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How To Slick Back Thick Hair In 6 Simple Steps

May 9, 2021
How To Slick Back Thick Hair In 6 Simple Steps

The simplicity of the everyday slick back is appealing to so many. But it’s no secret that it’s simpler for certain hair types than it is for others. So, can you slick back thick hair? 

Thick hair can be slicked back using products with a medium or heavy hold and raking them through from front to back. This can be done using the fingers, wide-toothed combs, or vent brushes that won’t tug too much on coarse hair. 

In short – yes you can. 

But the right technique, products, and know-how will make the difference between average results and outstanding results. 

It’ll make the difference between a thick-haired slick back that stays in place and one that’s flopped forward by midday. 

Before going through a step-by-step tutorial on how to do it in the most effective way possible, let’s discuss what you should use to do it. 

What’s The Best Product To Slick Back Thick Hair? 

The best products to slick back thick hair have a medium or heavy hold. These include oil-based pomades, water-based pomades, and gels if you’re looking for gloss and definition, or clays and pastes if you’re looking for texture. 

Ultimately, the heavy hold is the key. 

Thick hair doesn’t slick back without putting up a fight. It’s strong and it’s dense – you’ll need a product with the hold to keep it in place once you’ve styled it. 

“Lighter” products such as creams and even the lighter wax variants probably won’t cut it. You need some density and strength. 

You’ve got options, but it depends on the finish you’re going for. 

Clays often have a great hold – they’re gritty, heavy, and tough. But they won’t give you that vintage, glossy finish that slick backs are known for. 

They’ll produce more of a matte finish and are good for building texture and layering if this is what you prefer. 

But if you want that traditional, well-defined, glossy slick back, go for an oil-based pomade or water-based pomade

From Shutterstock

Oil-based pomades produce a pliable hold that you’d be able to restyle throughout the course of the day. Water-based pomades produce a stiff hold, just as a hair gel would. 

But any of these products, including hair gels, would be appropriate for slicking back thick hair because they’ve got the hold to pull it off. 

How To Prep Thick Hair For Slicking Back

Thick hair often doesn’t play ball right from the outset. You’ll most likely need to prep it by guiding it into place over time. 

  • Try hairbands, headbands, and hairnets. Spandex caps also come in handy. Wearing them for 30 minutes or so after slicking the hair back is a great way to make the hair more comfortable lying back against the grain. 
  • Baseball caps are a good option too if you’re looking to do this in public without drawing much attention. 

After using techniques such as these, you’ll find that it slicks back easier and with less effort after a while. 

Training hair for slicking back is even more important when you’ve got thick hair that tends to be more stubborn. 

How To Slick Back Thick Hair In 6 Steps

Follow these steps for predictable results each time. The routine will vary a little depending on the finish you’re going for and what product you’re going to use to achieve it. 

But overall, these steps will serve any thick-haired man chasing that glorious slick back very well indeed. 

From Shutterstock

1. Wash The Hair

Regardless of whether you’re applying the product to dry or damp hair, you’ll want to start off with a clean head of hair. 

Yes, slick backs are often known for their shine and somewhat “greasy” look. After all, just think back to the “greaser” culture of the 1950s. But that shine shouldn’t come from a build-up of sweat, oil, and grime. 

It’s easy to tell the difference between an unclean slick back and a clean (yet shiny) slick back. 

So, wash the hair with or without shampoo. Clean hair is a lot more responsive and more likely to stay in place once it’s styled. 

2. Either Towel-Dry Or Blow-Dry

This step is crucial. 

Choosing to style damp hair or dry hair does make a difference to the application process as well as the finish, regardless of how thick the hair is. 

Applying the product to damp hair will usually give you a slightly weaker hold but more shine. The product will also distribute through the hair with less resistance. 

On the other hand, applying product to dry hair will give you a stronger hold and more of a matte finish. You’ll also get more resistance as you try to spread it through. 

But the main thing to note is that styling hair while it’s still damp does carry the following risk: 

It’ll always look a bit different once it’s completely dry. 

Because of this, you’ll generally have a better idea of what the end result will look like when styling dry hair as opposed to damp hair. 

When slicking back thick hair, you’ll often find it tough doing it on bone-dry hair. Because of this, strongly consider towel-drying the hair and leaving it damp before applying the styling product. 

It’ll allow you to spread the product through that thick, coarse hair a lot easier. 

