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The right haircut, the one that gives you the confidence to strut out your front door with ease, tops the list as one of life's most satisfying moments. But for many of us, it's when we go through major life changes -- becoming a mom, changing careers -- that we realize our hairstyle no longer fits our needs or mood. And yet many of us cling to the tried and true (hey, it worked in high school!), insecure about what to switch to.
If this sounds like you, you're officially in a hair rut. And we're here to help. We've addressed the three common laments from readers and asked Mark Garrison, a New York City celebrity hairstylist and salon owner, to come up with great style solutions. One of these might well work for you.
First, a few pointers. Start by asking for a consultation before the cut and bring photos -- or either a celebrity whose haircut you admire or of yourself in a past style that you really liked -- as that will help to get you and the stylist speaking the same language. Also, says Garrison, "discuss what you do and don't like about your present cut."
Next, the stylist will assess your face shape: A strong jaw looks best with softness around the nape, says Garrison, in order to divert attention from it. "A round face, meanwhile, needs a slim cut, where the volume is concentrated on top," he says.
Finally, the stylist will assess your hair's texture and length. If you have curly hair but you long for Demi Moore's glossy mane, and you're willing to spend time with the flat iron, then go for it. If not, pick another 'do. Fine hair looks best with minimal layers, as it needs the weight of a blunt style to hold it down. Thick hair, meanwhile, can handle more layers.
The dilemma: It's possible that between graduating from college and starting a family, you have stepped into a salon perhaps a grand total of three times. And one of those visits was most likely for the "Rachel" haircut, and you never went back after realizing just how much upkeep that look required. If this sounds like you, remember that even Jennifer Aniston doesn't wear that hairstyle anymore.
Style solution: A great cut for this stage of your life is something Garrison calls "a new take on the shag." It has a combination of bangs and layers around the face and is good for women who love their long hair but need a smart update. "This has nice volume," he says, "and since it touches the shoulders, gives the illusion of length. It's the shorter side of long." The angles around the face bring out cheekbones and eyes. Bangs should be cut on an angle, since boxy bangs (which are cut straight across) are the "harder kind to grow out," Garrison says.
Styling essentials: Garrison adds a texturizer such as Wella Liquid Hair Hair Putty Texturizer, $14, or Suave Smoothing Glaze Gel, $2.29, to the ends to give it a bit of oomph.
The dilemma: You might be thrilled about your new job, but when you stare at your rumpled ponytail in the mirror, you quickly realize that you're going to need a little bit of help in getting your hair out of casual mode and into something that is as career-ready as you are.
Style solution: While there is no particular haircut that is more professional than another -- good news indeed! -- there are certain elements that make a big difference in how you present yourself every day, including a smooth, neat finish and modern touches. Proper styling will give almost any haircut these basics, but the most dramatic update is accomplished with a great, new cut.
Few haircuts streamline your look as effectively as the bob; long hair can look too vampy or even messy for the workplace -- if it's not styled correctly, of course -- and medium-length hair might not give you the impact that you need. Yet a bob always looks sophisticated and current. It's versatile, too, since it looks great sleek and straight or slightly wavy and more textured on other days.
Intrigued? There are a few guidelines to remember when consulting with your stylist about this haircut. "The trick to a modern bob is to have it taper to a fine edge and blend into the jawline," explains Garrison, who also refers to this rendition of the classic haircut as a "graduated" bob. Otherwise, he adds, it can look too wig-like and stiff.
A razor or trimming shears is your stylist's best tool for taking the bulk out of hair, particularly if yours is really thick. Scissors alone can't give hair this airy feeling. The front of your hair should be slightly longer than the back, with a subtle angle that slopes toward your chin. Not only does this help to accentuate your face, particularly your eyes and cheekbones, but the sharpness of the cut won't be lost when you nod or shake your head. Also, make sure that the stylist keeps the top layers long, at least long enough to graze your cheek. Go any shorter, warns Garrison, and this section will be too short in relation to the rest of your hair, making your head resemble a pineapple. Need another great reason to ask for a bob? It can be pulled back into your comfy ponytail on the weekends. Sign us up!
Styling essentials: Garrison begins by running an anti-frizz serum thorough locks. Next, he sprays the volumizer, such as Cristophe Beverly Hills Volumizing Spray Tonic, $7.99, to help lift the hair at the roots, where you need a bit of volume and movement. (We also like Rene Furterer Fioravanti No Frizz Gel, $20, and Pantene Pro V Root Lifter Volumizing Spray Gel, $3.99.) With a big round brush and blow-dryer, Garrison blows hair straight and smooth. When finished, he quickly runs a flat iron through it. This last step is actually a timesaver, as it helps to lock in the sleekness of your blow-dry -- a great plus during the busy workday. Finish with a veil of one of the new soft-hold hairsprays, such as Physique Keep It Flexible Hair Spray, $7, which will keep your 'do styled, yet soft to the touch.
The dilemma: There's a lot to love about motherhood, but the number it does on your hair isn't included. Not only are you sleep-deprived, you're shower-deprived, too. Maintaining any kind of hairstyle may seem like it's not worth the time, until you look in the mirror and shriek: "Mom Hair!" Usually, this phenomenon translates into a ponytail that seems glued to your head. Though ponytails are an easy remedy for those pesky flyaways and messy mops that interfere with child rearing, they won't exactly win you any awards for stylishness. Another popular alternative is to impulsively run to the nearest salon and demand that your hair be chopped off. Granted, the freedom that comes with a short cut is understandably appealing, but there's a fine line between a sexy short 'do that makes you look very Sharon Stone, and one that transforms you into a dead ringer for Carol Brady from The Brady Bunch. Take the time to think about whether you're ready to take the plunge, and be sure to have a detailed pre-cut consultation with a stylist. Otherwise, cue the dreaded "Mom hair!" shriek.
Style solution: This perfect merging of style and function is the pixie cut. "This is a very feminine cut that suits many different face shapes," says Garrison. What makes this cut modern, he adds, is that the volume is not just on the top but on the sides of the head as well. Also, the wispy strands on the neck and around the ears are interesting details that make the cut fresh and new. If you're thinking that you could never pull off hair this short, then ask your hairstylist about a slightly longer version which would simply require tweaking this cut to suit your hair's unique characteristics. Those with naturally curly hair might prefer to keep the cut on the longer side, especially on the top of the head and on the sides, in order to avoid frizz and puffiness. Pin-straight hair, meanwhile, can be kept fairly short and smooth against the head.
Styling essentials: Talk about wash and wear! First Garrison sprays hair with water and works a texturizing product -- like Charles Worthington Results Body-Booster Silkening Mousse, $5.99 -- throughout hair. Using a small round brush and blow-dryer, Garrison then blows hair smooth and straight. Afterward, he works a pomade, such as Garnier Fructis Fiber Gum Putty, $2.99, onto the fringes of the hair, sculpting it on the areas he wants to accentuate. He continues to style it with a flat iron, which you can do, too, or you can skip this step and instead keep it more natural looking. Finally, he applies a mist of shine spray, such as Bumble and bumble Gloss Spray, $13, to make the hair silky looking. Motherhood never looked so good.