Haircuts usually happen for one of two reasons: Either something major has happened in your life, or you no longer recognize the dry cluster of straw on your head as hair. Sure, there are always the responsible individuals who get multiple haircuts a year and keep their strands in top shape, but this article isn’t for those select few (sorry). Instead, this is for everyone out there who’s looked at their lackluster locks and wondered Is it time? (Most of the time, the answer is yes.)
To determine exactly when to get a haircut, we spoke with Tina Dizon, lead stylist and owner of The Private Room Salon in Beverly Hills. We asked her not only for the most common signs that it’s time for a chop but also what we can do to prolong our next one (we’re always thinking ahead, obviously).
Haircut vs. Trim
First, allow us to establish the difference between when to get a haircut and a trim. A haircut usually signals a more major change while a trim is simply keeping a current style manageable and in shape. “Trimming your hair is important, because whether you cut two centimeters or two inches, keeping the style that you like requires regular maintenance,” Dizon says. “When a professional trims the hair, we’re still checking the entire shape and making sure that the style works with your lifestyle.”
Dizon says that regular trims also help customize your style to any changes in your natural hair texture or growth. “For example, your hair tends to grow faster in the summer months when, maybe, more layers are needed to add style around the face,” she explains. “Or if your hair seems to be dry or unshapely, we can help maintain the style [after the texture changes from too much] heat styling.”
How Long Can You Go?
Dizon says that on average, she recommends going in for a snip about six times a year, or about every six to eight weeks. “Getting your hair cut to keep your hair healthy should be just as important as keeping your skin looking great!” she says. “Waiting longer can result in split ends, which means it’s harder [for your hair to grow] because your hair is breaking or splitting from the bottom up.”
Four Signs It's Time to Get a Haircut
1. Styling Takes Longer
One of the first signs that it might be time to get a haircut? Suddenly, your hair routine starts taking way longer than it used to. This can be because your ends are splitting and requiring more detangling, your hair is getting overprocessed and requires more moisture and any number of other reasons. Dizon says that if styling your hair takes longer, it’s time to see your hairdresser.
2. There's No Shape
Remember when your hair was bouncy and full of life? No? If your strands fall flat—or, for short-haired girls, if your hair suddenly starts taking a strange bubble shape—it’s a sure sign that you’re due for a cut.
3. You Wear It Up… Always
Dizon says that this is one of the main signs you need at least a trim. Basically, if you find yourself tossing your strands up into your go-to messy bun day after day, it usually reflects the fact that wearing your hair down isn’t exactly a thrilling prospect. Why not go in for a cut and toss your strands with new enthusiasm?
4. Split Ends
Most of us would take split ends as a cue to get a haircut, but Dizon says waiting until then is actually too late. “If you’re waiting for split ends, it’s a sure sign that you’ve waited a little too long in between haircuts,” she says. “[Probably months], and not the recommended six-to-eight week maintenance period.”
Ways to Prolong Your Cut
Six to eight weeks might seem a bit unrealistic for some, based on finances, scheduling, or other reasons. Luckily, Dizon says there are a couple of things you can do to delay another visit to your hairdresser. “Using the correct products to care for your hair at home is a must, like the correct shampoo and conditioner for your hair type, a good leave-in conditioner, and a heat protector if you use a lot of hot styling tools,” she says.
She also recommends trying to avoid pulling your hair up too often into ponytails and buns and to remember that your hair is still fragile. “The tighter the style, the more likely you’ll pull or break the hair from the root.” One last piece of advice? Avoid pulling your hair up when it’s wet. “Your hair tends to stretch more when it’s damp,” Dizon says. “Therefore, as it dries, it starts to shrink back to its normal length, which means if it’s tied back, it will shrink around the hairband, causing breakage.”
This story was originally published on November 7, 2014, and has been updated.