October 2, 2022

woman

When you have thick hair, going shorter can be intimidating—and risky—as your locks may be prone to building extra body that could change the shape of your cut. On the other hand, a lengthy mane means that you’ll have more hair to wash, dry, and style. Translation: extra time added to your haircare routine. However, one fool-proof length for thick hair worth trying is just above or just below the shoulders. But don’t just take out word for it; we tapped experts Fallon Toni Chavez and Marcus Francis who revealed why mid-length cuts are flattering for denser hair types and shared their tips for styling a thicker mane.

So regardless of your hair texture, whether it’s stick-straight, wavy, curly, relaxed, or natural, there’s an ultra-flattering shoulder-length haircut that suits you. To prove it, we rounded up our favorite mid-length styles to inspire your next salon visit.

 

From blunt cuts to long layers, keep scrolling for the best shoulder-length haircuts for thick hair.

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Blunt Texture

Olivia Palermo midlength haircut
DOMINIQUE CHARRIAU / GETTY IMAGES

Olivia Palermo’s wavy locks look effortlessly cool with a rough chop that gives her blunt cut more dimension. Chavez adds, “Shoulder-length cuts for thick hair are good for a few reasons. First of all, eliminating dry damaged ends, getting a fresh new start—it’s a great alternative to cutting your hair short for a completely new look.”

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Long, Sleek Layers

Joan Smalls straight midlength haircut
GILBERT CARRASQUILLO / FILMMAGIC / GETTY IMAGES

Sleek hair looks impeccably polished in long layers that fall just below the shoulders. For added gloss like Joan Smalls, finish with Kenra Professional Shine Spray ($19).

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Beachy Waves

Olivia Munn wavy mid-length layers
MATT WINKELMEYER / GETTY IMAGES

As evidenced by Olivia Munn, long layers give wavy hair an extra boost of body. Ask your stylist to angle ends so that they hit just above and below the shoulders. “This length looks great with a soft natural beach wave,” adds Chavez. A few spritzes from a salt spray can give you this visually effortless style.

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Chandelier Layers

Lili Reinhart chandelier layered hair
@COLORBYMATTREZ / INSTAGRAM

Lilli Reinhart’s cascading layers frame the face in dramatic descending waves that suit her thick, straight locks. For maximum hold, secure your finished waves with a hairspray like L’Oreal Paris Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold Hairspray ($12).

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Voluminous Curls

Kerry Washington curly midlength haircut
JB LACROIX / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

Kerry Washington’s curls make a glamorous statement as they sit right at the shoulders. You just have to ask your stylist to cut a tad longer so the length is maintained after your curls set. To get Washington’s shiny, bouncy curls, we suggest investing in a curl cream. Amika Curl Corps Curl Defining Cream ($26) works especially well for thick tresses.

06of 60

Wavy Shag

Jennifer Lawrence wavy shag
STEVE GRANITZ / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

Okay, technically this cut is a tad shorter than shoulder-length, but we had to include given just how good it looks on JLaw. Francis especially favors this cut due to its versatility: “The length is long enough to keep the texture manageable and has several style options. The shaggy layers give the cut lots of movement and body while allowing the natural texture to look its best,” he says.

07of 60

Light, Curly Layers

Solange romantic natural hair afro
ANTONIO DE MORAES BARROS FILHO / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

Thick hair can take ages to style, so why not go all-natural like Solange? The light layers of her locks gently shape her voluminous curls that sit just above her shoulders. The effect is ethereal.

08of 60

Sleek and Blunt

Margot Robbie blunt midlength haircut
TOMMASO BODDI / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

There’s nothing boring about a blunt cut like Margot Robbie’s that shows off the healthy thickness of your locks. Chavez says that when it comes to shoulder-length cuts for thick hair, you can’t go wrong with “a super-clean, straight polished look.”

09of 60

Ombré With Long Layers

Jourdan Dunn straight midlength haircut
DAVE BENETT / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

Long layers that fall just below the shoulders showcase Jourdan Dunn’s gorgeous ombré. The gradient color is ideal for those with thick tresses since the lighter shade at hair’s ends creates an effect that makes them appear less heavy.

