How To Keep Your Short Hair From Ever Looking Awkward
This story originally appeared on Allure.
So you've taken the plunge and gone for a dramatic short cut. You're trendy, eye-catching, and basically the living embodiment of #coolgirlhair. Now how the hell do you keep it that way? When it comes to short hair, it's all about the details. Here's everything you need to know about keeping your undercut trimmed, your color fresh, and your pixie punky.
Get the Latest Buzz
"Everyone's hair grows a quarter of an inch to half an inch a month," says hairstylist Cesar Ramirez. While that may seem like nothing when you're trying to coax the lob you're so over into Rapunzel territory, if you're rocking a supershort buzz cut like singer Halsey, that fraction of an inch can be the difference between sleek and clownish. To avoid a Chia Pet effect, Ramirez suggests checking in with your stylist at least once a month for a touch-up and to resist the siren song of drugstore clippers; "I'm not a believer in anyone who is not a professional hairstylist cutting their own hair," he says. If a monthly cut sounds like a big commitment, try calling local barber shops—many have walk-in policies and offer reduced prices for simple clean-up jobs on a buzz.
Like a buzz cut, that asymmetrical undercut is going to require some salon time to keep it looking its best. To get the most bang for your buck and to make any future hair transitions easier, Matt Fugate, a hairstylist at Serge Normant at John Frieda in New York City, suggests having your stylist shear down those sides with scissors or a razor instead of a traditional clipper. "With a clipper, the hair grows out all one length, which can look weird," he says. If you get it cut with scissors, your stylist can put in a some variation, which means you can go longer between visits. "With a razor you can push it even longer than that, because it thins the ends of the hair, making it feel softer and look more feminine," he says. Fugate also suggests talking to your stylist about coming in for quick "dustings" every two to three weeks the way you would with bangs; some stylists may be willing to work you in for a touch-up at a lower rate than you'd pay for a full haircut.
Prime Your Pixie
"The thing with a pixie is you want to keep it very dainty and feminine—it looks round and bulbous if you start getting bushy at the sides," says Fugate, who recommends making a salon appointment every four to five weeks to keep your shape intact. For shaggier, less precise styles, Ramirez, who's responsible for Jennifer Hudson's awesomely piecey pixie, says you can push it to six to eight weeks. "Sometimes a short pixie cut can look great as it grows out, and it allows you to wear multiples styles at different lengths, so it's also a personal preference," he says.
Balance a Bob
When it comes to a bob, how much effort you put into maintaining it depends on the effect you're after. Sleek, geometric styles "are cut perfectly to lay right where they are, so when they grow out, they stop working how they're supposed to," Fugate advises. "If you have very short bob that hits at the cheekbone or right at the jaw, as soon as it goes below the jaw, it goes very British instead of very French." To maintain that French-girl level of perfection, schedule a cut every six to eight weeks. Or embrace a looser cut with choppy layers to buy yourself a little more time between salon visits.
The shorter your hair is, the more prominent your roots, so keeping your color game strong is all about figuring out your root tolerance. For a close crop with dramatic color like Kelly Osbourne's, that may mean touch-ups every couple of weeks. "If you're cutting off the preferred color on the ends, then I would suggest getting a color touch-up with each cut," Ramirez says. If you're looking to cut back on the time you spend coloring your hair, he recommends highlights or balayage, which look less obvious as they grow out.
"The texture of the hair does make a difference in a maintenance routine," says Ramirez. "Some textured hair types, like [curl] types six through eight, require more attention and maintenance." He also warns that curly hair's tendency to shrink can make it look shorter or affect the shape of short cuts. If you're looking to keep your natural texture in a short style, seek out a stylist who specializes in your hair type and bring in inspiration photos for guidance. For those looking to go straight, Fugate recommends keratin treatments over heat styling, since curly hair is more prone to breakage.
Grow With Grace
The growing-out period is infamous for a reason. For plenty of people, it can be viewed as one long string of repeating bad hair days. But it doesn't have to be that way! If you want to grow out your short hair, Fugate suggests drawing the eye away from your transitioning cut with a couple of styling tricks (we will hereby refer to this as "pulling a Ruby Rose"). "Play with a twist or a hairline braid, try different types of blowouts, do something totally away from your typical hairstyle," he says. Ramirez likes slicking down a grown-out pixie with a strong-hold gel and a deep side part for what he calls a "trendy, androgynous look." This is also the time to keep an eye on damage from heat styling or chemical treatments, since trimming off split ends and fried strands is just going to make the process take longer.
Another trick for short hair, whether you're trying to grow out a style or just want to switch up your go-to cropped look, is to mix it up with accessories. Try an eye-catching metallic headband, like Clare Bowen's, or use a group of bright bobby pins in stacks or crisscrosses to make your own impromptu accessory.