Thick hair is one of those blessings that too often feels like a curse. Yes, as your barber (and mother) will often tell you, you’ve got a lovely head of thick locks and probably won’t go bald, but thick hair does come with its own set of hairdo dilemmas.
Does it give you more or fewer options when it comes to styling? And is it harder to wrestle into a solid style than thin hair? What the hell do you do when it’s humid? Even among the barbers, opinion seems to be split – some say it’s harder to manage, with fewer styles available; others say the sheer volume means there’s more you can do with it. But one thing is generally agreed – it’s all about picking the right hairstyle.
“Thick hair comes in many guises,” says TJ Hunt from top London barbers Ruffians. “It could be wavy and thick or poker straight and thick. It’s all about getting the right style to complement your own hair type and lifestyle.”
Let’s start with the good news. If you have thick hair, you’ll enjoy much fuller quiffs and pompadours, and find it easier to style beachy or textured hair, too. It also looks better faded than thin hair. But there are downsides, and we’re not just talking frizz.
“Having thick hair can be a bit of a nightmare as typically it can be harder to style and often difficult to keep in place,” counters Dexter Johnson from Toni & Guy. “Thick hair is harder to manipulate, whereas thin hair you can build up with products. It’s a lot more difficult to remove the density of hair in terms of a haircutting technique.”
Regardless of which side of the argument you fall on, here are some of the best styles to turn to for all types of thick hair.
Hairstyles For Short Thick Hair
“If you’ve got short thick hair sometimes the product matts the texture and it becomes sticky,” says Johnson. “So a short crop with a nice fade to reduce weight and texture on top will work well.” Think any variation on the iconic, fuss-free French crop.
How to maintain it: “This style is fairly easy to maintain and is a great option for those who are looking for a wash-and-go.”
The Choppy Crop
“Clipper tight on the back and sides with an ascending fade,” says Charlie Cullen from London barbers Joe & Co. “Scissor the top at slightly irregular lengths to add texture and remove density. Crop the fringe short for easy maintenance and longevity.”
How to maintain it:“When wet add some sea salt spray and rough dry – this style is intentionally ‘un-neat’. Finish with a little matte product to add hold.”
The Connoisseur’s Buzz Cut
“If your thick locks are getting too much in hot summer weather then opt for a full clipper cut,” says Hunt. “To add shape and style go for a grade 3 or 4 on the top but go ultra-sharp with the fade on the back and sides. Start from skin or grade 0 if you’re bold enough.”
How to maintain it: The buzz cut is a shower-and-go kind of style, but be aware that you’ll probably need to be back in the barber’s chair within a fortnight.
Hairstyles For Mid-Length Thick Hair
“The ‘Leebo’ is from Toni & Guy’s Legacy collection,” says Johnson. “It’s a great option for gents with medium length hair as it minimises the width throughout the sides and creates more volume on top. For a ’70s or ’80s-inspired haircut ask for the layers to be a bit shorter – otherwise go for mid-length.”
How to maintain it: It’s another great wash-and-go hairstyle, but if you’re prone to frizz, consider something light like a leave-in conditioner.
The Classic Loose Sweep Back
“Scissors are the key to this heavily layered style,” says Hunt. “Graduated back and sides complement the heavier top, allowing it to sit back effortlessly. Don’t go for a parting if you want to make the style looser and easier to style.”
How to maintain it: “Blow dry the hair back after adding a hair balm or light hold gel when wet. If needed, add a little styling paste once dry.”
The Undercut Quiff
“Clipper the sides short while maintaining length on top,” says Hunt, “particularly at the fringe, without fully connecting it. It’s great if you have good volume in your hair.”
How to maintain it: “A hairdryer is your best friend here. Add some gel or a little styling paste when wet and use a round brush add volume and lift. Finish with clay for a matte look or a strong pomade for a more defined finish.”