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Face-Framing Layers

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's choppy, face-framing layers
JON KOPALOFF / FILMMAGIC / GETTY IMAGES

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s choppy, face-framing layers give her hair shape when worn wavy or straight. It’s a versatile cut that can match any mood or occasion. In other words, this ‘do is a winner among her many great hair moments.

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Varied, Woven Layers

Nathalie Kelley wavy midlength haircut
TIBRINA HOBSON / GETTY IMAGES

Nathalie Kelley’s varied layers, cut just above the shoulder, are an effortless look for wavy-haired girls that requires little styling. Her caramel highlights show off her delicately woven hair, thereby adding dimension.

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Cool-Girl Lob

Aimee Song cool-girl lob
MICHAEL STEWART / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

The same cut stays fresh even when grown out a bit like Aimee Song’s cool-girl lob. Although we’re highlighting the best cuts for thick hair, this length is known to flatter all hair types and textures.

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Side-Parted, Natural Curls

Corinne Bailey Rae curly, shoulder-length natural hair
KARWAI TANG / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

British singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae’s natural curly mane is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Keeping her layers at various lengths adds a bit of personality and shows that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. It also lends shape to thick, curly tresses.

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Choppy Layers

Selena Gomez blonde shoulder-length cut with dark roots
STEVE GRANITZ / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

Choppy layers in a rough cut just above the shoulders help to bring voluminous body to Selena Gomez’s platinum locks. Layers are key here since they soften this cut and keep it from appearing too blocky—a risk when it comes to thick tresses.

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Asymmetrical Lob

Jennifer Hudson
STEVE GRANITZ / GETTY IMAGES

Jennifer Hudson’s sharp asymmetrical bob comes just past the shoulder at its longest point. To get this pin-straight effect, you’ll want to flat-iron your strands. Then, follow-up with a hair serum like Garner Fructis Sleek and Shine Anti-Frizz Serum ($5) to add shine and keep flyaways at bay.

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Choppy Ends

Padma Lakshmi shoulder-length haircut
JAMIE MCCARTHY / GETTY IMAGES

Padma Lakshmi looks sophisticated with this mid-length cut, but the choppy ends add a bit of edge. They also serve to make thick strands appear less heavy and severe. Finish with Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray spray for gritty perfection.

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Curly Shag With Bangs

Zendaya curly mid-length hair with fringe
STEVE GRANITZ / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

From long to short, Zendaya has rocked a lot of looks that gave us hair envy. We’re into this shoulder-length shag of hers that beautifully incorporates bangs. “Curly or wavy bangs are having a moment because it has shown many women you can have bangs even if your hair isn’t straight. They are sexy and effortless with this shaggy cut, giving lots of movement and texture. This style is no-fuss and makes a statement,” says Francis.

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Tousled and Blunt

Kendall Jenner blunt midlength cut with slight wave
GEORGE PIMENTEL / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

A blunt cut can also look just as good on hair with a slight wave, as seen here on Kendall Jenner. The best part about shoulder-length hair? “You can get a fresh new look without cutting all your hair off,” Chavez tells us. “This length is also great with long layers or even bangs, and it can still be pulled back and up for other looks or exercise,” she adds.

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Sleek and Retro

Tessa Thompson sleek, shoulder-length waves
JON KOPALOFF / FILMMAGIC / GETTY IMAGES

Tessa Thompson’s well-oiled waves are vintage glam. This style also serves a practical purpose by maintaining and shaping her thick tresses. To get her silky glass strands, we recommend using a product that will coat locks in shine, like Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil ($38).

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Loose Waves

Cami Mendes wavy mid-length hair
@CAMIMENDES / INSTAGRAM

Riverdale star Camila Mendes has stunning natural waves. This shorter, choppier, shoulder-grazing style suits her heart-shaped face and adds loads of texture to her strands. Layers like this can take the bulk out of thick hair as well.

