How to style layered hair: pro tips, tricks, and inspiring looks to try

Expert stylists explain how to style layered hair – from heated tools to clever products

Gemma Chan on the red carpet in Cannes, with a bouncy blow dry, one of the best ways how to style layered hair
(Image credit: Future/Getty images)

Knowing how to style layered hair is a skill for life. Layered 'dos have enjoyed consistent popularity through the years, which means we've got decades of inspiration to draw on when styling, from Jane Fonda's famous '70s shag to the global hair phenomenon that was The Rachel.

If you're new to layers, rest assured that they're widely considered one of the most versatile and easy hairstyles going. The graduation of length offers an opportunity to add texture to fine hair or take the weight out of thicker hair as needed. Plus, your stylist can cut in bespoke layers to flatter your specific face shape and bone structure.

Maybe you're thinking about taking the plunge with the on-trend butterfly haircut or C-shape haircut. Or perhaps you already own a layered 'do and want to create a flicky, bouncy blow dry with the best hair styling products. Our hairdresser-approved guide to how to style layered hair has all the advice and visual inspiration you need. 

How to style layered hair, by the experts

The best layered haircuts to ask for in salon

The great thing about layered hair is its versatility. Layers work at any length, whether you fancy a medium hairstyle like the shag haircut to choppy pixie hairstyles or long hairstyles with face-framing layers. If you're not quite sure which you fancy, the latest hair trends are a good place to start looking for inspiration. 

BaByliss ambassador and celebrity go-to session stylist, Syd Hayes (opens in new tab) predicts that a return to vintage-style layering is upon us. "Choppy fringes, shags and mullets - It's the year of expression and there’s no surprise in that," says Hayes. "I’m loving the midi shag bob hairstyle, cool razored fringes with a little '70s bang. Layer layer layer!"

Color Wow International Creative DirectorDom Seeley (opens in new tab) agrees that more-is-more layering is back with a bang; “cut-wise were seeing a lot of 70’s shapes and widths, with waves and also feminine mullets." While hairstylist to the stars, Larry King (opens in new tab) explains that layered haircuts can be adapted to suit anyone. "Billie Eilish and Gemma Arterton are great examples of those with layered hairstyles, but I also really like Miley Cyrus’s style," 

Miley Cyrus with a layered mullet hairstyle

Miley Cyrus' cool layered style

(Image credit: Getty images)

How to heat style layered hair

No matter what your texture is, be that a curly hairstyle or fine and straight, learning how to style layered hair starts with using the best hair dryer for your hair type, then finishing with a clever styling tool. 

For curly hair, gentle heat styling will encourage maximum definition, so each individual layer can be seen. This is particularly true with long face-framing layers or curtain bangs. "Curly curtain bangs and or shorter pieces cut around the face are always a great option," says Ricky Walters (opens in new tab), owner of SALON64. "Do not overcook the hair, use your diffuser at a slow speed with hot heat. The trick is to leave 10-20% of the moisture still in the hair to dry naturally. Don't diffuse it to 100% dry."

For layered wavy hairstyles, keep it simple with the best hair straighteners. "It's all about working with your natural texture," says King. "Blast hair dry and use some straighteners to make a bend in the hair or a soft wave."

Super-straight hair? The best hair dryer brushes are a perfect choice to enhance layers for a flicky '90s look. Hayes is a fan of the Babyliss Cordless Hot Brush, saying it helps to "create body, fullness, and bounce. Plus, the bristles are rigid to prevent tugging or tangles, making the whole experience seamless from root to tip when creating volume for either a shag or a mullet.” 

Our beauty editor recommends... 

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Toni & Guy Deep Barrel Hair Waver | RRP: $54/£18
If you've never got the knack of waving your hair with straighteners, this cheat's tool works much like a crimper but has ultra-deep barrels to create a cool layer-enhancing wave rather than a zig-zag pattern.

