How to Properly Apply Hair Products

Why you should never start at the top of your head & other tips

Woman combing her hair
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I'm convinced that behind every great hairstyle is a great hair product or two. But if you don't apply hair products correctly, you may be actually ruining your look.

I share my favorite hair product tips below and how to apply them correctly. Doing so can add volume to flat hair, tame frizzy hair and coerce curls into a purposeful style.

Tip #1: Watch How Much You Apply

One of the biggest complaints stylists get regarding hair products is that it weighs hair down.

A little can go a long way. Here are some guidelines for use:

  1. Consider your hair length. Super short hairstyles need very little product.
  2. Think of amounts in terms of coin size: a dime-size amount of pomade, mousse or gel should work on short hair, a nickel-sized amount is good for shoulder-length and longer hairstyles can use a quarter size.
  3. If curling long hair, spritz each section before you use a curling iron hair to help keep the curl. One spritz per section should be all you need. Too much and you'll be left with hair that feels like straw.

Tip #2: Apply to Damp Hair, Not Wet Hair

It's best to towel-dry -- or air-dry -- hair as much as possible before applying styling product or you'll lose some of it in the drying process. If you have curly hair, towel dry by squeezing ringlets in the towel. This keeps them from frizzing up.

Tip #3: Spray First, Then Comb

When using a product that comes in a spray bottle, one way to apply it is to saturate hair with the product and then comb the product through.

This ensures all strands get coated instead of the product sitting atop a few strands of hair.

Tip #4: Spray at the Crown and Roots

One common mistake is to spray or apply product on top of the hair strands. This will end up weighing hair down. Instead, spray or apply product to the crown and roots. Lift up hair or turn sideways to really get in there.

This works especially well for adding body to fine hair. Get more tips in my article, How to Give Flat Hair More Body.

Tip #5: Massage the Product Into Your Hair

Some stylists swear by massaging a spray product, foam or gel into the strands. This ensures the hair really gets coated. I liken this to massaging kale: your hair is just going to look better, just as raw kale tastes SO much better massaged.

Tip #6: How to Use Molding Paste

For super-short styles, a decent molding paste or wax can mean the difference between awesome hair and "meh" hair. A good molding paste can give your pixie edge. They also allow you to create texture and style if you have fine hair, and add direction and control if you have unruly hair.

Here's how to use it: put a dime-sized amount on your palm, warm it up between your hands and palm it over your hair. Use your fingers to style your hair, creating the look you want.

Tip #7: Start at the Back of the Head, Not the Top

When most people apply a cream or mousse or even spray, the tendency is to start at the top of the head, but this is not correct, according to NYC stylist Eva Scrivo in her book Eva Scrivo on Beauty.

Applying product to the top of the head "can result in an oil slick in the front and not enough in the back," Scrivo says in her book.

Instead, take the product and warm it up in your hands and starting in the back of the head where hair is thickest, work the product through to the sides and on up to the top of the head. If you are spraying a product, lift a portion of the hair and spray and then get your hands into your hair and massage it on through.

Now that you know how to apply the product, here are your best bets:

  • The Best Hair Products: Shampoos, Styling Sprays and More
  • The Best Drugstore Hair Products