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9 Essential Tips To Keep Hair Up (Without Gel)

While it may sound like a difficult task, the right know-how should allow you to do it with effortless style. Here are some crucial tips to help you keep your hair up without gel. 

Let’s get to it. 

1. Layered Haircut

It’s so important to understand that certain haircuts are just way more likely to fall flat than others. 

layered haircut
A layered haircut

Image From Shutterstock

They’re difficult to keep upright and to build volume with. 

The first step you should take is to speak to your barber. 

Let them know that you’re looking to style it upward and you want a haircut that’ll keep it that way. 

Getting a layered haircut is often a great option when you’re looking to keep your hair up. 

What “layering” means is that the strands of hair are cut to different lengths, making them appear to cluster in layers. The top layers are usually cut shorter than the layers beneath them. 

This type of haircut is a lot more likely to stay up, even without using gel or other styling products. The reason for this is that the layers support each other in staying upright, almost like propping each other up. 

It’s easier to build volume and texture with.

2. Wash It Before Styling

Once you’ve got the right type of haircut, you’ll need to make sure that it’s ready for styling before you try to keep it up. 

A common reason why hair simply refuses to stay upright is that it’s greasy. 

Greasy and oily hair is heavy. 

No matter how hard you try to make it keep upright, it’ll have a tendency to fall back down, simply because of the additional weight the unclean hair has. 

It’s also just not a great look. 

So, before you start styling – make sure the hair has been de-greased. Even just washing with water alone would be better than not at all. 

Excessive shampoo is something to avoid, simply because you don’t want to strip away too many natural oils. But once or twice a week is a good idea. 

You’ll find that clean hair is more responsive and more likely to stay up. 

3. Reduce Conditioner Usage

While using conditioner may sound like a great way to build volume and make it more likely that the hair stays up, it’s often not the case. 

It’s great for making hair feel silky and soft, but it often makes hair more likely to fall flat once it’s been dried. 

Hair that’s very silky and soft is more likely to flop down – you may have noticed this yourself. 

After using conditioner, the hair feels great to touch but isn’t very responsive.  

Conditioner is quite a heavy product, which is one of the reasons why this happens. But it’s also just easier to keep hair up when it has a little bit of grit to it. 

Overly silky and smooth hair takes this away and just flops forward. 

If you’re a fan of conditioner, this may not be what you want to hear. But it’s worth trying out. 

See whether your hair plays ball and is easier to keep upright after skipping the conditioner. If it is, it’s such an easy solution to implement. 

4. Sea Salt Spray

Sea salt spray is a great, yet underrated styling product. It’s so simple but often works like a charm. 

Put simply, sea salt spray adds grit. 

As I mentioned earlier, having just the right amount of grit in your hair is a great way to make it stay up once you’ve styled it. 

That grit will help bind the hair fibers together once they’re upright, making them less likely to fall back down. 

Much like getting a layered haircut, adding grit in the form of sea salt spray is another way of allowing the strands of hair to prop each other up. 

Almost like a support system to help the hairs keep themselves up. 

Sea salt spray is fantastic for building volume, texture, and strand separation. It often produces a nice beachy, windswept appearance. 

Here’s an example of one on Amazon: 

While sea salt spray is salt water at its very core, additional ingredients are often added. It’s not uncommon to find sprays with aloe, algae, seaweed, and even UV protection sometimes. 

But ultimately, its main objective will always be to add a useful amount of grit and texture to the hair. 

It’s best to apply the spray to damp hair, as it’s easier to spread through. 

Once it’s applied, a great way to activate it would be to blow-dry – I’ll be talking about how to do this in the next tip. 

It exaggerates the effects of the spray and makes it even easier to build volume with it. 

You could always air-dry the sea salt spray and achieve a similar effect, but it won’t be as easy to build volume or height with. 

5. Blow Dry 

You may have experimented with this one already. All in all, blow-drying is a great way to keep hair up without the need for gel. 

What you’d be doing is using heat and pressure to keep the hair upright for longer than it would have otherwise. 

You’re using the blow dryer to build height and volume. 

But in order to do so, you need to blow-dry using the correct technique. A common mistake is to simply blow-dry the top of the hair or the tips of the strands. 

When you want to keep the hair up, targeting the roots is so much more effective. The roots (i.e the bases) of the hair strands are where the lift and volume will originate. 

That’s where the support comes from. So, that’s where you’ll want the pressure from the blow-dryer to focus on. 

Using a concentrator nozzle comes in very useful here. 

This is a narrow attachment you pop onto the end of a blow-dryer to focus the pressure and heat onto specific areas, instead of simply blowing everywhere. 

So, using a medium heat and pressure setting, hold the blow-dryer (with the nozzle attached) around 8 inches away. 

