After almost 20 years of having my hair the same straight, long, one-length cut, in November 2018 I decided to change things up and get bangs. I would not consider my self “someone with great hair!”, but I think it’s been an improvement from my old cut and there are so many different types of hair and tolerances for hair upkeep, so I wanted to share my experience.
Standard disclaimer: the following is my hair type. I can’t recommend you get any particular style of cut or not, I cannot see your hair type, face shape, and personal style. A lot of the following opinions are just that – opinions based on my personal style preferences – and not necessarily saying that the types of cut I had at any point are intrinsically bad.
My hair is STICK STRAIGHT. The individual strands are thick, but they’re very smooth and slippery rather than coarse. I asked my current stylist to describe my hair and she agrees with this. I’ve had various non professional people describe my hair as “fine” because it’s so slippery, but it’s actually stiff and thick, rather than soft and thin.
I’ve gone a whole year without even getting a trim at some points, and could count the number of split ends on one hand. So on the positive side, my hair is quite strong, but on the flip side, it is not malleable. Styling requires lots of product (texturizing spray, hairspray) even to get it to stay in a basic bun or gibson tuck and I have never managed to get it to stay in any kind of wave/curl for more than 30 minutes, even with shitloads of product (please do not @ me about this – I am not interested in spending my life fighting my natural hair texture to that extent*, getting a perm, or getting my hair dyed with the intent that the damage will make it easier to style).
*Currently for my whole hairstyle besides the bangs, I apply like 15+ sprays of salt spray to the crown and blow dry it almost every morning. That is about the upper limit of my patience.
- Number one concern was that bangs would not be able to last for a typical day without getting all greasy and stringy. I did not want to have to re-style things just to look acceptably clean in the middle of the day.
- Looking too young
- Upkeep – would I be able to stick to having to get a trim every few weeks?
- Growing them out if it doesn’t work out
I had bangs from about preschool through third grade, but I know that hair texture often changes from childhood and I also did not have an oily T-zone as a first grader so I didn’t expect that I would be able to replicate the non-stringy look of my youth.
Turns out that on the first three counts it was fine. I can’t speak to the grow out but from the first cut I have some idea of how that could work out, and it seems it’ll be okay.
Choosing a starter style
In order to ease any potential regrets, I decided to ask for curtain bangs as a first go. I showed a few pictures of recent clients from the salon that had straight hair and styles that I was open to trying. I ended up with this:
This looked ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC when I walked out of the salon, but it turned out that once I didn’t have a professional stylist styling my hair, instead of having a just-so tousled cool-girl-retro-french-chic-picnic-bitch vibe it just looked like a helmet of straight hair cut into a U-shape. I think this did not get enough likes because she later removed it from her Instagram.
I had purchased the same two products that the stylist used and asked her to explain how she styled it, but I never managed to get it anywhere close. And anyway, even with the original styling, it deflated about 30 minutes after walking out the salon door.
Part of the curtain bang look was also some little hair segments to frame my face. I think these did not look very good in the stick straight mono-chunk version rather than gently waved and piece-y version that I had when walking out the salon.
I had told the stylist that I was a wash and go person, but I was willing to accept having to blow dry and apply one or two products every day to make it look good, but I didn’t want something that required styling to look minimally acceptable. Before booking, I made sure to check their Instagram portfolio for Asian clients with straight hair, and I really liked all the ones that I saw. I feel like I was betrayed a little bit because I thought the shape looked rather silly in a natural state, and it seemed like someone who was an senior stylist charging $200 a cut should understand how hair behaves and care about the client enough to be honest with them. However I think it’s also possible that the styling she did (which took probably 10 minutes) she expected I’d be able to easily replicate at home. (Narrator: She could not.)
(I just slept in the hair pictured above, the next day it looked like this, but without the fancy ring lighting and at arm-length selfie distance. Still volumized compared to no-product, but ehh. Doesn’t look as good when it’s less piecey and just-so wavy)
And here it is in some of the more flattering ootd pics.
I had to work a lot to get the just-so messy bun that fit in with the shaggy front of my face.
I probably should have let them know I was unhappy and tried gotten a touch-up for free, but I decided that I’d rather just pay the $20 for the next bang trim instead of deal with the conflict anxiety that comes with Sending A Sternly Worded Letter To The Management.
