New season, new hair.
In an effort to cool off from the New York City heatwave this summer, I decided to chop off six inches of my 3C curls last month and got fixed up with an undercut at the nape of my neck. “Undercuts help take the weight off [the hair] and keep the shape clean,” says Mane Addicts stylist Sienree Du of the increasingly popular style. If you’re not familiar with an undercut, it’s a hairstyle in which the back or sides of your hair are either shaved or cut short underneath the longer hair on top.
Amy Abramite, Stylist and Creative Director at Maxine Salon in Chicago adds that, “The shorter lengths are unblended, creating a disconnected look [to the hair].” This style can be a great way to dip your toes into a bold hair transformation and works well not just in the summer but in the fall as well. Scarves, turtlenecks, and other fall essentials all play well with undercuts for obvious reasons. “Clothing can sit higher up on the nape and will not interfere with the hairstyle,” Abramite continues. Plus less hair means less maintenance — and an easier morning routine.
Best of all, there are dozens of styles to choose from with an undercut, from the subtle shave to remove weight from your hair to a shaved hair design you can show off when you wear a bun or ponytail. Below, TZR breaks down the benefits of this particular style, the looks you can achieve, and how to maintain it so you’ll look sharp all season long.
Sure, hearing those clippers buzz for the first time can be a bit unnerving, but there are a multitude of functional reasons to try out the undercut.
“By getting an undercut you will slim down the silhouette on the sides and nape area of thick hair,” Abramite tells TZR. And according to Sebastian Professional Top Artist, Angel Cardona, the greatest benefit is having less hair to style. “It could be used to debulk the amount of hair you have to allow it to lay flatter,” he says. By eliminating this hair, especially on thicker textures, you could drastically cut down on styling time. This is especially true if you have thick hair in a short bob and are concerned that your hair will get too voluminous, wide, or poofy. Less hair means less weight and a more streamlined look for you.
“Undercuts are mainly categorized by where the hair is removed on the head,” says Abramite. “Some prefer hair removed on one side, both sides, or solely the nape. Others prefer all the hair removed from the temples down, including both sides and nape, for maximum removal. The balance between these lengths can result in an extreme or soft style ranging from hardcore punk to sophisticated chic.”
Whether you opt for a subtle undercut that can easily be hidden or one that confidently shows, there are two main options to chose from.
Great for short or long hair, the nape of the neck is the classic undercut. This style can start anywhere from the top of the ears straight across, or dip into a V shape under your long hair — your stylist might recommend one or the other depending on your texture and thickness. You can wear this with any hair texture, and looks especially cool if you have a different color peeking out from the rest of your hair or if you explore a design. “Graphic designs can be added with a clipper for simplistic straight lines or elaborate artistic shapes,” says Abramite.
The other popular option for an undercut is to wrap it all the way around the sides. “If you have your undercut on one side of your temple you can choose to expose it by parting your hair on the side of the undercut or hide it by parting on the opposite side,” Cardona shares. Translation: You can change it up based on your mood for the day.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all haircut length or texture for undercuts, the experts recommend you factor in the density of your hair. “An undercut is pretty versatile across all textures, however it’s the density of the hair where you need to be more aware,” says Swinney. “Someone with fine hair would be an example of an individual that an undercut is not right for.”
And Cardona agrees: “If your hair is low density and super fine, I would probably not recommend an undercut simply because it will remove more bulk from your hair. However, if you are wanting less hair to work with, then by all means go for it.”
Shorter hair always requires more maintenance to keep the length in check, so RUSK Hair Global Creative Director Matt Swinney recommends trims every three weeks — longer if you don’t go for the full buzz every time. If you prefer a more lived-in look, touch-ups every four to six weeks should suffice. Cardona urges those with graphic lines or designs to go for a touch-up every two weeks or less to avoid it from growing out of shape.
In between cuts, to maintain strands and ensure hair is healthy and moisturized, Swinney encourages using RUSK Puremix Wild Honey Repairing Shampoo and RUSK Puremix Wild Honey Repairing Conditioner. “If hair is feeling especially dry, I would incorporate the RUSK Puremix Wild Honey Repairing Mask for an extra boost of moisture,” the stylist continues. And for the added wind and sun exposure (remember, your scalp isn’t as buried beneath mountains of hair) Du recommends SPF or skin oil to boost moisture and protect against UV rays.
Ah, yes, the dreaded grow out phase. Most people with an undercut will tell you that unless you’re willing to cut all of your hair short to match, this process isn’t for the faint of heart.
According to Cardona, hair on average grows ½ inch each month but the time it takes to grow out an undercut can vary. Abramite elaborates, saying, “To get rid of an undercut quickly, the goal is to match up the short lengths with the longer ones. I recommend growing the short lengths an inch or two and then cutting it into a pixie cut where all the lengths are blended and uniform. The other option is to allow the top lengths to grow long enough to cover up and hide the shorter ones while they grow in.”
Keep in mind that when growing it out, it will require more styling effort with the unblended and disconnected pieces while everything catches up to each other. But if you can get creative with your styling — or be bold enough to chop everything short — an undercut is a fun and unexpected way to change up your hairstyle, no matter the season.