21of 60

Wavy Shag With Fringe

Linda Cardellini shag
VINCENT SANDOVAL / GETTY IMAGES

We first set eyes on Linda Cardellini as the loveable Lindsay Weir in the cult hit Freaks and Geeks, but now she is all grown up and she never looked better. Her modern shag is on point, striking the perfect balance between a thick, heavy bang and soft, romantic waves.

22of 60

Voluminous Blowout

Janelle Monae volumized shoulder-length blowout
JIM SPELLMAN / WIREIMAGE / GETTY IMAGES

Janelle Monáe serves as one of our go-to sources for beauty inspiration, especially when it comes to hair. While we’ve seen her rock many styles, we can’t take our eyes off of this shoulder-length ‘do. Full of body, it’s finished with a side-swept wave that gives off a slightly retro vibe.

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Bejeweled Natural Lob

Kerry Washington natural wavy lob with colorful hairpins
@KERRYWASHINGTON / INSTAGRAM

Hair gems are a quick and easy way to dress up your ‘do. Kerry Washington’s textured tresses are slicked down and pulled back in one small section near the part to create a canvas for bright stick-on jewels. Copy her look with Bitzy Stick On Assorted Color Crystal Hair Gems ($4).

24of 60

Slicked-Back

Bella Hadid half slicked-back shoulder-length hairdo
VICTOR BOYKO / GETTY IMAGES

Bella Hadid models slicked-back hair that is making us consider hopping on the celebrity hair trend bandwagon. Not only is this look in, but it’s also a great option for thick hair, making it appear less weighty. Its slightly androgynous tone is not only beautiful but inspiring.

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Sleek-Straight Lob

Vanessa Hudgens sleek, straight lob
@NINEZEROONE / INSTAGRAM

Vanessa Hudgens rocks a ’70s-style straight lob with a sharp center part. A single-length cut without layers can work well for hair that is thick but not bulky. To fight frizz, spray with Matrix Total Results Mega Sleek Iron Smoother ($18).

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Voluminous Afro

Esperanza Spalding
PAUL MORIGI / GETTY IMAGES

To hydrate course curls like Esperanza Spalding’s, Francis recommends first applying Better Natured Hydrating Leave-In Milk ($22) to wet hair and then again to dry hair after diffusing, lightly scrunching on ends to create definition.

27of 60

Structured S-Waves

Jenna Dewan
AXELLE / BAUER-GRIFFIN / GETTY IMAGES

Jenna Dewan’s seductive Old Hollywood waves are the opposite of relaxed and casual. The hair follows the curve of her face, highlighting her cheekbones, and tips back in at the ends for a polished, red carpet-worthy look.

28of 60

Curly Lob and Bangs

Yara Shahidi
STEVE GRANITZ / GETTY IMAGES

Yara Shahidi’s beautiful ringlets are so well-defined you can practically see every single one. We especially love her eyebrow-grazing curly fringe and the healthy, high-shine finish of her hair. As curls require hydration, don’t forget to use a conditioning product like Shu Uemura Essence Absolue Nourishing Protective Hair Oil ($69) to lock in moisture.

29of 60

Windswept Waves

Kristin Cavallari
JB LACROIX / GETTY IMAGES

With her relaxed waves and fresh tan, Kristin Cavallari is the poster woman for laid-back, beach chic. To get a similar look, use a texturizing spray like the Eva NYC City Grit Matte Texture Spray ($15) with argan oil and fatty acids. It will give hair soft, touchable body without the crunch.

KEY INGREDIENTS

Argan oil is a plant oil extracted from the kernels of the fruit pit of the argan tree (aka Argania spinosa) which grows in Morocco. The ingredient is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids. It also provides anti-inflammatory and moisturizing benefits.

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Invisible Part

Priyanka Chopra textured, voluminous hair
@HARRYJOSHHAIR / INSTAGRAM

Priyanka Chopra’s hair is serving up major body. An invisible part really lifts the hair at the crown, adding loads of height and the appearance of a never-ending mane. To maintain soft volume, use a styling foam like the ultra-nourishing Joico JoiWhip Firm-Hold Design Foam ($21).