Overall it just felt like so much hair schloomped over my face, and I felt that it kind of dragged everything down and looked unkempt rather than ~~~effortless~~~. I was always fidgeting with it throughout the day because it always felt like too much around my face or like it was parted too hard and flat. (Yes, this picture is at a slightly lower angle than my ootd photos. I’m not Consumer Reports, I’m a person who just takes occasional reference selfies)
Not that I thought it looked outright bad, but I was not very happy with this first iteration. I did really like the lightness that having bangs brought to the rest of my hair. Instead of being flattened under its own weight, having about 20% removed gave the rest of it a lot of movement, and it was just more pleasant to live with. So I wanted to give it another try. Previously with my long hair I would get a bit tired from it pulling at my temples all the time when I put it up, and I think it was even causing a bit of hair loss at the temples from all the pull.
I expect if I ever grow my bangs out I will have to go back to this style for part of it. They did look okay when worn parted (this is taken the same day as the photo above).
Short inverted U-shaped bangs
The next few times I went in for a trim, I would always ask for “an overall straight-across shape with texture, above the brows”. Wanting to minimize having to take the subway to the salon from work, then the local subway to the regional subway to get back home, I would also ask for above the brows bangs (not sure how short they have to be to be called “baby bangs”) with the expectation that I’d get them cut when they started poking my eyelids. For me this ended up being about 5-6 weeks between trims.
Despite asking for a straight across shape, I’d always end up with a slightly U-shaped cut with some texturing which lightened it, but wasn’t visible as a textured look from a distance. I think they probably didn’t want to deviate too much from the starter cut? I know with haircuts it always takes a day or so for things to settle, and I figured that if I didn’t love it I could be back next month anyway, so I continued to just say the same thing and get ever so slightly less U-shaped bangs each time. (The salon does not allow bang trims to be scheduled online, and it seemed harder to get a consistent stylist unless you could go in the middle of the day, so I’d just go with whoever was available at the most convenient time).
(this style of bang grown out more, with headband. I think it looks nice this way)
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I hated the U-shape when it was above the brows, and it did make it so that the “I could really use a trim” stage was easier to disguise by sweeping the bangs to the side a bit. I generally actively liked how it looked once it hit around eyebrow length. Still, I didn’t like being meh on my face for the first three weeks after a cut.
Current style (a little longer in the center)
A poorly-lit photo of my bangs in their state right before a trim:
I decided that life was too short to spend 3 out of every 6 weeks not actively liking my hair, so I would just get a longer length of bangs to start with and go more often but actually like my hair the whole time. The second to last time I asked for “straight across overall shape with a choppy texture, coming just to the top of the eyebrows” and the stylist ended up giving me the opposite of what I’d usually gotten – the bangs were slightly longer in the center of my face and then gently sloped upwards, in more of an M shape (the header photo is towards the longer end of having this cut).
It was a very subtle slope, but I liked that so much better! I don’t know exactly why, but that rounded shape from before just really did not sit well with me. I got a trim last week and specifically said “slightly longer in the center” and that stylist agreed that it was more suited to my face, and brought my eyes up a bit (vs a droopy look) and was able to more or less replicate it (although she used scissors, whereas the original trim was done mostly with a razor).
I think I’ll probably be sticking with this for the foreseeable future. I might grow out the rest of my hair a little, but I’m glad I eventually found bangs that I wholeheartedly liked, even though it took several months. I think I could have been more aggressive about asking for “NO I want STRAIGHT ACROSS BANGS NO INVERTED U-SHAPE TAPERING” but I tend to trust that with this sort of thing, the professionals have reasons for doing things. The U-shape was able to hold a longer length before I decided I really had to get it cut. All the stylists had quite a variety of style and hair textures they did, so I don’t think it was just that they didn’t know how to do another type of bang.
But yeah. I think the most important thing when changing up your hair is to have a clear vision of what you want and trying you best to make sure that is communicated with the stylist. Ask them whether they think it will work on your hair, if it will need active styling, or how hard it will be to change. Bring pictures or at the very least be very specific in your description.
What about blunt bangs?
The most common bangs cut I see with Asian models on Pinterest etc seems to just be your basic blunt bang. I think a huge pro of this is that I could probably get comfortable cutting them myself and save a lot of time and money, and just shell out for the full haircut 2-3 times a year. But I’ve found that having textured bangs (i.e. individual hair lengths in the whole bang vary 1-2cm) seems quite forgiving when on the longer end. Since there are layers within the bangs they are thick enough to not show stringiness easily, but also don’t feel too heavy for my face. With a blunt cut I feel like parting them a bit would look silly (also from memories of growing out blunt bangs as cut by my mom in 3rd grade, it was pretty bad). I think at some point I will try this out, but for now I want to enjoy the textured look which I am finally happy with.
