We’ve all had haircut disasters. Whether the cause was taking a chance at a new hair salon, a miscommunication with your usual stylist or a haphazard DIY trim, the result is the same: Horror. Anger. Disbelief. Hats.
Well-meaning friends suggest adding extensions or a wig until it grows out. We’re just mortified and can’t stand the idea of doing FaceTime or Zoom, let alone leaving the house. Well, as a beauty editor (who should know better), I have been there too many times to not have a few solutions up my sleeve. Here are 11 ways to survive a bad haircut.
- PHOTO BY: ROY ROCHLIN/GETTY IMAGES; AMY SUSSMAN/BBMA2020/GETTY IMAGES FOR DCP; SANTIAGO FELIPE/GETTY IMAGES(Left to right) Martha Stewart, Garcelle Beauvais and Wendie Malick1. Try a mental flipMaybe it’s not as bad as you think. In fact, sometimes a dramatic change is just what we need to reboot your look — and outlook. For example, a year ago, you might never have considered wearing lug sole boots, a hoodie or joggers. Check out celebrity photos and start thinking of this situation as your new temporary role. Find something to love or at least like about it — the swingy shape that flatters your jaw, the eye-emphasizing bangs, the edgy look of layers or a tousled pixie. Once you can get past the shock, this may be all it takes.
- PHOTO BY: STEVE GRANITZ/WIREIMAGE; GRAHAM DENHOLM/GETTY IMAGES; GARY GERSHOFF/GETTY IMAGES(Left to right) Kris Jenner, Gladys Knight and Lucy Liu2. Get a second opinion and maybe a second haircutBefore you say, “No way!” … hear me out. Sometimes the way to salvage a hated haircut is to get a “modification cut.” You could, for example, go a little shorter to correct an asymmetrical bob or an extreme A-line one, or get rid of textured ends that make your bob look wimpy. Or, instead of a cut, you could get a mini lesson from a stylist and learn how to use your natural texture to blur a cut’s shape or how to use products differently to vary the look. The original salon where the cut occurred should comp you for this. Just between us, never let a stylist talk you into “taking a little weight and bulk off by thinning it” or a razor cut. Both are universally disastrous for mature hair.
- PHOTO BY: BRUCE GLIKAS/WIREIMAGE; AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN/FILMMAGIC; JEAN BAPTISTE LACROIX/WIREIMAGE(Left to right) Molly Ringwald, Sharon Stone and Lisa Kudrow3. Deal with unwanted layersSome of us love the tousled look of layers but not when a scissors-happy stylist delivers a shag instead of the one-length cut you wanted. If you have thin, fine hair, layers can make it look even thinner. I’ve been through the “let’s just add some layers for movement” routine, too. Waiting for layers to grow to one swingy length again is easier if you keep trimming the bottom only. Do not touch the rest! Even dusting the ends — a salon term that literally means a half-inch trim — matters. The faster you get to an overall blunt look, the better you’ll feel.
- PHOTO BY: ABDULHAMID HOSBAS/ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES; TOMMASO BODDI/WIREIMAGE; PAUL ARCHULETA/GETTY IMAGES; EDWARD BERTHELOT/GC IMAGES(Left to right) Helen Mirren, Mary Steenburgen, Marilu Henner and Kristin Scott Thomas4. Let your bangs starIf you already have bangs as part of your new bob, lob (long bob), crop, shag or pixie, lucky you. They’ll actually make the grow-out more bearable by providing an eye-framing focus, so that the attention is redirected away from a botched cut. On the other hand, adding any sort of forehead fringe to a bad cut (see tip number 2) can save hair in trauma. Here’s what works best: Long sideswept bangs and center-parted curtain bangs are easiest to add and blend into the rest of your hair, ultimately without additional stress. Full straight-across bangs are a good choice to keep a short cut looking cool and to restore structure to badly layered medium-to-long hair. Even feathery, wispy tendrils at the hairline, ears and nape can soften a crop cut and take only a month to get started.
- PHOTO BY: FRANK LOVICARIO/NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES; JIM SPELLMAN/WIREIMAGE; JEAN BAPTISTE LACROIX/WIREIMAGE(Left to right) Gina Gershon, Naomi Watts and Patricia Arquette5. Embrace your curling iron and rollersFor a great temporary fix, you can curl, wave or crimp your hair instead of wearing it smooth. This really helps disguise a cut you dislike, as well as uneven or unblended layers and unwanted bangs (if you’re not a fan of fringe) on hair of any length or style. A curling iron or hot rollers offer the fastest solution, but even Velcro rollers or retro pin curls can “set” damp or freshly washed hair for body, waves or curl. Try a side part with one ear tucked in to get a clean shape, or twist the bang section up, or just set, dry and brush out loose casual waves.
