Hair Wax: Your Complete Guide to this Fun Texturizing Product

All Things Hair | 20 September 2017
hard hair wax

Wax on, keep on.

Hair wax is one of those hair care products known for its ability to mold and shape hair. Containing little to no water, hair wax is typically used on men’s hair but it’s also an incredible styling product for women that can work on a variety of hair types. It works with your strands to enhance texture while also creating that coveted defined look. Our favorite part: Hair wax can create really quick and easy hairstyles, where you just really need one a small dollop before you’re out the door with a fierce new look.

Ready to rock that wax? Read on to learn more about hair wax and how you can use it to enhance your next ‘do.

Hair Wax: A How-To Guide for Different Lengths

Hair wax is a hair product with a paste, balm or clay-like formula optimum for creating texturized looks. Most hair waxes have a rubber-like consistency that enables you to restyle your hair during the day even after product has “set” on your hair, making it one of the more versatile styling products out there.

Unlike gels, which can contain alcohol, wax can allow for a variety of different finishes, from glossy to spiky to fluffy and bedhead-like. It doesn’t keep your hair locked in place in extreme conditions—like, say, during a convertible ride or if you’re caught in a tropical thunderstorm—but it does a great job of providing some stylish definition with natural-to-medium hold.

Whether you’re using a stick or tub formula, when it comes to hair wax, a little goes a long way, so use it sparingly. Warm a small amount between your palms; you really only need a small dime-sized amount (yes, even on long hair). Since wax doesn’t contain that much (or any) water, make sure your hair is damp since water can help massage and emulsify the product into strands. If you have thin hair, start with a pea-sized amount–you can always add more wax later on if your hairstyle needs more hold.

Now, the fun part: Use the wax as your guide to sculpt and create a fun look. This can be a mini-mohawk, bouffant, or even as a way to play with the length you haven your pixie cut. Your style will set as your hair dries, and don’t worry, we get into the details later below!

One of the best things about hair wax is that it’s pretty versatile; you can use it on damp or dry hair. To create a long-lasting, natural look, apply it to damp, towel-dried tresses so that the product gets absorbed as your hair slowly dries. Distribute it through your locks using either your fingers or a comb. Alternatively, you can use hair wax on dry hair to retouch or restyle your ‘do throughout the day.

using hair wax on short hair
Style your short crop with hair wax. Photo credit: Dvora

Short Hair

Short hair requires products that keep it looking fresh and groomed, but still retain the nuances of its style. Finding the best hair wax to keep a short hairstyle in place is not without its challenges: First and foremost, these products have to be reliable. Short hair has little to no Plan B if their style goes south at the end of the day! A quality hair wax is the little pixie cut’s last line of defense in keeping a good hair day.

1. Pixie Cut

If effortlessly chic, just-rolled-out-of-bed hair is what you’re after, then hair wax will be your go-to product. Distribute the wax through your hair before twirling individual strands around your fingers to help create a softly-tousled, undone look without the use of curling tongs. You’ll love how you can effortlessly mold and sculpt your layers into your desired style with just a few slicks of product. You can also use hair wax to have fun with your part and mix it up whenever you want. Create some piecey definition on your bangs (we like Bed Head by TIGI Manipulator for this) while brushing them to one side to impart an edgy feel to your pixie.

BED HEAD BY TIGI MANIPULATOR CREAM

2. Bob Haircut

The classic bob doesn’t need too much product, but wax is a great way to play with texture. If you have short, fine hair lacking in volume, work a very small amount of wax into your roots, then blast your hair with a hairdryer. The combined power of the two styling tools will lift your hair at the roots, providing glamorous volume.

3. Mohawk

You go, girl, with your awesome mohawk! Keep that look styled all day long with an extra-hold hair wax, like Bed Head by TIGI Stick, which not only helps give that slicked-back height, but also holds its own during various weather conditions, particularly when cocktailed with some hairspray.

BED HEAD by TIGI WAX STICK
using hair wax on a lob
Achieve fun dimension to your hair with hair wax. Photo credit: Dvora

Medium-Length Hair

You can use hair wax products to create a fuller appearance on medium-length tresses. This is when it’s critical to make sure you don’t use too much, as it can weigh down your locks or give a stringy effect if you don’t spread it out evenly. Using a firm hair wax, glide your fingers over the product to pick up a tiny amount. Then you can massage your fingers into your roots, working upwards—it helps get that bit of lift that will make your hair look thicker. Also, it’s best to not apply the wax directly by your part so your hair doesn’t look greasy.

4. Fun Lobs

Use wax to create or enhance waves or that second-day look on medium-length hair. Simply scrunch your fingers together as you work the product throughout tresses. Just because your cut is wash-and-wear doesn’t mean you can’t play around with some texture! Rub a light-whipped wax onto palms and mat down problem areas as desired.