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Brushed-Out Curls

Thandie Newton voluminous, natural textured tresses
JON KOPALOFF / GETTY IMAGES

Thandie Newton’s gorgeous brushed-out ringlets show that thick, shoulder-length hair can have the appearance of loads of length. Coarse coils lend natural volume to this look. To bring out the bests of textured tresses, SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Multi-Action Leave-In ($11) post-wash.

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’60s Mod Waves

Scarlett Johansson
JOHN SHEARER / GETTY IMAGES

Scarlett Johansson’s lob gets its mod ’60s look from the bumped-up crown. Her hair is parted down the center in the front and then brushed straight back and teased slightly upward. To keep this style in place, use a flexible hairspray like Bumble and bumble Spray de Mode Flexible Hold Hairspray ($32).

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Vintage Curls

Rose Byrne
KARWAI TANG / GETTY IMAGES

Rose Byrne’s slicked-down side part erupts into an explosion of curls. The contrast between those two textures gives off a vintage vibe. Comb a strong hold gel through the areas you’d like to keep locked in place to recreate the look yourself. We love Kenra Styling Gel 17 ($17).

34of 60

Barrel-Curled Ends

Megan Thee Stallion
TAYLOR HILL / GETTY IMAGES

For another take on classic red carpet glam, we have Megan Thee Stallion’s glossy black barrel curls. Since they are fuller on the bottom than on top, they especially complement heart, square, and diamond face shapes. We love how she’s paired this style with simple stud earrings, a smoky eye, and lined lips for full glamour.

35of 60

Curtain Fringe

Carey Mulligan curtain fringe and mid-length hair
@JENNYCHOHAIR / INSTAGRAM

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance way to change up your look, Carey Mulligan’s curtain bangs are it. They’re parted down the middle to frame the brow area and then trickle down to her shoulders in choppy layers for a sort of polished shag style. Sprinkle bangs with some dry shampoo to absorb any excess grease, which will keep them light and lifted.

36of 60

Finger-Waved Edges

Logan Browning
JON KOPALOFF

Logan Browning’s twist-out, which features subtle finger waves along the front edges of her hair, plays up old-school glamour. Meanwhile, a slick crown paired with loose curls softens her angular jawline. Keep The Doux Big Poppa Define Gel ($16) on hand if you’re interested in sporting this style.

37of 60

Wavy A-Line

Taylor Swift
NEILSON BARNARD / GETTY IMAGES

Taylor Swift’s side-swept ’80s bangs give way to an artfully disheveled bob that just grazes the shoulders. Tons of choppy layers help add dimension, while the imperfect bangs help create a bed-head illusion. It gives the traditional A-line cut a modern-day makeover.

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Accessorized Lob

Lucy Hale sleek, straight bob with headband
@LUCYHALE / INSTAGRAM

Lucy Hale’s sleek, straight bob is the perfect match for a statement-making, gold-bauble headband. We can’t help but notice how her angled cut echoes her jawline, creating the perfect framing effect. For a smooth, glossy finish, top your style off with Kiehl’s Silk Groom Serum ($18).

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Shag With Bangs

Constance Wu
ALBERT L. ORTEGA / GETTY IMAGES

Constance Wu’s choppy bangs and waves have an edgy, rockstar vibe when paired with a glossy nude lip and smoky eyeshadow. However, unlike shags of decades past, this modern version works in layering that is more subtle, creating a softer effect.

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Sombré Bob

Chrissy Teigen
STEVE GRANITZ / GETTY IMAGES

Chrissy Teigen’s flowing bob features a subtle ombré that moves from dark brown at the roots to toasted caramel at the ends. Along with a slight wave, the coloring creates movement and depth in a shorter style.

