You know those moments when you look in the mirror and feel like Marge Simpson? As if you’ve had the same hairstyle every day, for, say, the past 20 years? If your styling routine has become an endless cycle of “lather, rinse, hair oil, Frizz-Ease, blowdry, flat iron, repeat,” you may be stuck in a hair rut.
Fortunately, unlike Marge, you live in a 3-D world where you have control of your strands. No matter what kind of locks you were blessed with—straight, curly, fine, or thick—there are many ways to change up your usual look through cut, color, styling, and accessories. We turned to expert Timmy Willy, a stylist at Chicago’s Blow by Blow dry bar and an artistic educator for Matrix, to get his tips on how to rock your ’do with a little more variety.
We asked Willy for his absolute must-haves, and he gave us four tools he says every woman should always have at the ready.
• A no-crease scrunchie: When you’ve had a blowout or curled your hair, you can go to the gym and the scrunchie will keep the style (unlike simple elastics, which can leave dents).
• Dry shampoo: No one has time to style their hair every day, so you can save time and keep your look longer with dry shampoo. It also means you’ll wash less, which helps to maintain your hair’s moisture.
• 1-inch curling iron
• Mason Pearson brush
According to Willy, it doesn’t take much to change up your look completely. “Try to vamp it up a little,” Willy suggests. “Take your everyday straight and add a little curl or bend at the ends, and you’ll be surprised at the difference. Or if you have naturally curly hair, add volume with a root maximizer and flat iron.”
Blow-dry bars are popping up across the country and can help you get a new look at an affordable price, fast! “What’s great about a blow-dry bar is that professional stylists can achieve looks women can’t at home,” says Willy. Plus, “you’re in and out in 40 minutes, and on average, spending only about $35.” Not only can a trained pro open your eyes to a new style that you never thought would work, he or she can also give you some tips for approximating the look on your own.
Willy says updos are becoming more and more popular at his salon—and not just those of the stereotypical, traditional wedding variety. “Updos can be more casual and dressed down,” he notes, adding that braids are a great option for a more relaxed look. “The great thing about an updo is it will last a few days and when you pull the pins out, the curls that develop will last a few days more.” You may even get a week’s worth of hair styling out of it.
Besides pulling a Britney and shaving your head, changing your color is perhaps the most seismic shift you can make to your style. The process can be daunting, so Willy gave us some tips.
First, he recommends starting with an acid-based demi-permanent color so you can get a shift in tone but not necessarily color level. “This enhances your hair color without a major change and adds shine and gloss while protecting against UV rays,” he says, making this choice especially good during summer months.
If you want to try blonde, Willy suggests going for natural-looking medium tones, which are more modern than the chunky highlights of yesteryear. With red, you have to be careful to preserve your color. Make sure to stay away from chlorine pools and use a color-treated protectant to maintain longevity. “This is especially important in summer because the sun will take the color right out of your hair,” says Willy.
A tried-and-true standby is the ombré, the ever-present naturally graded look that starts darker at the top and turns lighter towards the ends. “That style is not going anywhere. I still do ombrés daily,” says Willy. “It’s a great way to maintain and achieve bold looks without really damaging your hair.”
A more temporary effect is washable color like hair chalk from Kevin Murphy or Anastasia Beverly Hills. “You can add pastel to your ombré and increase the vibrancy, and it washes right out the next time you shampoo,” says Willy.
“If you’re ready for a new cut, know that you are making a big commitment and marrying it for at least six weeks until you see some grow-out,” says Willy. He recommends consulting with your stylist before trying anything new. “Many times people come in with a picture from a magazine and want a carbon copy, but it’s often not the best look for their face,” he says. Ask your stylist for recommendations specific to your facial structure.
Of course there are simpler things you can try, like adding bangs or fringe-y layers. “Hair works like makeup,” says Willy. “For example, if you have a longer face, you can contour your hair by adding a bang that creates a more oval appearance.” And fringe “can create create strong lines against your face.”
Hair accessories like pins, headbands, and hats can really finish off a new look or at least provide some different options for those less willing to go for bold cuts or color. According to Willy, an updo is unfinished until you pair it with an accessory. “It’s like an outfit without jewelry—it just looks awkward,” he says.
• Every time you change your haircut or color, plan on playing around with your wardrobe and makeup to complement your new look.
• To keep it healthy, change your hair color no more than once every 6 weeks.
• Plan any drastic cuts for the summer—one, it will give you relief from the heat, and two, hair grows faster in the warmer months due to vitamin D from the sun.