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9 ways to avoid serious short haircut regret

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Amy Lawrenson
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Whether you’re considering a bob, lob, crop or even a bowl cut (yes, they’re back), going from long to short hair is a drastic move you don’t want to get wrong. Here are your expert-approved guide to making sure you walk out of the salon, free of short haircut regret.

At some point in our lives, we’ve all had serious haircut regret. 

But if you’re anything like me you won’t tell the stylist you hate it, so they can do their utmost to rectify the situation then and there. Oh no, you do want any good confrontation-avoiding Brit does: you white lie your way out of the salon and suppress your feelings all the way home until you can sob in private, wondering whether the person responsible got their qualification from the Edward Scissorhands Academy of Hairdressing. 

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re in the market for a total hair overhaul and want to take your strands from long to short, here are nine hairdresser-approved tips to avoid serious short haircut regret.

1. You have to be in the right state of mind

There are memes on Instagram about not making big decisions during the notoriously tricky and frustrating period that is Mercury Retrograde. Whether astrology is your jam or not, if you’re going through a stressful time like a breakup, for instance, it’s probably not the best moment to book a drastic short haircut.

“I think cutting your hair can be very symbolic of letting go or moving on - after a setback or a relationship ending. Sometimes we need something to help us to usher in a change and a physical transformation is great for this,” says hypnotherapist Chloe Brotheridge, a coach at calmer-you.com and the author of The Anxiety Solution and Brave New Girl. “That being said it’s often inadvisable to make big decisions when you’re in a highly emotional state so make sure there should be a cooling-off period (or at least sleep on it for a few nights) before you have the big chop.”

The team at George Northwood agrees, “As a rule, we try to dissuade major style changes when clients are in an emotional flux as there is a higher risk of potential ‘hair regret’. As a good compromise, we can do some clever layering around the face or perhaps take some modest length out of the overall style. This can deliver a new refreshed look without the drama.”

2. A picture speaks 1,000 words (but be specific)

Every hair article, in the history of hair articles, will tell you to take a photo with you to the hairdresser. But, you need to know what you like about the hairstyle in the picture. “Clients often come in with pictures, which is great! A picture speaks a thousand words but I’ll then drill down into that picture to find out exactly which elements they really like,” says Jordan Garrett, a stylist at Hershesons. “It might only be the texture or the fringe or the colour. When you look at a picture of a haircut you like, ask yourself, ‘what do I actually like about it, specifically?’ and then let your hairdresser know these details in the consultation.”

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3. Compromise is key

My last drastic haircut was in 2001. It was the summer between high school and college and I wanted a new grown-up look. I wanted my hair to look like Meg Ryan in Hanging Up. I already knew pictures spoke a thousand words, so I figured a video would speak a million. And so, I headed to the consultation and instructed the stylist to take home the VHS and watch the film. I’m not crazy, I didn’t expect her to watch the whole thing, I had specified the exact moment in the film where Meg Ryan’s hair looked great. I was not willing to compromise and I got Meg Ryan’s exact haircut — the stylist probably thought if she didn’t deliver I’d come wielding something more deadly than a VHS tape. Trouble was, I had to spend so long styling my hair each day and again at lunchtimes that I grew it out as quickly as I could. 

“If you’re spending more than five minutes fixing your hair in the mornings then something’s wrong, nine times out of ten the haircut needs tweaking. Collaborate and compromise with your hairdresser because they are the expert. Meet in the middle and reach a balance of what feels right for both of you,” says Garrett. 

4. Be you and convey your style

You don’t need to have a longstanding relationship with a hairdresser to go from long to short. But Garrett notes that “it’s really important to dress how you would every day when you come into the salon so the hairdresser can get your vibe.

“You don’t have to come in your Sunday best but your outfit should be a reflection of who you are. I won’t gown a client up until we’ve had a consultation and I can get a feel for what their personality and wardrobe is saying.”

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5. Timing is everything

You may be bored of your hair but the timing might not be right to book that short haircut. Frankie Charteris, stylist at George Northwood, recently dissuaded a client from going for the chop. “I have a lovely client who is getting married in December. Recently she asked me to give her long style a radical cut. Knowing she was interested in having a ‘hair up’ style on her big day, I showed her how much better her wedding look would be with the extra length in her hair. Obviously, short styles can be grown out but with a wedding within six months, the amount of hair growth wouldn’t be sufficient to offset a radical chop. She was really grateful that I dissuaded her from having the dramatic cut. We decided that post-honeymoon we are going to revisit the new style.”

Another issue with timing is that you may actually need to grow your hair to take it short, Bobby Collier, stylist at Larry King explains, “I literally had a client yesterday that wanted to cut her hair from long (with a short fringe) to short and I had to send her away to grow the fringe out a little more so that she could have the short style that she wanted— a longer fringe with it short at the back and sides.”

6. Go short in stages

As exciting as a drastic haircut can be, if you have an inkling you may regret it why not go short in stages? “Hair regret should never be part of your salon experience. I’ve worked with some clients who wanted to go short-short and I’ve taken their hair to just below shoulder level so they can enjoy the new look and feel of working with a shorter style,” says Charteris. “On the next visit, we can take the style shorter. There’s a value in doing the radical cut in stages and you might find that the in-between cut is really just what you needed after all!”

7. Work with your hair and features

“There’s a short, medium and long style that most clients can carry off. It’s all about the right cut that enhances your best features while allowing the natural integrity of your hair to do what it does best,” says hairdresser George Northwood. “By this, I mean working with the hair’s natural movement can bring that gorgeous undone look. Also, finer hair can be managed through clever and uncomplicated styling with the use of good products and tools.”

“Face shape does come into it but ultimately it’s about confidence,” agrees Collier, which brings us onto…

8. Be confident

If you’ve had long hair for a while, taking it short can leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed. Long hair is like a security blanket. “I had a client come in who wanted to go short. I gave her one of the best haircuts, in my opinion, I’ve ever done but when she left she freaked out and returned to the salon,” says Garrett. “Everyone told her that her hair looked amazing and two months later she came back and said it was the best haircut she’d ever had. A drastically short haircut takes time to get used to. It can be a shock to see yourself in the mirror for a bit.”

Tamika Roper, MSc Psychology, who works at Royal Holloway, University of London, Psychology Department and co-authored the paper, says, “The truth is, you never really know how a haircut could turn out. You could in fact turn up with a picture of your favourite actress, ask for the exact style and leave with it looking nothing like the sort. If the person going in is already feeling low, and this happened to them, would this make them happy? What about those with a more optimistic outlook on life. How would they react? Possibly more of a “whatever, it’ll grow out” attitude. Maybe avoiding post-haircut stress actually is about how we’re feeling beforehand, rather than how it makes you feel after.”

So, if you do have a haircut that isn’t what you expected try to think positive. “Own it! People pick up on your vibe,” says Garrett.

9. You can always go back to the salon

“We get so much joy when we make clients happy,” says Garrett. “It’s the worst thing in the world if a client doesn’t like their hair. Live with your haircut for four to five days and if you’re really not happy go back to your hairdresser.”

Still keen on going for the chop? Here’s a whole host of short haircut inspiration.

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Amy Lawrenson

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