- PHOTO BY: TARGET (3)(Left to right) OGX Biotin & Collagen Extra Strength Shampoo and Conditioner; It’s a 10 Hair Care Miracle Leave-in Product; Dove Nourishing Secrets Thickening Ritual Shampoo and Conditioner6. Emphasize volume and bodyYou can’t replace length overnight, but you can give hair a fatter, fuller look. Don’t confuse length or curl with volume, which can improve any cut. This is the perfect time to start a new regimen of body-building shampoos, conditioners and styling products, like the OGX Biotin & Collagen Extra Strength Shampoo and Conditioner ($7 each, target.com), Dove Nourishing Secrets Thickening Ritual Shampoo and Conditioner ($4 each, target.com) and It’s a 10 Hair Care Miracle Leave-in Product ($18, target.com). They add physical bulk to the hair shaft and strengthen it with potent thickening ingredients like wheat protein, keratin, biotin, silk amino acids, panthenol and the botanicals rosemary and lavender. And of course, any mousses and dry shampoos you have on hand can also add dimension.
- PHOTO BY: TARGET (2)Revlon Ionic Technology Perfect Heat & Style Hair Dryer (left) and Goody Heritage Collection Small Round Boar Hairbrush7. Rethink your styling routineWhatever you used to do and use with your pre-disaster hair may not be what your new haircut needs now. Your new style or bangs might respond better to a smaller round blow-dry brush like the Goody Heritage Collection Small Round Boar Hairbrush ($12, target.com). Maybe it’s time to switch from a nozzle dryer to a diffuser attachment in order to encourage texture or body in hair that’s naturally wavy or textured. You can even go minimalist and splurge on a multitasking heat styling brush like the Revlon Ionic Technology Perfect Heat & Style Hair Dryer ($25, target.com), which dries and curls the hair simultaneously.
- PHOTO BY: JASON KOERNER/GETTY IMAGES; STEVE GRANITZ/WIREIMAGE; PAUL ARCHULETA/FILMMAGIC(Left to right) Jada Pinkett Smith, Olivia Colman and Annette Bening8. Consider updating your colorIf you’ve been dying to go blond or red or a richer brown shade, this might be the moment. By making hair color your most prominent hair statement, the cut becomes less important. This could be part of your second-opinion strategy.
- PHOTO BY: FCAFOTODIGITAL/E+/GETTY IMAGES9. Commit to eating your hair healthyLook, hair only grows around a half-inch a month maximum — no matter what you do — so it will be a wait of at least four months to gain enough length to see a major difference. Use this time to encourage stronger, thicker, glossier hair by making diet changes that get you there. Be sure to get adequate protein; vitamins C, D and E; zinc; iron; and omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids to boost hair growth and health. Foods like fish, avocados, beans, whole grains, eggs, sweet potatoes, nuts, berries and olive oil are a good start and are beneficial, too, for dry, thin or damaged hair in need of rehab.
- PHOTO BY: ULTA BEAUTY (2); SEPHORA(Clockwise from top left) The Hair Edit Tame & Condition Comb; Briogeo Vegan Boar Bristle Hair Brush; Tangle Teezer Fine & Fragile Pink Dawn Detangling Hair Brush10. Give your scalp extra TLCStimulating blood circulation and oil distribution at the roots helps encourage hair growth, too. Make a five-minute scalp massage routine for shampoos and before bed. Just use the fingertips of both hands (pads, not nails) to gently apply pressure while making small circles. Be sure to detangle wet, vulnerable hair with a wide-tooth comb like The Hair Edit Tame & Condition Comb ($5, ulta.com) or a soft rubber-tipped tool like the Tangle Teezer Fine & Fragile Pink Dawn Detangling Hair Brush ($12, ulta.com). Start at the ends of the hair in this case (not the roots) and work your way up an inch at a time in order to avoid snags. Treat yourself to a boar-bristle paddle brush like the Briogeo Vegan Boar Bristle Hair Brush ($28, sephora.com). A quick gentle daily brush from roots to tips (not 100 strokes!) will help distribute your natural scalp oils for a healthy sheen.
- PHOTO BY: TARGET; H&M; ULTA BEAUTY; MADEWELL(Clockwise from top left) A New Day Tortoise Bobby Pin Set; H&M Knot-detail Hairband in Black Faux Leather; Riviera Mixed Shape Bobbie Pins in gold; adewell Knotted Covered Hairband in Leopard Multi11. Get into hair accessoriesIf the last time you wore a hairband, scrunchies, jaw clips or barrettes was in high school, try them now. Hair accessories solve a lot of problems now and look fashion-forward — even at 50-plus — if you choose carefully. While even Prada and Gucci have luxe versions, the best bobby pins and clips for grownups are affordable low-cost accessories and come in tortoiseshell, gold or silver, like the A New Day Tortoise Bobby Pin Set ($6 for 6, target.com), Riviera Mixed Shape Bobbie Pins in gold ($10, ulta.com), though pearl-studded versions are also great for evening. Try a soft padded hairband in leather or leopard fabric, like the H&M Knot-detail Hairband in Black Faux Leather ($13, hm.com) and Madewell Knotted Covered Hairband in Leopard Multi ($22, nordstrom.com) for a chic look. They won’t give you a headache either like skinny metal or hard plastic bands do.