Low maintenance hair style for troublesome hair (woman)?
November 17, 2015 11:01 PM   Subscribe

When my hair gets to any substantial length, it starts to look like what can best be described as ragamuffin. I need to find a style that works for me that doesn't require a lot of styling in the mornings. Extensive details inside.

My hair is half straight/half wavy and a little frizzy from fallen out hairs that start to grow and don't fall with the rest of my hair. When it dries either natural or by blow dryer, it's flat around my head and gets curly/wavy just under ears and chin, so basically just the lower portion. It also only gets wavy on the under layer in back while the top layer remains straight (weird) and it ends up looking poofy and scraggly all at the same time in back. It essentially looks like crap. It looks better when it's longer but still nowhere near what I would call nice looking.

Combing/not combing doesn't make much of a difference with how it dries and ends up looking. Straightening all of it is the only way to make it look not-ragamuffin-like but I'm tired of that. I've tried bangs, no bangs, bangs of varying thickness, changing where the part is, some layering, etc. If I cut it woman-short (think bob), it still gets poofy about halfway down. I've had it cut man-short (think an inch in length all around) several times but I don't like this.

All the short to mid-length hairstyles I find when I look for them look like they are best suited for straight hair (so I will still have to straighten it) or completely curly hair, or "natural" looking hairstles on celebrities with waves only in certain places that look like they require an extensive styling regiment to look that way. Are there any low maintenance styles for women with inconsistent hair patterns like I have? I'm at an age/at a job where I am trying to look a little nicer and my hair is kind of a problem child.

What we're working with: right now it's right at the top of my shoulders and I have long bangs that can easily becomes non-bangs in about two months if I don't cut them.
posted by atinna to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not trying to not answer your question, but on the way to finding a cut and/or style that works for you, you should check and see if it turns out you actually have curly hair and just don't know it. Your description of the underneath vs the top makes me suspect you do. If this is the case, it will change things but the good news is that there's is nothing less high-maintenance.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:43 PM on November 17, 2015 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, I have similar hair. Over many frustrating years of trying to cope with said hair, I have found a cut and a styling trick that actually works. The key is to have it cut DRY. This is absolutely critical. The stylist needs to be able to see where the fullness is and is not, and to essentially sculpt your hair into a style. Carefully blended layers will help your hair lay nicely. If you're not into straightening it every day (I'm not either) you have to find a cut that will play nice with your curls.

Is your hair thin? Or do you have a ton of it? This is important when choosing a cut.

So. If you do have thick hair like me, here is what my stylist does: first, cut everything to the main length you want. Then take the underneath 1/3 and cut it 1.5" shorter, and blend it in to the main length. The take the top 1/3 (the crown) and cut long vertical stokes through it to create body and movement. Then see if there is any pouf happening, and use long vertical strokes of the scissors (or a razor) to blend these areas away. Last, cut into the ends of the hair to remove bluntness, which will allow the curls to lay nicely and be defined. I usually have it cut around or just below my shoulders, but could easily be a bit shorter.

I have lots of hair, especially at the back, so my stylist always has to blend out (ie cut away with long vertical strokes) a lot of fullness at the bottom to prevent my hair from looking like a broom.

To make it look nice without having to style it daily, at night I put it up in two high buns with some curl cream when it's barely damp and take it down in the morning when it's totally dry. This curls the top straight/frizzy layer and tames the poufy underneath bit at the same time, and lasts until I wash it again. I put a bit of morrocan oil on the ends every morning between washes and call it good. Also, I never, ever brush my hair. I comb it when it's damp to put it up and that's it. Brush + curls = awfulness and frizz

Hope I've explained it clearly enough, and I hope you can find an awesome stylist to work with.
posted by ananci at 11:49 PM on November 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

Are there any low maintenance styles for women with inconsistent hair patterns like I have?

