What is the best gel for slicked back hair?


2020 has been a strange year. Lockdowns, economic shutdowns and bad hair have been the dish of the day for virtually the entire globe. Where I stay these restrictions have been slowly but surely getting lifted and I was able to get my first hair cut in over four months recently!

Instead of reverting back to normal (in my case short back and sides) I decided to try something different which utilised the four months of length… I went for a slicked back undercut.

Of course this raised the question… How should I style it? It’s fine when you’re in the barber shop and they have all the products to hand – but in the cold hard light of day what should I be slapping on to look after it?

Let’s find out.

What is the best hair product for slicking back your hair?

At a glance

  • Seb Man The Player is the best gel for slicked back hair, and Layrite is the best overall product for slicking back
  • Gel offers a strong hold, but can dry matte and relatively hard
  • Overall I believe pomade is the best product for my slicked back undercut
  • For more natural, dry styles a traditional wax or putty would be best

What is a ‘slicked back undercut’?

To those of you in my generation you may be thinking.. What the heck is an undercut?!

The key features of this particular hair style are:

  • Slicked back element refers to the top of the head having long hair which is pulled backwards
  • The hair here is likely 4-6 inches long – usually longer towards the front getting shorter as it heads backwards towards the crown
  • The undercut refers to the sides and back – from the ‘dome’ down is usually cur with a clipper much shorter with limited blending into the longer top
  • The ‘dome’ of hair is usually an arc from one corner of your forehead to the other
  • The length of the sides varies from a 0 through to a 4 clipper setting depending on preference on severity of contrasting length.
  • Traditionally the undercut is one clipper length all around, but the current style will generally have an element of fade to soften the contrast slightly.
Brad Pitt with an undercut hair style
Brad Pitt rocking an undercut with a slight fade into the slick back

Hair product comparisons: gel vs. wax vs. pomade

If you share my middle aged (or heading there!) demographic you may be perplexed by the range of hair products on offer. I am with you!

Back in the good old days (think 90’s and 00’s) a simple trip into Boots to pick up some Shockwaves gelwould be a ‘no brainer’. These days there are a myriad of choices out there and differentiating between them seems to be unnecessarily confusing at best and down right annoying more often than not.

To save you some time and agro I have pulled together a summary of the main choices out there (you can thank me later!)

So what is it exactly?Liquid based hair product which offers very strong hold and a wet, separated look.clayputty or pastestyling product.Oil or water based styling product generally used for smooth, slick hair styles. Usually a solid or cream based product.
Suits which hair styles?Very versatile as it dries firm allowing you get creative. Gels can provide good support for extreme vertices (think Mohawks) as well as offer a semi-wet look finish.Waxes are very versatile, having a more natural finish than the alternatives here. 
Waxes are best for natural or textured finishes.
They work very well on regulation ‘short back and sides’ cuts where a little product and minimal maintenance is all that is needed.
Oil based best for flat styles
Water based is naturally a lighter product and can be used in higher volume applications
Shine can turn somewhat matte throughout the day as it settles an
Waxes usually offer a matte finish with no shine. They can be layered to cultivate a wetter look but ultimately a pomade is better suited to that.High, particularly oil based pomades
How does it dry?Hard
Reworking can be difficult depending on product.
Brushing out can create white flakes (not dandruff! 
They don’t!
Wax will remain workable throughout the day
Throughout the day can have some firmness, but it is eminently re-workableparticularly with a touch of water to freshen up
Hold strengthGenerally a strong hold as it dries so firm.Light to medium hold.
Usually a putty or clay will be a looser hold than a firmer wax style product.
In general pomades have a strong hold
Greasiness?Offers a great slick look and will be wet on application, but throughout the day it will dry with minimal grease.Little to none, unless overloaded in the hair.Oil based products have a greasy finish (similar to a gel) and can be overloaded in your hair
Water based products generally still have a slick look but harder to overload. They can also be brushed out quite easily, or layered.
Best for?Quiff, Mohawk or similar verticals style that benefits from ultimate hold strength.
Wet look finishes
Separation styles (visible comb marks)
Dry finishes
Short back and sides or similar short, low maintenance cuts
Natural ‘just out of bed’ look
Best for slickback undercuts, comb overs or other similar traditional smooth hair cuts styles. 
Great for wet look finishes.
Recommendations:Seb Man The Player Medium Hold GelSeb Man the Sculptor Matte Finish WaxLayrite Superhold Pomade
I think the best gel for slicked back hair (the look I am currently rocking!) is:

Seb Man the Player (Medium Hold Gel)
I think the best wax for slicking back is:

Seb Man The Sculptor Matte Paste 
I think the best pomade for slicked back hair (and is literally in my hair as I type this!) is:

Layrite Superhold Pomade

Final thoughts

I am a huge fan of the Seb Man range. I was first introduced to this through my barber when rocking a much shorter style. Their sculptor matte paste is fantastic for a dry, textured look.

That said, for the slickback undercut I find their range somewhat lacking as I prefer a pomade to a gel for the wet look and ability to restyle simply.

So if you are wedded to gel product, I recommend the Seb Man ‘The Player’ gel for your needs. If you are open to other options I think the best overall product for a slickback style is a pomade – and I love the Layrite Original.

Why do I like it? It’s slick, it’s light and it’s incredibly easy to wash out of your hair (and off your hands!)

Good luck with whatever route you choose to go down!

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