Hairstyles For Long Thick Hair
“For seamless layers ask your barber for duality within the layering pattern,” says Johnson. “Haircut-wise you want to ask for something that works with zigzag sections so your barber can shorten certain areas to remove weight, ie towards the back or towards the sides. It’s dissimilar to an undercut, as with an undercut we are removing length and weight. Here, we want to keep the length of hair but just reduce as much weight as possible.”
How to maintain it: Conditioner is key to keeping this style just slick enough but you can also add a light cream or sea salt spray to add a little more texture and definition.
Channel your inner rock star, and let your hair grow past your shoulders, says Hunt. “Go for shoulder length with razor layers to add beachy texture and minimise the weight.”
How to maintain it: When growing your hair out, visit the barber every few weeks to trim the ends and keep the hair in good shape. “Add gritty texture with salt spray for a lived-in look and either scrunch and allow it to air dry, or use a diffuser attachment on your hairdryer so it doesn’t look too styled,” says Hunt. “Try not to wash too often as this look works best with a bit of natural oil.”
The Long Sweep And Tuck
When your hair is too thick to let it fall to the side of your face, this is your best option. “Ask for a longer layered shape that can be tucked behind the ear and worn away from face,” says Cullen. “The hair needs to be lightly layered to reduce volume but be careful when the layers are too short as they can actually increase the volume.”
How to maintain it: “Wash and slightly towel dry and then apply some of Bed Head’s Superstar Queen For a Day quite heavily. Style with your hands to maintain a natural texture and then allow to dry naturally.”
Hairstyles For Thick Curly Hair
Long and Curly
“When you have thick, curly hair I would recommend allowing it to grow longer,” says Johnson. “Nothing to the extreme of Mick Hucknall but leaving it long on top and incorporating an undercut – a shaved area around the nape of the neck – will reduce the width and weight.”
How to maintain it: Think Jim Morrison or Jon Snow here and as little product as you can get away with. You should have leave-in conditioner on repeat order.
High Skin Fade
“The high fade starts around your temple or the corner of your forehead,” says Johnson. “Unlike the traditional undercut, which is just one length, the high fade then gets shorter on the sides with a longer length on top to show your curls.”
How to maintain it: As with all thick, curly styles, you may need some sort of anti-frizz product. And if you have sensitive skin, try a scalp tonic to counter the fade’s slightly abrasive quality.
“The taper fade focuses on the temple and sideburns,” says Johnson, “as well as at the nape to add a longevity to the hairstyle, working the curls off the face.” Up top, a mid-length choppy style will make the most of your hair’s natural shape.
How to maintain it: You want the curls to work together and avoid frizz with this style. The Curl Define range from label.m was made for it.
The Best Products For Thick Hair
Thick hair either needs no product at all, or something very specific. “Which product you use really depends on the hair type and style,” says TJ Hunt, from Ruffians. “As a rule, you’ll need to apply a bit more product to get the same result in thick hair. Strong hold products tend to work well with short, choppy styles – matte clays, styling creams – but with longer, looser styles opt for something more natural such as leave-in conditioners or hair balms.”
Here are some of our favourite products to help you style that mane.
Aesop Violet Leaf Hair
This hair balm is perfect for taming and putting a shine on those longer, wild styles of thick hair. Without the stickiness or grease that comes with other similar products.
Uppercut Deluxe Matte Clay
A wax-based product that’s good for textured looks and leaves your style with a dry finish. It’s also easy to rework and tough enough to resist water and intense workouts.
Aveda Smooth Infusion Styling Creme
This high-quality creme is designed to lock in moisture and hold back the frizz. Especially effective on short, choppy styles.
Men-ü Muscle Fibre Paste
This is a go-to holding paste for short, textured styles and is designed to bind the microfibres of your hair to achieve a strong, long-lasting and flexible hold.
Kevin Murphy Hair Resort Spray
This texture spray will aid the drying process when blow-dried into the hair. When it’s set, it gives your hair a textured, gritty feeling.
Label.m Leave-In Conditioner
This works to both soften the hair and make it more malleable – so it’s easier to manipulate coarse or unruly thick hair. Long hairstyles, too.