So You Want To Grow Out Your Pixie Cut? Read This First

Photo: REX Shutterstock.
I’ll never forget the day I decided to chop off all my hair. It was hot. It was summer. I was sitting on a stool in my friend and hairstylist Marcel Dagenais’ (who now boasts a clientele ranging from the Broad City babes to Louis C.K.) living room trying to escape the heat, when he said, “I think you would look so cute with a cropped cut. You can start fresh.”

As beads of sweat gathered along my hairline, I thought, why the hell not? I was ready for a change, and what better way to spend the blistering summer than with a new look and my hair completely off my neck? I gave the nod. The next thing I knew, my shoulder length waves were sitting in a pile on the floor. I was elated. Liberated. I felt…really cute.

A certain freedom comes with a pixie cut, but also a certain imprisonment. I loved the easy styling of my new built-in look — the way it always showed off my neckline in a sexy, slightly revealing way. But people often made brash assumptions about my sexuality or state of mind. Also, it meant getting my hair cut ALL the time.

Of course, I didn’t mind spending countless hours in Marcel’s chair or living room — me watching Beaches and waxing on about the tribulations of New York, him snipping away until I looked like the lead in a Godard movie. Years passed like this, and then one day I woke up and wanted long hair. Really long. The mermaid-y kind my fashionable friends had where the wind can whip it into a post-coitus-looking, girlish tizzy. I wanted fishtail braids and topknots and the ultimate head bang moves.

Alexa Chung once wrote in her book It, “Boys say they don't mind how you get your hair done. But then they leave you for someone with really great standard girl hair and the next thing you know you're alone with a masculine crop crying into your granola." *(Chung is also a fantastic person to Google image if you happen to be in the throes of a grow-out.) Not that guys only liking long hair had everything to do with it — it certainly didn’t and they certainly don’t — that was a small blip on a laundry list of reasons why long hair seemed more covetable to me at the moment. The long and short of it (ha) was this: I wanted to grow out my hair.

Simple, right? You stop getting it cut. You wear it up until you can wear it down. Or at least that's what I thought. Thus began my discovery of the myths and truths of growing out your hair, which I'm here to share with you. I can’t (sadly) make hair grow faster — some people have that gene and some don’t — however I can offer the few bits of knowledge I gained along the way. Similar to breakups, there are a series of emotions and style transformations that go with this experience, stages if you will, and I've broken them down for you. May the length be with you…

The Decision Stage
Making the choice to go through with it is the first step. You’re inspired, empowered even. Then that wears off and your hair looks like crap and you really want to chop it off. It was an itchy trigger finger I indulged too often — like drunk dialing an ex — and against all logic, I kept cutting it.

Marcel’s advice? “If you want to grow your hair out, the best thing to do is leave it alone. Let it go until it has absolutely no shape that you can work with. Once you hit the big, bulbous, weird stage, you can get the weight taken out and maybe dust the ends with a dry cut, but NO length.” It took me three months to get there.

In order to create the line of a bob, says Marcel, the front bang in your top layer needs to be as long as the bottom of the nape of your neck. Once you have that much length in front, you can start to shape it without affecting the length.

Lizzy Weinberg, a hairstylist at Pas de Deux in Tribeca and another of my hair gurus during this process, says to wash your hair less when growing it. “Give it a break. If you style it with tools or go get it styled, leave it for a few days. Your natural oils keep it nourished.”

She also recommends using a moisturizing or strengthening mask like Shu Uemura Hair Restoration Treatment in-between trims. “It’ll jam-pack your hair with strength, so it can keep moving.”

The Fictional Serial Killer Stage
This period kicked in a few months later. I was steadfast in my commitment to achieve at least a lob, but I was a long way off. Most mornings, I looked in the mirror and saw Javier Bardem from No Country for Old Men staring back at me. This is where styling ingenuity came into play.

“It depends on your hair texture and your aesthetic,” says Marcel. “I like a little messy texture, because when it’s going through an awkward phase, it’s easier to give it that natural, not-trying-too-hard look.”

