Every hair type has its own pros and cons, so to speak. For me, I have thin(ish), stick-straight hair that can never hold a curl or style at all. While I do find it nice that it's pretty low-maintenance (and I'm pretty lazy about getting experimental with my styling), I do wish for thicker, voluminous hair at times. And I don't even know why I go through the trouble of curling my hair at all since, by the end of the night, I'm always back to straight square one.
On the other hand, my thick-haired friends talk about the fact that it can take forever for their hair to dry, that their hair can feel heavy and a bit unruly at times. They always say they need an extra amount of product. I have a couple of friends who are a bit wary of short hair because, instead of a sleek cut, it could end up looking like a bushy style that resembles the shape of a mushroom.
But the last part doesn't have to be true at all. You can have a short cut if you've got thick hair. It's in the styling details. So for my thick-haired friends (and those of you out there who are reading this), I asked hairstylists for their best tips.
What to Keep in Mind If You Have Thick Hair
When it comes to styling or cutting thick hair (whether short or long), layers and texture are so important. "Often, clients complain about having hair that is too heavy or lacks style because of the density," says Mark DeBolt, co-owner of Mark Ryan Salon. "Adding texture and removing weight is a great way to have the hair move more gently and creates a softer feminine silhouette."
Amanda Lee, a Mane Addicts stylist, says that long, thick hair with lots of layers and face-framing pieces is a great option. But for shorter hair, she focuses on internal layers: "I tend to avoid tons of external layers and focus on layers internally to remove weight while also giving the hair a lot of movement."
When deciding on a hairstyle, you'll also want to consider time and maintenance. How long will it take to style your hair? Does it have to be styled every day? "These are not negatives. I know a lot of my clients enjoy getting ready and styling their hair in the mornings, yet for others, it can be a real chore," says Philip Downing, TIGI creative & education director. "Condition is also very important. If you have a lot of hair, the better condition it's in will only serve you well when it comes to styling your hair. Just like skincare, haircare is hugely important and should be a daily routine… especially if the hair has length and/or color. Your expensive color will only thrive with longevity the more it's taken care of."
Best Short Hairstyles for Thick Hair
Photo:Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Yes, the mullet. It's back! "The hot haircut of the moment that's short is the mullet," explains celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson. "I've been a hairdresser for a long time, and I would say I'm a product of the '80s, and the '80s mullet is different than what it is now. There's a lot of texture in the mullet now. There is a lot of movement. There are different products. It's the same kind of concept, but the finish of it is different."
"There are so many different variations of the mullet, and it's all about the shape. It can be really long in the back and short at the top of the front hairline. It can be extremely short on the sides and mid-length in the back. It really depends on your hair texture. So if you have a little bit of finer hair, you don't want to necessarily have it as long. You want to have it a little bit shorter," Gibson says. "If you have thicker hair, then you want it to be just a little bit longer. If you have a really nice wave to your hair, you want to accentuate that because when you're cutting it you're removing a lot of the weight, and what the weight does is it enhances your natural texture."
Photo:John Shearer/Getty Images
"Shaggy cuts work great on thicker hair types because it leaves you a lot of room to customize the shape and weight of the hair," says Ryan Trygstad, co-owner of Mark Ryan Salon. "Shaggy, layered cuts at any length leave the hair loose and airy. Clients who are blessed with thick hair usually love the idea of texture and movement. Usually, they have a hard time showing the loose feeling with their thick locks!"
Photo:Mark Ralston/Getty Images
"The undercut is a perfect hairstyle for people with thick hair who want to keep it short, modern, and moveable," Downing says. "The undercut is technically cut shorter underneath, leaving longer lengths on top… There are different extremities of this haircut. Some can be very classic looking, and others can be a lot more contrasting. The hair being cut at variant lengths helps to collapse weight in the right areas, which can support a softer silhouette for those who have thicker hair."
Those with thicker hair types can wear a pixie cut. "I would just say, for a blunt cut or pixie cut, be sure to remove enough weight from the hair so it doesn't expand outward too much," Lee says.
Photo:Rabbani and Solimene Photography/Getty Images
"Trends like the curtain bang and French bob lend themselves to thicker textures with some natural movement," DeBolt says.
Photo:George Pimentel/Getty Images
"Graduated layers is another great option for short hair," Downing says. "This haircut will organically follow the natural shape of the head through the back and sides, building up beautiful graduation and more weight/length on the top of the head shape. This would be a shorter option than the undercut and works very well for people who have great head shapes, cheekbones, and eyes. There are many variables with all different types of haircuts—the thing to remember is, the shorter you go, the more of your other features will be pronounced. Facial features, hairlines, neck, shoulders, etc."
Styling Tricks for Thick Hair
The haircut matters, but the styling is important, too. Keep these tips in mind.
1. Air-dry: "A great way to style thick hair is to go for a more air-dried, natural-texture style," Trygstad says. "Putting hair product in when the hair is damp and either air-drying or using a diffuser to create a more natural-textured look, this will make the hair softer looking and more broken apart."
2. Try this flat-iron technique: "If you want a curly or wavy look, start by flat-ironing the bottom few sections in the back straight so your hair doesn't get too big!" Lee says.
3. Products are key: "Using the right styling and finishing products makes or breaks any hairstyle. Products are designed to enhance textures, movement, shine, and separation," Downing says. "The correct products will also work with you, making your life easier at home which is hugely important. If you need to control hair, for example, smooth it out and reduce volume, which is so often the case with thick hair. Using a heat-protecting smoothing product with the full heat from the hair dryer as early as possible will give you the best results. It's important not to let the hair dry too much without applying the products. The more this happens, the more difficult it becomes to control. Products go in early, then blast dry most of the moisture out, then opt for your desired styling brush to add further control."
Products for Thick Hair
Gibson recommends his product: "It's in between a mousse and a foam; it's a hybrid. So it's great for blowouts, or if you want to add it to your hair to naturally dry, it's perfect for that. It gives a really nice texture to the hair without being stiff or sticky."
"I love an oil. Leonor Greyl has this really beautiful body and hair oil that I really love," Gibson says. "It smells really good. Spray a few pumps on your hands and run it through your hair. It will give your hair a nice texture."
"Of course, Elnett Hairspray is my go-to hairspray that I use on sets and in the salon," Gibson says. "Elnett will give it a little bit of control if you don't want it to move."
"Most of my think-haired favorite hair products are softening products like Shu Uemura's Ultimate Reset Serum," Trygstad says. "This product leaves the hair soft and manageable. Great for most wet and dry styling."
"I love to finish all short, thick hairstyles with pomade through the midsection and ends," Lee says. "My favorite pomade is Ouai's Matte Pomade."
Downing recommends this cream, which smooths frizz and controls flyaways.
This serum recommendation from Downing smooths, conditions, and protects against UV damage.
Use this cream to define and moisturize your curls. It protects hair from humidity and leaves it looking shiny.
Downing also recommends this styling cream, which is infused with keratin.