How To Style Short Hair Like A Pro, According To Master Stylists
Get your pomades, clays and gels ready and prepare to slay.
Short hair has always signified strength, individuality, a rebellious heart. You broke up with your significant other? Hack off your hair. You scored your killer dream job? Celebrate with a sassy bob cut. You made it through an entire Zoom meeting without turning your camera off once? Snip snip, baby (ok, that example may be a bit extreme, but you get the gist). The right cut can highlight bone structure, make a person look decades younger and honestly, give a shot of confidence to the wearer, which they (heck, maybe all of us) may need right about now.
Plus, short hair is ICONIC. Look at Jean Seberg, Zoe Kravitz, and Miley Cyrus; strong females demolishing the statement that women can’t wear short hair AND be beautiful, strong and POWERFUL. Many of us are gun shy when it comes to taking the leap and lopping off our locks. But master stylist and creative colorist Prudence Etter says we can all rest easy. “Short hair is super fun, and there is literally a short haircut for everyone.”
But while a croppy cut can definitely be no-muss, no-fuss, adding the right product to the mix can take your tresses to the next level; and know this — there is no lack of variety and selection in the short hair care product department. The limit literally does not exist. So, let’s dip our toe into the proverbial pool that is “short hair, don’t care” hair care, and figure out what tools are going to give our cropped coifs some cool clout.
Imagine it; you’ve taken the plunge. You’ve got the short, sassy cut and darling, it looks AHHHMAAAAAAAAAZING. You’ve left the salon, looking gorge, but now it’s time to channel your inner Vidal Sassoon; so where do you start? Prudence Etter of Long Beach’s Freebirds Salon suggests starting by using protection. “Universally, anyone that has short hair needs a heat protectant leave-in conditioner; these products add moisture and protect up to 450 degrees, whether that is blow-drying or outside heat if you are drying naturally,” Etter recommends the shine-boosting, breakage-nixing Nutritive Nectar Thermique from Kerastase, which protects against elements of heat, either in your bathroom or in the wild. With botanically blended collagen and keratin, Tricoci’s Transforming Mist is another solid player designed to protect your locks while infusing shine.
The next step in the short hairstyling game is choosing your player; and there is a plethora to select from. Robert Orgill, voted “Best Hair Stylist” in Long Beach two years in a row, is a short hair scholar. He gave me a quick tutorial on key categories of styling products, their benefits, and how to apply them. For all products, Orgill suggests starting with a dime-sized dollop of your weapon of choice. Rub it in your hands to make it more pliable then work it into your hair, starting at the roots to achieve even distribution and maximum impact.
Leading off the lighter end of the styling spectrum are hair creams. “These should be worked into damp, towel-dried hair; finger combing in or using a plastic comb can achieve a sleek look,” according to Orgill. Fine, thinner hair can benefit from lighter products like creams; Etter swears by Anti-Gravity from Kevin Murphy, which gives lackluster hair intense volume and texture. Tricoci’s Root Amplifier is another winning volume builder.
Based on levels of hold and consistency, pastes and clays are a step above a hair cream. Orgill states these products “are good for a messy, casual look. It’s important to massage them into dry hair, otherwise, they can clump; these products work best with finger combing, giving a casual look.” Oftentimes, waxes and clays are ideal for texture and can provide structure for your ‘do, while allowing for hair movement.
Picture this; you are taking a leisurely cruise in your convertible down Pacific Coast Highway, wind in your cropped hair (c’mon, suspend disbelief with me for a bit). When you stop for tacos and margaritas (um, what else would you want to indulge in), all it will take is a few quick swipes and every little hair will be back in its beautiful place; can I get a round of applause for hair clay? A personal fave of my own is Suavecito’s Firme Clay Pomade; it creates the illusion of thicker locks, and with my baby fine hair that is GREATLY APPRECIATED.
Let me take this moment to answer a question that you may have been pondering since you started reading; yes, hair gels still exist! While it’s not the nostalgia-inducing gel from your childhood days, styling gels of today utilize natural ingredients and achieve hair perfection without the crunchiness we all remember. Styling expert, Orgill tells us styling gels are great for a slick, coiffed style; classic hair examples include Emma Watson or even Gordon Gekko (minus all the yucky evilness and greed on the latter). It is key to choose a formula without alcohol, so hair doesn’t get dried out or develop flaky build-up. With bamboo and green tea extract for a boost of strength, Kevin Murphy’s Super Goo gives Pauly D realness and hold without being too stiff or flaky.
The last category is the big kahuna of short hair styling products; pomade. Pomades harken back to the days of vintage hairstyling, where the stuff made its debut as an oil-based product and gave bad boy’s pompadours (think Rebel Without a Cause, The Outsiders, Cry-Baby) shine and stature. But this old-school styling standby has changed a lot since its inception; just ask Oscar Garcia, licensed barber for over a decade at Hawleywood’s in Long Beach, Layrite educator and member of their Band of Barbers, not to mention a card-carrying pomade professional.
“Most pomades are water-based products, so they can be easily shampooed or rinsed out; this format provides styling options based on the specific look the customer is going for.” Garcia states that most clients tend towards a water-based pomade with high shine, which is best for thick hair; other options include matte-based pomades and clays that are great when going for a blown dry, textured look with volume (remember your trip down PCH). Pomades are also ideal for really short ‘dos like pixies or pomps; adding polish, shine and maximum control.
Garcia hooked us up with a trade secret for peak pomade performance (echoed by fellow stylist Robert Orgill earlier in the article); to get maximum hold and control, use pomade when both hair and scalp are completely dry. So, what is this badass barber’s go-to pompadour primer? The OG, of course; Layrite’s Original Pomade, that has killer hold, not to mention shine that doesn’t quit.
Our final chapter is clean up. Products like pomades, clays and creams, while helpful as styling superheroes, need to be washed out regularly to prevent buildup. Etter states that “when hair is short, more product is deposited closer to the scalp than long hair, so you can get increased build up.” Clarifying shampoos from R & Co. like Oblivion and Acid Wash remove that buildup and get hair squeaky clean. However, with that being said, yet another advantage to short hair is that washing it every single day isn’t necessary. Having an EPIC hair day? Like, genuinely mind-blowing? Etter suggests extending that good hair juju by utilizing Oribe’s Mystify Restyling Spray; the product not only reactivates the existing product in your hair but also protects your locks from the dreaded heat miser (A.K.A. your blow dryer).
Short hair is modern, fresh and fashionable; it requires a strong sense of spirit and monumental confidence to pull it off. But guess what? You’ve got all that and then some; plus now you have a vast knowledge of what your hair needs in terms of styling supplements. So book that stylist appointment, utilize these styling suggestions and get ready to start short hair “sliving.”