I have misbehaving wavy hair, and I don't think you can, or not as low-maintenance as I think you'd prefer. I think no matter what cut you get, it's going to be down to
- good conditioner. (I like this fekkai, paul mitchell lavender tea tree oil moisturizing conditioner, various kevin.murphy ones, macadamia oil deep repair masque, kerastase nutritive masquintense masque)
- moisturizing styling products. kerastase oleo relax serum is the best imo; coconut or jojoba oil next (any drug store or health food store or grocery store sometimes), third might be cutting an ok conditioner (or your good one) with a bit of water, fourth would be a tiny bit of gel while it's drying, to keep frizz down
- cuts at least 3 times a year, if you've got a cowlick or extra dense patch in the back there, to balance out regrowth (or "blend it out", yeah)
- blowdrying it into place. Hot blasts at the crown for volume (blow dry it up, there), then blow-dry the rest straight down and flat - angle the hairdryer so you're setting the hair to lie down flat. Bangs: dry in every direction before drying into place. Takes me 5 minutes now that I know how to do that. Using a brush will help more, so will an ionic hair dryer (I thought it might be hype but it helps a lot).

Style recommendation: lob. It's long enough to weigh the waves down so they're under control, not so long it's annoying, and versatile (because sometimes you just want to put it up).
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:04 AM on November 18, 2015

Have you tried a cut that's shorter at the back? It can be done on curly, wavy or straight hair - but it's a totally different look with each. It's highest maintenance for straight hair (Victoria Beckham style) - but with wavy hair you just need a bit of wax or mousse to move it from scruffy to tousled. If you're feeling fancy put a clip in the front. You can also clip the bangs straight back for a different look.
posted by superfish at 12:23 AM on November 18, 2015

Best answer: Hi, it sounds like we have similar hair.

My hair is neither straight nor wavy, and, alas, it is not secretly curly. I have tried all the co-washing, scrunching, plopping, mousses and gels in the world, but it does not form beautiful, even curls or waves.

My hair is also *incredibly* fine and very, very thin. I actually use Rogaine to address a phase of hair loss. It works, which means I'm basically stuck using Romaine now. You don't mention if your hair is fine or thick. If it's thicker and dry, listen to Cotton Dress Sock, she speaks the truth.

It sounds like you've got a frizzy 'halo' of broken baby hair. These might be the result of breakage. How are you handling your hair? Brushing your hair when its' wet, or tearing a brush from roots to ends through still-tangled hair is a recipe for breakage. Buy yourself a wide tooth comb, a shower comb and a Tangle Teezer. Make sure that you start detangling/brushing from the ends up.

If your hair is very fine and thin, heavy conditioners will feel gross, especially if you use them at the roots. What really works for me is conditioning my hair *before* I shampoo. I coat my lengths and ends, below my ears, with an el cheap silicone-free conditioner, then shampoo. I also condition afterwards with the good stuff.

You don't mention whether you use any products. This makes a big difference to the frizz. The best anti-frizz serum I've ever found for my baby-fine, flyaway hair is L'oreal Extraordinary Oil, which I'm guessing is the cut-price version of similar Kerastase serums. I apply one pump to soaking wet hair when I get out of the shower, and it's just magical stuff, super lightweight but still effective.

You mention you own a hairdryer. My hair totally changed when I finally splashed out on a Parlux. Because my hair is so fine and thin, blowdrying takes no time at all. I spray a little root booster at my roots (just Tressemme), flip my head upside down, then blast dry 'til it's 80% dry. Then I snap on the nozzle, stand up straight, and flip my hair from side to side. I'll use the nozzle to kind of smooth all my hair over one side of my head, then I'll do the same on the other side, until my hair is totally dry. I'll also get the contradictory flat roots/puffy ends situation if I don't blow dry. I avoided it for years, but now I'm completely on board with heat styling.

Is this high maintenance? It takes all of 5-10 minutes in the morning, and I'm pretty happy with my hair. People seriously don't believe that my hair is as thin as it is.

Again, if your hair is thick or you have a lot of it, disregard what I'm saying. But that's what works for my super super thin hair.
posted by nerdfish at 2:14 AM on November 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: There is an entire world of good hair between bob and "man-short". Not just good hair but great hair. Fantastic bomb-ass best hair.

I have very short hair in one of these styles and honestly when it is any length other than this I look like a ragamuffin. Ragamuffin was actually THE word used to describe me in re: my hair my entire childhood (because that's before I was allowed to cut it all off). A few months ago I let it grow out to bob length again just for kicks and boom, ragamuffin city. And that was with conditioner treatments and blowdrying. I just have so much hair that anything other than a short style perfectly suited to my head is gonna look ragamuffiny.

