The Best Cuts for a Damaged Top Layer of Hair

Expose the healthy hair underneath.
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Expose the healthy hair underneath.
The best cuts for a damaged top layer of hair

Welcome to our Ask Beautyeditor column, where our experts answer your hair, skin and makeup questions. To request an online hair consultation from celebrity hairstylist Bill Angst:

  • Email with “Bill Angst Hair Consultation” in the subject line.
  • Include at least TWO well-lit, hi-res photos of you (one close-up, one full-body).
  • Briefly describe your hair texture, colour and main hair challenges.

Please note: All photos will be published.

Q: Dear Bill, my current hair condition is thin, dry and damaged. Probably the best word to describe it would be "miserable." I'm looking for the most appropriate haircut for me.

Hair consultation - Jurate

Jurate wants a cut that suits her dry, fine hair.

I've also lost a lot of hair, but thankfully, it finally stopped falling out. I wash it every third day. A few years ago, I was washing every day, but that would probably make the situation worse now. I do not use foam, gel or sprays, and I straighten it very rarely. I usually cut it to about shoulder-length, sometimes shorter. I wish my hair was at least below my shoulders and in healthy condition.

Hair consultation - Jurate

Jurate's hair has a natural wave, but the upper layer is damaged.

My natural colour (as it is now) is grey-brown. I don't dye my hair. Only the upper layer is damaged, but it is damaged really badly. I do have a lot of new hair growing, which is good. My hair starts to wave at about one third of way down. I don't think a short cut will look good because of the wavy structure of my hair, but I don't see any other options. 

And about me: I am 27 years old, 5' 3" tall, and my face shape is oval (I think—or maybe rectangular). Hope to get some advice! Sincerely — Jurate

Hair consultation - Jurate

Jurate usually keeps her hair about shoulder-length, but wishes it could be longer and healthier.

A: Jurate, thank you for your consultation request.

I happen to like everything about your hair.

Keeping it one length is what I would suggest, and to super-condition the top layer to help keep it smooth.

It is a common problem for the top layer with fine hair; it takes all of the abuse. Often, the hair underneath is the healthiest.

Cutting long, soft layers like these cuts would help rectify this, exposing the healthy hair underneath:

Ali Larter, GLAAD Media Awards 2012

Ali Larter at the 2012 GLAAD Media Awards.

Keri Russell, Bedtime Stories premiere, 2008

Keri Russell at the 2008 premiere of 'Bedtime Stories'.

Marta Fernandez, Must Awards 2011

Marta Fernández at the 2011 Must! Awards.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Vogue Paris Foundation Gala, 2015

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley at the 2015 Vogue Paris Foundation Gala.

Just remember, not too many layers, as this will thin out your ends.

Cutting it into a rocking shag should work for you quite well:

Shag haircut

Messy shag haircut.

I like this soft bang with a messy texture:

Olivia Wilde, Palm Springs International Film Festival 2012

Olivia Wilde at the 2012 Palm Springs International Film Festival.

This is a great tone of colour for you:

Asia Argento, Mirror's Edge preview, 2008

Asia Argento at the 2008 preview of Mirror's Edge.

For a longer length, this should work—only colouring the healthy hair underneath. I would not put colour on the top section where the hair is dry. It will only make matters worse.


Bill Angst is one of Canada’s top celebrity hairstylists and the owner of Angst Salon at 240 Queen Street East in Toronto. Call 416-360-5942 to book an appointment.