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Mermaid Waves

Margot Robbie
STEVE GRANITZ / GETTY IMAGES

Margot Robbie’s tighter wave pattern creates a mermaid-esque look that almost appears wet without being greasy or loaded-down with gel. Her butter blonde with shadowed root especially suits this beachy look. To keep color fresh, wash once a week with dpHUE Cool Blonde ($26)

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Piece-y Fringe

Rashida Jones
DANIELE VENTURELLI / GETTY IMAGES

Rashida Jones’ long layers work beautifully with her piece-y, straight-across bangs. To style straight bangs while keeping the rest of your strands wavy, blow-dry them using a rounded brush like the EX2 Small Round Brush ($36).

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Braided Bob

Amandla Stenberg
FRAZER HARRISON / GETTY IMAGES

Amandla Stenberg’s braided bob is so chic and fresh. We love how it tucks up under her chin for a modern silhouette. It’s proof that you absolutely do not need super long hair for a statement-making braided look.

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Flipped-Out Ends

Millie Bobby Brown
DAVID M. BENETT / GETTY IMAGES

Another way to style a shoulder-length lob is with symmetrical barrettes near the temples, à la Millie Bobby Brown. Flipped-out ends and ear jewelry are what make this fun and flirty look.

45of 60

Tousled Shag

Eiza Gonzalez curly tousled shag
@EIZAGONZALEZ / INSTAGRAM

Eiza Gonzalez rocks a playful, sexy shag with a loose curl pattern and longish bangs. To enhance curls and manage frizz, apply Moroccanoil Curl Defining Cream ($34) to damp hair and diffuse to dry.

46of 60

Kinky Curly Lob

Woman with natural, layered lob and bangs
@KEKE.J_ / INSTAGRAM

Strategic layers take the bulk out of curls and help them fall in a flattering way without removing volume. Influencer Keke J’s lush ringlets—bangs included—are trimmed to perfect face-framing effect. Use a hydrating mask like Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Deep Conditioning Hair Mask ($38) to keep curls moisturized.

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Sleek Waves

Zoey Deutch
SLAVEN VLASIC / GETTY IMAGES

Zoey Deutch’s lob features a soft wave pattern that highlights her cheekbones. The lack of visible layers creates a polished appearance while simultaneously removing some of the heaviness that comes with thick hair. It’s a versatile look that transitions well from day to night.

48of 60

Curly Mullet

Tousled mullet
@MANEADDICTS / INSTAGRAM

Mullets are back, baby! However, unlike its predecessor, this modern take is sexy and softer thanks to curly texture and gradual layering. Bangs add a nice face-framing touch while a tousled finish gives off cool-girl vibes.

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Tucked Locs

Halle Bailey
RICH FURY / GETTY IMAGES

Halle Bailey, one-half of the duo Chloe x Halle, shows us how to fake medium-length hair by tucking up her locs into a beautiful, twisted style. This is like the cousin of the hair tuck in which you create the illusion of a lob by slipping the ends of your hair into your coat or sweater. Refresh this style with a spritz of Locsanity Rosewater & Peppermint Daily Moisturizing Spray ($25).

50of 60

Razored Layers

Margaret Zhang
BEN GABBE / GETTY IMAGES

Choppy, razored layers create movement and depth on otherwise straight, thick hair. We are obsessed with Margaret Zhang’s punk fringe that hangs over her eyes. To recreate her high-wattage shine, try the Amika Glass Action Hydrating Hair Oil ($29).

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Lifted Crown

Florence Pugh
DAVE J HOGAN / GETTY IMAGES

This is such a clever way to style medium-length hair for an event while leaving it down. It also works to elongate a rounder face shape. To copy Florence Pugh’s lifted crown, brush through some gel while parting the hair to one side. Finish off with a generous coat of hairspray.

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Dip-Dyed Lob

Winnie Harlow
DANIELE VENTURELLI / GETTY IMAGES

Winnie Harlow’s elegant lob has a slight dip-dyed effect thanks to chestnut ends that complement her nearly black roots and mid-lengths. Even though Harlow’s hair is styled straight, this length is incredibly versatile and offers myriad styling options.

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Supersized Curls

Iman
MICHAEL LOCCISANO / GETTY IMAGES

Big, voluminous curls like Iman’s are a classic for thick, medium-length hair. Gilded caramel highlights add dimension to her brunette locks and brighten her complexion.

