Dummy Dictionary: Haircuts!

A hair appointment gone wrong? We’ve been there. Sometimes it’s because you answered a Craigslist ad to be a model for a level-1 beauty school class. At least you provided a learning experience… Other times, your hairdresser was perfectly skilled and experienced, but there was a Communication Breakdown. And the big CB will get you every time.

No two hairdressers cut exactly alike, but there are terms that all professionals know and understand. Learning this language is the best way to ensure you and your stylist are on the same page. We’ve put together a cheat sheet for you, so you don’t accidentally end up with the next Beyoncé Bang (listen we love her so much but my god, that shit is still funny).


It seems self-explanatory, but many people don’t know this actually refers to the longest layer of hair, and ultimately the point at which the hair rests on the body.


The redistribution of the weight of the haircut. Layers throughout the hair will mean that some pieces fall at different points higher up on the head than the overall length, and can make your hair appear shorter.


Sometimes what someone refers to as “a few inches” is actually only an inch, or the opposite–closer to six inches. Becoming familiar with what an inch actually looks like is super helpful when describing how much length you’d like removed. To estimate, it’s roughly about the same size as the top half of your thumb...you know, because you probably haven’t carried a ruler around with you since middle school.


Layers around the front of your haircut, to open up the area around your face.  They can be long (just near the bottom of your hair) or shorter pieces. Don’t be fooled into thinking this automatically gives you “The Rachel”. They can be done subtly, and for many cuts, they’re necessary. As seen on: Tracee Ellis Ross


A term for a technique used on very short to medium length styles. This refers to the length of hair going from long to short typically at the back, or nape, of the neck. The hair around the perimeter is cut very short but left intact.  A taper will allow the shape of the hair to mimic the shape of the head. As seen on: Jon Hamm


A type of taper. Often used to describe a “smooth transition” on very short hair but in actuality, it refers to the transition from skin/bald to hair. The hair is shaved down on the sides and back of the head, and fades into longer hair as you move to the top of the head. As seen on: Zayn


A classic haircut that has taken on many different variations over time. Made popular in the 1920s by the Flapper era, but has updated from that original helmet-y look. Traditionally they were worn short at the cheekbones and tapered in the back, but now range in length from cheekbones to the top of the shoulders.  As seen on: Taraji P. Henson


The super-trendy “Long Bob.” Predominantly one length, slightly longer in the front, and with lots of texture. Typically no longer than a couple inches past the collar bone.  As seen on: almost literally any celebrity right now. But here’s Chrissy Teigen


When your hair is left long on top, and cut very short or buzzed underneath, on the sides, or in the back. The two parts are disconnected, as opposed to blended into one another. This often lends to an androgynous look. As seen on: Halsey.


Made famous by Mia Farrow and Twiggy. Cut close to the head, typically above the ears, tapered in the back, and usually involves lots of texture. Shorter than bob territory, but can range in length from very short throughout the sides, back, and top – to short on the sides and longer on the top and through the bang area. As seen on: Halle Berry during her iconic Oscar moment


Removing weight in the hair to create movement. Think of it like an internal haircut inside of the actual shape. Clients with tons of hair sometimes refer to this as “thinning” the hair out, but that sounds kind of scary, doesn’t it? If your hair feels weighed down, this is what you want.


A word used to describe layered and textured looks defined by movement and separation, with no hard lines. This can be subtle or dramatic and be applied to bangs, layers, the length, or the entire haircut.


Essentially the exact opposite of a piecey look. The hair is cut into a hard straight line all at one length. This can be applied to bangs, layers, the length, or the entire haircut.


A complete separation in main aspects of the haircut by not implementing the use of connected layers. This is typical of an undercut, or shaggy layered hairstyles.  


The shape of the curl in your hair. Typically most people have a couple different curl patterns in their hair.

WAVY: A very loose S-shaped curl pattern. Often described as “beachy."  Typically weighed down easily and prone to frizz.  

CURLY:  More defined than waves with spring, ringlets or spirals that can range in size.  Can be prone to frizz and dryness.

COILY:  Very tight curls that can be in ringlet, S, or Z patterns. Usually appears much shorter due to “shrinkage”.  Often prone to frizz, dryness, and tangles.  


Only recommended if you ALWAYS wear your hair curly.  This type of cut is when each curl is cut individually. Because curls are not identical all over the head, this type of cut will be extremely uneven if straightened or blown out smooth.


A cut where one side is intentionally shorter than the other. Most commonly applied to bangs or length.


This refers to the amount of hairs per square inch on your head.  Someone with thin hair does not have many hairs on their head. Someone with thick hair has lots of hairs on their head.


In reference to the diameter of each individual hair strand. Someone with fine hair has very small strands of hair while someone with coarse hair has larger, denser strands of hair. Note: People often confuse this with thickness of hair, but it’s entirely possible–common, in fact–to have hair that is both thick and fine, or thin and coarse.


A section of hair directly above the eyes. This can be blunt, piecey, side-swept, heavy, wispy, or blended into the rest of the layers in your hair.  


Lots of people ask for “just a trim”  thinking maybe it will be cheaper than a full cut. Regardless of how much length is coming off, a trim still requires the stylist to cut each individual strand of hair…even if it’s just a little. Unless you’re just getting your bangs trimmed, this will likely run you the same price as a shorter cut. Regular trims are important for the health of the hair and to maintain the shape/style, so it’s usually best to budget for them.


When the end of the hair has physically split from wear and tear. The main culprits of this are heat styling, environmental damage, chemical damage, dryness, and just straight up time. By not cutting off your split ends regularly, they will continue to split further up the hair shaft and result in some gnarly looking hair. Like, gnarly in a bad way. Your hair will get mad. Prevent them with heat protection, conditioning, and regular trims.

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