How to Choose a Pixie Cut

Heads turned and cameras flashed when Harry Potter’s Emma Watson stepped onto the red carpet sans her familiar long, wavy hair. Her new short pixie cut sent a clear message: “Goodbye, Hermione -- hello, world!

“Every couple of years, a celebrity takes the plunge and goes for a crop,” says New York-based hairstylist Greg Ruggeri. (Think Mia Farrow, Michelle Williams, Cate Blanchett and Ginnifer Goodwin.)

Watson timed her new style to coincide with the end of her movie series and the beginning of college. “It’s a great transition to being a young woman, and I’m sure it will help her career-wise,” says Dublin-bred hair stylist Lydia O’Carroll, stylist to supermodels like Kate Moss, Christie Brinkley and Cindy Crawford.

Ruggeri reports that more of his clients are following Watson’s lead and going short, either as a dramatic change or as a remedy for over-processed hair color or unruly extensions. Thinking of taking the plunge yourself, but not sure if you can pull off the look? Here’s how to make a pixie cut work for you.

Go Short for the Right Reason
A short haircut is often used to mark a milestone or life change -- like Watson’s transition from girl wizard to young fashion pinup. “Sometimes when you experience loss of love, a career change or issues with family and friends, you want to do something to mark that particular occasion -- or possibly to escape it,” says Ruggeri.

Before you reach for the scissors, though, make sure you’re not acting out of impulse and that you’re ready to commit to a dramatic new look. Ruggeri advises talking to an expert about what short style is right for you, whether it’s a true pixie cut or something less dramatic. “Research the kind of haircuts that you admire, then show them to your stylist and they’ll point you in the right direction.”

Look at Your Face Shape
If you haven’t gone short in a while, O’Carroll suggests doing it gradually. Have your stylist cut off a few inches and wear it that way for a couple of weeks, then take off a little more.

Before going for a truly short haircut, keep a few things in mind. “Most women have the ability to wear short hair -- the solution is to fine-tune the desired style to suit the face shape,” Ruggeri says. Keep these pointers in mind if you have:

  • A Round Face: Try adding length and texture to the sides of your pixie cut.
  • A Wide Forehead: Leave your bangs on the longer side, like Ashley Judd’s impish ’do.
  • A Diamond-shape Face: Have wide cheekbones and narrow forehead and jaw? Go for it! “You can wear anything,” says Ruggeri.
  • Large Features: O’Carroll cautions that super-short cuts may not be the most flattering for you. You’re better off staying closer to chin-length.

Consider Your Hair Type
Is your hair curly, straight, wavy or somewhere in between? Your hair type will also determine how short you can go.

“If the hair is very dense and coarse, then the style would have to be kept on the shorter side with lots of texturizing to avoid poofiness -- think Halle Berry,” says Ruggeri. However, Jeffrey Pearce, senior colorist at The Patrick Melville Salon & Spa at the Sports Club/LA in New York City, says women with curly hair look better in styles that show off their natural curl -- which may not be short haircuts. “Women with straight hair generally have more flexibility with shorter types of cuts. It’s easier to create a soft, sensual look,” he says.

Styling Your Pixie Cut
So how do you keep a new pixie cut looking sharp? Lots of creams and sprays? “No,” says Ruggeri. “One of the biggest misconceptions about having short hair is that you have to use lots of product. Product is one of those things that, regardless of length, less is best.” He recommends using a small amount of styling cream or gel and running it through your hair until you have the look you want.

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