We’ve got choices to make every day. Stay in bed a little longer or wake up early enough to eat breakfast at home? Save your money to get an investment piece-y purse or use it on five knockoffs? Watch another episode of "RuPaul’s Drag Race" or start working on your article? (Just me?)
Then there are the decisions you make about your hair. If you don’t have enough info to make the right choice, it can lead to disappointment in the moment of the big reveal or frustration down the line when your hair just isn’t acting the way you want it to on a daily basis.
Here are a few situations that I, as a hairstylist, come across all the time, and you can use this as a jumping-off point to make your life a lot easier and keep your hair looking its best.
Length vs. Health
One thing that comes up a lot is the issue of keeping length. There are plenty of women with long hair coming in for trims who tell me they want to keep growing it out and to take just a little off the ends to keep them healthy; then they spread their forefinger and thumb an inch apart at the bottom of their hair when I can see that their split ends extend a few inches north.
In these situations, I tell clients that I’m going to show them where their length would fall if I were allowed to cut off all of their split ends and damage, leaving them with healthy, strong ends, and that they might be freaked out by what I show them, but they can tell me to move my fingers down from there to a length where they’ll be comfortable. The choice here is between keeping their hair as long as they want but still having some damage, or having healthier hair that is shorter than they originally envisioned.
Once they have all the information, most women end up deciding to cut off at least a little bit more than they came in wanting to and leaving with much healthier hair. Plus, instead of their hair breaking off at the ends even as it grows from the scalp, their hair will be healthy enough to make some progress.
High-Maintenance vs. Low-Maintenance
Another situation that comes up with some regularity is people wanting their hair to have a look that takes some effort -- whether that's having volume, having smoother waves than they naturally do, or having less frizz -- but not wanting to put in the effort necessary to make that happen. There are, of course, alien women who have effortlessly beautiful hair that works however they want to wear it, and I of course admire and hate them. But most of us mere mortals have to put in at least a little elbow grease if we want our hair to look a certain way.
This is another choice: If you want a certain style that your hair is not naturally inclined to fall into on its own, you can give it a hand in the form of products or perhaps certain heat-styling techniques and achieve that hair. Or you are totally allowed to weigh your options and decide that you dislike spending time doing your hair more than you like having it look a certain way, and let it do its natural thing.
There is also a middle ground here. You can pull off “cheats” when you feel like it, like only putting rollers at your part for a little volume without giving yourself a full blowout (I give some more blowout tips with a weirdly flat-energy video here) or occasionally using an iron just around your face to smooth the waves there. You don’t have to be fully high-maintenance or fully low, and knowing there are choices to be made instead of waffling and beating yourself up for your indecision can make life a little easier.
Speaking of easier, I have also been doling out a lot of warm weather-specific “pick a priority” advice lately. I love the laid-back vibe of summer, but I also approach it with an attitude like I’m going into battle. I am all about the utility of hair during this time of year and trying to make everyone’s life as easy and sweat-tolerant as possible. To this end, I’ve already done some priority picking of my own.
I’m a bangs enthusiast. I haven’t seen my forehead head-on (har) in like 10 years. But in preparation for the gauntlet we call summer, I started growing out my bangs a few months ago, and it’s going... OK. I miss them. But I know I’m going to be grateful for the length and ability to clip them to the side without teeny bits popping out back out and sticking to my forehead, as opposed to the drippy sweat curtains that have flopped down in years past.
The positive side is that I just ordered these awesome eyeball bobby pins from the Etsy shop Buried Diamond with which to stick them away.
A piece of my own advice that I’m not exactly following, and kind of dreading the consequences of, is avoiding having hair at a length in no man’s land as far as pulling it up and away is concerned. The danger zone can be anywhere below your chin but above your shoulders -- hair that's just long enough to get on your neck and annoy you, but not long enough to fully pull into a ponytail, pigtails, or fancy braid-y updo. I’m stuck in hot-hair limbo because I’m growing my hair out, and this is where it happens to be right now.
But for clients not in this situation who just want a cute, short cut, I encourage them to think about how they might feel when they’re in the thick of summer and there are tendrils of hair sweat-stuck to their neck that are not quite long enough to get into a ponytail without popping back out.
This is all just food for thought for you when you’re at home, cruising Pinterest and thinking about what you might like to do with your hair next. You can choose your own adventure! But please don’t drive yourself nuts trying to figure out what’s best for your hair all on your own. A little objectivity goes a long way, and ideally your hairstylist, as a professional with technical knowledge and understanding, should be letting you know if something’s gotta give when it comes to changing your hair in any way.
There may be compromises to be made, but we’re grownups. We can do this. Now excuse me -- I have to go eat grapes for dinner and watch "Untucked" instead of doing the dishes.