When it comes to party-appropriate hair, the wet-look finish is something that rears its glossy head year after year. But have we actually bitten the proverbial bullet? Have we dunked our hands into pots of slimy hair gel and offered our hair up to the wet-look gods? No, of course, we haven't because we're wimps.
But we can't just hang this phobia on fear of gunky gel (and the rock-solid fallout, too) because unless you have super-long, super-straight hair, attempting wet-look hair can be treacherous territory. Will you end up looking like some chic secret agent from a spy film, or will you end up looking like a disheveled mess blown in from a rainstorm? It's a hair roulette that we just haven't had the guts to spin. Well, not yet.
As scrupulous research into celebrity sightings of wet-look hair show, the style doesn't just work, but it looks incredible on all sorts of hair textures, types, and lengths. Let us present the evidence that proves it with help from our experts below.
Keep scrolling for 15 of our favorite celebrity wet hair looks.
Meet the Expert
- Leo Izquierdo is the cofounder of the haircare line IGK Haircare.
- Bobby Eliot is a celebrity hairstylist represented by the Wall Group.
Trust us, you're going to start seeing sharp flicked ends everywhere, so you might as well jump on the bandwagon early. Here, Bella's hair, with its wet-look roots and ear-tuckery, might have all the signs of a '90s throwback, but thanks to the tight silhouette and disciplined flyaways, it feels very modern.
- "Prep hair with IGK Good Behavior 4-in-1 Prep Spray ($29), spritzing all over hair to set the base," says Izquierdo.
- Starting at the roots, apply a leave-in conditioner and spray to the tip of the hair, so you add another wet layer all over.
- Repeat this section by section around the entire head. Continuously comb each section back and down.
- Set the look with a flexible-hold hairspray.
Being naturally drier than straight hair, curly and textured hair is lucky in that the wet-look adds definition to curls and never makes hair look greasy.
- Distribute a strong-hold gel all over hair that is already curled to add hold and gleam.
- Try using a deep-conditioning mask, like Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque ($14) instead of gel, as it will add weight as well as shine.
Who knew post-gym hair could look so chic? This wet-look hairstyle is the sort of thing that would look good on all hair textures.
- First, rake handfuls of styling lotion like Bumble and bumble Bb. Styling Creme ($27) and hair gel (we find Aveda's Confixor Liquid Gel, $24, isn't as sticky as most) into wet hair.
- Next, twist hair into a tight bun at the crown and secure.
Slicked-and-smoothed-back doesn't mean forgoing hair's natural texture. It's much trickier to get the wet look to last on naturally textured hair, as it tends to be drier than other hair types, so opt for coconut oil instead. Not only will it give hair a glossy, drenched sheen like Yara Shahidi's, but it will nourish hair while you wear it. Handy.
- Starting on natural hair that's been air-dried so it retains some curl, apply a large dollop of thick serum to the roots.
- Comb the product through the top and sides of the hair, slicking those areas back while maintaining the natural texture of the ends.
If you like the idea of wet-look hair but are looking for that something extra, try Kat Graham's ombré iteration, which adds dimension.
- To stop the lengths from going crunchy, use handfuls of hair oil instead.
- Ouai Hair Oil ($28) contains a mixture of oils from far-flung realms like African Galanga, Ama, and Asian Borage oils, which are all purported to be great at inducing glossy shine in hair.
Even short hair like Halsey's looks chic when slicked back. We love how she keeps a little bit of a parting to soften the overall effect.
- On short hair, apply gel all over the head.
- Use a wide-tooth comb to slick the hair back all over the head. Spritz with hairspray.
On the scale of saturation, Freida's hair is more damp than drenched, but this can be a good way to ease yourself into the style.
- Curly hair works well for this look, too, but if you have straight hair, add a little texture by tonging sections and brushing it out.
- Then, rub together a quarter-sized blob of hair gel and a pump of hair oil—the oil stops the gel from going crispy—between the palms before patting onto the top of the hair and pulling through the ends.
Sexy and shiny, this look is all about finding a shine-inducing product.
- Let hair air-dry, then apply a texture spray and curl with a wide-barrel iron.
- Apply a shine spray and a dollop of gel through the ends, distributing evenly with fingers.
This style works great for either straight hair or hair that's naturally wavy.
- Add a wave to hair using a wide-barrel curling iron (or by braiding wet hair, then removing the elastic once it's dry).
- "Apply IGK Rich Kid Coconut Oil Air-Dry Styler ($29) on top using your fingers and a wide-tooth comb to distribute," Izquierdo says.
- Finish with a strong-hold hairspray.
This look is as easy as braiding wet hair, then removing the elastic—and the results couldn't be more dramatic.
- Towel-dry hair, then braid it until it's nearly dry, removing the elastic after an hour or so so that the hair has loose waves throughout.
- "I would hydrate all of the hair from roots to ends with R+Co. DREAMHOUSE Cold Pressed Watermelon Wave Spray ($29)," says Eliot. "This is going to give moisture and help keep the hair looking wet."
- Back-comb hair, so the roots appear slicked-back while the ends are still wavy and loose.
- "Next, I would apply R+Co. WATERFALL Moisture + Shine Lotion ($32) all over," Eliot says. "This is going to give you that wet look. "
The best part about the wet look is that it's so easy to create at home and requires nothing in the way of heat stools.
- Back-comb slightly damp hair and apply a gel to the roots, ensuring hair on the top and sides are slicked down.
- Allow the ends to maintain their natural texture as they dry.
- "No need to add heat or blow-dry! Just let the hair dry naturally on its own. It’ll maintain that wet look," Eliot says.
A glam take on the look, this style is a little more involved, as the top is slicked-back while the ends are curled.
- Starting on dry hair, use a medium-barrel curling iron to create tight curls, running your fingers through the ends to break them up.
- Once the entire head is curled, comb a strong-hold gel through the roots to slick the top back.
Think of this look as a chic take on the traditional blowout.
- Blow out the hair using a round brush and a high-quality blow-dryer.
- Once hair is dry, apply a gel or serum to the roots, and use a comb to brush it through the roots for a back-swept look.
This look is as easy as creating a side part and applying some product — but the look still manages to be bold and sophisticated.
- "For a wet look I like to start with towel-dried hair. You don’t want it to be soaking wet but definitely wet," says Eliot.
- While hair is still damp, part it to one side and comb through it with a gel, and allow to air dry.
A fun take on the wet look, this updo is easy to replicate with a strong-hold gel.
- Slick hair into a low ponytail, securing the base with an elastic.
- Remove a few pieces near the front of the edge.
- Comb a strong-hold gel over the top of the hair and onto the loose tendrils in the front, laying them against the head.
- "Set the look with IGK 1-800 Hold Me No Crunch Flexible Hold Hairspray ($28)," Izquierdo says.
How long does my hair need to be to replicate the wet look style?
You can replicate the wet look hairstyle even with short (i.e. pixie-length) locks. Just follow the same instructions, beginning on damp hair that's been styled with a strong mousse and a comb.
What products should I use to create a wet-look hairstyle?
A strong-hold gel to distribute all over the hair (and slick back with a comb, or leave long and wavy) is the primary product needed to replicate the wet look.
Does a wet-look style work on curly hair?
Yes, those with curly hair can use their texture to their advantage, distributing gel through the ends so the curl remains defined, but a little more glossy than normal.
Gavazzoni Dias MF. Hair cosmetics: an overview. Int J Trichology. 2015;7(1):2-15. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.153450