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Babyliss 9000 Cordless Hot Brush | RRP: $200/£180

Hayes' preferred tool for styling layers into flicks. "Using two lengths of bristle, the brush picks up hair and smooths it while releasing hair as soon as it's styled to ensure maximum results and minimum styling time." Sold!

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Shark STYLE iQ Ionic Hair Dryer & Styler  | RRP: $229.99/£179

This smart dryer boasts an innovative diffuser that has adjustable prongs to hold curls from root to tip and capture layers of every size. Plus, the heat is automatically adjusted when you add the diffuser to ensure it's at a perfect gentle temperature for curls. 

The best styling products for layers

In terms of products, think carefully about the look you are going for, advises King:

  • Use a volumizer for texture: "My favorite styling product is volumizing hair mist, because it just gives you this natural volume and doesn’t make the hair too heavy. I also use styling cream a lot, which I put in wet hair, and then let the hair dry naturally." 
  • Don't be afraid to experiment: He adds, "It’s also nice to use these two together; I’m a big fan of combinations: for example, using volumizing spray on wet hair, and then the styling cream on the ends to add texture."
  • Pick a matte or shiny finish: To finish, dry products such as the best dry shampoo can work for a choppy look. If you prefer a sleek finish, serums and oils will help you nail how to get shiny hair.

Finally, in excellent news, King reckons you don't need to get layers cut too regularly. "You can go back to get a few random layers put in the top to rebuild volume. It does look cool when you let these grow out though, and it can give the style a different shape - unless the ends are dry, then they need a trim."

16 layered hairstyles to try

1. The bouncy blow dried layers

Kate Middleton

(Image credit: Getty)

A volumized bouncy blow dry with flicky ends is the perfect way to style layered hair and show off the graduation of length. "That 90’s supermodel revival and volume looks great on anyone and it’s super easy to achieve," says Dom. Mist hair with volumizing spray, then use a round brush to create tension and flicks as you dry.


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Color Wow Xtra Large Bombshell Volumizer | RRP: $26/$23
"It’s not drying and won’t leave your hair feeling stiff or sticky like regular volumizers. It also leaves your hair with incredible shine," says Dom. 


2. The glossy, defined coils

Viola Davis

(Image credit: Getty)

The secret to this beautiful look is super glossy and defined curls. Following the curly girl method will help in the long term. Day-to-day learn how to use a diffuser (opens in new tab) to gently dry and separate coils, and finish with a deeply conditioning and styling product designed specifically for coils. 


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Cantu Define & Shine Custard | RRP: $6.99/£5.49
This super-hydrating formula makes curls feel soft, gives defined weight, and adds shine. It also smells amazing, contains pure shea butter and zero sulfates. 


3. The sleek graduated bob

Serena Williams

(Image credit: Getty)

Not all layers come in choppy, broken-up form. This style shows how graduating the length of a bob from back to front can create a super-flattering style. Wearing this style super-smooth like this will really show off that angular graduation of length—naturally, a great hair straightener is a must to keep this look sleek and swingy. 


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GHD Unplugged Cordless Hair Straightener | RRP: $299/£299
Preserve that ultra-sleek, straight and shiny layered hairstyle on-the go with this cordless hair straightener. It's super light and portable, plus it's USB chargeable so you can plug it in the car or your work laptop. 


4. The tousled shag layered style

Halle Berry

(Image credit: Getty)

Tousled waves are a perfect skill to know when thinking about how to style layered hair—especially when combined with this 19070s shag style. Using a medium-thick curling wand, wrap hair loosely around the barrel, facing away from the eyes to 'open up' the face. Keep the look relaxed and modern by leaving the roots and ends out of the curl. 


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Cloud Nine The Curling Wand | RRP: £119 (UK only)
This might be the perfect hair wand—it's unbelievably light so easy to control, the barrel is the ideal size to create beachy waves (not ringlets) Plus, the smooth material is completely snag-free. 


