Lessons in layers: What you need to know about layered haircuts

How to get the haircut you really want.

As one of the most universally popular techniques, it might come as a surprise that layered haircuts are still largely misunderstood. In fact, the word layering itself is often misused, resulting in haircuts that range from hugely disappointing to totally unmanageable.

So we took it upon ourselves to decode the language of layers in order to help you better understand what it is that you really want, and how to ask for it. Of course, it’s never a bad idea to come equipped with a few picture references if you’re not sure about how to request Rachel McAdams’ voluminous layered lob, or Jennifer Lopez’s sexy long layers. But start using the same hair-related lingo, and things will become much clearer – for you and your stylist – we promise.

Getting the layered haircuts you want

A blunt, stylish bob with layers.

If you want to… Create movement and make hair look thicker

Ask for: A blunt cut at the bottom with layers built in for movement and texture.

Good for: Anyone who has fine hair. If you want a low-maintenance mane, this layered haircut is for you. It’ll look great whether you give it a rough blow-dry or even allow it to air-dry in the summer.

If you want to… Fix that bell-shaped hair left behind by a blunt or even cut

Ask for: Short layers, which, by the way, does not denote overall length. Rather, it defines the length between one layer and the next. Inform the stylist of the cut that you want, then ask him/her to work subtle or short layers into it. It’s also a good idea, in this instance, to consult the stylist about whether the layers should only be applied around your face or if they should go all the way around to the back.

Good for: People who like to change up their parting from time to time and those who love to experiment with different styling techniques. Subtle layers also work well in helping to add volume to shorter lengths.

choppy wavy bob
A wavy bob with layers to create volume. Credit:

If you want to… Remove bulk but retain subtle movement

Ask for: Lots of texture! And for the excess weight to be thinned out.

Good for: Those who love volume and have lots of hair, but find it gets weighed down easily. Textured layers are also great one for those who prefer a more natural, undone look, and for enhancing hair that has existing waves for a cool bohemian finish.

face raming layers cool hairstyles for all ages
Face framing layers. Credit:

If you want to… Enhance natural waves and add lots of movement

Ask for: Long layers, or face-framing layers at the front and more subtle layers at the back. The same principal applies here as it does to short layers. Long, in this instance, refers to the length between the longest and the shortest layer. Contrary to short layers, long ones help create much more dramatic results.

Good for: Enhancing natural waves and adding lots of movement. Or women with thick/or normal hair – and lots of it! Also: if the Duchess of Cambridge is your hair idol. Classic, long layered haircuts are timeless and look ultra elegant when swept up into a ponytail, too.

naturally curly hair with layers
Curly hair with layers. Credit: Indigital

If you want to… Refine and enhance your natural hair’s texture

Ask for: Someone who specialises in natural or curly hair, first and foremost. Once you have the right stylist who knows exactly how to work with your hair, start talking texture and shape. Your layers will be defined by whether you have kinky curls or tight coils – and a good hairdresser will design a style to help refine the shape and enhance that natural texture – but it’s also good to be clear on the circumference (how far you want your hair to come out), too.

Good for: Those with naturally curly hair, coiled hair, or afros.

Ready to try layered haircuts? You go, girl.

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