The Butterfly Haircut Is Still Going Strong—So I, a Nervous Millennial, Finally Caved and Got It

What to ask for, what to expect and how to style the whimsical ‘do

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Catrina Yohay/Paula Boudes

For the better part of my life, my hair mantra has always been "stick to what you know" (and leave the jellyfish cuts to Gen Z). But over the past few months, as each season came and went, there was one haircut trend I couldn’t stop thinking about: The butterfly cut.

In true millennial fashion, I was late to the party, but even in the fickle world of trends and TikTok, the butterfly cut has shown no signs of slowing down. With a new year on the horizon and my overgrown hair in desperate need of a trim, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give the cut a go. Here’s how it went, plus tons of inspirational photos and everything else you might need to know about the viral butterfly haircut.

Meet the Experts

  • Colin McCarthy is a stylist at Mark Ryan Salon in New York City. With 18 years of experience, McCarthy started his career at Bumble and Bumble, working there for over a decade before joining Mark DeBolt and Ryan Trygstad at their salon. An expert on style and trends, McCarthy has worked on numerous editorials across multiple publications and brands, while also developing his roster of celebrity clientele that includes Taylor Swift and Cindy Crawford.
  • Danielle Priano is a New York-based hairstylist, as well as a SexyHair brand ambassador, who's worked with a long list of celebrity clients including Madelyn Cline and Vanessa Hudgens.
  • Sunnie Brook is a professional hairstylist and Biolage global ambassador with 20+ years in the beauty business. As a previous salon owner and educator, Brook's client list is composed of a who's who of Hollywood: Elisabeth Moss, Hailey Bieber and Ashley Park.

First Off, What Is the Butterfly Cut?

The wolf cut walked so the butterfly cut could fly. Its popularity stemming from its low-maintenance versatility and ‘70s vibe, the butterfly haircut first popped up on the scene in 2022.

Less choppy than its canine counterpart, the butterfly cut is fundamentally "a very classic, long-layered haircut with face-framing pieces,” McCarthy tells us. “The twist with this cut,” Priano adds, “is that you separate the layer just below your chin from the rest [of the layers below the shoulders] to give the illusion of shorter hair when desired.” The final look is weightless and flowy, creating soft movement, subtle texture and natural volume that can be styled several different ways.

What Should I Ask for at the Salon?

To achieve this look, it’s all about the layers. “The main feature of this cut and style is the shorter framing around the face,” McCarthy explains, “with more or less layers throughout, depending on the desired outcome.” Like most haircuts, this can be done on wet or dry hair, and the exact cutting technique will vary from person to person based on their individual hair texture, density and length. “The similarity, however, will be in the styling. For that, I recommend using a medium round brush to create volume and movement away from the face.”    

Does the Butterfly Cut Work on Short Hair, Too?

Got a bob you’re growing out? Can’t stand when your hair goes past your shoulders? If you think the butterfly cut only works on long hair, think again. “Though its most obvious iteration is with long hair, people with hair as short as a bob can enjoy this look,” McCarthy says. Because of the face-framing pieces, the butterfly cut can be tailored to multiple hair lengths and face shapes. It does, however, tend to work best on wavy and curly hair, says Brook, who actually coined the whimsically named haircut, since adding layers can help define your natural shape and pattern.

How Do I Style the Butterfly Cut at Home?

On freshly washed hair, McCarthy suggests using a foundation product, “such as Shu Uemera’s Awa Volume Volumizing Mousse to create hold and volume.” To achieve that fluttery look, he suggests using a round brush and blow dryer, working away from the face to mimic the hair’s natural movement. For upkeep and maintenance, McCarthy recommends seeing your stylist every two to four months for a light trim or dusting.

About Those DIY Butterfly Cut Tutorials on TikTok...

If you love a good HairTok moment, chances are you've seen the viral at-home butterfly cut tutorial. Created by hairstylist Brad Mondo, the original video walks viewers through the steps of getting the butterfly look at home using just a comb, two ponytails and hair-cutting scissors. The video has since garnered 2.3 million likes, flooding the social media platform with similar clips of users testing the technique and sharing their results.

When asked for his thoughts on the DIY 'do, McCarthy urges users to step away from the shears. "Absolutely do not do this if you care about the outcome," he explains. "While it might, with a lot of luck, yield a bearable outcome, the technique is massively oversimplified and neglects the fact that the front and back of the head are connected." So if you're open to experimenting (or plan on chopping your hair off anyway), we won't stop you from giving this a go. But to achieve a proper butterfly cut that's even, blended and won't leave you sobbing on your bathroom floor, stick with a professional stylist.

Catrina Yohay/Paula Boudes

So…Do I Like My Butterfly Cut?

In a word: Yes! As someone with long, thick hair that can easily get weighed down, the butterfly cut has breathed new life into my strands. My hair feels weightless and healthy, and the face-framing layers add a touch of cool to my everyday looks: down with waves or thrown up into a claw clip. The cut also fits surprisingly well into my low-maintenance styling routine (a touch of hair oil and a rough blow dry), while somehow retaining the same volume and movement—even when I air dry.

Toeing the line between trendy and classic, I love that this cut incorporates the drama of a mixed-layer style without the risk (and commitment) of a more daring look—like the octopus cut or the Italian bob.

In sum, the butterfly cut gets my millennial stamp of approval (because why should Gen Z have all the fun?).

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Executive Managing Editor

Catrina oversees content production across all PureWow verticals. When she's not managing editorial schedules, digital issues or newsletter production, you can find her...