5. The layered curly updo

Beyonce

(Image credit: Getty)

Worried about how to style layered hair in an updo? You needn't be. Shorter layers will naturally fall out of hair-up styles (opens in new tab), which is incredibly flattering around the face and gives any updo a modern, relaxed feel. Here, this curly updo is teased at the crown and pinned loosely into a chignon at the nape of the neck. Use plenty of pins and finish with firm hold hairspray to keep the longer layers and lengths in place. 


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L'Oreal Elnett Hairspray Strong Hold | RRP: $12.99/£4
The original and best, Elnett is the hairspray you'll find in every pro's kit, and with good reason. It's non-sticky, offers superior hold and can be brushed out easily. 


6. The soft layered pixie cut

Zoe Kravitz

(Image credit: Getty)

Having lots of layers cut into a pixie style can make it softer and a lot more forgiving. "The pixie crop is a big trend, and is one that is growing—a softer, tousled crop," says ghd Global Ambassador Zoë Irwin. The trick with styling a choppy pixie is using fairly firm products, such as wax or pomade, as you don't have the benefit of natural weight to help it sit in place. Warm a tiny amount through your fingers, gently ruffle through layers and twist and tweak into place. 


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Ouai Matte Pomade | RRP: $24/£16
With a brilliant grip and a nice matte finish, this is an ideal texture to control and style little sections of the hair in a layered pixie crop. A little goes a long way, so use it sparingly. 


7. The easy knot updo

Margot Robbie

(Image credit: Getty)

If you have a bob hairstyle or longer, celeb stylist Neil Moodie (opens in new tab)'s chignon is an easy way to learn how to style layered hair for a party. "Spray your hair with texture spray and using just your fingers gather all of your hair up just below the crown. Tie into a ponytail and then with a few grips, create a chignon with the remaining hair, pinning the hair as tightly or loosely as desired." Or let the remaining hair fall and finish with hairspray. 


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Sam McKnight Easy Updo Texture Spray | RRP: $29.50/£25
A very useful product, and a very beautiful one too. Mist this over lengths to create choppy definition when wearing your layered hair down, or use it to create grip that helps updos stick around. 


8. The layered 'wolf cut' style

Miley Cyrus

(Image credit: Getty)

This is how to style layered hair at its boldest, funkiest, and, er, layery-est. The wolf cut is part shag, part bangs, and very on-trend. To style it, let layers take center stage by rough drying then finishing with a slim vented brush to create volume. Then lightly mist with salt spray to encourage your natural texture, flicks, and bends to emerge. 


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GHD Ceramic Vented Radial Brush Size 1| RRP: $28/$16.50
This slimline blow drying brush will help you create the flicky ends and tension that make the wolf cut really stand out. Run it under small sections of the hair, curling them in various directions as you go.  


9. The lifted layered bob

Cameron Diaz

(Image credit: Getty)

Short layered crops look best with plenty of root lift, but height can be tricky to hang onto. "If your hair is flat and you don't have time to blow dry, lift your hair and spray texturizing spray generously into all the root area, ensuring you get the sides and back as well (not just on top)," advises Neil Moodie. "Use your fingers to distribute the texture spray through your hair and then style accordingly, whether that’s pining it back into a low bun or wearing loose." Alternatively, opt for a deep side parting to create dimension. 


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Davines This is a Dry Texturizer | RRP: $33.12/£24
"Texturizing sprays are amazing at zhooshing hair up. and this will do the job nicely," says Neil. The natural-leaning formula is paraben and colorant-free, and smells delicious


10. The air dried chunky layers

Jennifer Lawrence

(Image credit: Getty)

A longer shag is another great hairstyle to show off multi-layered hair. "Layers used to be soft, seamless, and hidden but now we are seeing obvious, thick, chunky, and choppy edges, which works really well at giving drama to below-the-shoulder hair." Says Zoë. To style this look, use a frizz-proof styling spray and twist layers around your fingers to encourage a natural tousled effect as they air dry. 


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 It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product | RRP $14.80/$14.40
This brilliant product does a bit of many things (10 things precisely—hence the name) Most importantly it'll smooth, prevent frizz and give hold to your layered style so is a perfect air-dry product. 


