Though chopping your hair off can be totally liberating and is often the perfect way to revive a tired hairstyle, the thought of switching to a shorter style may seem daunting if you’re used to having long hair. You might be questioning how you would look with short hair, if you can pull off daring pixies or shags, or if you’d even know how to style a bob. If these concerns sound familiar, we’re here to tell you to stop stressing.
Anyone at any age, with any features, and with any style preferences can look good in short hair with enough confidence and the ability to find the right cut for their face, hair texture, and personality. Read on for tips on how to choose your haircut, examples of stunning short hairstyles, and advice from two hair experts: celebrity stylist Ted Gibson (clients include Angelina Jolie, Lupita Nyong’o, and Indya Moore) and New York-based hairstylist Sky Kim (of Serge Normant at John Frieda).
Embrace Your Face Shape and Features
While you shouldn’t be afraid to mention to your stylist facial features you’d like to downplay, you’ll discover your most flattering cut by paying attention to your face shape and embracing features you want to highlight.
“A haircut’s purpose is to help bring out features on a [person’s] face,” Gibson explains. “Could be the cheekbones, could be the jawline, could be the length of the neck, could be the eyes.”
For instance, if you love your eyes, your stylist might suggest bangs or face-framing pieces to draw attention to that area. There’s a short haircut for every face shape and features of all types and sizes, so talk it out with your stylist to find the cut that’s perfect for you.
Give Your Hair Type the Chance to Shine
Another important factor to consider when choosing the perfect short haircut is hair texture. Every type of hair texture, from fine to medium to coarse, comes saddled with a slew of antiquated rules. You’ve probably heard them: "curly hair shouldn’t be too short" and "fine hair shouldn’t be long." Thankfully, people are breaking all the rules.
The same principles apply to all textures from fine, straight hair to thick, wavy hair: Find a skilled stylist, tell them your short-hair concerns related to your hair texture and type, and work with them to find a look that you’ll love and maintain.
When it comes to finding the right cut for your hair, Kim recommends embracing your natural texture rather than working against it: “If you want a look [that’s] different from what your natural hair texture gives you, you will have to style it more often. But you can save a lot of time if you work with your natural hair and the right product. This is what I encourage."
"Every person is born with a different [hair] texture," she continues, "and I love to see my clients embracing the beauty in themselves. So we determine together what kind of shorter haircut will fit their texture the best, [and] there are so many little tweaks you can add to shorter hair to make everything from pixies to bobs work for you."
Be Real About Your Lifestyle
Here’s the thing that no one tells you about short hair: It can be very high-maintenance. If you currently have long hair, then you’ve probably grown accustomed to throwing it in a ponytail on days when you don’t have time to wash and style it. But with some short styles, you lose those speedy solutions.
Also, according to Kim, “if you want to keep [your hair] short, you will need to come in to get trims.” Typically, short hair should be trimmed every four to six weeks to preserve the integrity of your style. Styles with bangs require even more touch-ups; trims are recommended every couple of weeks.
If you don’t want to spend the time and money on all the upkeep required for shorter styles, then you may want to consider a cut that can more easily be grown out. While Gibson urges his clients to choose cuts that they’ll want to wear for a while, he also notes that there are plenty of ways to keep your hair looking gorgeous through a growing-out process.
He suggests on-trend accessories like claw clips and Blair Waldorf-esque headbands, along with texturizing products like his own Shooting Star Texture Meringue ($52). Also, if you anticipate a grow-out in your future, consider a short cut like a lob with no bangs or with side-swept bangs, which will grow out beautifully and won't require regular trips to the salon.
Let Your Haircut Reflect Your Personality
Your haircut is a visual projection of your personality, which is why it’s essential to approach your haircut decision by prioritizing your own opinions and preferences. Do you love the idea of yourself with short hair? Does it feel "like you" at this point in your life? Go with your gut on this one, not other people's advice.
Need some inspiration? Looking through photos of celebs, models, influencers, or friends with similar face shapes and cute short cuts will help you “be really clear about what you think that you’re interested in. Then, you can be guided by the professional hairdresser,” says Gibson.
Decide on the Style
Now that you’ve considered your face shape, hair type, lifestyle, and personality, you can move onto the fun part: choosing your haircut. When it comes to short styles, the options are endless and can feel overwhelming, but deciding on your desired length will help you narrow down the possibilities.
Go Bold With a Buzz or Pixie Cut
The shortest crops—buzzcuts and pixies—are always eye-catching, providing the perfect mix of punk-rock edgy and French New Wave classy. Both styles frame the face beautifully and bring your features into center focus. You'll be glad to know that, aside from having to get your hair trimmed every four to six weeks, buzzcuts and pixies are low-maintenance. Simply wash this hairstyle, add some pomade for texture if you need it, and go.
The trick to pulling off an edgy short crop or a pixie has little to do with your face shape or hair texture and everything to do with the right attitude and confidence. If a look that bold isn’t your thing, try something softer but just as cool, like shag or a lob.
Try a Shag for a Cool, Carefree Look
If you want a short cut with rocker vibes that isn’t quite as extreme as a buzz or pixie, the shag might be an ideal fit. This choppy, layered cut is as simple to style as the buzz and the pixie—and since a shag is meant to feel mussed up and effortless, a less-is-more styling approach is the way to go. After you wash it, let it air-dry to your hair's natural texture.
Typically, very thick, wavy hair seems challenging when worn short (because it can easily pouf or frizz), but this type of hair actually looks super cool with a layered shag. Let your stylist see how your hair dries naturally so that they can determine the best length and layering for your specific hair type and texture.
Find Classic and Timeless Glamour With a Bob
If you prefer a sleek finish and have the time to commit to styling, a bob is a brilliantly flexible option, no matter your face shape or hair texture. A bob can be cut and styled to fit your personality and lifestyle, so you can really make it your own.
A shorter cut can add body to fine, straight strands, but the trick is all in the styling. A layered short look will boost the volume, but if you prefer a polished style, a bob will more than deliver on that front. Also, the length and shaping of a bob can be used to accentuate (or downplay) your features.
“Where your haircut lies can bring out certain features,” explains Gibson. “If someone has a strong jaw and a bob, where that bob lies can diminish the strong jaw or can highlight it.” A chin-length bob (the most common length for this style) will make your jawline stand out, whereas a longer bob might soften the angles (more on that style next).
For Ultimate Flexibility, Try a Lob
If you like the idea of short hair but want a little more length so that you can still pull it back, try a lob. The long bob falls anywhere between the mid-neck and the shoulders, and its not-too-cropped length makes it a smart move for anyone who wants to ease their way into the wonderful world of short haircuts.
The lob also works great if you prefer long hair but have trouble achieving height and volume due to the weight of your strands; it’ll take some of the heaviness away while still giving you bouncy, moveable tresses.
Take Baby Steps With Bangs
Still unsure if you’re ready for the big chop? Bangs are an easy way to change up a haircut without having to commit to a totally different length and style. As with short haircuts, there are many different bang variations, each with a different vibe and overall feel.
Fringe-cut bangs can frame your face and give longer hair more dimension. Blunt bangs look ultra-modern and cool, and side-swept bangs feel beachy and add great volume. Let your hairstylist know what look you’re trying to achieve, and be sure to factor in your lifestyle, personality, hair type, and face shape to help you decide on the right cut for you.