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Barber Confessions: 5 Ways You’re Messing Up Your Hair

February 12, 2021

5 Min read

Having consistently good hair days (and routinely flattering haircuts) is entirely in your control. Just as your barber, who has probably seen every hair styling and hair care mistakes that we men could possibly make. 

That’s why we spoke with one of our most trusted barber friends—Robert McMillen, founder and head barber at Mildred New York—about the common hair mistakes he sees men making, and how to correct them. Maybe you’re guilty of one or two (it’s safe to assume we all are). Read on for his insight, and his advice for having healthier, more flattering, and more cooperative hair on the regular.

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Mistake 1: Many guys use too much product—or don’t distribute it properly

Perhaps you’ve found the right product in terms of strength/hold, texture, and shine (or no shine at all, if matte is your thing). McMillen says that many guys tend to use far more product than is necessary for their own hair type, or that they distribute it improperly.

“It’s better to start with less product and add accordingly starting from root to tip,” he says. This way, you can better understand how much you need without ever overdoing it, and you’ll never weigh down your hair by targeting the roots. Plus, the roots are what control the hair. Applying the bulk of the product there is what helps you craft the style—as opposed to globbing it into the strands itself. You can then comb it through the rest of your hair to distribute it, so long as it is concentrated at the base. 

And here’s another common styling error: “We also see most clients applying product to hair that is far too wet,” McMillen adds. “A towel dry or quickly using a hair dryer will help a great deal.”

Mistake 2: Men tend to forget they need to get their hair cut often (even when growing it out)

Your hair always looks best in the days after a cut (assuming you got a good cut, of course). And that’s why it’s imperative to get frequent cuts, to make sure your hair always looks intentional, as opposed to overgrown. These cuts help it stay texturized, so that it lays in an orderly way, rather than poofing and growing into a chia pet. Above all, McMillen hopes that guys with extremely short hair, as well as guys growing it out, both heed the advice. “The biggest misconception [about haircut frequency] is the ‘grow out’ phase, when most guys neglect haircuts. It’s still advantageous to get a cleanup every 6-8 weeks when you’re in this phase, and every 8-12 weeks with long hair.” Doing so will make sure all of your ends are even, and that you’re not getting too bulky in other parts of the head.

Secondly, McMillen notes that if you go for a really short style, like a fresh fade or a shaved-in part, you need to freshen it every 2 weeks, or else it starts to look overgrown and unnatural. So, if you’re making the commitment to short, intentional styles—or even to long ones—stick with these aforementioned frequencies.

Mistake 3: Many men choose an unflattering hairstyle for their hair’s potential

Again on the topic of growing out your hair… it’s something you really need to audit if you have thinning hair or rapid loss. “One of the biggest mistakes is when guys experience hair loss but decide to ‘grow it out’,” says McMillen. “[It’s an effort] to ‘save’ the remaining hair which is never the best option.” Instead, the long hair accentuates how thin or recessed you have become, and you start to look like those guys who comb over their five wisps of hair, atop an otherwise bald head. Embrace your existing hair pattern and wear something flattering. Heck, you can even keep it a few inches long and use texturizing stylers or volumizing conditioners, to give it the appearance of fullness. There are lots of tricks for maximizing the hair you still have, but growing it out super long is not one of them.

Mistake 4: Most don’t have the right shampoo and conditioner combo

While we’re not advocates of over shampooing (which means shampooing every 2-3 days), McMillen says he sees many men who still don’t shampoo enough—as well as those who neglect to condition altogether. That being said, he wishes all men would find the right combination of these two products, a wash and a conditioner that play to each other, and that the men would use them at more proper frequencies. Typically, you should buy a shampoo and conditioner combo from the same brand for this reason. To get the most benefits, always shampoo first, to rinse the canvas before you renourish it with conditioner. You can use conditioner on the in-between/no-wash days, too, so long as you didn’t get overly greasy, sweaty, or grimey that day. Never shampoo your hair while you’re conditioning it, or you’ll nullify the conditioner’s restorative powers. When applying both products, give yourself a scalp massage as well for 1-3 minutes, says McMillen. This leads us to the next mistake…

Mistake 5: They’re ignoring the scalp

“Keeping a clean and healthy scalp will give you healthier hair follicles, primed for growth,” McMillen says. (Guys with thinning hair should pay especially close attention.) “If you neglect washing your hair and use too much product, you can damage your hair and scalp with product build up.” A daily scalp massage can be administered while washing. Do it with your fingers or a simple manual scalp-massaging device, available at most beauty/grooming retailers. This stimulates blood flow to the follicles and keeps them strong, while also ensuring that your scalp gets a deep clean (and exfoliation) necessary to stay balanced and fungus-free (and in turn, itch-free, flake-free, and so forth).

ONLY GOOD HAIR DAYS—

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adam Hurly has been writing about grooming since 2013. His work has appeared in GQ, Esquire, Men’s Journal, Bloomberg, and more. He is a South Dakota USA native but now resides in Berlin, Germany.

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