If you could post a picture of yourself I'd be able to give specific suggestions, but the best advice I can give you would be to go to a cool kid stylist (at a place where a plurality of employees have visible tattoos*), explain your hair problems, tell them you are looking to remove poof and bulk, and tell them you want it to be LOW MAINTENANCE, and then explain what low maintenance means to you. To me it means I wash it when j shower and then I'm done thinking about my hair. To other people it means a bit of product and a blow dryer. Be specific. Then tell them that you're ready for a BIG change and willing to be daring, and that you trust them to find the best look for your hair type and head.

I know that's a lot, but you hate your hair now, right? You're only gonna improve from here. This is how I've found hair that works for me. To work with my hair instead of fighting against the ragamuffin tide.

*No offense to un-body-modded people, I'm one myself, but every haircut I've ever had at a non-alt-leaning place has been terrible and boring and I'm not even trying to be that cool.
posted by phunniemee at 4:16 AM on November 18, 2015 [5 favorites]

Seconding DarlingBri. It sounds like you just have curly hair. It may not be extremely curly (that is to say, you may have wavy/curly hair), but I think you need to treat it / style it like it's curly. My hair is VERY curly, but before I knew how to take care of it I had the same problem: triangle hair. And I thought I didn't have enough "volume" on top. Actually I just had no idea how to take care of curly hair.

The basics are: NEVER comb (use your fingers instead), squish to condition, and use a TON of leave-in conditioner. Air dry your hair without touching it! Or use a diffuser. Never use a towel to rub your hair dry! When it's dry, you can give the top more volume by "massaging" the scalp. You really should look at some youtube videos because it sounds weird when I write it down.

I recommend you take read the book Curly Girl. It shouldn't take you long to do so, it's mostly pictures and explanations of how to take care of curly hair, but I really REALLY think you should implement these methods. Also you'll see in the book that they categorize curly hair from wavy to super curly and I think you'll find pictures of hair very similar to yours there.

Also take a look at the curly hair reddit, if you want examples of before and after for people who started using the "curly girl" method, I guarantee you will see lots of examples where you'll think that the before is similar to your current hair! And they have good recommendations for products and routines.

There also tons of youtube videos, so search for "curly girl method" on youtube and watch away.

Finally, regarding hair styles: go see a hair dresser that specializes in curly hair, and more specially someone who specializes in "Deva Cuts". The lady who wrote the curly girl book has a product line called Devacurl, which then became this cult-like thing, where now hairdressers get "certified" in dry-cuts for curl hairs using the Devacurl method. Look I'm not a fan of this cult thing either, and the crazy prices of the products and the "special" hair cuts, but those hairdressers are the one one who know that you're not supposed to comb curly hair, and know how to cut it. Find one you trust and work with them to find a hair style that's good for you. But I think that for the most part the first thing you should do is look into changing the way you currently wash/dry/and style your hair after you shower!

I hope this helps.
posted by carmel at 4:19 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I meant to add this to my earlier comment but fatfingered the post button. A few weeks ago failing to bob: ragamuffin. A few days ago: bomb-ass hair. All I did that day was shower, dry it off with a towel (which works for my hair and my cut), and walk out the door.

Find a stylist who is cooler than you are, be honest with them, and then let them do whatever they want.

posted by phunniemee at 4:23 AM on November 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think we have similar hair types. After years of struggling, I've found a routine that works well for me:

In my experience, hair cut isn't the most important thing. If you are okay with just going with a straight style (which, in my experience, is usually easiest to maintain), one thing you might try is wrapping your hair. You can do this when it's wet so that it will dry (more or less) straight. You can do it at night and then wrap a silk scarf around your head to keep your hair straight when you sleep. The next morning, just take out the bobby pins, maybe run a straightening iron through it quickly, and you're good to go.

It takes some experimentation to get it right, but it's called a "doobie" and there are lots of how to videos like this one. This is great because it makes it easier to keep your hair straight and it helps keep your hair healthier. You'll be minimizing use of the blow drier and hair straightener and sleeping with your hair wrapped at night will minimize breakage. The scarf I use is something like this.

I'll second conditioning your hair and shampooing it second. More recently, though, I've pretty much ditched shampoo all together. Now, I coat the ends in conditioner, and then use a dilute apple vinegar rinse which I spray in my hair in the shower, focusing on the roots, and then combing it through the ends. I usually let it sit for about 5-10 minutes before rinsing out. If you get the write dilution ratio, it should de-grease your hair and keep it looking shiny. I think my current ratio is about 4 oz of ACV per 16 oz of water.

