When you have thick hair, going shorter can be intimidating—and risky—as your locks may be prone to building extra body that could change the shape of your cut. But one fail-safe length for thick hair worth trying no matter your texture is just above or just below the shoulders. Whether your thick hair is stick straight, wavy, curly, relaxed, or natural, there's an ultra-flattering shoulder-length haircut that suits you. We tapped stylists to the stars Fallon Toni Chavez and Marcus Francis for their insider tips and tricks to taming thick tresses and expert insight into why mid-length cuts are the most flattering for this hair type.
From blunt cuts to long layers, from voluminous chops to sleek strands, keep scrolling for the most flattering shoulder-length haircuts for thick hair.
Meet the Expert
- Fallon Toni Chavez is a celebrity hairstylist based in Los Angeles. Her client list includes Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Selena Gomez, and Bella Thorne, among others.
- Marcus Francis is a sought-after stylist. His A-list clients include Julianne Moore, Emma Roberts, and Olivia Colman.
Textured and Blunt
Olivia Palermo's wavy locks look effortlessly cool with a rough chop that gives her blunt cut more dimension. Chavez adds, "Shoulder-length cuts for thick hair are good for a few reasons. First of all, eliminating dry damaged ends, getting a fresh new start. It's a great alternative to cutting your hair short for a completely new look."
Sleek, Long Layers
Sleek hair looks impeccably polished in long layers like Joan Smalls's that fall just below the shoulders. For added gloss, finish with Kenra Professional Shine Spray ($18).
As evidenced by Olivia Munn, long layers give wavy hair an extra boost of body when angled ends hit just above and below the shoulders. "This length looks great with a soft natural beach wave," adds Chavez. A few spritzes from a salt spray can give you this visually effortless style.
Kerry Washington's curls make a glamorous statement as they sit right at the shoulders. You just have to ask your stylist to cut a tad longer so the length is maintained after your curls set. To get Washington's shiny, bouncy curls, we suggest investing in a curl cream. Amika Curl Corps Curl Defining Cream ($25) works especially well for thick tresses.
Okay, technically this cut is a tad shorter than shoulder-length, but we had to include given just how good it looks on JLaw. Francis especially favors this cut due to its versatility: "The length is long enough to keep the texture manageable and has several style options. The shaggy layers give the cut lots of movement and body while allowing the natural texture to look its best," he says.
To replicate this wavy shag, Francis instructs, "Apply [Better Natured Hydrating Milk, $22] when the hair is damp/wet. Make the desired part, and either let air dry or use a diffuser. Use a flat iron to make a few additional waves around the face and on top of the head or a small curling iron to wrap around the hair once to create more of a bend here and there." Finish off with a few spritzes of Better Natured Beachy Texture Spray ($22).
Sleek and Blunt
There's nothing boring about a blunt cut like Margot Robbie's that shows off the healthy thickness of your locks. Chavez says that when it comes to shoulder-length cuts for thick hair, you can't go wrong with "a super clean straight polished look."
Tousled and Blunt
A blunt cut can also look just as good on hair with a slight wave like Kendall Jenner's. Chavez tells us the best part about shoulder-length hair when she says, "You can get a fresh new look without cutting all your hair off. This length is also great with long layers or even bangs, and it can still be pulled back and up for other looks or exercise."
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's choppy, face-framing layers give her hair shape when worn wavy or straight. It's a versatile cut that can match any mood or occasion. In other words, this 'do is a winner among her many great hair moments.
Light, Curly Layers
Thick hair can take ages to style, so why not go all-natural like Solange? The light layers of her locks gently shape her voluminous curls that sit just above her shoulders. The effect is ethereal.
Ombré With Long Layers
Long layers that fall just below the shoulders showcase Jourdan Dunn's gorgeous ombré. The gradient color is ideal for those with thick tresses since the lighter shade at hair's ends creates an effect that makes them appear less heavy.
Choppy layers in a rough cut just above the shoulders help to bring voluminous body to Selena Gomez's platinum locks. Layers are key here since they soften this cut and keep it from appearing too blocky—a risk when it comes to thick tresses.
Varied, Woven Layers
Nathalie Kelley's varied layers, cut just above the shoulder, are an effortless look for wavy-haired girls and requires little styling. Her caramel highlights show off her delicately, woven hair, adding a feminine flair.
Side-Parted Natural Curls
British singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae's natural curly mane is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Keeping her layers at various lengths adds a bit of personality and shows that she doesn't take herself too seriously. It also keeps thick strands from appearing poofy.
Padma Lakshmi looks sophisticated with this mid-length cut, but the choppy ends add a bit of edge. They also serve to make thick strands appear less heavy and severe.
The same cut stays fresh even when grown out a bit like Aimee Song's cool-girl lob. Although we're highlighting the best cuts for thick hair, this length is known to flatter all hair types and textures.
Sleek and Retro
Tessa Thompson's well-oiled waves are vintage glam. This style also serves a practical purpose by maintaining and shaping her thick tresses. To get her silky glass strands, we recommend using a product that will add a little weight and shine like Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil ($38).
Wavy Shag With Fringe
We first set eyes on Linda Cardellini as the loveable Lindsay Weir in the cult hit Freaks and Geeks, but now she is all grown up and she never looked better. Her modern shag is on point. She strikes a balance with her thick, heavy bang that pairs perfectly with her soft, romantic waves.
Big, Voluminous Waves
Janelle Monae serves as one of our go-to sources for beauty inspiration, especially when it comes to hair. While we've seen here rock many styles, we can't take our eyes off of this shoulder-length 'do. Full of body and finished with a side-swept wave gives off a slightly retro vibe.
Bella Hadid models slicked-back hair that is making us consider hopping on the celebrity hair trend bandwagon. Not only is this look in, but it's also a great option for thick hair, making it appear less weighty. It's slightly androgynous tone is not only beautiful but inspiring.
Curly Shag With Bangs
From long to short, Zendaya has rocked a lot of looks that gave us hair envy, but we're into this shoulder-length shag that finds the best of both worlds and beautifully incorporates bangs. "Curly or wavy bangs are having a moment because it has shown many women you can have bangs even if your hair isn’t straight. They are sexy and effortless with this shaggy cut, giving lots of movement and texture. This style is no-fuss and makes a statement," says Francis.
To replicate this look, he recommends first applying Better Natured Hydrating Milk and Strengthening Leave-In Cream ($22) to wet hair and then again to dry hair after diffusing, lightly scrunching on ends to create definition.