What are the Most Popular Hairstyles in America Right Now? ATH Investigates

Our research team set out to see which looks reigned supreme, state by state.

When it comes to hairstyles, we have red carpets, awards ceremonies, celebrities, and even social media (and All Things Hair, of course!) to provide plenty of inspiration for stylish, covetable looks. But what do women in the US prefer when it comes to their day-to-day ‘dos these days? We set out to investigate the most popular US hairstyles for 2020, and the results are super interesting! Hover over and click each state on the map below to see which looks reigned supreme:

Washington

Perm

Oregon

Perm

Idaho

Perm

Montana

Perm

New Mexico

Perm

Colorado

Perm

California

Perm

Wyoming

Perm

Utah

Perm

Arizona

Perm

Nevada

Perm

Maine

Balayage

Vermont

Perm

New Hampshire

Balayage

Massachusetts

Balayage

Conneticut

Perm

Rhode Island

Perm

Texas

Perm

Oklahoma

Perm

Kansas

Perm

Nebraska

Perm

South Dakota

Perm

North Dakota

Balayage

Louisiana

Box Braids

Arkansas

Box Braids

Missouri

Perm

Minnesota

Perm

Iowa

Perm

Wisconsin

Perm

Tennessee

Box Braids

North Carolina

Box Braids

Illinois

Perm

Indiana

Perm

Kentucky

Perm

Virginia

Perm

Michigan

Perm

Florida

Perm

Mississippi

Box Braids

Alabama

Box Braids

Georgia

Box Braids

South Carolina

Box Braids

New York

Box Braids

Pennsylvania

Perm

Ohio

Perm

New Jersey

Box Braids

Delaware

Box Braids

West Virginia

Perm

Maryland

Box Braids

Alaska

Perm

Hawaii

Perm

Alabama Georgia Florida South Carolina North Carolina Virginia West Virginia Kentucky Tennessee Mississippi Louisiana Texas New Mexico Arizona California Nevada Utah Colorado Kansas Oklahoma Arkansas Missouri Illinois Indiana Ohio Michigan Wisconsin Minnesota Iowa Nebraska South Dakota North Dakota Montana Wyoming Idaho Oregon Washington Maryland Delaware Pennsylvania New York New Jersey Conneticut Rhode Island Massachusetts Vermont Maine New Hampshire Alaska Hawaii

The result of the research* our team conducted is a map showing state-by-state preferences for hairstyles, ranging from box braids to balayage. Before we dive into the detail of these preferred looks by state, let’s start by explaining the top three styles that came up in our research:

most popular hairstyles box braids duo
Box braids are extremely versatile, serving as a basis for a myriad of styles, not to mention protective. Photo credit: indigitalimages.com

Box braids are created by dividing the hair into square-shaped sections before braiding. They may or may not include synthetic hair or extensions in the braids, and can last anywhere from around six to eight weeks. Box braids are also a hairstyle with a rich history and heritage in Black culture and are by far the oldest of the three hairstyles that came up in our research: They date back to over 3,000 years to the women of Namibia and the Nile Valley.

most popular hairstyles box braids 1
Box braids is a hairstyle intertwined deeply in Black culture and heritage.

The perm, short for ‘permanent wave,’ is a way of curling the hair using a chemical treatment. The curls last for several months, though they may gradually lose tightness over that time. Perms have been around for nearly 150 years since the first thermal perm was developed in 1872, using specially manufactured tongs. However, it wasn’t until the late 1930s that a method of perming hair without using machines or heat was invented.

most popular hairstyles perm
A body wave perm is characterized by a looser curl, making it very popular amongst those who want their hair infused with just a bit more volume and texture.

Balayage is a coloring technique that uses a brush to hand-paint or freehand the application of dye onto the hair—balayage actually comes from a French term that means “sweeping”—creating a highlighted effect. The results are hair that has a subtle, graduating lightness, usually from darker roots to lighter mid-lengths and ends. It’s a process that uses permanent color and as such, lasts until the hair grows out, with the advantage that regrowth lines tend to be less noticeable than with “full head,” a.k.a. global, color treatments.

most popular hairstyles balayage
Balayage is characterized by a more natural “handpainted” set of highlights. Photo credit: Craig Alexander

Most Popular Hairstyles in America: Pretty Perms Win the Day

So, do women in the US prefer braids, curls, or color for their everyday looks?

