Deciding if you should chop off your locks and embrace short hair can be an incredibly tough choice. However, we've found that it can be a liberating experience, not to mention the ultimate confidence boost. But before you head down to your hairstylist, clutching a picture of your favorite celeb's short haircut, you need to find out if it will look good on you full stop.
If you feel completely lost when it comes to determining the right length for you, try the 5.5-centimeter rule. Discovered by hair icon John Frieda, the rule is simply this: Take a pencil and place it under your chin, then place a ruler under your ear. Measure from where the pencil and the ruler meet. If it's less than 5.5 centimeters (roughly 2.25 inches), short hair is a go. If not, you should consider sticking to a longer length. Easy, no?
If you've committed to going for the chop, you still want to consider a few other aspects. That means taking both your face shape, your hair's texture, and your lifestyle into account. After all, there's little point in opting for a pixie crop that you hope to wear pin-straight if you've got natural corkscrew curls and a schedule that won't allow time for styling. Luckily we've got the expert guide you've been looking for if you're keen to hit the hairdressing chair.
Meet the Expert
- Clariss Rubenstein is a professional hairstylist and a member of the R+Co Collective.
- Jamie Stevens is a professional hairstylist based in London.
Now keep scrolling to find out what professional stylists have to say about getting short hair right.
Fine Hair: Short and Sleek
For those with fine hair, layers and slight, piecey waves like Kaia Gerber's add some oomph to a sleek bob. To get Gerber's waves, use a curling iron or wand and smooth Sachajuan's Shine Serum ($36) throughout your lengths to achieve a silky shine.
Fine Hair: Pixie with Bangs
Though a pixie is relatively low maintenance when it comes to daily styling, you may need to visit the salon more regularly to keep your locks at the right length, especially if you give the style some edge with bangs, as Ginnifer Goodwin does here. To add some texture without overdoing it, opt for a spray rather than a pomade—we like R+Co Rockaway Salt Spray ($16).
Fine Hair: Cropped Pixie
Worried about your fine hair looking sparse? Opt for a classic pixie crop, says Stevens. "As a rule, the shorter fine hair is taken, the thicker it will look," he explains. "Ask your stylist for a cut that's blunt with no texturizing or thinning out."
Many facial types can rock a pixie, but be sure you're comfortable with your face being fully exposed for this look. "Remember that your facial features will be more exposed with this cut," warns Stevens. "If you have strong features, the shorter the haircut, the more prominent they'll appear," he adds. Kristen Stewart's bone structure suits a cropped pixie style well.
Wavy Hair: Textured Bob
The best part about short, wavy hair, adds Stevens, is that it's incredibly low maintenance. Regrowth won't be as much of a problem, and leaving it to dry naturally will create some fabulous texture. "Make sure you've got the right products to tame any fluff and frizz," adds Stevens.
Rubenstein says that investing in a solid shampoo and conditioner will come in handy, too. "The right shampoo and conditioner is so important and has such an impact on how the hair behaves, especially for those who do less blow-drying and styling," Rubenstein says. "I’m loving R+Co BLEU De Luxe Reparative Shampoo ($59) and Conditioner ($59) for thicker hair. It’s so nourishing and moisturizing, not a hint of frizz."
Wavy Hair: Lengthy Lob
Not sure how your waves will behave? Aim for the longer end of the short hair spectrum, advises Stevens. "Most short haircuts will suit wavy hair, but I would normally say that the shorter the haircut the more the waves will look like Marcel waves, which can be incredibly aging," he explains. "Lean toward something slightly longer—around four to five inches all over—to avoid adding years on." We like Living Proof No Frizz Nourishing Styling Cream ($28) to keep unwanted frizz at bay.
Wavy Hair: Wet Look
Rihanna embraces her natural hair by rocking the wet look, which sits just above her shoulders. An easy to achieve style, we recommend applying Color Wow Dream Coat For Curly Hair ($24) to damp hair then blow-dry with a diffuser attachment.
Curly/Afro Hair: Tight Curls
While most lengths will work on hair with tight curls, Stevens warns that it's key to work with a hairdresser who understands the impact of shrinkage on your lengths. "Make sure your hairdresser is on the same page regarding the natural spring in the hair, as the end results in length won't be the same as the length of the cut," he explains. "My personal recommendation is to keep the hair on the slightly longer side of what you want—it'll naturally spring up a few inches shorter when dry."
Keep your curls well moisturized to get the best out of them. We like Nexxus Curl Define Hair Conditioner ($15).
Curly/Afro Hair: Buzz Cut
Keep your curls nice and short by opting for a buzz cut, as seen on Lupita Nyong'o. Bonus points if you like to have fun with bold makeup choices. Although beyond easy to style, we do caution that this is a high-maintenance cut if you intend to keep it at a cropped length.
Curly/Afro Hair: Fringed Bob
If you've got a collection of stunning coils like Yara Shahidi, show them off with a fringe bob. To keep her curls moisturized, Yahidi swears by Mielle Mint Almond Oil ($14), which promotes healthy hair and soothes a dry scalp, thanks to the cooling sensation of, you guessed it, peppermint.
Almond oil is a hydrator that is rich in vitamin D, vitamin E, and various minerals. It helps soothe the skin from irritation and protect it from UV radiation damage.
Thick Hair: Classic Hollywood Bob
Thick hair? You lucky thing. According to Stevens, you're winning already: "If I'm honest, thick hair is really the best hair type to suit all short haircuts," he says. "The reason being, it's a lot easier for stylists to make thick hair thinner, rather than the reverse."
Before you get carried away, however, bear in mind that your chop might come with a lot of upkeep—especially if your thick hair is prone to waves or unruly behavior. Use a smoothing oil like Ouai Hair Oil ($28) to stay in control, especially if you're after Tessa Thompson's perfectly coiffed Hollywood waves.
Thick Hair: Tousled and Textured
A textured bob is perfect for those with naturally thick hair. Beyoncé's layers remove the bulk that comes with thick hair and makes the style more manageable with movement and volume.
"Thick hair will need to be thinned out more regularly, as it will get noticeably bigger and thicker with regrowth," notes Stevens.
Thick Hair: Blown-out Lob
Use thick hair to your advantage and bring the drama with a blown-out lob like Lady Gaga. While Gaga's length rests comfortably on her shoulders, a round brush, smoothing serum, and heat protectant—we love Bumble & bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Heat and UV Protective Primer ($26)—is all you need.
Straight Hair: Box Bob
Pin-straight locks? Beware of going too short, says Stevens. "Medium-short cuts work best on hair that's naturally very straight, as the extra length and weight will help it sit better," he explains. "If poker-straight hair is cut too short it will stick out everywhere. Short box bobs with a fringe are best."
While you'll get to enjoy a relatively low-maintenance life with your cut, Stevens notes that it's vital you visit a quality salon—it'll be easy to spot a cut that hasn't been well-executed on your tresses.
Straight Hair: Off-centered Part
If you tend to lack volume, focus on lifting from the root, using a product that imparts volume. "Thickening shampoo is ideal for hair that needs volume—with or without a blow dryer it gives thin hair some great lift," Rubenstein says. We like Sachajuan Ocean Mist Volume Shampoo ($31) for creating texture and body on fine strands. Moving your part slightly off-center also helps with volume.
Straight Hair: Blunt Lob
A blunt blob, or in Jamie Chung's case, a lob can be a flattering look on everyone. Especially if it just ever so slightly skims the shoulders. We like the Ghd Platinum+ Professional Performance Styler ($279) for its ability to straighten hair in less than five minutes.