Use your fingers to lift the hair upward, exposing the roots, section by section.  

Target the roots with the concentrator nozzle. A great tip would be to blow-dry in different directions first before finally finishing in the direction you want the hair to lay in. 

Once you’re done, you’ll often find that the hair is a lot more likely to stay up, simply because you’ve blow-dried targeting the roots. 

It’s important to not go overboard with it. Avoid high heat settings and make sure you keep the blow-dryer a safe distance away, as I advised earlier. 

Using a heat-protectant spray would also be a good idea. 

6. Finger Tousle Upward

When styling their hair, most people choose to either use their fingers or a tool like a brush or a comb. Not many people choose to do both. 

It really depends on the finish you’re going for. If you’re looking for a messier, textured finish with more strand separation, there’s no substitute for using your fingers. 

You can space your fingers as wide or as narrowly as you want, giving you a lot more versatility when styling. 

When blow-drying make sure you use your fingers to your advantage. Blow-drying isn’t simply a method of drying your hair, as you saw in the previous tip. 

It’s actually a useful step in the styling process itself. 

So, while blow-drying, finger-tousle like a pro. 

Use your fingers to cup the hair, gently twisting and tousling it upward. What this does is help the hair to clump together into small clusters. 

These small clusters support each once you’ve blow-dried upward and make it even more likely that the hair stays upright once you’re done. 

7. Use The Right Brush

If you’re looking for less of a textured finish and more of a tight and tidy finish, a hairbrush would be a good way to go. 

Round brushes are an excellent option if you’re looking to keep the hair upright. 

It’ll also look wavier, with flips that you wouldn’t really be able to achieve with your fingers. 

While the technique can take some getting used to, it’s worth spending some time to get to grips with it. 

When you’re looking to keep the hair up, it’s important to use it in the most effective way possible. 

Once again, brushing while blow-drying is an excellent way to reinforce its effects, almost like using pressure to lock it into place. 

Carefully wrap and twist sections of the hair around the brush, before using the blow-dryer (with a concentrator nozzle) to apply some heat and pressure to it. 

Once again, don’t hold it too near – 8 inches away should be fine.

round brush
A round brush. Keep the nozzle at least 8 inches away

Then, carefully unwrap the hair from the round brush, setting it free. Continue this process throughout the top of your hair, one section at a time. 

You’ll notice that the hair looks like it has more volume and simply prefers to stay upright than to fall back flat. 

8. Always Style Against The Grain

A common reason for hair not staying up without the use of gel is that it’s being styled in the wrong direction. 

More specifically, it’s being styled with the grain instead of against it. 

The “grain” is simply the direction in which your hair grows. This is the direction it’s more likely to flop down in. 

If your hair on top grows toward the left, it’ll generally prefer to flop down to the left if you were to leave it alone. 

If you’ve been styling that hair toward the left but trying to keep it upright as well, you’ll probably find that it’s more likely to flop down. 

This is because it’s just the position in which it prefers to lay. 

So, if you want to try to keep the hair upright, style it against the grain instead. 

messy hairstyle
Image From Shutterstock

Using the same example above, try styling that hair to the right and upward. This is against its natural direction of growth (which is left).  

Doing so makes it more likely to stay upright once you’ve styled it, especially if you did so while using the heat and pressure from a blow-dryer. 

It’s a simple trick, but it’s often effective. 

9. Try Some Clay

Finally, it’s always worth trying a different styling product if you aren’t a fan of gel. 

Hair gel puts a lot of people off because of the shiny finish and the stiff (and sometimes crunchy) hold. 

There are plenty of other styling products out there that don’t produce the same effect and there’s a good chance you may prefer those instead. 

Hair clay is one of them. 

Unlike hair gel, it doesn’t produce a shiny finish. Instead, it produces a low-shine or matte finish – this is why it appeals to so many. 

It’s great for building volume and texture. Much like sea salt spray, it adds just enough grit to the hair to make it more responsive. 

Don’t get me wrong – there are other styling products that produce a low shine finish too. Pastes, creams, and putties could all potentially do this for you. 

The reason hair clay is so great in particular when you’re trying to keep your hair up is that it usually produces quite a strong hold, much like gel would. 

The difference between the hold that a clay produces and the hold that a gel produces is that clays produce a more pliable hold, not a stiff one. 

At the end of the day, whether you use a styling product or not is a personal decision. You should be able to keep your hair upright without one using the earlier tips in this list. 

But if you were to use one, there are plenty of products that work very differently from hair gels that you could potentially try out. 

Using this tip, as well as the others in this list, should give you the technique you need to keep that hair propped up for the long haul. 

Enjoy.