattening out the hair on top.
That’s probably pretty obvious. The hair on top usually grows forward, so combing it forward will flatten it out.
On the other hand, combing it backward (against the direction of growth) will often cause it to stick up unless you’re slicking it all the way back and you’re able to keep it that way.
Simple – right?
The problem is there’s a good chance you’ve probably already tried that and you’ve still got flyaways and strays on top wreaking havoc on your end result.
In addition, it’s pretty uncommon for a guy to want to comb his hair all the way forward into a fringe. Sure, Caesars and French Cuts are great but the majority of men want to style their hair in a certain direction but want it flat.
There’s a good chance this will be, at least to a certain extent, against the grain.
Combing in these directions will most likely cause it to stick up in places.
To prevent this from happening there’s a good chance you’ll need some reinforcement. This may sound like a fancy way of saying “use some product” – that’s because it is.
But you probably haven’t heard of this one before.
I find it quite helpful to spray a light layer of hairspray onto the comb before using it on my hair.
It isn’t a lot, but it’s often just enough to add some hold and keep things in place. The beauty of it is that it’s happening while the combing takes place.
So, even if you’re combing against the grain or just not entirely with the grain, you’ve still got a bit of product to reduce the risk of flyaways springing up.
Also – use the right comb for your hair type. A wide-tooth comb would be more suitable for men with thicker hair, while a fine-tooth comb would be more effective on thinner hair types.
3. Try A Smoothing Lotion
Blow-drying lotions are great. They work as pre-stylers – a thing you put onto your hair before you style.
It isn’t the styling product, but something that sets the stage beforehand.
Pre-stylers can do different things, ranging from thickening to smoothing.
A common cause behind hair sticking up on top is frizz and flyaways. Smoothing lotions work well here because as the name suggests – they smooth out the hair.
This makes the hair on top (and elsewhere) more likely to lay flat when you want it to. It’ll comb or brush through easier and it’ll be more responsive to whatever hair product you use afterward.
Ultimately, pre-stylers such as this make your life easier.
They’re often enriched with oils such as argan oil which do tend to make the hair softer and easier to manage.
Moroccanoil Smoothing Lotion (Amazon Link) is a good example of a product with all of these properties.
Apply it onto damp hair and blow-dry it to your desire. You can brush or comb as you do so if you wish to.
That brings me nicely onto the next tip.
4. Use A Blow Dryer
Men often shy away from blow dryers. Often it’s because they don’t think it’s necessary for relatively short hair.
Sometimes it’s because they just can’t be bothered to include it in their routine.
But a good blow dryer is definitely a worthwhile buy for anyone, especially those struggling to flatten out hair.
Although blow dryers are often used to add fullness and volume, people forget that it’s also ideal for taking away fullness where you don’t want.
When you’ve got parts of the hair on top sticking up, additional fullness in that area probably isn’t a good idea.
You want the opposite.
Use a blow dryer to apply downward pressure to the hair that sticks up and force it to lay flat. In other words, apply negative pressure.
Not too high of a heat setting – medium is fine. Don’t hold it too close either – around 8 inches away to be cautious.
Pressure and heat can do damage, so use it wisely. Using a pre-styler with some heat-protectant included would be a good idea.
A good way of focusing the pressure from a blow dryer in a very specific part of the hair would be to use a concentrator nozzle.
This attachment will literally concentrate the heat and pressure in narrow areas of the hair you want to be flattened.
If parts of the top, sides, and back just refuse to play ball, a concentrator nozzle would target those parts while leaving surrounding hairs alone.
5. Buzz It Short
OK – so this may sound like it directly contradicts the part where I told you to grow it longer, but hear me out.
Yes, it’s true that hair that’s short is more likely to stick up. But when it’s extremely short, it really doesn’t have much of a chance to stick up.
There’s just not enough of it to do so.
This definitely won’t be ideal for everyone. There are many who just wouldn’t even consider. But buzz cuts are an extremely popular and low-maintenance style.
One of the reasons they’re low maintenance is that you just don’t need to worry about styling. The style comes pre-prepared, ready-made each and every day.
You don’t need to worry about flattening the hair on top because you just don’t give it a chance to ever become a problem.
