If you're considering layers but aren't quite ready to commit to dramatic change, allow us to put ghost layers on your radar. "Ghost layers are a technique used to create subtle layered texture in the hair without losing length," says celebrity stylist and salon owner Jennifer Korab. "The technique involves cutting into the hair at an angle, creating soft layers that are barely visible to the naked eye, hence the name 'ghost' layers. The idea behind ghost layers is to create movement and dimension in the hair without changing the overall shape or length of the hair." Ahead, Korab and two other stylists explain all you need to know about ghost layers, plus see 10 variations on the style to get inspired.
Meet the Expert
- Jennifer Korab is a celebrity hairstylist, the owner of Renaissance Salon & Spa and Revival Barber Shop, and a Pureology educator.
- Sarah Potempa is a celebrity hairstylist who has worked with the likes of Camila Cabello, Emily Blunt, and Ana de Armas. She is also the founder of The Beachwaver Co..
- Kieron Justin is a celebrity hair artist whose clients include Georgia May Jagger and more.
What Are Ghost Layers?
Ghost layers are a subtle way of layering the hair to create the look of more volume. "Ghost layers are a layering technique you may also hear referred to as 'invisible layers' that helps to add subtle layers to the hair without necessarily looking [like obvious] layers," says celebrity hairstylist and The Beachwaver Co. founder Sarah Potempa. "Think of the happy medium between a blunt haircut and a shag. You will have the movement and volume a shag gives while keeping the thickness and length of a blunt cut. This cut will give you a very natural, lived-in, undone look that is really tailored to helping add volume and movement to your natural hair."
And how does your stylist achieve ghost layers? "The technique can be achieved by taking an isolated halo, diamond, or star section through the top of the head, clipping the length away, and layering the section with an inversion or square layer technique," explains celebrity hair artist Kieron Justin. "This will build up weight through the layers achieved within the chosen section pattern or personalized isolated sections, adding a subtle layer and movement on the surface. Because the length has been isolated and the shortest bit of the layers has not been connected to the longest point in the length, you have avoided maximum weight removal like you would do in a normal layering technique. This really gives a discreet layering presence and that’s the reason why it gets its name ghost layers—as you can’t really see them, they are less obvious but effective."
Who Should Get Ghost Layers?
The experts share that almost anyone looking to add volume and texture to their hair can benefit from ghost layers. "Subtle layers like this are great on thin or fine hair because they help to add volume and movement," Potempa says. "Unlike other layering techniques, the ghost layer being more subtle allows the ends on fine hair to stay fuller-looking as opposed to sheer and thin. The ghost layering technique is also great on thick hair. In general, layering thick hair helps to remove weight and add dimension to the hair while also keeping the length. Unlike other layering techniques, the ghost layers help to maintain a really healthy, full length as all of the layers blend naturally into the rest of the hair."
Who Should Avoid Ghost Layers?
While the experts agree that almost anyone looking to build up weight and give the illusion of thicker, fuller hair can benefit, they do note that some people may see less benefit from ghost layers. Korab shares that "short hair and very curly hair may want to avoid ghost layers." Justin also notes that ghost layering is a very specific technique, so if you have copious amounts of thick hair and are looking for maximum weight removal, a traditional layering technique may be better suited for you.
Ghost layers + loose waves = a match made in heaven. The king of ghost layers himself, Ramon Garcia, styled and cut this look on light, feathery hair.
Jennifer Lopez's wavy hairstyle is nicely complemented by subtle, feathered ghost layers. Styled by Chris Appleton, the barely there layers add the perfect amount of voluminous texture to this style.
Ana de Armas's effortless beach waves, styled by none other than Potempa, get an extra boost of volume from the perfect ghost layer haircut.
Styled by Potempa, Lea Michele's wand curls achieve major volume with the assistance of ghost layers.
Low Key Layers
If you look closely, these ghost layers by Moises Rodrigues are perfectly hidden within the hair to create texture and dimension.
Length and Layers
The longer the hair, the more often it ends up needing assistance with volume. Garcia adds in ghost layers to give these long locks some definition and bounce.
Loose and Long
Often when you think of layers, you think of different lengths throughout the hair. Stylist Patrick Wilson shows here on Charithra Chandran that you can still build volume with ghost layers while keeping the hair at mostly one length.
Volume and Thickness
If you're blessed with naturally thick, voluminous hair (lucky you), ghost layers still work magic. Frank Izquierdo shows off how this subtle haircut method can complement thicker strands and give even more of a volume boost.
If you're wondering if ghost layers pair well with bangs, we're here to confirm the answer is yes. Styled by Patrick Wilson, these subtle layers add wispiness and texture to hair even when it's straight, and the perfectly imperfect bangs only add to the alluring movement.
If waves aren't your thing, ghost layers make straight hair go from flat to voluminous quickly. Justin shares this example of Emily Ratajkowski, whose ghost layers give this simple look a touch of edge.