We’ve all been there: that moment when you realize the shaggy lob you asked for is a bit too shaggy and a touch too short. If you’re the unfortunate recipient of a bad haircut, we’ve got some pro tips for a smoother transition while your hair grows back.
How to Fix a Bad Haircut, According to the Pros
PLUS TIPS FOR PREVENTING A BAD ONE IN THE FUTURE
Meet the Experts
- Howard McLaren is the co-founder and creative director of R+Co, which launched in 2014 with fellow hairstylists Garren and Thom Priano. Prior to this, McLaren worked as creative director for brands including Toni & Guy and Bumble & Bumble.
- Lacy Redway is a celebrity hairstylist and Dove Hair Partner. Her extensive clientele has included Tessa Thompson, Priyanka Chopra, Alicia Keys, Tracee Ellis Ross and Anne Hathaway, among many others.
- Cassandra Olivia is a stylist, colorist and licensed cosmetologist based in New Castle County, Delaware.
- Tom Smith is a celebrity hairstylist and the International Colour Creative Director for evo hair.
Problem: They Cut Too Many Layers
Olivia's first tip: If you're feeling a bit unsure about the layers, speak up before you even leave the salon. "Oftentimes, we can shorten the length of the overall cut to remove one or two of the longest layers and that issue will resolve itself," she explains. "If you've already left the salon, please don’t try to remove layers or even them out at home. This usually makes the issue even worse. Instead, go back to your original stylist or seek out a new stylist to help fix the issue while you wait for your hair to grow back."
On that note, you will have to be patient. "When you end up with too many layers, this means that more of your hair is a shorter length than intended, so you’ll need to wait until your hair grows again and gradually trim the longest parts to slowly close the gap between them and the shorter pieces," says Smith.
In the interim, you can also experiment with new styles. One quick fix to disguise the shorter lengths is to consider a half-up style, which will pull up the shorter layers and leave the longest parts down. Or if you've always watched those YouTube tutorials of people demonstrating various braids and thought, someday... Now is the perfect time to try your hand at them. As Redway puts it, you have two choices: "You can either decide to cut a substantial amount off to fix the haircut or learn styling techniques until it’s grown to a place where you’re comfortable with fixing it." We vote the latter.
Problem: They Thinned Out The Ends Too Much
"Trimming the thinnest parts away can immediately make your hair look fuller again, but if you don’t want to go shorter consider styling the ends with a wave or flick, which will distract from the fact they are thinned out," says Smith. "Just be sure to use a quality heat protector when styling—especially on overly thinned hair, which will be more prone to heat damage," he adds.
And while we're on the topic of haircare, Olivia also recommends using products that are designed for volume to boost the hair you still have and optimizes for scalp health to encourage new growth.
"When styling your strands, the right product—be it a cream or a wave spray—can instantly create more texture," adds McLaren. Texturizing products are great for thinned out ends because they add some fullness throughout (which can help blend in any uneven bits with the rest of your hair) and when you have occasions that call for a bit more polish, he recommends curling your hair.
"Hot rollers are quick and give shine and movement to longer hair. On shorter hair, break out the blow dryer and curling iron," says McLaren. Uneven layers are especially noticeable on straight strands, and a few bends with an iron can disguise choppy lines. Another trick McLaren swears by: "Temporarily wear a beanie while you get ready. This will help smooth down your hair when it’s too puffy up top."
Problem: They Cut It Too Short
All of our experts agree that one surefire tactic for navigating the awkwardness of a shorter-than-desired haircut is to embrace accessories.
"Headbands are back, ladies! We’ve been seeing them all over the runway and red carpets. A cute headband can help distract from a bad haircut while it grows out," says Redway. But we’re also fans of a well-placed (and embellished) bobby pin or barrette.
You can also reconsider your color—especially if you currently have a lot of highlights. We’d recommend a single process shade or less dimensional one (aka fewer highlights overall) so as not to call attention to the uneven bits you’re trying to hide.
How Can I Avoid Getting a Bad Haircut In the Future?
- Bring photos of exactly what you're hoping to achieve to your appointment. "I always have my clients bring me three images of different people, so I can really understand the vibe they like. Then it’s important to discuss the specifics of what you like about each image and tie the references back to your own features, as we all have different distances between our eyes and cheekbones, as well as different length necks," shares Smith
- Ask for extra time from the start. Let your stylist know you need additional time to review photos with them before starting the appointment; that way, when the receptionist books your appointment, they can add consultation time to the appointment, so you don’t feel rushed.
- Ask your stylist whether the cut you are looking for is suitable for your hair type, density and length, as well as your face shape. Be open to your stylist giving their professional suggestions, but don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel they're going in a direction you aren’t comfortable with.
"At the end of your appointment, if you aren’t happy, please speak up! We don’t want clients leaving our salon telling us they love their hair and then being upset when they get home. We want to work with you to try and fix the issues you are concerned about," assures Olivia.