Who's stoked to finally be free of the dumpster fire that was 2020? Okay, that was harsh, but let's make this a safe space to admit that after a long, hard year of unprecedented times and one sucky circumstance after another, it feels good to have arrived at what feels like a fresh start. After such a wild 365 days, I have no doubt that our beauty choices will soon begin to exhibit our collective desire to shake off any residual bad vibes and adopt a brighter outlook, especially where our hair is concerned.
Last year's hair trends started out on one road but were quickly rerouted amid the mid-year lockdown that saw the entire populace going for extended periods between salon visits. What we thought would be a year of chic bobs, wispy bangs, and bold colors quickly descended into an era of scraggly lengths and more box dye than we care to admit. Super yikes.
It wasn't all bad, though, because caring for our own hair without the help of our trusted professionals inspired a lot of natural-texture acceptance and more low-maintenance routines in general. But as we transition into 2021, there's a whole lot more on the hair menu. To get the tea on the trends poised to dominate the year ahead, we went straight to the source to find out which looks top celebrity hairstylists expect to see most. Keep scrolling to find out the 10 biggest hair trends they're predicting will be huge in 2021.
Meet the Experts
1. '90s Revival
Of all the trends bubbling up in 2021, a fair number of them are straight out of the '90s. Celebrity hairstylist Hos Hounkpatin calls out this shift, which could very well be some sort of trauma response manifested in a longing for simpler times. Whatever the impetus, expect to see nostalgic looks reminiscent of the styles once worn on red carpets by Gwyneth Paltrow and Brandy or on-screen by Cher Horowitz. Think smooth tresses with flipped ends, slicked-back single braids à la Sade, and the infamous two-piece antennae.
2. Loose Ends
"Ends have always been a must-tuck situation when it comes to hair up, but pieces have been falling out, and we love that," says celebrity hairstylist Matthew Collins. "Yes, it's the easy way out, but it gives the look a beautiful undone and relaxed feel, more dimension, and can even be more severe and become an accent piece." Instead of the super-spiky leave-out you might remember from the '90s, Collins envisions these darting pieces to be just a tad more relaxed.
"Updos have been so symmetrical and perfect for too long," the stylist adds. To get the look, Collins suggests twisting small pieces of your ponytail and pinning them into the base, leaving the ends free. To make sure the style looks intentional and not too sloppy, he suggests placing the loose ends right where you want them and then setting them into place with a strong yet workable spray. He loves this one from L'Oréal Professionnel. Shay Mitchell's half-up style with loose ends protruding from the top and those antennae is the perfect combination of so many elements of the '90s trend wrapped into one look.
3. Chunky Highlights
The '90s can keep the stark streaks that afflicted the tresses of countless cool girls, but retro face-framing bolts of color, as demonstrated here by Kylie Jenner, appear to be coming with us into 2021. Hairstylists agree that after too many months of very few opportunities to mix it up with our hair, some bold statement looks will take hold as we step out into our new normal. Buckle up.
Kehlani has never been afraid to take chances when it comes to color. From vibrant red to jet-black, she's done it all. Though chunky highlights are somewhat tame for her color sensibilities, we love to see her at the forefront of yet another color trend.
4. French Fringe
Classic French hairstyles always end up on our vision boards, and these chic fringes are next up for 2021. "Almost every woman debates a fringe constantly, but fringe regret is a real thing," says Collins. "Going into the winter season, the sweaty forehead fear is less, and hats can be worn to hide a nightmare. So many women will be gaining the confidence to just go for it and try it out." These versatile eyebrow grazers can be modified to suit any number of hair textures, face shapes, and maintenance needs, making them the perfect trend to follow us into a year that is sure to present nuance at every turn.
To control any cowlicks on the hairline, Collins recommends spritzing a holding spray at the roots of your fringe and immediately moving a brush through them left to right until the spray has dried. If further smoothing is needed, he says a high-powered dryer like the Dyson Supersonic will do the trick.
This heavy fringe is just divine.
5. More Curtain Bangs (of Course)
As a surprise to absolutely no one, curtain bangs will claim a top spot again this year. Hounkpatin says a lot of people are still asking for them. According to the pro, this is the low-maintenance answer to the aforementioned fringe, as the style offers that effortlessly cool touch with much less commitment. Since they're not so choppy, they can blend a bit more seamlessly into your haircut as they grow out. Hounkpatin does mention that those with straight to moderately wavy hair will have the easiest time styling them into that signature curtain shape, though.
A hit of dry shampoo can easily refresh curtain bangs if they're looking a little too flat due to excess oil at the roots. This plant-based option is loaded with follicle-stimulating ingredients to keep hair healthy and thriving.
6. Toussled Texture
The unexpected time at home last year saw loads of people finally taking the time to get better acquainted with their natural hair patterns, and Hounkpatin says we'll see the fruits of that labor a lot this year. "On the last few runways, we saw longer hair with more texture to it. Since everybody was into the short bob and lob last season, now they may want to let it grow because you can be more diverse with longer lengths." He foresees effortless air-dried styles that highlight all sorts of textures taking center stage.
For frizz-free styling of curly and coily textures, sealing the cuticles with a quality oil is key. Hounkpatin is a huge fan of Tracee Ellis Ross's Pattern Beauty.
There's nothing like a protective style that safeguards delicate strands but also keeps tons of texture in the mix at the same time.
7. Extra-Undone Waves
If "I woke up like this" was a hair trend, it would be this one. Every year, we see some iteration of beach waves bubble up, but in 2021, they'll be extra casual. It's a look that exudes the laid-back vibe of second-day hair while still keeping things totally cool and put-together. As Collins explains it, this look is a winner because it can serve as a stand-alone style or as the foundation for a swept-up bun or updo. Nothing better than a style that does it all.
If you're tempted to reach for a curling wand to get this look, think again. According to Collins, this is a job for your handy flat iron. He prefers the Dyson Corrale because of its flexible plates that help to avoid dents.
8. Low-Mainenance Haircuts
If we learned anything in 2020, it's that being stuck in quarantine with a finicky haircut and no recourse for maintaining it is the absolute pits. Instead, Hounkpatin foresees women taking the path of least resistance when it comes to cuts, at least for a while. "If you want your hair to look effortless, you need to have a base. To me, that means a good haircut," he says. "When you have a beautifully shaped haircut that frames your face, honestly, you don’t need to do anything more no matter what texture you have." Yes, please.
9. Camouflaging Accessories
In the event that you do find yourself dealing with an awkward cut or color grow-out, there are tons of trending hair accessories that will simply look like a fashion statement and not like a last-ditch effort to conceal foot-long roots. From the headscarves popping off on the cottagecore scene to '90s-inspired claw clips and more, there's a chic solution for everyone.
Dialed-back hair colors that more closely resemble (or exactly match) natural ones aren't as alluring as, say, an icy platinum dye job, but they're a safe bet during times like these when the privilege of visiting salons can be revoked at the drop of a hat. We've noticed Mrs. Bieber strategically going darker and more natural with her color recently, and we totally understand the appeal of a color that can last for an extended period without glaring roots creeping through. There are endless possibilities for placing highlights so they have better staying power, too.