I always shampoo my bangs every morning, even if I don’t shampoo the rest of my hair. If I don’t do this, it gets stringy by the afternoon even if I washed my face in the morning. I usually do this while showering, but if I don’t do a morning shower I wash them over the sink. With one-length hair I would go 3-4 days without touching it and throwing it into a ponytail would make it look acceptable. No such cheat code here.
I usually use the Aveeno Naturals Shampoo which is sulfate free and I just buy at Safeway, but this is mostly out of habit and tbh when I’ve used other shampoos when traveling I don’t really notice a difference.
I don’t use conditioner on them because I read advice that it can tend to weight bangs down and make them greasy faster, but since my hair is pretty heavy to start with the few times I’ve accidentally conditioned them I honestly can’t say I noticed any difference. But I figure since they’re getting trimmed every month or so anyway I might as well save a tiny bit of conditioner since the hair there is being cycled through pretty fast.
I find that they lay more neatly when I blow dry them. I just have some Walgreens tier Con Air dryer from a couple years ago. If I let them air dry overnight I find they tend to have more of a flyaway shape, though not consistently. It’s not the worst but I like consistency and since they’re so short it takes like 60 seconds to get them dry enough to move on so I just do it.
Other than shampoo, I don’t add any product to them.
I go to Edo Salon in San Francisco (they also have a location in Oakland). I first learned about them when someone mentioned them on the r/femalefashionadvice subreddit. This salon is EXPENSIVE. I’m talking like, $200 haircuts (including tax and tip) and $20 bang trims. This is not absolute top end I’ve heard of but def expensive. This is like 1/3 of what my monthly rent was back in college.
Back when I had my one-length hair I would go to the cheapest possible local salon and the entire cut would be $20 + tip. These were mostly staffed by Vietnamese women who had one-length hairstyles with a similar hair type to me, so it made sense to me to go there.
I had also tried a local well-reviewed mid tier salon to get a slightly layered cut at one point but I felt that it was not significantly better than what I could get at the $20 places, and they also annoyingly only took cash despite it coming out to about $80 after tip.
I really liked that Edo has lots of client photos from each stylist so you could check out the kinds of cuts they can do (Can they work with a variety of hair? Can they do different styles on these? Do they have at least a few clients who seem to have similar hair to me?) before committing. That’s something that seems to be only common in higher end salons that I looked at. Despite my complaints about the U-shape bang trims, each stylist did always ask me if I wanted any adjustments to length or texture and I almost always ended up using the full 30 minutes allotted for the trims.
I also liked that they make an effort to use fewer environmentally harsh chemicals in their styling, and that the senior stylists teach classes for other stylists.
Though whenever they have a post on Instagram about how ~~~*~ toxic free *~~** something they use is or that it has “””fewer chemicals”””, I complain in a comment and say they need to be specific about the chemical that is not included and why the thing they have is better because just saying “toxic free” does not tell me anything other than it was presumably something approved by the FDA. I love chemicals. Chemicals are great.
As an experience, it is also by far the one of the hippest, cleanest beauty places I’ve ever set foot in. It’s got a super trendy Instagrammable look, and the stylists all look like the coolest people you’ve ever seen without looking like clones of each other. I would recommend them if you are local and love a more relaxed retro trendy style with lots of layers and probably some form of bangs, either have hair that has a bit of a wave to it naturally or are okay with doing some styling on it yourself, and have a big chunk of your budget allocated to beauty. If you want a very simple cut, especially with no layers, I would find somewhere cheaper. They seem to specialize in more elaborate layered cuts like shags.
I generally agree with the sentiment that if you want a less basic cut, you should probably go to a salon where the staff themselves has the general aesthetic you’re going for, so that is a big reason why I went with this salon. Though since I don’t have a car and didn’t want to have to shoehorn in trips for a month I was not able to do a consultation with 2-3 salons before choosing one, I just planned to go to the first one and if it seemed unacceptable I would just try a different one the next time. I will be sticking with this salon because it has just been so much freaking work to finally get to a point where I know what I want and can communicate it to a place that I am reluctant to try and branch out again in the near future.
Anyway, I hope this helps someone! I certainly looked for other “my experience” articles online when I was figuring out what to do. Some other ones in the same style that I thought were thorough:
- Byrdie – I got French-girl bangs and regretted it (she has a different hair texture but got the same type of cut I did initially)
- 7 things you need to know before you get a digital perm (basically, it’s a lot of work after you get one)