recommended by experts

What Are the Best Products for Styling Short Hair?

The next best thing to Vidal Sassoon styling your pixie. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Anyone with short hair knows it has its ups and downs. Five years ago, I chopped off around 12 inches of hair. Going from hair that went well beyond my shoulders to a pixie cut required a total reevaluation of my styling routine. I’m still amazed at how quickly I can wash and dry my thick hair, and I haven’t had a knot or tangle since going short. On the other hand, I’ve had to say good-bye to messy buns and ponytails, my old bad-hair-day staples.

As Salon Jatel stylist Tyler Lin says, “You can’t hide a bad shape” with short hair, whether that’s a crew cut or a bob, so getting a good cut is an essential first step. Once you leave the salon and are on your own, though, there are products and techniques you can use for styling your cut. We asked three hair stylists to recommend their favorite shampoos, creams and waxes, tools, and more for short-hair upkeep.

Best shampoos and conditioners

Milbon Moisture Balancing Scalp Shampoo
$31 at Amazon
Milbon Plarmia Moisture Balancing Scalp Treatment
$32 at Amazon

According to Lin, short hair, unless it’s been double-processed, is generally healthier than long hair because it’s cut more often and doesn’t incur as much breakage or damage. Therefore, he says it’s less important to look for smoothing or hydrating shampoos and conditioners and instead focus on products that improve scalp health. He’s a fan of this scalp-focused line from Japanese brand Milbon. “It thickens the scalp and helps the hair grow, and it also feels very refreshing and smells good,” he says.

TIGI Catwalk Your Highness Elevating Shampoo
$18 at Ulta
TIGI Catwalk Your Highness Elevating Conditioner
$19 at Ulta

Tahlya Loveday, stylist and art director at The Drawing Room salon, likes this shampoo-and-conditioner set, with lavender and sweet almond oil, for managing frizz in short hair. “It’s infused with anti-static polymers, which adds volume while helping to prevent static and fly-aways,” she says.

Living Proof Full Shampoo
$26 at Ulta
Living Proof Full Conditioner
$26 at Ulta

For adding volume to short styles, Corrinn Dinan uses “a volumizing or even a clarifying shampoo, and a lightweight conditioner that won’t weigh the hair down.” She says she’s “currently in love” with the sulfate-and-silicone-free shampoo and conditioner from Living Proof’s Full Collection, which meet all of her requirements for a body-boosting pair.

Best styling products

Label.M Miracle Fibre Paste
$19 at Amazon

Loveday turns to this lightweight paste for holding a style in place. “From bobs to pixie cuts, this product is engineered to work with most hair types and styles,” she says. “The paste adds extreme texture and provides elastic support without feeling too heavy or waxy.”

TIGI Bed Head Manipulator Matte Wax
$11 at Amazon

Compared to the Label.M paste, Loveday says this wax “has a little more guts,” and gives hair a stronger hold. While it has firm staying power, she also likes its “easy-to-apply creaminess” that means it won’t feel thick or sticky when combing through your hair.

American Crew Firm Hold Styling Cream
$15 at Ulta

Especially good for slick and barbered looks, Dinan likes working this cream through damp hair to smooth it in place. If you want a style with more piecey-ness and movement, though, she prefers the brand’s Fiber wax. Designed for short hair, American Crew’s unisex styling products work well for quick styling and air-drying on busy mornings.

Moroccanoil Molding Cream
$28 at Saks Fifth Avenue

Another strong yet gentle cream, this Moroccanoil option is one of Lin’s favorites for styling pixie cuts, bobs, and everything in between. “It’s a cream gives that gives hair nice definition with enough power to glue everything together without feeling too sticky.” He recommends it for those who don’t like the feeling of too much product in their hair.

Aveda Men Pure-Formance Grooming Clay
$25 at Nordstrom

A soft and flexible styling clay, Lin says this Aveda product is perfect “for people who already have a shape but need definition with minimal control.” Although it’s marketed for men, Lin likes using it for anyone with short hair who doesn’t want to feel weighed down. And since it gives a matte finish, it won’t leave hair overly shiny or greasy.

Verb Sea Texture Spray
$16 at Sephora

Natural-looking beachy waves aren’t just for long locks. Derived from naturally volumizing seaweed and kelp extracts, this spray is Dinan’s choice for enhancing short styles and giving hair texture.

Best styling tools

BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Volare 2000W V2 Mid-Size Hair Dryer
$200 at Amazon

Blow drying hair helps lock in sleek styles, and this professional hair dryer is Dinan’s favorite. “It’s pricey compared to drugstore hair dryers, but it’s a worthy investment if you take your blow drying seriously,” she says. “It has powerful airflow and heat, drying the hair quickly and efficiently.” She likes giving blow-dried hair more body and hold with Living Proof’s Prime Style Extender.

Denman Small Paddle Brush
$11 at Amazon

The stylists we spoke to agreed the best type of brush to use while blow drying is a flat, paddle style. “Blow dryers and a flat brush are always my-go to with shorter hair types,” says Loveday. “It enables you to control the shape and work around and manipulate your natural cow licks and crown.” Dinan recommends this small paddle brush for short hair. “It’s gentle on the scalp,” she says. “You can brush the hair back and forth while blow drying and follow the brush with you blow dryer to get a relatively smooth look.”

YS Park Small Diffuser
$21 at Amazon

If you’re after a wavy or curly look instead, Dinan says to use a diffuser attachment when blow drying. “The diffuser allows heat but reduces airflow so that the hair can dry in its natural state without frizz,” she says. “I love that this diffuser fits over any blow dryer.” She’ll pair this with Verb Curl Cream for giving curls a soft hold.

TIGI Pro Skinny Curl Stick
$40 at Amazon

When styling bobs, Loveday uses this curling wand for creating loose, natural waves. “This is a conical shape without a clamp that makes curling your hair super easy,” she says. The skinny size works well for manipulating shorter hair.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

What Are the Best Products for Styling Short Hair?