Katie is a public interest lawyer living in Chicago with her husband, a basil plant named Boris, and a staggeringly large collection of cookbooks. She has very strong feelings about public schools, letterpress stationary, and beer. (And hair, obviously.)
Hello, I’m Katie, and I’m guilty of hair neglect.
If Whoorl is a hair savant, I was, for many years, a hair dunce. I rocked the frizz. Mousy color. Cowlicks galore. Unfortunate breakage around the face. I didn’t even use conditioner. In short: fluffy-haired disaster.
Here’s the thing: I don’t expend a lot of effort on my hair. I suppose I could get up a little earlier, spend a little more money on products, get a haircut more often than every 4-6 months. But…I don’t. I like my hair to look not horrible, but if it’s going to take a lot of time/money/effort, it’s just not going to happen.
The good news is this: after 30 years on this planet, I have figured out several tricks to making your hair look not horrible without a lot of time/money/effort. And now, I am here guest editing at Hair Thursday to share the joys of low-maintenance hair with you.
First, I should probably share my philosophy of what it means to be “low-maintenance”. For me, a low maintenance hairstyle has three main characteristics:
(1) it is easily and relatively quickly achieved in the morning;
(2) it does not require frequent, expensive salon visits; and
(3) it does not require a lot of pricey products.
It’s important to note that for me, low maintenance does NOT mean “wash and wear.” If you are one of those people who can look presentable with wash and wear hair, that must be very nice for you. I don’t want to hear about it. I’ve done a lot of wash and wear in my day, people, and it is not pretty (see “fluffy-haired disaster,” above.)
All right, now that we’re acquainted, time for Katie’s Low Maintenance Hair Lesson #1: Get thee a stylist you like and trust, and get thee the proper cut.
(a) Get thee a stylist you like and trust
Why is it so important to find a stylist? After all, you’re low maintenance! You’re not the prissy type who has her beauty professionals on speed dial! Trust me, it took me a long time to learn this one, and it is important. If you’re only going for a cut 3-4 times a year, the person cutting your hair has to rock. When you find the haircut that works, you do NOT want to try to explain it from scratch to whatever random 20 year old happens to be manning the hair chair the next time you go in for a cut. Cultivate a relationship with someone who actually LISTENS to you, and who can remember what she did last time, so she can replicate it.
(Note: In your quest to find the perfect stylist, you do not necessarily want to go to the trendiest or fanciest salon in your ‘hood. Why? Because their ideal clients are people who get highlights, and glossing treatments, and haircuts named after celebrities. None of these things are low maintenance.)
(b) Get thee the proper cut.
I know, I know, easy for me to say. This will depend on your hair type, thickness, preferred length range, and tendency to pouf. But here are some general hints:
- Longer is easier. Short sassy cuts can be really fun and pretty, but short cut = more frequent trips to the salon for upkeep. If you lack the time or inclination to get to the salon regularly, a cut that is shoulder-length or longer will serve you well. Plus, with longer hair you always have the ponytail option.
- Choose long layers. Long layers will give you a cut with nice movement and shape, and (key point, this) are very forgiving as they grow out. An all-one-length cut can start to look straggly and uneven after only a few weeks. With some well-snipped long layers you can go months between haircuts. Beware, however, layers that are too short or too thin- if your hair is fine, the longest layer can start to look a little wispy and sad, and if you have any wave in your hair things can get very poufy. Here is a helpful illustration:
low maintenance layers:
Mark Von Holden/WireImage.com
decidedly NOT low maintenance layers:
- Consider the cowlicks. Know your cowlicks, and do not choose a hairstyle that is going to require you to constantly battle against the way your hair wants to grow.
- Embrace side bangs. (Even if you have a cowlick in the front of your head.) Look at me, contradicting myself! The one place where I think it’s worth it to break the “don’t fight the cowlick” rule is with side bangs. I have a very large, frightening cowlick in the front of my head (plus a widow’s peak! Bonus!) but I have happily sported side bangs for over 5 years now. Side bangs mask a lot of flaws, particularly breakage/frizziness around the face. Also, if you ever wear a ponytail, side bangs make things look a lot more polished. Generally speaking, the addition of some side bangs makes you look like you have a “hairstyle” as opposed to “a bunch of strands growing out of my head with no obvious plan or organizing principle”.
There! That’s a start. Tune in for future adventures in Achieving Low Maintenance Hair, including color tips, product recommendations, how to stay low maintenance while traveling, and detailed instructions for low maintenance special occasion hair.