Even if your hairstyle has served you well for a few years, there comes a time when you want something new and fresh to coincide with how you yourself are changing. Those long locks might not match your more buttoned-up vibe of late, so it could be time to buzz it all down. Or vice versa: Perhaps you ditched the office forever and want your hair to reflect some lack of uniform. Or maybe, when looking to switch up the men's haircut, you prefer to keep your current length, but beyond that, you can’t figure out how to make things look and feel fresh.
How can you approach a new hairstyle to get that brand-newness we all crave every couple of years? Let us count the ways. Below are some style-switch-up tips from a pair of experts: Hung Nguyen, Regional Barber manager at Fellow Barber NYC, and Greg Ruggeri, stylist and trichologist, as well as the owner of Salon Ruggeri in NYC. Try any combination or execution of these tips, and maybe even run them by your barber or stylist. You’ll be sure to come up with something suitable for the new you.
Choose Your Colors Wisely
Telling you to “try new hair colors” is nothing novel, but perhaps your hangup on dyes and bleach is that it feels too permanent—and because you know it can significantly hinder your hair’s quality. (This is particularly risky for guys with thinning hair, Ruggeri points out.)
However, a new color—a slightly different one—might be the ticket to feeling brand new. If it’s your first attempt at a color change, Nguyen suggests first trying a semi-permanent dye. “This type of hair dye coats the surface of the hair shaft and doesn’t change the actual hair color. You can try on the color for size, and if you don’t like it or want to move on to another color without going through a harsh chemical process, semi-permanent hair dye washes out [in up to six weeks] so that you can comfortably start over.” Other dyes and bleaches can penetrate the hair cuticle and break down protein bonds within your hair. This leads to fraying, breaking, and even follicular damage in some cases.
(We love L’Oreal’s Color&Co for a semi-permanent option; they’ll even do a consultation with you to find or match your ideal color.)
Once you decide on a new permanent color, it’s highly recommended that you go to a salon to have it professionally colored and treated and get tailored advice on preserving the quality of your hair. Doing all of this will significantly preserve the strength and "stylability" of your hair. It’s all one big commitment, so treat it as such!
Ruggeri suggests one alternative to dyeing that also works well in transforming one’s look: “Highlighting is a great alternative to ‘on-scalp procedures,” he says. “With it, you have the ability to lighten parts of the hair and build more visual texture.” And again, it comes at no damage to your follicles—a bonus for those whose remaining hairs feel more and more precious every day.
Flatter Your Head Shape
If you’re stuck on an old, awkward style—or if you’re wondering what the best new one will be—then first, you should consider your head shape and whether or not a specific style works well with it. Nguyen assesses each of his clients’ heads when he’s giving them a cut or a fade and acts accordingly. “Not all head shapes are suited for a high and tight, and not all head shapes are suited for a low drop fade,” he says, “High and tight fades are great for guys who are wider at the parietal ridge of the head.” (It’s the widest part of your head, on the upper sides.) “Doing this slims out that area, giving more of a square shape. It also keeps the haircut's shape from flaring out when it grows out in a few weeks. Mid fades, and low fades are ideal for guys who are narrower at the parietal ridge because it builds weight in that area to give the haircut a square shape.”
In the same vein, if you have a long, narrow head shape, you should consider wearing a wider style in the sides, not to further elongate yourself. If you have a round or square face, something that emphasizes height (or length), as opposed to width on the sides, is ideal.
Breathe New Life Into Your Hair With Volumizing Powder
If you want to do more with what you already have, then there’s one product you may be overlooking.
“Volumizing powder is the key to transformations,” Ruggeri says. It works as a dry shampoo to absorb excess oils at the base of your hair but instantly lifts, separates, and defines the hair, giving you volume and texture to take a limp or lifeless style and turn it into something more vibrant and intentional. Be sure to target your hair's roots with the powder because that’s where the hair gets weighed down on the day or two after a full shampoo. (Oh, and don’t shampoo daily; do it every two-to-three days, but hopefully, you already knew that.)
