How to Recognize a Bad Short Haircut

And how to fix it.

man with short red hair


Knowing how to discern a bad haircut from a good one is the first step in avoiding a poor chop. (It's also a great way to know if it's time to find a different barber.) Below, we've rounded up five ways to recognize a bad haircut—and how to ensure you don't get one.

01 of 05

Knowledge is Key

Man Getting a Haircut

 Tara Moore | Getty Images

There are three key areas that make up a great short haircut: shaping, blending, and finishing. If you learn the steps, you'll know how to better communicate with your barber or stylist and help spot areas in which the person cutting your hair may be dropping the ball.

02 of 05

Shaping the Haircut

Hairdresser cutting hair in salon, focus on hair, hands and scissors, close-up
Juice Images / Getty Images

The length and shape of a haircut will help enhance your best features. A full, round haircut on a someone with a round face can really emphasize the fullness of the face. A leaner, squared style on a round face adds balance. It's important to know your facial features and shape well enough to know how to choose the right haircut to accentuate them. Going to the salon with knowledge of what you want can help you better select a style you know will be right, and avoid leaving it up to someone whose skills you don't trust.

Bring photo examples of the kind of haircut you want, as well as examples of what you don't want. This way the image in your head matches the one in your stylist's head.

03 of 05

Blending the Haircut

black man barber shop

Corey Jenkins / Getty Images 

Good blending is critical to a short haircut that looks good at all. This means it should have no visible (unintentional) lines of demarcation, so you don't see the differences between the levels hair is cut to. When viewed from the side or back, you should see no lines, or spots darker from the rest. From the front, there should be nothing sticking out and no "steps" in the haircut. On top, you should see no lines resulting from your barber or stylist picking up the hair and cutting it between their fingers—a great haircutter will always cross-check the top, from front-to-back and side-to-side.

04 of 05

Finishing the Haircut

Barber in a barber shop

Dave and Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty Images

How a haircut is finished is critical to achieving a great result. Great finishing can really help a mediocre cut look better, while rough finishing can destroy an otherwise great haircut. A "properly" finished haircut will meet the following criteria:

1. The outline of the haircut will follow the natural hairline as closely as possible. A haircut that is outlined too high into the hairline will look sloppy even just a few days after the cut. 

2. There will be no hair sticking up at the crown. Your crown is that little swirly part at the top of your head, and it's often the place most barbers or stylists screw up. The area grows in a relatively tight spiral. If you've got little sprigs sticking up there, it's a problem. A great barber will know how to navigate this area; a bad one, not so much.

3. A great haircut will look good with or without styling product. Styling product, like pomade or gel, should be used to enhance a style—not create one. If your hair looks bad without product in it, it's not properly shaped, blended, and finished.

05 of 05

Fixing a Bad Haircut

Barber Cutting Hair

 Photo ©  Eugenio Marongiu | Getty Images

Bad haircuts, unfortunately, do happen. But the good news is that it's only hair, and it will always grow back. The bad news, however, is that to keep from looking like a goofball, you're going to have to shell out a few bucks and get another haircut to repair the damage. Fixing a botched haircut takes skill, so don't try it yourself unless you plan on shaving your head.

If you're still in the barber's chair, you may be able to simply ask for a touch up. Only do that if you're completely confident this barber is skilled, though. But if they're not skilled, you're probably not going to be asking for a touch up, so it may be best to cut your losses and find another barber.

When you go in for a touch up, let the barber or stylist determine the best options. Beware, you might end up with a much different style than you're accustomed to. However, a skilled haircutter will know what's best. On the bright side, fixing a bad haircut may force you into stepping outside your comfort zone and trying something different for a change—which isn't really a bad thing.

  • How long does it take a bad short haircut to grow out?

    Hair, on average, grows between 2 to 4 inches every 4 months — or about 6 to 8 inches in a year. So if you really loathe your short haircut, just be patient — it will grow back.

  • How can you style a bad short haircut to make it look better?

    When it comes to bad short haircuts, products are your friend. Try using gel to smooth the hair back, for a slicked-back look that will disguise any errant layers.

  • Should you tell your stylist if you don't like your haircut?

    Yes. In fact, if you hate your haircut, you should immediately communicate your thoughts with your stylist — as they might be able to rectify the problem. If it's still a mess, be patient. See if styling it a certain way might help. If not, just let it grow until you reach the desired length — and then see a new stylist.

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