By far, the most popular hairstyle in the country is the perm. Our research found* that a total of 33 states listed this as their most popular hairstyle. Perms are the hairstyle/hair process of choice across the entire West Coast—in fact, everywhere from Texas to Oklahoma to Kansas to California, along with both Alaska and Hawaii. They’re also the most popular style in almost all of the northern states, stretching from Washington and Oregon in the west to Pennsylvania and Virginia in the east.

most popular hairstyles tight perm
Tight perms, once a staple in the ’80s, have taken on a more wearable texture via the use of less product, resulting in a more touchable softness and volume.

The notable exception here is North Dakota, where balayage wins out as the state’s most popular hairstyle.

Proper styling for a perm is also key to preserving the look and protecting strands from frizz. You can’t go wrong with a curl-centric mousse, the classic styler of choice for those with perms. And with good reason: It defines while softly hydrating strands, keeping frizz at bay while ensuring a shiny ringlet. We love the non-crunchy control, definition, and anti-frizz softness we get from Suave Professionals Captivating Curls Mousse Cream.

Let’s Look at Balayage

Balayage is the newest of our hair trends, having become popular in the US in the 1990s, though the technique was first used in Paris as far back as the 1970s. What began in the US with a few early-adopter celebrities has been embraced by the wider population—though by some states more than others, as our research reveals.

Four states have balayage as their most popular hairstyle: the cluster of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts in the east, plus North Dakota. Salons in these states are abuzz with demand for this wonderfully natural-looking coloring technique.

most popular hairstyles balayage brunette
Balayage’s bespoke technique makes it a wildly democratic process, ensuring results are tailor-fit to the wearer. Photo credit: Dvora

Given that balayage is still increasing in popularity, this is a trend we’re going to keep a close eye on over the years ahead, to see if more states embrace it as wholeheartedly as the above-named four.

Ed’s tip: A color-safe system, like TRESemmé Botanique Color Vibrance & Shine Shampoo and Color Vibrance & Shine Conditioner, helps keep that dreaded brassiness at bay and keep your balayage highlights looking salon-fresh.

The Enduring Appeal of Box Braids

When it comes to the most popular hairstyles in the US, box braids nonetheless put in a good show: They come out as the most popular style in a total of 12 states, running from Louisiana and Arkansas up to much of the eastern seaboard. Florida stands out as a notable exception, with its residents preferring perms.

most popular hairstyles box braids half-updo
The length and color of box braids can also vary across the board, adding to their versatility.

Rhode Island and Connecticut residents also prefer curls to box braids. In fact, this eastern tip of the country is the most diverse of any location when it comes to favorite styles. Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts all prefer balayage, while Vermont residents come out in support of curls. But from New York and New Jersey downwards, the coastal and southern states (with the exception of Virginia and Florida) prefer box braids over curls and color.

We’d also love to make a case for ensuring you have the right products to care for your box braids. We love having a scalp treatment, like Nexxus Scalp Inergy Paraben Free Leave-In Conditioner on hand, to help soothe the scalp (and your braids!) in the months your hair is sporting this protective style as it can get weighty, especially if worn in a longer length.

Hairstyle Expenditure

All three of the hairstyles we’ve looked at—box braids, perms, and balayage— are lengthy processes in their own right. It seems that women in the US are certainly prepared to put time into having their hair styled. It’s one of many reasons that there are so many hair salons across the country, too: IBISWorld reports that there are 967,013 hair salon businesses in the US in 2020. Let’s have that sink in: That equates to one salon per 339 people!

But it’s not just the salons benefitting: Figures presented by Statista show that US consumers spent an average of $78.7 each on hair care products alone in 2019. From cleansing and conditioning products to those designed to color, shape, and style, women in the US are doing all they can to keep their tresses looking their best.

So, which style should you go for?

When it comes to your own personal style, there are plenty of factors to consider, with the condition of your hair being top on the list. If your hair needs protecting and nurturing, box braids, being a beloved protective style especially within the natural hair community, could well be the best option. If you’re looking for a texture change, like from straight to wavy or curly, and your locks are hardy or healthy enough, then they should be fit to stand up to the chemicals used during the perming process.

You’ll also need to consider everything from upkeep (time, effort, cost) to the shape of your face and even your personal style, as all of this, of course, will also have a bearing on which hairstyle you opt for and how well it will suit you.

Of course, if following local trends is your main driver, then our map of the most popular hairstyles in the US should serve to let you know which style is hottest and trendiest in that area. If you live in the northern or western states, it’s likely to be a perm, while southern and eastern residents are more likely to be found wearing box braids. Or perhaps your state is one of those early adopters where balayage is the most popular style? Whichever it is, stick with a regular routine that cares for your hair and you should be able to pull off any style of your choice, whether they be any of these top three or something else entirely! Have fun!

*data via SEMRush and Google Trends

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