Layering: When it’s done well, the results are beautiful. But it’s also one of the most misunderstood hair techniques, which is why so many layering attempts result in uneven, unruly, and downright unattractive tresses.
Hair layering—creating variable strand lengths throughout the hair—is a popular method for adding volume, creating interest, and maintaining control for short, medium, and long hairstyles.
Layering involves lifting individual strands of hair from the head at different angles, depending on the hair’s natural growth pattern, and cutting them to a specific length to achieve a desired look.
Benefits of Layering:
- Adds instant volume
- Provides dramatic shapes to certain types of hairstyles
- Adds definition and drama to contrasting hair colors
- Allows hair to hang naturally without looking bulky or out of control
You will learn about layering techniques in your initial cosmetology program leading to state licensure. However, a short refresher course in layering at your local beauty academy is always a safe bet if you’re a practicing stylist committed to staying on top of your game when it comes to creating beautifully layered looks.
Layering Tools for the Hairstylist
You can perform layering techniques with a number of tools: traditional shears, thinning shears, or a razor. Thinning shears feature one or more notched or serrated blades. More complicated layering techniques involve using more than one type of tool.
You may prefer one type of tool over another based on your skill and comfort level. The type and texture of the hair will also influence the type of tools you will use.
Layering 101: Do’s and Don’ts for Layered Hairstyles
There are some areas of the head that generally benefit more from layering than others. For example, layering the crown of the head, bangs, or the upper part of a forehead fringe is always beneficial because it lifts the hair from the face and the head, creating more volume and interest.
However, layering should generally not be performed on other areas of the head, such as:
- Along the side of the head, near the ears
- Along the nape of the neck
- Along the hair’s part
- At the end of the hair
It is important to remember that layering is only effective when the hair is thick enough to support multiple layers. Otherwise, layering causes the hair to lose its shape.
Layering has different effects based on the thickness and texture of the hair. Thin hair is least suited for layering because doing so makes it look even thinner.
Coarse hair generally benefits from layering. But when done improperly, layered coarse hair can look jagged and choppy.
Naturally curly hair responds great to layering because it frees up the natural bounce of the hair. However, curly hair requires a special type of layering; otherwise, it tends to look triangular shaped. When properly layered, the natural texture of wavy or curly hair allows the hair to fall in a cascade of waves and eliminates the hair from looking too heavy or unruly.
Types of Layering Techniques
The most common layering technique involves holding the hair at a 90-degree straight angle from its natural growth pattern and cutting in a uniform length throughout the entire head. When layering is done in this manner, it is referred to as an all-over layered cut.
Moderately layered hair involves holding the hair at the perimeter of the head at a 45-degree angle when cutting. This type of layering removes excess weight and promotes more movement of the hair.
Another common type of layering involves layering the crown and the top of the head to add bounce to the hair and to keep the hair from the face. Hair that’s too long at the crown of the head tends to lie flat against the head, with little movement.
Here are a few pointers when layering your clients’ hair:
Soft layers: Ideal for clients with a blunt cut looking to add volume
Blunt cut with some layers for movement and texture: Ideal for clients who want a low-maintenance style that can be blow dried or air dried
Classic layered cut (subtle layers in the back, a few layers framing the face): Ideal for clients with normal to thick hair who still love pulling their hair back into a ponytail
Highly textured: Ideal for clients who are looking to remove weight or thin out their hair
Subtle under-cutting: Ideal or clients who are looking to enhance texture but don’t want hair that looks too bulky; perfect for natural wavy hair or clients who like to air dry their hair
Long layers (significant distance between the bottom layer and the top layer): Ideal for wavy, long, and thick hair