For conditioner and shampoo when I use it, I use SheaMoisture. Oh, I also use an old soft t shirt to dry my hair instead of a regular towel. It seems to be more gentle on my hair.

For reference, my hair is very fine, and I have it cut a little above my shoulders (though it's currently grown to below my shoulders), with some angling/layering in the front. My hair is also naturally not straight but not super curly, although that varies a lot with length and humidity.
posted by litera scripta manet at 4:43 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm agreeing with DarlingBri, too. Whenever I see a woman walking around with hair like you describe I think to myself "that poor woman is trying to wash, dry, and brush her hair like it's straight hair when it isn't. .."
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:25 AM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing DarlingBri. The underlayer of my hair is much, much curlier than the top layers, and when I try and just cut and wash and comb like a person with straight hair it's a frizzy, fluffy mess. My tricks are: always, always use a leave-in conditioner; wide-toothed combs only, and as little as possible; no brushes EVER.

Once you have the behavior issue settled, a world of cut options become available to you, depending on your face shape &c. The trick is to always, always have layers in some fashion or another. I am personally fond of an above-shoulders cut that LOOKS like a blunt cut but is not, with bangs straight across that I blow dry. Think Rene Russo from Thomas Crown Affair, in the parts where it hasn't been blown straight.
posted by Andrhia at 5:38 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

I also have half wavy/half straight hair. One thing you might consider to tone down the frizziness is a keratin treatment. You can get a temporary type or a permanant type — note that this is NOT HAIR-STRIGHTENING. The treatment will smooth your hair cuticle and help combat frizziness but it will not take out the wave. It will, however, make your hair easier to dry, and will make it easier to wear straight if you want to. I usually go for the temporary treatment, which is supposed to last 6 week but lasts like three months on my hair because I also only wash my hair 1-2 times a week.

Which, by the way, you shouldn't be over-washing your hair. People will give you advice about no-poo shampoos, fancy kitchen remedies and the like, but you'll really have to experiment. No poo did NOT work for me. What does work is not washing it every day.
posted by Brittanie at 6:01 AM on November 18, 2015

I have similar hair. I went to a good hair dresser and said I want short hair that I don't even need to comb. Since then I've had hair about the same length as phunniemee and I wash it, run my fingers through it so it sits well, and that's it. Mine isn't as disciplined as phunniemee seems to be, but I go for tousled chic instead.

The key is to find a cool hairdresser who will comprehend that really you will not do anything to your hair, honest, and be ready to go short. It's the only way I've found to manage my part straight part wavy and plenty frizzy hair.
posted by tavegyl at 6:06 AM on November 18, 2015

Oh and my profile picture is from pre haircut days when I was just resigned to bad hair. In case you are recoiling in horror.
posted by tavegyl at 6:12 AM on November 18, 2015

I would certainly recommend finding a curl-specific hairdresser (if you happen to be in the DC area, mine moved there and I can give you her contact info) who does Ouidad- or Deva-style dry cuts, and the search engine at naturallycurly.com is okay but often really outdated. I just search on Yelp for hairdressers and "curly" and you'll know one when you find one because of the reviews.

I have hair that is increasingly prone to ragamuffin-ness as I get older. I gave in this summer and went Jennifer Lawrence Pixie, which I can get about 6 months out of before it gets too thick and unwieldy.

I don't blow-dry mine, I just wash in the early evening 2x/week and put a little product in, comb it slicked back, and if I have to be somewhere the next morning I do one very sloppy pass with the straight-iron (this takes 5 minutes, I don't even use a comb, I just run my hands through, pick a hunk, and iron it) before bed and then another 5-minute tidy-up plus a little styling paste in the morning. For the remaining days until I wash again, I can usually just run my hands through it to style, or maybe just iron the "bangs" area if I've gotten them damp washing my face.

As mine gets longer it gets wavier on the underside, but either a little extra product (so it's wavy but cohesive) or ironing work fine there. Once it's as long as it is right now it curls around the back of my ears and is actually pretty cute. At this length, I can also mess around with color without it being a huge ordeal.

My profile picture is from a few weeks after my last cut, pre-color, and kind of sweaty because it was a million humid degrees. I used to look like Bad Hair Day Hermione on days like that.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:27 AM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

My hair has all the traits you describe, but you don't say how fine/coarse your hair is - mine is very fine, but thick (i.e. fine strands, but a lot of it) and pretty porous, so humidity affects it a lot. Obviously, YMMV.

