There’s something heartbreaking about hating a new haircut. I’m not sure whether it’s the fact that you spent tens of dollars on something you really, really don’t like, or the fact you sat through at least 30 minutes of awkward conversation while being forced to look at your own face in the mirror — or both — but coming home and feeling like your head was just butchered is akin (in this writer’s estimation, at least) to clumsily dumping a plate of your favorite food on the floor seconds before you were about to dig in.
But unlike that piece of pizza you just deposited molten-cheese side down on the pavement, a bad haircut doesn’t have to be a permanent waste: You can, theoretically, do something about it.
That said, before we get to what YOU can do about it, let’s talk about what a stylist or barber can do about it. Because even though it might appear like whoever gave you your haircut did so with a blindfold on (we’re not assigning blame here), your barber or stylist is far more capable of fixing your cut than you are.
“If there’s something that you don’t like, I always encourage my clients to let me know,” says stylist Cynthia Barraza. “I want to fix it. I want you to leave the chair happy. I want you to feel confident. So, if there’s any new time where a client is like, ‘I didn’t like this. I didn’t like that. Can I come back?’ I’m like, “Please come back. Let me fix it. Let me try to work with it, let’s try to make it better.’”
Remember, though you might not be in this current, screwed-up-haircut moment, your stylist wants you to be happy, because they want you to come back for your next haircut. And, you’re a walking ad for their product and they want people to think their product is good. And, they want you to refer other people to them — so yeah, they want you to leave happy.
If you’ve got in the habit of cutting your own hair after all that time in lockdown, though, what should you do? “The first thing you want to do is assess the damage,” explains barber Rafael Navarro. “How bad is it?” One option if your DIY cut isn’t that bad, says Navarro, is to cover up the mistakes with product. “You could try styling it differently to see if that helps paper over where you or someone else screwed up.”
If things are bad enough that cutting more is the only option, however, “make a game plan,” Navarro advises. “That was probably your mistake the first time around. When you’re cutting your hair yourself, it can be easy to just start snipping away and the next thing you know, your head is ruined.”
Think about what exactly needs to be fixed (and how) before you start cutting, and then, as Navarro says, “Go slowly. You might be tempted to fix [your problematic cut] as quickly as possible, but taking your time with what you’re doing — especially since you don’t really know what you’re doing — is going to turn out way better than rushing it.”
Cut something, then take a figurative step back. “You should constantly reassess your cuts after you make them — that way you won’t follow up one bad cut with the scissors with another. Was that cut even with the others? Do you have the right clipper guard on to even [out what you did the first time around], or are you making it worse?”
If you can’t get it right, though, the nuclear option is sometimes the best: Cut it all off. “A buzz cut isn’t ideal for people used to longer hair, but it doesn’t have to suck. Give yourself a fade but using a shorter clipper guard at the bottom, and then moving up a guard towards the top. That’ll give it a bit of personality.”
Bottom line is, a bad haircut doesn’t have to ruin your life — you have options, even if they’re not perfect. Because it’s like they say: If at first you don’t succeed, break out the scissors and try, try again.