Ruggeri’s personal favorite is David Mallett Volume Powder.
Try a Blow Dryer (But Tone it Down)
Many guys think of a blow dryer as a device that makes their hair dry faster. Yes, that is technically correct, but the device’s task is also to manipulate your hair into doing exactly what you need it to do, whether you’re locking in a style, activating hair product, or adding volume and body to a particular style. It can make a huge difference in how your hair maintains your intended look throughout the day, but a blow dryer can also wreak havoc on your hair long term, so using one requires some baseline intel. “The main key is not to put the dryer on full heat,” Ruggeri says. “Just put the temperature on halfway.” And, start with a pre-styling heat protectant spray meant to help shield each hair strand from heat damage (and thus breakage, frizzing, splitting, and more).
Reframe Your Face
Back to the topic of geometry: With hairstyles, a simple change might lie in the proportions of your face itself. Meaning, you can move your side to the middle or the other side—or eliminate it. You can sweep your hair back instead of combing it to the side, or you can let it all fall overtop of your forehead instead of styling it back at all. “It helps change the focus,” Ruggeri says. “It can help people focus on your eyes or your mouth or even see different angles of your face.” In this way, your hairstyle may change very little, aside from how other people see it.
Consider the Hard Part
Speaking of hair parts: Maybe there’s a hard part in your future. These are buzzed or shaved into the part of your hair instead of those “soft” parts that are simply naturally occurring or are combed in. “I personally like this option on clients who want the hair on the parted side very short,” Nguyen says. He especially likes seeing guys switch between hard and soft parts because it refreshes a look without changing one’s entire vibe. “When the part grows in, it is less obvious and blends in with the length on the sides. If the hair along that parting is too long, there will be noticeable fuzz growing back within two weeks. If the client doesn’t mind coming back for another touch-up in two weeks, I say go for it. Ultimately, it is up to the client, but it is important to set expectations for what will happen during that period in-between haircuts.”
Ask Your Barber to Layer and Texturize (or to Stop if You’re Thinning)
If you’re growing your hair out or wearing it more than a couple of inches long, then you need to have it layered and texturized. These two things help distinguish intentional hairstyles from an indifferent, overgrown lack thereof. However, layering and texturizing are both things that only your barber or stylist can manage (though, as we outlined before, some products can also give you a texture boost at home).
“Proper layering is crucial to balancing the shape of the haircut,” Nguyen says, “Those with thick, dense hair would benefit from being cut with more layers and textures to add more movement. Less dense hair needs more weight to look fuller. Therefore, it would benefit from having fewer layers cut in to maintain the fullness. If the same amount of texture is given to the person with fine less dense hair, it would completely flatten the hair and make it difficult if not impossible to achieve volume.”
Don’t Just Buzz it All Off
If you have a lot of hair (or even a medium amount) and want to try something much shorter, then resist simply buzzing everything down in one fell swoop. Instead, try something en route to the buzz since you have hair to work with.
“Consider some stylish options by taking the hair shorter in stages,” Nguyen says. Let’s say you have long hair but want to try something more adventurous—a modern spin on the mullet, even—then you have all the material to do so. So why waste the chance? After that, you could go for a classic gentleman’s haircut, then finish with a clean crew fade, all over the span of a few months.
“Try it all,” Ruggeri adds, suggesting that if you can grow your hair long, do it at least once. “You never know if thinning hair is in your future, and there is always time for short, predictable styles.”
The same can be said for trying different colors, hair parts, textures, layers, styling devices, products, and more. So have at it!
Grosvenor AJ, Deb-Choudhury S, Middlewood PG, et al. The physical and chemical disruption of human hair after bleaching - studies by transmission electron microscopy and redox proteomics. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2018;40(6):536-548. doi:10.1111/ics.12495