Before you cut your hair short, think again. If you are in doubt, have a look at these ladies who cut their hair short but still look glamorous.
It’s official: There’s no look under the sun that Charlize Theron can’t pull off, including going full GI Jane for this month’s Mad Max: Fury Road. For us mere mortals, taking our look up a notch (or six) can be a bit more daunting. Here, we answer every worry you have—and some you haven’t even thought of yet—about chopping off your hair.
1. Make sure the time is right.
Julianne Hough is not alone in post-breakup hair cropping, but the heartbreak haircut isn’t for everybody. “Never get a serious haircut when you’re facing a big life change or before a major public appearance,” cautions celebrity hairstylist Mark Townsend. If you’re waffling over the big decision, going short in stages can be a good way to test the waters. “The initial plunge of losing substantial length can be scary for a lot of people. But once you see how fun the change of a new look can be, it can be addicting,” says hairstylist Kristin Ess, who gave Lauren Conrad a series of baby-step haircuts to a bob.
2. Don’t freak out about face shape.
“My face would look huge!” “My face is too round!” “I’ll look like a beach ball with hair!” These are the worries heard by every hairstylist (and be-pixied woman) any time the topic of short hair comes up. Ultimately, though, the question of whether you can rock a short cut has more to do with your state of mind than the shape of your face. The key to finding the right style for you is pinpointing what makes you feel confident—and what doesn’t—and working around that. “So if you feel like your cheeks make your face look wide, or you don’t love your chin, you want your hair to fall above or below that spot, to pull the eye away,” advises Riawna Capri, the stylist responsible for the trend-setting pixies on both Julianne Hough and Jennifer Lawrence.
3. Take texture into account.
As with face shape, there’s no hair texture that makes a cool-girl crop off-limits. You just have to choose a cut that works with what your momma gave you. “With curly hair, you can cut shorter pieces to take out some of the weight and let some curls pop out,” says Capri. “But with straight hair, you only want to take out weight underneath. You want textured ends, not choppy layers.” Make sure to watch out for how heavily textured your stylist makes the cut. Overapplication of a razor can leave fine hair looking fried, while thicker or wavier hair needs the boost from texturized ends to keep things from looking dull and blunt. Oh, and that trendy undercut you’ve been eying? Not for the fine of hair. Taking out that much weight can make your hair look insubstantial.
4. Find the one (stylist, that is).
Getting a bad haircut sucks, but at least you can hide it in a braid. Getting a bad haircut when you have short hair? An endless sea of days staring into your mirror and whispering pleas for your hair to grow. “The shorter you go, the fewer mistakes you can hide,” says Capri. “Good short hair depends first and foremost on the cut—not the products, not the tools, not the way you style it. The cut is the foundation.” Finding the right stylist is key, and it’s not just about finding a good stylist but one who’s good at the specific style you’re looking for. “Long hair and short hair are two completely different animals, so it’s very important to see a stylist’s work first,” Capri says. “Instagram is great for that, or if you see a woman on the street with great short hair, ask her who cuts it and go there. Even a men’s hair specialist may be a better option than someone who works with long hair all day.”
5. Bring visual aids.
“My number-one rule for making a big change to your hair is don’t tell your stylist anything. Show them. Pictures are everything,” says Capri. Shaggy layers can mean something very different to different people, so make sure you’re armed with shots of your favorite celeb, Instagram snaps, and anything else you can get your hands on to make sure you’ve got clarity on your side. “And don’t only show pictures of what you like,” she warns. “Show pictures of styles you don’t like, too.” That way your stylist can get a sense of what you don’t like, even if you can’t articulate what’s turning you off.
6. Don’t work against your hair.
Beware what lies beneath. “When you cut hair short, you’re going to be shocked at how different it is. You might reveal things about your hair you didn’t know you had, like a cowlick you didn’t have to contend with when you had long hair,” says Tim Rogers, a hairstylist in New York City. The best way to combat rebellious hair? Don’t style your hair within an inch of its life before you show up at the salon. The better idea a stylist has of the directions (yes, there are more than one) that your hair grows naturally, the better she can compensate for it in the cut.
7. Get realistic about your styling.
Like slipping into a sundress instead of your usual jeans, putting a little bit of effort into your short hair can give the impression that you spent lots of time prepping. But without a ponytail or topknot to fall back on, there’s no zero-maintenance option. You have to do something (even if all you do is rub in a little pomade and tousle with your fingers). Before you get a cut, talk to a stylist about how much effort will go into achieving the look you want, and consider how much mirror time you’re really willing to devote to your hair each morning.
8. Educate yourself.
Learning how to fix your hair after a major style switch is going to require some tutoring, so plan ahead. “When you’re making your appointment, request an extra 15 minutes at the end to have your stylist teach you how to work with your new cut,” suggests Capri. When you don’t have a stylist’s help, a spritz from a spray bottle full of water can wrangle short strands back into place. And when all else fails, stop worrying and learn to love your hair. “Do not fight the funk,” Capri says, “You will never win. You’ll just end up frying those pieces if you try to heat-style them into place over and over.”
9. Get ready to be a regular.
Get ready to be a regular. “Short hair can actually require more maintenance than long hair because you have to get it cut more often,” says Marilee Albin, a hairstylist at Chris McMillan, The Salon in Los Angeles. To maintain the shape of your cut, as well as the color (the less hair you have, the more those roots will show!), “you should plan on salon visits every four to six weeks.” Because let’s face it, we can’t all pull off nail-scissor trims like Rose McGowan.
10. It’s not forever.
And remember, if worse comes to worst, you can always grow it back out.