Choosing the right buzz cut length is a personal decision, but factors such as face shape and receding hairlines should be taken into account too.
If you want to be sure it’s short enough for the hair on top to stay flat, go for a number 4 or shorter to be safe.
I’m not going to dwell too much on this one because there isn’t a huge amount to say.
But if you were ever tempted by the ultra-short goodness that a buzz cut can bring, just know that it may be a quick and simple solution to the problem of hair sticking up too.
6. Train It With Accessories
A great way to flatten hair on top is to use accessories. Spandex caps, durags, hairnets, hair bands, headbands, beanie hats, and so on.
I don’t mean wearing it the whole day – that’s cheating. But using accessories to train the hair to lay flat and reduce the risk of it sticking up as the day progresses does work well.
Do everything you’d do in any case first – brush, comb, blow dry – get things into place. You don’t want to do the final styling because you’re not quite done yet.
Once you’re happy-ish, consider how you could use some additional pressure for 10 to 15 minutes to really keep it all that way.
This works great if you’re attempting to slick the hair back, but it’s worth considering no matter what direction you’re combing or styling. This could be forward or to the side.
Ultimately, using accessories such as this will help the hair stay flatter for longer no matter what direction it’s styled in.
Don’t overdo it though. Excessive tension on the hair for prolonged periods of time is never good. 10 to 15 minutes while lounging around the house now and again should be fine.
After a while, you’ll probably find that you need to do it less often and for less time in order to achieve the same effect.
That’s the beauty of training.
7. Fix The Cowlicks
A cowlick is a small section of hair where the strands grow in different directions, often forming a spiral pattern.
It’s pretty likely that when combing your hair in a certain direction, parts of the cowlick will stick straight up or prefer to lie in the opposite direction.
This can be frustrating and is a common cause for hair not laying flat on top. The commonest areas for cowlicks are the crown at the back and the frontal hairline.
But really – you can get them anywhere.
Although sometimes the effects are subtle, if you really want to flatten that hair out, you’ll need to fix them.
One way of doing so is growing your hair long enough to “cover up” the cowlick area by combing over it.
It’s also possible to prevent the cowlick hairs from sticking up by actually feeling it and trying to figure out the various directions the hair grows there.
By simply paying closer attention to it and making a point to comb the specific hairs responsible for the cowlick in the direction they go, you’ll be able to flatten it out eventually.
Considering how stubborn these hairs really are, it’s best to apply a small amount of hair product or hairspray here to give it some hold and prevent them from sticking back up as the day goes on.
That brings me on to the final tip.
8. Use Hair Product The Right Way
Using hair products the right way means using the right product in the right way.
A common reason for hair not laying flat on top when you want it to is simply using a product that doesn’t have the right amount of hold.
This is especially important when you’ve got longer or thicker hair that is more likely to come undone after you’ve spent time styling it.
Products with a heavy hold can be split into matte vs shiny.
Although most products fall somewhere in between, you can pretty reasonably call a product one or the other.
If you’re looking to flatten out the hair on top but have a low shine finish, choose a more matte product with a good hold.
If you’d prefer some shine – use a shiny one with a good hold.
Low shine products with medium to heavy holds include hair clays, pastes, and even putties.
High shine products with medium to heavy holds include water based and oil based pomades, hair waxes, and hair gels.
Once you’ve chosen the right product, you’ll want to use it the right way if you want to flatten out the top hair and keep it flat for a long time.
To do this, the trick is to properly coat the hair on top before flattening it.
A common mistake is applying the product in one direction only – in other words, only the direction in which you want to flatten it.
What you want to do is apply it in multiple directions first – backward, forward, right, and left. Doing so will coat all of the hair in product from the root to the tip.
Once you’ve done this, you can then flatten it in your final and desired direction before it sets.
Getting a good coating of the product before flattening the hair will give you a much better hold than if you were to apply the product in only one direction.
That would only coat some of the hair in the product and would give you a weaker overall hold as a result.
It’s a problem that most men will encounter at times, although some will definitely be more predisposed to it than others.
Hopefully, you’ve now got a collection of tips you can try out for yourself. Find the ones that work for you and commit to them.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.