How to Spot a Bad Haircut

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Knowledge is Key

Man having hair cut, closeup
Dimitri Otis / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

Knowing how to spot a bad haircut is the first step in knowing how to avoid getting one (and knowing if its time to fire your barber). There are three key areas that make up a great haircut -- shaping, blending, and finishing. On the following pages, we'll discuss each area so you'll know how to better communicate with your barber or stylist and help spot areas where your haircutter may be dropping the ball.

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Shaping the Haircut

Man with Long Wavy Layers
A great haircut frames the face perfectly. Photo © Simon Winnall | Getty Images.

The length and shape of a haircut can help draw the focus away from weaker facial features and enhance your best features. A full, round haircut on a guy with a round face can really emphasize the fullness of the face. A leaner, more squared up haircut on a round face adds balance. It is first essential to know how to choose the right haircut for your face shape and know how a haircut can balance facial features. Going to the salon with that knowledge can help you better select a hairstyle you know will be right and avoid leaving the determination up to a lazy or less skilled haircutter.

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Blending the Haircut

Unless you specifically ask for any type of weight line or line of demarcation, a properly blended haircut should have no visible lines. Photo © Imagerymajestic | Dreamstime.com.

Good blending is critical to a great looking short haircut. A properly blended haircut will have no visible lines of demarcation (as shown in this photo). When viewed from the side or back, you should see no lines or dark spots. From the front, there should be nothing sticking out and no steps in the haircut. On top, you should see no lines resulting from your barber or stylist picking up the hair and cutting it between his fingers -- a great haircutter will always cross-check the top from front-to-back and side-to-side.

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Finishing the Haircut

Photo © Damien Richard | Dreamstime.com

How a haircut is finished is critical to achieving a great result. Great finishing can add polish to a mediocre haircut, while sloppy finishing can destroy an otherwise great haircut. A properly finished haircut, in my opinion, meets the following criteria:

1) The outline of the haircut will follow the natural hairline as closely as possible. A haircut that is outlined too high into the hairline (as it is in the illustration above) will look sloppy just a few days after the cut. For more information on necklines, I suggest reading my article on choosing the right neckline shape.

2) There will be no hair sticking up at the crown. Your crown is that little swirly part at the top of your head and it's often the place most barbers or stylists screw up. If you've got little sprigs sticking up there, it's a problem (unless you want it sticking up). A great haircutter will know how to navigate this area and not leave you looking like Alfalfa from The Little Rascals.

3) A great haircut will look good with or without styling product. Styling product should be used to enhance a style, not create one. A properly shaped, blended, and finished haircut should look good with our without product.

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Fixing a Bad Haircut

When trying to recover from a bad haircut, leave the repair work to a professional. Photo © Arenacreative | Dreamstime.com.

So you got a bad haircut? First, the good news. It's only hair and it will always grow back. Now, the bad news. To keep from looking like a goofball, you're going to have to shell out a few bucks and get another haircut to repair the damage. Fixing a botched haircut takes skill, so I don't recommend trying it yourself unless you plan on shaving your head.

If you're still in the barber's chair, you may be able to simply ask for a touch up. Do so only if you're completely confident this barber is skilled. That said, if your haircutter is skilled you're probably not going to be asking for a touch up, so it may be best to cut your losses and find another barber.

When you go in for a touch up, let the barber or stylist determine the best options. Sure, you might end up with a much different style than you're accustomed to, but a skilled haircutter will know what's best.

Look on the bright side. Fixing a bad haircut may force you into stepping outside your comfort zone and trying something different for a change. Change isn't always a bad thing.