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Corkscrew Curls

Viola Davis
JIM SPELLMAN / GETTY IMAGES

Viola Davis has the most perfect head full of ringlets. She’s also a true testament to the power of curly bangs. While they can be tricky to style, they are so worth it in the end. To replicate Davis’s ‘do, gradual layers are a must. Not only will they shape this cut but they will also help to define curls.

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Retro Waves

Kristen Bell retro mid-length haircut
STEVE GRANITZ / GETTY IMAGES

There’s more than one way to wear wavy hair. Kristen Bell’s sleek retro waves are the antithesis to the tousled beach variety, making them perfect for a night out. Distribute hair with half laid over your shoulder and the remaining behind.

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Half-Up, Half-Down Bantu Knots

Cardi B bantu knots and flipped-out ends
STEVE GRANITZ / GETTY IMAGES

With a thick mid-length mane, you have a lot of styling options simply because you have more hair to work with. Cardi B gets the best of both worlds with a half-up, half-down style that features Bantu knots. They add a cool twist—literally—an otherwise sleek-straight style.

If you’ve got textured tresses and are looking for a low-maintenance hairdo that also prevents damage, try a protective style. Thick, shoulder-length hair offers tons of options.

 

f 60

Half-Up, Half-Down Bantu Knots

Cardi B bantu knots and flipped-out ends
STEVE GRANITZ / GETTY IMAGES

With a thick mid-length mane, you have a lot of styling options simply because you have more hair to work with. Cardi B gets the best of both worlds with a half-up, half-down style that features Bantu knots. They add a cool twist—literally—an otherwise sleek-straight style.

If you’ve got textured tresses and are looking for a low-maintenance hairdo that also prevents damage, try a protective style. Thick, shoulder-length hair offers tons of options.

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Retro Lob

jessica chastain
ALBERT L. ORTEGA  / GETTY IMAGES

An asymmetrical cut or style makes it easy to go shorter without taking off all or even most of your length. Jessica Chastain’s vibrant auburn bob hits at about the nape of the neck on one side while hovering over the shoulder on the other.

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Side-Swept Curls

Sandra Oh
BADEN ROTH / GETTY IMAGES

Sandra Oh’s pinned back curls have a somewhat updated ’80s vibe. If your hair is not naturally curly, you can use a larger barrel curling iron to get that big, full look. Lock in place with a generous dose of your hairspray of choice.

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Rounded Afro

Angela Bassett
GILBERT CARRASQUILLO / GETTY IMAGES

Angela Bassett’s ultra curly natural hair has been arranged into a rounded silhouette with a center part. Sometimes, when it comes to hair, bigger really is better. Paired with dangling statement earrings, this style is Disco-era chic made modern.

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Relaxed Lob

Lea Seydoux
PASCAL LE SEGRETAIN / GETTY IMAGES

Admirers of the more nonchalant beauty look will find a lot to love here. Lea Seydoux’s shiny, relaxed layers are low maintenance if you already have thick hair with a slight natural wave. But even if you have stick-straight strands you can still achieve undulating texture.

FAQ
  • What shoulder-length haircuts look best with thick, straight hair?

    Since straight hair has a tendency to fall flat, the most flattering haircuts are those that lend body and movement to locks. These include layered looks that can range anywhere from lobs with long, light layers to heavily layered choppy shags.

  • Should thick hair be worn at one length or in layers?

    Typically, layered looks tend to favor thick hair. That’s because thick hair can appear heavy and dense and one way to remove some weight is by incorporating layers. Layers will also favor movement, add dimension, and create natural volume. One-length, blunt cuts are popular among those with thinner hair since they won’t remove any density and will feign thickness.

  • What shoulder-length style is best for thick, curly hair?

    Cuts with light, strategic layering are most flattering to thick, curly hair types. Layers can shape a style and even improve curl definition and bounce. Just keep in mind that going too heavy with layers can contribute to frizz. On the other hand, a one-length cut may give thick curly hair a boxy appearance.