Ed’s note: Want to get in on the trendy wavy lob? A sophisticated style favored by A-listers, the wavy lob is one of the hottest hairstyles of past seasons, and can easily be achieved using hair wax. After lightly curling your hair, simply use your fingers to run some wax through the waves, separating them as you go.

hair wax products on a shag
Using hair wax is a great way to enhance your shag. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

5. Side-Swept Glam

Cuts with longer hair on the fringe area can be styled with the bangs sweetly parted to one side and the rest of the hair combed in place. For some hold and shine (and a bit of lift), start with a blowdrying lotion before blowdrying and finish with a tiny amount of wax balm, like Bed Head by TIGI Joyride, distributed near the roots. Comb it through your strands in a downward motion using your fingers for some modern tousle.

BED HEAD BY TIGI JOYRIDE TEXTURIZING POWDER BALM
hair wax on long hair
Create some second-day texture onto long hair with a wax. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Long Hair

On longer hair you can get the piecey look by applying hair wax to just your ends. You can do this on wet or dry hair, depending on the look you are going for. Applying wax to the ends of wet hair will help to get that laid-back beachy look. Conversely, applied to dry long hair, wax gives you that super cool rock and roll feel that isn’t too polished. Use a pea-sized amount of wax and twist random sections of hair, focusing on the last few inches.

6. Sleek Long Hair

Achieve the ultimate in straightness with hair wax. Place a small amount throughout your hair to help reinforce strands during a blowout.

7. Texturized Long Hair

Hair wax is amazing for texturized, layered locks. You can use it to play with your length as you sculpt and mold your tresses in various directions.

8. Dreads

Sculpt those directional dreadlocks! Wax can work to bind together any loose dreads and also create new dreads as they fuse together.

Hair Wax for Curls

When it comes to looking for wax to use on curly hair, the challenge lies in finding formulations that define your ringlets without deflating them or imparting a crunch, crispy look that just screams “done.”

best wax for hair for curls red middle parted waves
Hair wax for curls can aid in giving a wavy look some structure. Photo credit: Dvora

First off, how do you know whether you need a wax (or a gel, or a mousse) as a styling product? Well, it all essentially boils down to how much time you have to style your hair, and what look you’re going for. Gels and mousses can be applied to wet hair almost directly after towel-drying; waxes and putties, on the other hand, are harder substances that are more effective on damp-to-dry hair.

In terms of end results, waxes and pomades are more pliant and malleable throughout the day, giving a more matte or velvety-looking finish. They also don’t make hair feel sticky, which is one of its main advantages.

What curly girls need to look for in a hair wax

hair wax for curly hair
Use a soft wax to define curls without the crunch. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Although considered a more unusual choice, using wax on curly hair isn’t unheard of. Mostly used by men, or women who want a more controlled look with their updos, wax can give curls a controlled, more manageable look. The best wax for curls is one that is more rubbery or tacky in texture rather than hard or pasty. Look for formulations that separate easily between your fingers, with a slight stickiness, but with an overall lightweight feel—anything that looks and feels too much like lard in a tin might drag on your spirals and give them a half-baked, almost limp shape.

We adore the feel of a whip, such as Nexxus New York Salon Care Exxpand+ Volumizing Whip, which is lighter and more spreadable on ringlets, yet with the tack of a soufflé. For more streetified looks, we like the matte consistency of Bed Head by TIGI Manipulator Matte Cream, which texturizes and gives edge to either wet or dry hair without too much traction.

NEXXUS EXXPAND+ VOLUMIZING WHIP
BED HEAD BY TIGI MANIPULATOR MATTE CREAM

If you have super curly hair, it’s probably best to work with a creamier wax so can totally avoid making your curls stiff. We like S Factor by TIGI Creamy Molding Wax for curly girls: Just work it into the ends of your hair, and can pinch individual ringlets between your fingers to get that perfectly coiled look.

best wax for hair for curls like a shaggy dark mullet
Wax that imparts shine on curly hair also offers much more bounce and movement. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

For short curls, you can opt for hair wax instead of mousse to define your ringlets. To help keep your natural curls looking springy, lightly coat them with a smooth wax. This can help retain their bounce, without having them lose their flexible texture. 

If you’re in the market for a hair wax that also imparts shine, look for formulations that have an oilier feel. We have to caveat: These won’t provide as much hold and control as a harder, more matte wax will, so best preserve these latter formulations for the guys or if you want to keep a shorter hairstyle under tight rein.

Bonus: Hard wax hacks

hard hair wax
Heat hard wax between your palms to soften it for a more even application. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

If you really want to get some mileage out of your hard hair wax, it’s best to take a finger-swipe of the product and rub it between your palms so it warms up and effectively softens. Concentrating the product more on your fingertips, coil sections of curls around your fingers, coating them with the product as you do so. You can also scrunch hair with your fingers, lightly packing on the product as you texturize your coif.

You can also employ this trick when you want to refine and smoothen down the base of a curly updo. After gathering your hair into a ponytail or bun, take a small amount of warmed-up wax in your palms and pad down any frizzies or stubborn flyaways that go against the grain for a pristine, locked-and-loaded finish.

Want more tips and tricks to texturizing hair? Check out our feature on hair gel.

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