Growing up, I always had long hair. In fact, I had long hair well into my teens until I had an unfortunate incident with do-it-yourself bangs that forced me to get an unplanned, and slightly traumatic, pixie cut.
If you like having long hair, I sincerely hope that you never have to go through any DIY hair-cutting disasters because, let’s face it, it sucks to have to cut your hair when you don’t want to. However, it is sometimes necessary for you to get a haircut, especially if you want to keep your hair strong and healthy.
I spoke to several hair professionals to find out the clues you should look out for to avoid any hair disasters and that may indicate that it’s time for you to get a haircut, even if you might not want to.
You have split ends
Do you have split ends? Michelle Lee, co-owner and Master Designer of Salon Eva Michelle in Boston says that the way to tell if you’ve got split ends, is to check if the ends of your hair are frail, thin, and see through, in comparison to the rest of the strand. “You can physically see split ends and white bulbs at the tips,” she told me. “It’s better to let go of the ends because hair can seem to break faster up the hair strands than grow from the scalp.”
“Once a hair splits on the ends the best cure is to trim the hair just above the split end,” said celebrity hairstylist Philip Carreon, Creative Director of Eufora International. However, if you wait too long, the split can move up the shaft making the hair weak and vulnerable if you don’t get to it in time.
“The splits can progress all the way up your entire hair length,” he said, “which means that you’ll have to cut your hair a lot shorter than you might want.” Your best advice if you start to notice that you’ve got split ends is to get a trim as soon as possible, to avoid further damage.
You hair has color damage
If you’ve ever colored your hair, you probably know that it’s possible for your hair to be damaged.
“Hand painted bleach and high lift color is so popular, but it leaves the ends the lightest and the most damaged,” Carreon told me, adding that you need to “keep in mind, the ends of our hair are already the oldest hair and the most fragile.”
This means that if you frequently color your hair, you’ll have to get frequent trims as well to avoid damage to your ends. Another way to determine if your hair has color damage is if you or your stylist begin to notice that color won’t hold on your hair. You may also experience “lots of color fading,” according to Lee. “When hair is damaged, especially from color or bleach, hair will have lost elasticity, and when wet it could just snap off when pulled on,” instead of bouncing back like healthy hair.
Your hair has heat damage
Like color damage, heat damage might signal it’s time for a trim. If your hair has some heat damage, it will start to look like frizzy, or like it’s got static. “It can looked like rippled hair when dry,” according to Lee. “For example, if you run your palms up your hair and the hair frizzes up, this most likely means that you’ve got heat damage.”
Miko Branch, founder and CEO of Miss Jessie’s said that “permanently straightened, relaxed, or curled hair can sometimes feel lifeless.” If you regularly treat your hair this way, you are more likely to have heat damage. “Laying off the hair irons and curlers can help prevent this with the support of deep conditioning and a good trim to limit damage.”
While a trim may be necessary, if you really don’t want to, see your stylist to determine what kind of treatments you can use to repair your hair. But be prepared — even treatments may not completely fix the problem.
You have a pixie haircut
If you have short hair, maintenance is key to keep the style looking fresh. As someone who’s had two pixie haircuts in the past, I can say that once the initial shock has worn off, maintaining the cut is the most difficult part.
An ideal time frame is “every four to six weeks,” for a trim to maintain your look, said Lee. “Hair doesn’t grow any faster the shorter it is, like some people think.”
However, because the layers of hair are a lot shorter, growth seems more noticeable, which may prompt you to want to cut it more often. Because keeping a short hairstyle will require more frequent trims, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to make frequent trips to the salon think really hard about cutting your hair super short.
You have bangs
Having bangs is another style that takes a bit of care to maintain.
“It may be necessary to get them trimmed every three to four weeks,” said Lee. “If you want to keep your bangs perfect, it might be necessary to go in to the salon closer to every two weeks.” The number one thing to keep in mind is to make sure that you resist the urge to trim your bangs yourself.
As I mentioned earlier, it was my own attempt at trimming my bangs that gave me something that was a cross of Audrey Hepburn and Moe from The Three Stooges — not the best look. Again, if you don’t think you’re willing to visit the hairdresser that often, you may want to reconsider getting bangs. Do check with your stylist, however, because some salons will trim your bangs for free if you’ve gotten them cut there.
Your hair has gone flat
Remember when you first cut your hair, however long ago? Your hair was probably bouncy and full of life, right? If your hair has lost its bounce, it might be time for a haircut.
According to Lee, flat hair could be a sign of damage, and damage usually means that your hair needs a haircut, or at least a trim. Do consult with your stylist, as they’ll be able to determine if the damage can be fixed with a treatment, or if you’ll need a cut.
“The stylist that is honest will tell you that you need to cut your hair,” she said. “The stylists that are nervous about making you happy may not cut your hair or not cut enough,” so be sure to ask them for the absolute truth.
You’re always tying your hair up
Tying your hair in a ponytail all the time could be more than a sign of style rut. It could actually be a sign that your hair needs a trim. Generally speaking, damaged hair is difficult to to manage, and so people are more likely to stick to a simple hair style that doesn’t require much effort.
Basically, if you’re finding yourself going straight to the messy bun or ponytail every day, it might be because “your hair has seen so much damage that you can’t do much else with it anymore,” said Carreon. “You might not want to admit it, but if you go and see your stylist, they’ll probably tell you you need a haircut.”
Needing a haircut might not have anything at all to do with the health of your hair. Sometimes you just get bored of your hair. A drastic change could necessary to kick the boredom. Perhaps you can go from long hair to a short bob or maybe a “lob.” If you want something more subtle, talk to your stylist about adding layers to your style or cutting a different shape, like blunt ends.
Branch said that if you’re nervous about getting a haircut, you should consider getting a senior stylist to cut and style your hair. “Senior stylists come with more experience,” she said. “Therefore, if you typically get nervous during cuts using a more experienced stylist can definitely help calm your nerves.”
Because of their level of experience, senior stylists are more likely to have worked with someone who has similar hair to yours or who perhaps wanted a similar cut. And always make sure to get a consultation when seeking the right senior stylist or hairstyle.
Remember, hair grows!
Whether you just want to make a change, or your stylist has deemed it necessary, just keep in mind that any hair style you have does not have to be permanent.
If your end goal is to maintain a certain style you like, even if it is longer hair, regular trims are necessary to keep your chosen style healthy and strong. Healthy hair means beautiful hair, and the more you work to maintain your hair’s health, the easier it will be for you to keep it in the style you prefer. If, however, you do end up with a style you aren’t entirely happy with, remember that hair grows!
In time, the style you didn’t like will have grown right out, and you can get back to a hairstyle you prefer!