Here we are in 2021, and although it has already been as full of unexpected twists and turns as its predecessor, we're still optimistically planning to make the most of this year. We've already (albeit tentatively) started mentally assembling fancy outfits for backdated weddings and have even been predicting the nail colors, new boot styles, and jeans types that will be big news over the next few months. But with so much uncertainty still swirling around, there's one question that lingers at the back of our minds: What will the defining hair trends of 2021 actually be? Admittedly, they don't have much to live up to.
Back in March last year, when hairdressers across the globe were forced to close their doors, no one could foresee the impact it would have on our tresses. Those who couldn't bear the thought of grown-out roots had little option but to reacquaint themselves with at-home box dye, while others with shorter hair or fringes had to become nimble with a pair of hairdressing scissors pretty quickly.
Some of you may have found this liberating and have since adopted low-maintenance routines, but for others, time spent away from the hairdresser's chair has only reaffirmed their love of the salon. What we want to know is, Where does that leave us and any potential hairstyle trends in 2021? Will we start to favor understated 'dos over styles that require upkeep every eight weeks, or is "more is more" going to be the mantra for any hair devotee? We decided to go right to the source to find out, asking top hairstylists for their input. Scroll below to find out what they think will be the biggest low-maintenance hair trends in 2021.
1. SOFT BALAYAGE
"When it comes to color, you don't want something that requires too much precision," reveals hairstylist to the stars George Northwood. "Something that has become a bit of a signature of ours is a softer, natural balayage. With the disturbance of COVID and salons shutting for months on end, people are stepping away from that fresh, highlighted look that is quite high-maintenance and is tricky to maintain well at home without your colorist."
"Over the first lockdown, a lot of my clients saw their natural color growing through and have actually gotten used to it," Northwood continues. "So we are now seeing a lot more clients who are now experimenting with keeping their hair closer to their natural color, which is far more easily managed and can see you through those long gaps between appointments, which is a smart move in these times of uncertainty."
Another top hairdresser who shares this sentiment is the authority on hair color, Rita Hazan. "I believe that people will start to embrace low-maintenance color in 2021," she explains. "After having gone so long without a salon visit during lockdown, this is bound to happen. Single-process color or covering grey roots are simpler to do at home, even with a home kit. Just find a color that is closest to what you have. Like soft balayage, subtle highlights are also low-maintenance and can grow out nicely, even with roots, because there isn't too much of a contrast.”
Ensure your balayage looks healthy and luscious by incorporating a shine spray into your haircare routine.
2. SHORT, TAPERED CUTS
"After surviving one lockdown, I'm finding many of my clients are looking to hone their grown-out styles and are instead looking for short, tapered cuts, either in their natural form or relaxed," says Nicole Pembrook, owner of International Beauty Expert, who you may know from Instagram as the Healthy Hair Doctor. "These looks are timeless, chic, and easy to style. Opt for length at the crown, keeping things shorter at the sides."
Short hairstyles always require nourishment that won't weigh your strands down—cue this oil-infused conditioner, which works wonders on every hair type.
“I’m starting to see a lot of women (and men) learning to embrace the grey and steering away from drastic changes," reveals Hazan. "I would say that it's just as important to look after the quality of silver hair. You need to try and remove any yellow or orange tones that can find their way in when growing out color. Using a gloss between washing and conditioning is perfect for this."
Whether your hair is naturally grey or dyed, a purple shampoo is essential for eliminating the brassiness commonly associated with lighter locks.
4. CHOPPY LOBS & BOBS
“As we are currently in this cycle of going in and out of lockdown, I think more people will be looking for an easy-to-maintain style," says Northwood. "A lot of our clients have been requesting the effortless, undone bob, which is one of my signature styles that originated from working with Alexa Chung. I think that this will continue to be popular going into 2021, as it’s quite a relaxed, messy style, meaning that when it grows out it will still look effortlessly chic."
"Shoulder-length bobs will be popular: the shag, the blunt textured bob, the cheekbone-skimming bob," confirms Rosslyn Orr, salon director and head technician at Charlie Miller South St Andrew Street. "Almost all of my clients are asking me about low-maintenance, choppy, and unstructured styles."
When it comes to short, choppy haircuts, add volume with a texture spray to further enhance your layers.
Red was one of 2020's breakout color trends, and it's a look that Natalie Cole, salon director and head technician at Charlie Miller Fredrick Street, predicts is set to continue under a more muted guise. "Coppers will be chestnut warm and more muted. As life becomes more subdued, there will be a move towards a more natural look that doesn't require a visit to the salon every few weeks. That's something all my clients want—colors with longer lifespans."
"For me, it's all about that subtle hint of colour," affirms Pembrook. "This shade looks great on any hairstyle."
Much like silver hair, red hair should be washed with a red hair–specific shampoo to ensure your color stays richer for longer.
6. LONG LAYERS
Bobs and lobs might be proving popular, but long hair is arguably less demanding. "I think it's a good time to reflect and be inspired by what worked and looked effortless in the past," suggests Nicholas Hardwick, principal stylist at Josh Wood Colour. "’70s and ’80s hair—don’t run away just yet; I’m not talking frizzy perms—like long layered, wavy cuts is a look that stands the test of time. Layers are key, as you won't have to come into the salon all that often to get them freshened up. Blunt, one-length styles require a bit more maintenance, so I'd advise going messier with the finish."
Dry and split ends are always more noticeable on long hair, so keep them in check with this cult hair mask.
"Wearing masks is going to continue to be non-negotiable, and many of my regular clients have been having fringes cut in to complement them," says Amber Swift, salon director, and head technician at Charlie Miller Holy Corner. "Generally easier to maintain in the colder months, as heat can often present styling problems, fringes help to frame and define the face, so I see the logic in wanting one to complement your mask. I'd recommend going for a choppier, more relaxed cut that's easier to replicate should a more serious lockdown be put in place again."
Keep your fringe looking fresh and full between washes with a spritz of dry shampoo—all of my friends with them recommend this one from Living Proof.