His go-tos for grow-out styling: Oribe’s Dry Texturizing Spray or R+Co’s Rockaway Salt Spray. I also like Kevin Murphy Resort Spray and Not Your Mother’s Sea Salt Spray. It gives flat hair texture and makes it more moldable, which means you can beat it into submission with the right bobby-pin configuration.

Another way to go was the sleek and chic look. I would use product to slick it back with a comb. For this look, Marcel suggests a moisturizing cream like Bumble and bumble Grooming Creme. “It keeps it clean with a tiny bit of hold, so it doesn’t look too wet or glossy. You get that chic, shiny vibe.”
Photo: Everett/REX Shutterstock.
The Struggle-Pony Stage
But some days, there was no amount of texture, messy or sleek, would solve the sadness that was my amorphous crop. All I wanted was to tie it up and call it a day. These were the Struggle Pony days, and they were abundant. Ponytail attempts ended up looking like weird tufts of grass or man buns.

"Pulling hair back in an elastic is going to cause more breakage," warns Lizzy. "Get to know a braid crown instead.” True story. Instead of messing with hair ties, I stocked up on bobby pins. I could never have too many, and eventually every purse and pocket had a few rattling around. So even in a pinch, I could chain down an unruly strand.

“Spend a night playing with pins,” suggests Marcel. “Switch up your part — this can make it fun. If you’re growing out a bang, curl it or pin it back to make it blend with the rest of your hair.”

I learned how to fashion intricate, yet messy chignons by twisting longer front pieces and pinning them along with the hair in the back. Tiny buns and sweeping bangs became my signature. Giving the bangs and top volume and pinning down the back made it look as if I still had short hair, rather than a mullet.

The Diversion Stage
In the grand scheme of life, our hair is not everything. But that isn’t comforting when you look like you belong in stained sweatpants. Nobody wants to look like they’ve given up, but this is the stage when you really need to — at least for a minute.

“You have to be patient,” Lizzy reminds me. “Don’t do any face-framing or hairline layers. You want the front to grow past the chin, so instead keep the texture in the back and let the front grow. Also, go to a vintage store and buy a head scarf.”

Yep, diversion was my best bet. Cute hats and beanies helped. Bold lip colors, smoky eyes, my most surefire outfits. I also embraced cool wraps, stretchy headbands, and scarves. I could throw it under a ‘50s-esque do rag for a “Betty Draper goes grocery shopping” look. Nothing forces you to be more creative than a horrible hair day on which a hair tie is not an option. On that same note, I didn’t try to overcompensate by doing other things to my hair, like bleach or color or tons of heat products.

“Hot tools are okay,” says Marcel. “But use a buffer from the heat like a shine or styling spray; and don’t style it every day… Take Biotin, a hair, skin, and nail vitamin. It’s not a miracle pill, but it makes hair strong from the roots, which will make it strong on the ends.”
Photo: Richard Young/REX Shutterstock.
The “Wait, Is This A Bob?” Stage
Congratulations. If you’re questioning if this is a bob, then you’ve made progress in your journey. It took me so long to get here, it felt like forever. But after a year and a half of constantly complaining to friends, particularly Lizzy, that my hair didn’t grow, I was finally there.

“People always say, ‘My hair doesn’t grow past this point,’” says Lizzy. “Yes, it does. Your ends are breaking, and that’s why it’s not getting more length. Weak ends can’t support the weight of new hair and it will split, traveling up the hair follicle from the bottom.”

The ends have been through the most, she says, so know when to set them free. As with most things (house plants, the Kardashians), things thrive the most with regular maintenance. Lizzy suggests getting trims every eight to 10 weeks. “Eventually, your bob will turn into a lob, and then boom, you’ll have the hottest hairstyle in town.”

The Never-Ending Endgame Stage
I’ve been growing my hair for almost four years now, and it's about three inches below my shoulders. I can head bang (though I rarely do) and throw it up in a topknot, but I’m not going to be a mermaid anytime soon. While patience and realistic goals are paramount to mental stability during this process, the (delusional) dream of looking like Pocahontas is what kept me going.

I did realize, though, that there really is no endgame when it comes to my hair, and that’s what I love about it. The chance to change my style or look is one of the reasons I cut it all off in the first place. So I’m never saying never. I might be back to a bob by early fall.


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Photo: Everett/REX Shutterstock.


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