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
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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 as well as being one of the biggest hair trends 2023 has to offer, they're also 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 Director, Dom 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,"
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 flicky '90s blowout hair. 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...
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
A volumized bouncy blow dry with flicky ends is the perfect way to style layered haircuts such as the oval layer haircut 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.
2. The glossy, defined coils
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.
3. The sleek graduated bob
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 or pro smoothing treatment such as a Brazilian blowout is a must to keep this look sleek and swingy.
4. The tousled shag layered style
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.
5. The layered curly updo
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.
6. The soft layered pixie cut
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.
7. The easy knot updo
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." You could also secure it with a claw clip to create an ultra-on-trend hair clips hairstyle, then simply let the remaining hair fall and finish with hairspray.
8. The layered 'wolf cut' style
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.
9. The lifted layered bob
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.
10. The air dried chunky layers
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.
11. The soft blow dried layers
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.
12. Long Layers with Curtain Bangs
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.
13. Choppy Graduated Wavy Lob
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.
14. Long Layered Hair with Heavy Bangs
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.
15. Styled Layers with a Side Fringe
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.
16. Graduated Straight Layers
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.
As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.
- Maya SargentGraduate writer
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