11. The soft blow dried layers

Sofia Vergara

(Image credit: Getty)

A looser, less 'done' looking blow-dry, this is perfect for anyone with more subtle layering in their hair. "This really soft blow dry has a level of luxury. I have named it the bounce blow— like a 90s supermodel," says Zoë Irwin. To achieve the look,  dry the hair with one of the best hair straightener brushes (opens in new tab) to smooth and create gentle flicks, then finish with a small amount of shine serum or a light oil, warmed between the palms. 


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Kerastase Elixir Ultime Original | RRP: $51/£39.90
This beautiful shine-enhancer gives hair slip, smoothness, and a lovely glossy reflection. It's made with four oils; maize, argan, camellia, and pracaxi, and works brilliantly as a finishing product on a soft, bouncy blow dry. 


12. Long Layers with Curtain Bangs

Hilary Duff

(Image credit: Getty)

Curtain bangs are a great way to manage the weight of long hair. We recommend asking your stylist to graduate long hair throughout the cut to create contrast. Combine face-framing pieces with highlights to add extra dimension to your hair. Recreate this look at home by styling your feathery curtain bangs with a rough blowdry using a round brush to create a choppy, effortless look in a hassle-free way. 


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Standelli Professional Round Brush | RRP: $9.80 / £7.99 

A good round brush is an essential tool for styling hair. Use this anti-static medium barrel brush when you're next blowdrying your hair to a feathery effect and maximize your curtain bangs. 


13. Choppy Graduated Wavy Lob

Jessica Alba

(Image credit: Getty)

A graduated bob is a great way to incorporate layers into short hair. Achieve this look by blowdrying your hair before using a straightener to create waves. We recommend using a heat protectant beforehand to keep your hair in good condition. Alternatively, if dealing with naturally wavy hair, create this look using a wave spray and manipulate the hair to achieve desired waves. 


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Undone by George Northwood Wave Holding Spray | RRP: $19 / £15

This wave mist also acts as a holding spray to keep your style in place and maintain your look. This spray has de-frizzing and heat protective qualities to ensure a healthy, smooth finish. 


14. Long Layered Hair with Heavy Bangs

Dakota Johnson

(Image credit: Getty)

Opt for a heavy block fringe to add contrast to long feathery layers, and combine with simple highlights for extra dimension. This look is elevated by its shiny finish, so ensure hair is hydrated with serums and hair masks before blow drying then finish the look and maximize your layers by using a curling iron on the ends of your hair. 


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Liz Earle Botanical Shine Deep Conditioning Hair & Scalp Mask | RRP: £20 (UK only)

Apply this mask one to two times a week to nourish and hydrate your hair. With a light texture that suits all types of hair, this mask is a great way to prep your hair before using heated tools. 


15. Styled Layers with a Side Fringe

Penelope Cruz

(Image credit: Getty)

A side parting styled into set waves is a beautiful layered hairstyle for your next glamorous event. Forming a side part will elevate your hairline to create volume and stagger your layers, maximizing their appearance. Make sure your color is looking ultra-fresh to best show it off in this style. 


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Lee Stafford Bleach Blondes Purple Reign Toning Shampoo | RRP: $12 / £7.99 

To keep highlights or balayage hair looking fresh, we recommend washing your hair with a purple shampoo. It'll tone the lighter parts of your hair and remove any brassy tones. 


16. Graduated Straight Layers

Meg Ryan

(Image credit: Getty)

Layered straight hair with graduated face-framing pieces is a hairstyle inspired by our favorite 90's celebrities, from Meg Ryan to Jennifer Anniston and Gwyneth Paltrow. The variety of length gives this look an effortless finish than can either be rough-dried to achieve an undone effect or styled with a straightener for a sleek finish. 


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Moroccanoil Glimmer Shine Spray | RRP: £25.76 (UK only)

This argan oil-infused spray protects your hair from external damage, whilst also working to reflect the light, creating a sleek, silky finish.