How to Survive a Bad Haircut
Written by: Megan O’Neill
Published on: April 25, 2023
Photo courtesy of Naohmi Monroe for Act + Acre
We’ve all been there: You bound into the salon with visions of a new, sleeker, glossier you—but walk out feeling decidedly—dispiritingly—un-you. Whether it’s a disorientingly severe chop, irreversible bangs, or just a wonky style, top New York hairstylist and trichologist Helen Reavey—she’s the cofounder of Act + Acre, one of our favorite hair lines—has solutions. “A bad haircut is an opportunity to have fun,” she says. “The trick is to be patient—on average, hair grows about six inches per year, or half an inch per month—and get creative with styling, clips, headbands, and more.” The other secret, according to Reavey: styling paste. “It’s a bad cut’s best friend,” she says. “It works no matter what your hair type: It smooths frizz, adds texture, polishes any look. It’s so versatile—easy styling can really give your hair another life.”
Does-It-All Hair FixAct + Acre
Cold Processed Styling Paste
goop, $38SHOP NOW
First, Wash Your Hair
Heavy styling after a cut can make it look worse—don’t panic. Right when you get home, wash and style your hair how you normally would. When you’re done, you might find it feels like “your” hair again.
Regenerative Veda⁴ Bond Complex Shampoo: Mighty Majesty
goop, $48SHOP NOW
Frizz-Softening Leave-In ConditionerAct+ Acre
Cold Processed Leave-In Conditioner
goop, $48SHOP NOW
Regenerative Veda⁴ Bond Complex Conditioner: Mighty Majesty
goop, $48SHOP NOW
For a Too-Short Cut, Add Volume and Style
With a detangling brush, brush a section of fully dried hair back and forth at the roots while you aim the blow-dryer at it—almost like a tease, but with a brush. Blast it with five to eight seconds of hot air, followed by three to five seconds of cold hair. [Editor’s note: Watch Reavey’s technique here.]
Another way to do it involves hair clips (also on already-dry hair): Clip up a section of hair on each side of your face and blast the area with a few seconds of heat. Let your hair cool with the clips still in, then take them out—instant volume! [Editor’s note: Here’s a video.]
Act + Acre
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Pro Makeup & Wave Setting Clips
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Pro Dryer 2000
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Dry shampoo is amazing for creating natural-looking volume and getting some lift. Apply it at your roots, wait 30 seconds to let it set, and massage it throughout your scalp in circular motions.
It sounds like a small thing, but exfoliate your scalp regularly. The less product and oil buildup in your hair, the more volume you get.
Exfoliating Pink-Salt Shampoo for Shiny Hairgoop Beauty
G.Tox Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub Shampoo
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Ultimate Dry-Shampoo RefreshAct + Acre
Plant Based Dry Shampoo
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Once-a-Week Detoxifying Scalp TonicAct + Acre
Cold Processed® Scalp Detox
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For Overthinned Hair, Focus on Styling
For a sleek bun, spritz some hair spray onto your brush so your hair lies smooth when you scrape it back. A bun takes minutes, and any hair texture looks great in one.
Defining Hair Spray
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The Brush No. 001
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Small Sleek Hairpin
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For a knotted updo, warm up a dab of styling paste by rubbing it between your palms. Then gather your hair into a tight ponytail, smoothing down flyaways with the thin film of paste on your hands. Depending on how long your hair is, twist, knot, or braid the ponytail, then twirl it up into a bun, securing it with bobby pins. For a nice flourish, let the ends of the ponytail stick out and flatiron them straight.
Inner Peace Whipped Creme Texturizer
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Cordless Ceramic 1″ Styling Iron
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Silk Scrunchies – Small
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For a more romantic braid, work leave-in cream or styling paste into your hair for some grip and better hold. Weave in a loose braid or French braid. When you’re done, gently pull the braid apart, unfurling some tendrils for a more mussed, ethereal look.
If you really need them, clip-in extensions are great. My favorites are from luxyhair.com.
Styling Cream and Conditioner in OneSangre de Fruta
Botanical Hair Elixir
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Prettiest Comb EverAct + Acre
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Too Many Layers or Bangs Gone Wrong?
Avoid products with silicones—they can build up on the scalp, preventing a healthy environment for hair growth and so damaging your chances of growing the bad style out quickly. I love silicone-free stylers or hair oil to slick back bangs and create other polished looks.
Shine-Boosting Hair Oil with ArganAct + Acre
Cold Processed Hair Oil
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Essential Styling BalmRahua
Smoothing Hair Balm
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I love supplements and scalp serums—why not support the best environment possible for your hair?
I also love this trick using Velcro to get bangs and layers to lie flat.
Scalp health TreatmentDr. Barbara Sturm
Anti-Hair Fall Scalp Serum
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Healthy-Hair Multivitamingoop Beauty
GOOPGLOW Everyday Glow Multivitamin
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Look at Your Whole Routine
What you walk of the salon with depends to some degree on your ongoing hair wellness: The better you treat your scalp on an ongoing basis, the more shine, volume, and fullness you maintain from cut to cut.
Preshampoo Treatment for Shinegoop Beauty
GOOPGLOW Restore + Shine Hair Serum
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Intensely Conditioning Hair MaskCrown Affair
The Renewal Mask
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Woodsy-Scented Exfoliating ShampooReverie
Suna Exfoliating Shampoo
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Pulsating Scalp-Massage BrushManta
Pulse Hair Brush
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Fake a New Style to Try It Out before the Cut
Pin your hair up with hidden clips to fake the length you’re considering cutting to—that way you can really visualize it first. For a style that’s more difficult to imagine, like bangs, it’s worth getting clip-ons to give you an idea of what you’re in for.
Go Deeper with Reference Photos
They’re critical information for you and your stylist, but you want to optimize your reference photos. All hair textures can wear any length or cut, but consider the thickness of the person’s hair in the reference photo: Is it like yours? If they’re a close match, that usually indicates that the cut will look good with your hair texture. Another tip: Cover the face of the person in the picture so you truly see the hair.
Decide on a Dry or Wet Cut
Go for a wet cut if you want a blunt or precision cut. Dry cuts are great if you have curly or wavy texture—they allow the stylist to see the natural movement of your hair. Ask your stylist their opinion. They’ve seen every face shape and can advise.
Think about Hair through the Lens of Wellness
Practice compassion when it comes to your hair. Take the time to build a scalp-and-hair routine that you love, something that feels luxurious that you look forward to on Sunday night. Learn to work with your natural hair texture; learn to love it: It’s about the long game, not the quick fix.
The Mini Shampoo, Conditioner, and Oil Set
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