I had to do it for Prince.
I’d like to think that, in most regards, I take pretty good care of my hair. I wash it gently and infrequently, usually air dry, and am meticulous about using the appropriate conditioner and products. In one way, though, I fail miserably: I only get my hair cut, at most, twice a year.
I think for most women the oft-touted notion that we should get our hair trimmed once every six weeks is a stretch, but what about once every two months? Three? Four? Most of the time, I’m pretty okay with how my hair looks, and I don’t do anything really damaging to it. Not to mention that most of the time, a good haircut is incredibly expensive. It makes more sense to me to pay for a great cut infrequently, as opposed to shelling out for a cheaper cut more regularly.
All of which has led me to the point where--and I cringe to even admit this-- the last time I had a haircut was in August. As in, 10 months ago. Needless to say, things were getting out of control. On top of that, I moved to New York City in March and I hadn’t the slightest idea where to go.
When Anne-Marie introduced me to Shaun Cottle at Seagull Salon (co-owned by Le Tigre's Johanna Fateman), I had the first-stylist nerves familiar to many of us. Would he get me? Or my hair? And would he berate me for my horrific haircut schedule?
I needn’t have worried. Shaun was super-cool, friendly, and entirely accepting of my wayward habits. I’m terrible at talking to stylists, but he listened to my poorly articulated preferences (still in the longish length range, with some layers, and avoiding my hair’s frizzy and puffy tendencies) and translated it into a great cut.
We spoke at length about how to tailor a haircut and care regimen to someone who doesn’t want to cut their hair more than biannually, and I walked out confident that this cut would last me the rest of the year. Here’s what Shaun said to consider if you’re looking for a cut that will last you several months.
Tip 1: Don’t go too short
Short cuts are awesome, but if you’re looking for something that will grow out well for months, you’re better off with a cut that’s collarbone length or longer. Anything higher than that will need more regular maintenance to keep its shape.
Tip 2: Opt for layers, not geometric cuts
Any style that’s geometric is, by definition, going to need more upkeep. This is especially true for cuts that work against your hair's natural growth tendencies, like an angular bob that’s shorter in the back than the front.
Instead, if you’re going for optimal grow-out ease, ask for layers. Shaun cut my hair in long layers that were approximately the same length as the distance from the base of my skull to the top of my head; in other words, about the natural variance the hair would show if it grew out from a completely shaved head. This is probably the most natural layering pattern for the hair, and the most easily grown out.
Tip 3: Consider texturizing
My hair is incredibly thick, prone to frizz, and with unrefined, coarse curls. To help eliminate the triangular puff effect, Shaun texturized the hair at the back of my head. Texturizing removes bulk without causing the sudden drop off in weight and thickness that thinning does.
It left my hair feeling consistent in terms of weight and smooth. Shaun referred to his specific process as “creative bulk redistribution,” and as I am a sucker for anything labeled “creative,” I was easy to talk into it. Because it’s more gradual and better blended than thinning, it grows out incredibly well.
Tip 4: Condition
It's obvious, but: The less you heat style and disturb your hair, the longer it will remain free from split ends and other signs that it needs a cut. Aside from minimizing styling damage--and using appropriate protective products when heat styling--regular deep conditioning is a rare haircutter’s best friend.
Using a deep conditioning mask once a week or so-- Shaun highly recommended Kevin Murphy’s Born Again and Young Again Masques--can help fortify your strands.
If you’re more of a DIY hair care fan, oil is your friend here. Any oil intended for skincare (apricot, almond, jojoba, argan, etc.) will do, as will kitchen oils like olive or coconut. Just slather some oil on your ends before you shower, and let it sit for a few minutes before shampooing it out.
(If my hair feels exceptionally dry or thirsty, I’ll actually sometimes put oil in a glass dish and pop it in the microwave for a few seconds--until it’s warm, not too hot--and give myself my very own DIY hot-oil treatment.)
Shaun used a combo Kevin Murphy Young Again Infused Treatment Oil and Davines Relaxing Moisturizing Fluid (which, seriously, smelled amazing) to give me some leave-in moisture. But whatever products you pick, watch out for those that contain a lot of alcohol, which can accelerate the rate at which your ends are crisped.
Tip 5: Cut it yourself--carefully
It was with the utmost reluctance that I broached the topic of trimming one’s hair at home with Shaun, as I was expecting him to dismiss it immediately. Surprisingly, though, he didn’t disagree with a little at-home trim as a last resort, as long as it was done as cautiously as possible.
If you’re going to trim your ends at home, you’re probably best off using the twisting method. Grab a smallish chunk of hair, twist it in one direction until it’s coiled, then run the fingers of your other hand up and down the twist. You’ll dislodge frayed ends from the twist, and are safe to snip them off using a pair of very sharp scissors.
The key to a successful at-home trim is to cut as little as possible. Most important, do not, ever, cut a chunk horizontally. This will disrupt whatever layers or texture have been put into the cut and fixing it will land you back in a salon.
Bonus Tip: Cut it--in a salon
Shaun mentioned something to me that I’d never considered: Going into a salon and requesting a quick trim or relayering of the front of the hair. Most salons offer complimentary or reduced-rate bang trims, and most clients know to ask for that if their cut includes bangs. Similarly, Shaun suggested asking your stylist if he or she would be willing, for a small fee, to trim the equivalent front bits of hair and re-incorporate the new growth into the layers. (It’s a service you’d want to ask your stylist about at the time of the initial cut, but most stylists would likely be amenable to the idea.)
In my case, Shaun said he could trim what goes for bangs in my hair and run his scissors down the front line of my hair, trimming and relayering it, in about five minutes. Shaun thought my haircut would last me up to six months, but it’d get a great boost from coming in at around the three-month mark for a quick trim in front.
In the end, I walked out feeling confident that my cut would last a long time, as well as more relaxed about my absurdly rare haircut tendencies. Shaun managed to absolve me of my self-consciousness around it, and tailored a great cut for me to boot. I’ll definitely be back, and it might even be before the year is out.
What's the longest you've ever gone without a salon haircut? Any of you exclusively cut it yourself at home?