Best “Wet Look” Hair Gel that Money Can Buy

Cop that runway-worthy slickback with the right products.

One of last year’s biggest beauty trends was the wet look, which, as the name implies, featured seemingly wet, shiny, glistening hair. The most popular way to wear it was combed away from the face, with no part—kind of like how you would naturally step out of the showers (only more glam, and with less actual water droplets). This unmistakably fazhun hairstyle, though not new by any respects—we’ve already been through the early ’90s video-vixen version—was still fierce and, as it seemed, very D.I.Y.-friendly. So much so that it had us dusting off our old tubs of wet look hair gel from back in the day, only to have our dreams shattered in one goopy, sticky mess.

Today’s Wet Look Hair Gel Formulations

So what’s the difference? you may ask. Well, first off, no editor in his/her right mind would recommend using a hair product that’s 30 years old. Chuck that thing, now! Seriously though: Although gel formulations have pretty much stayed standard over the years, using it within its intended shelf life makes a huge difference. Gel was invented to keep hair’s shape in place, oftentimes with a shiny finish. TL;DR: It offers hold, control and shine—and you can adjust these aspects as desired.

For a wet look

The best wet look hair gel has to have a shiny finish, and provide a strong but not sticky control. Your style should have enough hold to stay in place throughout the day: This trend looks its most on-point when molded in a slight fauxhawk shape away from the face, without any stringiness. Case in point:

wet look hair gel fauxhawk
A baby fauxhawk can be achieved by brushing gelled hair straight back. Photo credit:
wet look hair gel with hairspray
Finishing with hairspray gives a more molten finish. Photo credit:
wet look hair gel on short hair
Short crops look trés chic when completely gelled back. Photo credit:

For this look, we love the look and feel of an alcohol-free gel, so it doesn’t dry hair out as well. TRESemmé TRES Two Ultra Firm Gel is an alcohol-free formulation that offers strong control perfect for sculpted looks, making a fashionable, brushed-away style a cinch to recreate.

Suave Professionals Firm Control Sculpting Gel also helps mold hair and locks it in place for 24 hours (!)—all the while delivering humidity resistance, brilliant shine and extreme control. Definitely a great choice for outdoor-wedding season, or anytime you want to make a standout entrance and stay on-trend, all day.

How to Use

While models backstage have come down the runway dripping in oils and leave-in deep conditioner packs to emulate a true, fresh-outta-the-shower wet look, we concede that this might not be a realistic option. For everyday, it’s best to start on hair that’s been washed and partially dried (yes, we know—the things we have to do), and prepped with a small amount of hair oil (try Nexxus New York Salon Care Oil Infinite Nourishing Hair Oil) to help lubricate and nourish your strands before shellacking them in place.

wet look hair gel on super slick hair
Prepping damp hair with oil maximizes the wet effect. Photo credit:
wet look hair gel with a ponytail
The finish works on ponytails and updos too. Photo credit:
wet look hair gel on more natural waves
Want a more natural look? Leave the ends free of product for a wavier, two-texture effect.

To apply your wet look hair gel, squeeze a small-sized amount (around dime-sized, for short to medium hair lengths) onto your palms, and rub your hands together beforehand. Next, rake some of the gel throughout your hair from the front to back, then refine with a fine-toothed comb to distribute product more evenly. Add on as needed—some find that they need more hold on the sides and temple area. Finish off any leftover product by applying them to your ends, and finish with a light misting of shine spray, like Bed Head by TIGI Masterpiece Massive Shine Hairspray, to seal it all in.

Want more gelled-hair inspiration? Check out the chicest ways to wear this product on different hair types.