Andrhia's regimen sounds similar to mine with this type of hair. I've kind of given in to blowdrying, though, as the changing humidity requires slightly different amounts of hair product/combing/drying in order to not take more than a few minutes to do, and I don't want to do the systematic study to figure out what combination to use for which dew point. To help with the blow drying, I use something similar to this (though, my brush attachment has boar bristles, the bristles on another of the attachments of mine are like harder ceramic bits). For anything above shoulder length, it only takes a few minutes or less of just brushing my hair to make it dry and shiny. I find it much easier than trying to maneuver with a regular blow dryer and separate brush. I also use a drop of macadamia+argan oil combo right before drying.

I also pony up for a kinda expensive haircut 2-3 times a year from a guy who has a lot of experience with what he calls "combination" hair - part curly-part straight. It's not just the general shape of the cut - he does a lot of inter cutting and shaping with scissors and a razor to handle the poofiness - taking advantage of it when it's long (so the wave looks more "natural") and minimizing when I get it cut short. This cuts down on the styling a LOT, and when I do have an extra few minutes to air dry, it looks good with minimal product. So, it's not a general style, but technique, I think. But, I doubt I will ever have low maintenance hair. Just lower maintenance.
posted by bluefly at 7:04 AM on November 18, 2015

My hair is a lot like yours, and it started behaving much better after I listened to my grandmother and started doing oil treatments once a week. Nothing too complicated; just glopping on coconut oil from scalp to ends, leaving on for a few hours, and then washing it all off. The difference it made was pretty miraculous; my hair went from a messy rat's nest to corkscrew curls I can run my fingers through to style. And which actually behave.
posted by Tamanna at 7:51 AM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Re hairdressers - agree that tatted staff generally = more creative and up to date etc. But it won't help if they don't understand your hair, and try to cut it like it's straight. Layering can go really wrong that way. (In my case when they do anything razory or cut pieces too short. Layers need to be thoughtfully chosen and *long*, otherwise there's not enough weight to keep waves in check.)

I found my amazing stylist on Yelp after looking specifically for good reviews from people with hair like mine. *Important: stylist *also* has hair like mine. She understands it in an intimate way. Tl;dr find a hair twin stylist with good reviews.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:08 AM on November 18, 2015

Andrhia knows what she's talking about, especially the advice to avoid the hairbrush, aka "the tool of Satan." I have a lot of fine, thick, wavy/curly hair, and when I go near the dreaded brush, I look like Moammar Gaddhafi.

This 2014 AskMe post by a woman in a similar flat on the top/wavy underneath situation has a lot of good advice. Here's what worked for her. A sleeping cap also helps, despite its innate dorkiness.

For how to wear your hair, check out the "curly hair" section of the tumblr F Yeah Short Haired Women. Maybe one of these cuts will appeal ...

There's also Mechelleren's Pinterest on the topic, plus fyeah.shortcurlyhair.tumblr.com. (Note: Not to be confused with F Yeah Short Haired Women, above.)
posted by virago at 11:15 AM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, just another nth to DarlingBri. You're describing my hair until I accidentally got a good cut and it dried into ringlets (!). You're getting great advice above!
posted by jrobin276 at 12:54 PM on November 18, 2015

My hair is also similar to how yours sounds, and is NOT secretly curly. YMMV.

I have also had success with finding a good stylist who does dry cuts and is way cooler than I'll ever be. The salon I go to actually advertises their "wash and wear" cuts, and she is the first stylist who's ever not argued with me about how I should use hair products (I hate hair products and use nothing leave-in at all ever). I've had cuts ranging in length from ear-length bob to just below shoulder length from this stylist, and all have looked good without any blowdrying, straightening, or product-ing--totally wash and wear. I pay a lot more than I used to for haircuts, but I don't even care I am so happy with my hair. It can be tough to find THE stylist, but once you do it is amazing.
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:29 PM on November 18, 2015

I got this haircut a few months ago and looove it! My hair is thick and wavy but the stylist took weight off the ends. I run a flat iron through it quickly to tame it most of the time, but am ok wearing it either in its natural straight-wavy-frizzyish state, or super straight...either way it works.
posted by watrlily at 5:42 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Laughter may be the best medicine, but where can I...   |   Is the Saxophone a good instrument for developing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.