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Australian hairdressers on the best no-gel hairstyles to cover your oily roots

No-slick zone.

I wouldn’t describe myself as super trendy (in my mind, the word has the same mum-like feel as ‘groovy’ or ‘funky’), but I do love a trend. If you spend as much time hunched over and trawling the internet as I do, joining a fad bandwagon is kind of inevitable.

For the planet’s sake, I generally try to veer away from the increasingly rapid fashion trend cycle. Instead, I get my fix in the form of any hair, beauty or general lifestyle moment I can join in on. I beaded myself a Y2K phone charm, I’ve attempted (with no success) to knit myself a sweater vest and I wore blue eyeliner for the entire month of March.

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But let’s not forget – trends are fleeting for a reason. Moving onto the next best thing is not always as easy as wiping eyeliner off your face. Seasonally switching my haircut and colour has led me to some admittedly regrettable moments (and some good ones, too). I loved my Cruella-Esque bleached bits and absolutely despised my blunt-cut bob. 

A little flustered by my Harry Styles-looking hairstylist, I agreed to go significantly shorter with my bob than originally planned. He told me it would bring out my cheekbones (which I’m sure I childishly giggled in response to), but it surfaced my inner chipmunk instead. Too short to wear in my usual low messy bun, I was forced to slick it back with gel, a small clip and a mass of bobby pins.

This was the origin story for my slicked-hair aversion. There’s something about having all the hair off my face that makes me feel oddly… naked? And unfortunately for me, we have Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Dula Peep to thank for the major comeback the gelled updo has made this year.

I wish I wanted to participate. It’s simply the elite-tier hairstyle for those unwashed, oily root days. Instead of taking three minutes to slick it back, a greasy hair day means meticulously fashioning my hair with half a bottle of dry shampoo. And I’ve had it! 

If you also feel like a rodent with gelled hair (or just want some fresh ideas), let the professionals help you out. Freelance hairdresser Dan Collins, Fawn Studio’s Zac Dali and Nina Ratsaphong from Sydney salon Extra Silky break down their non-slick dirty hairstyle tips.

Get messy

To make the look feel intentional, bring back the natural waves. “I love applying my fave dry shampoo to the roots and changing the part to the opposite side to make the hair more voluminous,” Nina explains. “Then I use sea salt spray or texture spray on the ends to create one big textured vibe. No one will know it’s dirty if you roll with that!”

And instead of fighting against what you got, Dan tells me we should be welcoming it with open arms. “Have fun with your hair and figure out what makes you feel confident and beautiful! Embrace your natural texture and work with it, not against it. A good cut and colour will do wonders too.”

’90s revival 

Mirroring what we’ve been seeing lately in fashion and beauty, hair is having a major ’90s moment. “Braids are fun and there are so many different ways you can do them”, Zac tells me. “I love this ’90s feel that I’m seeing a lot around Melbourne right now, low waisted jeans and streaks in hair. A couple of braids at the front on either side will hide those oily roots and look on-trend. You can also do two big braids down to the nape of your hair and leave them hanging, or if you want to mix it up you can wrap them into piggy tails.” 

Dan gives a stylish tip for hiding those oily roots. “A trend I’m loving at the moment is bandanas! They are totally back and such a fun way to not only hide your greasy roots from the world but elevate a simple outfit! Braids, plaits and multiple little 90s buns are also always a vibe.” A functional fashion statement is my favourite kind.

Braidy lady 

Speaking of braids, Nina shows me how to get that ‘undone’ (the opposite of slick) look. “I’d recommend teaching yourself to braid! You can do one or two and make it really chic and neat or loose and textured – then no one can see that it’s dirty! When I do this I will generally pull out the wispy hairs around the hairline for a soft look.”

If you’re a beginner braider, it’s important to get your hair primed. “Dry shampoo is your best friend”, Dan explains. “Spray from a distance and dry it in with your hairdryer to loosen up the product. Also, try using a treatment at least once a week in your wash routine – Olaplex No. 3 or No. 8 are great!”

Add some flair

All three of our hair experts said accessories were their fave way to craft an interesting updo. “Probably my go-to styles to recommend for those days where your hair is a little too dirty to wear out are braids and clips”, Zac tells me. “I love clips! I love small clips, I love big clips, I love bright coloured clips. I think more clips are better than less!” Couldn’t agree more. 

According to Nina, more is more. “Hair accessories always make everything better and help to disguise oily roots. I would suggest cool thick head velvet headbands, random twists or plaits pinned to the head with statement clips, pom-pom hair ties, weaving in ribbons or using different sized hair claws. There are so many awesome ones out there these days.”

For those looking to reduce their wastage, Nina adds a great environmental side note. “When browsing, just keep in mind many of these accessories are plastic, so try and buy ones that are built to last so you’re doing your bit to be friendly to Mother Earth.”

Nail your washing schedule 

Like ‘use a heat protectant’ and ‘avoid scalp bleaching your black box-dyed hair’, ‘don’t wash your hair every day’ seems to be one of those unwritten hair rules. And if we’re talking dirty hair, it’s important to understand what ‘dirty’ really means. So why avoid the daily wash? 

Nina breaks it down for me. “Your hair naturally produces oil and the scalp needs it a little bit, like on our skin! If you’re stripping that oil every day with shampoo, your scalp will overproduce oil and sebum, leaving you with oilier hair than a sporadic washer”. Naturally, your hair’s ideal number of washes is dependant on your lifestyle, hair texture, colour and skin type.

Instead of washing your hair more, try washing it really well. “My biggest tip for shampooing is to always do two light shampoos rather than one”, Zac says. “The first shampoo shouldn’t foam up and the second one should – that’s how you know you’re using the right amount of product.”

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