If you wanted to blow-dry backward after applying the first layer of product, that’s absolutely fine. It’s a great way of using the pressure and heat from a blow-dryer to keep thick hair in place. 

But it’s often best to distribute the product through damp thick hair first. 

3. Rake The Product Through With Fingers

Use the tips I gave earlier to choose your product. 


  • You want a medium or heavy hold when slicking back thick hair.
  • Choose clays (or maybe pastes) if you want a matte and textured finish. 
  • Choose pomades (oil-based or water) or hair gels if you want a defined and shiny finish. 

The first application should be with your fingers. You’ll be able to work it in better and distribute quicker and easier across the scalp if you use your fingers spaced widely apart. 

Again, doing so on towel-dried, damp hair is usually easier when you’ve got thick hair. 

Work the hair from front to back, raking through with one hand and following it with the flat palm of the other hand. 

If you want more volume or if you’re just struggling to keep that thick hair back, try using a blow-dryer with the nozzle targeted at the base of the hairs. 

Again, you’re blowing from front to back – this pressure is often useful when sweeping back stubborn and thick hair. 

After you’ve blow-dried, you could apply a second application of the product, once again raking through with the fingers of one hand and following it with the flat palm of the other. 

You could leave it like this. Using your fingers is a great way to get a more layered and textured appearance to your slick back thanks to the widely spaced fingers. 

But if you’re looking for a neater and tighter slick back with less separation between the strands, you’ll want to use a comb or a brush at this point. 

4. Use A Wide-Toothed Comb Or Vent Brush

When you’ve got thick hair, the grooming tool you use to slick it back is important. The bristles or teeth shouldn’t be too narrowly spaced as this can cause hair to get pulled out.

Wide-toothed combs and vent brushes are great because they won’t cause too much tugging as you’re sweeping everything from front to back. 

If you’re looking for more separation between the strands (although not as much as simply using your fingers), go for a wide-toothed comb. 

It’s a great way to produce a nice and layered, yet neat appearance to the slick back. 

If you’re looking for a tighter and neater slick back with less separation between the strands, go for a vent brush. It won’t be as tight as using a fine-toothed comb, but it’ll be more comfortable to use on that thick hair. 

Once again, brush or comb with one hand while following it with the flat palm of the other hand. This is a great way to get a defined and neat slick back no matter how thick the hair is. 

5. Define The Side Part If You Want To

Many men will have their hair naturally part to one side or the other. Defining the side part is a common feature of classic styles such as the slick back. 

This is where the edge of a comb will come in handy.

Use the comb to gently flatten the hairs immediately to either side of the side part and make it stand out. 

You don’t have to do this and it can be tough to do it when you’re slicking directly backward as opposed to one side. 

But if you love the look of a well-defined side part, consider it at this point. 

6. Spritz A Light Layer Of Hairspray

Finally, when slicking back thick hair, you may find that you need a bit of reinforcement to keep everything in place for longer than a couple of hours. 

This is where a spritz of hairspray would come in useful. 

Hold it at least 12 inches away from the hair and spray a fine mist across the top. This should give that slick back more strength and allow it to last longer. 

It isn’t essential, but definitely worth considering if you find that slick back coming undone after 2-3 hours. 

How Do You Slick Back Thick And Curly Hair? 

To slick back thick and curly hair, consider using a smoothing pre-styler beforehand.  Apply pomade to damp hair as opposed to dry to avoid frizz. Vent brushes are useful because they smoothen while not tugging too much. 

When you’ve got thick and curly hair, slick backs are going to have a characteristic look to them. They won’t look the same as a slick back styled into straight hair – those waves will still be visible and prominent. 

This often looks great in its own right – just be prepared for it. 

It can be tough to tame this type of hair and so you may need to prep the hair a little more before trying to style slick backs. Use the tips listed earlier to do this. 

What If Your Hair Is Too Slick To Thick Back? 

When hair is too thick to slick back, it’s worth growing it longer to see if this fixes the problem. If not, consider using accessories such as hair ties and headbands to physically hold everything back. 

Using accessories like this may not be everyone’s first choice, but you’d be surprised by how many men stick with them once they’ve tried them. 

Top knots and man buns are always options and will allow you to slick back thick hair even if you thought it was impossible beforehand. 

You will, of course, need enough length to do this. But once you’ve got it, you’ve definitely got more options. 


It may not be easy, but plenty of people pull it off in serious style. 

You’ve got the technique – now put it to work. Test out products and find out what works for you.