Hair Dusting Promises Long, Healthy Hair — But Not All Experts Are Convinced

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The phrase “Don’t touch the length” is a pet peeve among plenty of hairdressers, but it’s not without justification. Growing your hair can often feel like a long slog. Considering the lack of data to support hair supplements (think biotin) and that trichologists are beginning to question products like rosemary oil, it’s no wonder that we become attached to our lengths. But here’s the rub: a regular cut is the key to maintaining strong, healthy hair
If parting with a few inches makes you feel naked, though, you might want to ask your stylist about a subtle hair-cutting hack that is currently taking TikTok by storm. Enter: hair dusting. 

What is hair dusting?

Hair dusting may seem new but it’s actually a well-trodden technique among hairdressers, says James Bickmore, art director at Neil Moodie Studio. “The idea is that you pick up sections of hair, usually midway down the length, and slide your fingers down this section, slowly cutting off any split ends that stick out,” explains Bickmore. This method is intended to polish (or dust) away split ends — which are often a result of heat damage (thanks to using straighteners, blowdry brushes and hairdryers), mechanical damage (like brushing too aggressively) or chemical processing with hair dye and bleach — all without compromising on length. 
Like all hair-cutting techniques, hair dusting varies slightly among hairdressers. Zoë Irwin, creative director at John Frieda Salons, prefers to gently twist sections of hair to expose the split ends easily. There are a few universal rules, though: “Hair dusting should only be done on dry hair,” says Darijo Suta, artistic director and signature colourist at Gielly Green. This makes sense considering that split ends are much more visible when dry. Additionally, Irwin will only practise hair dusting on the same client for two haircuts in a row. The third cut should be your typical haircut, taking length from the bottom, to make sure that the base of the hair is strong, advises Irwin.

What are the benefits of hair dusting?

Suta says that their clients love hair dusting because it gives them healthy-looking hair without taking away much — if any — length. If you have dark hair and your split ends appear visibly white, this is a great way to get rid of them. That said, hair dusting isn’t a quick fix: “It’s thorough and takes a while,” says Irwin, “but it helps to achieve length and strength, which is what has made it so popular over the years.” 

Are there any downsides to hair dusting?

Experts are divided when it comes to hair dusting. Suta has been sold on the method for a while now and has never received any bad feedback from clients. But Bickmore wouldn’t suggest hair dusting: “I believe you’re creating more problems for the hair than benefits,” he warns. Assuming you’re following Irwin’s two-haircut rule, hair dusting shouldn’t make your lengths appear fine or frizzy, nor should it weaken your strands. However, Bickmore says that it’s easy to go overboard. If hair dusting is something you’re keen to explore, ensure your chosen stylist is properly qualified so that they don’t snip away more hair than is needed. “This could create unwanted layers and make your hair look more broken and dry,” warns Bickmore, “which completely defeats the object of what it’s supposed to do.”
Another downside is that hair dusting is mostly suited to straighter hair types, says Bickmore. Of course, it’s not impossible to practise hair dusting on wavy, curly or textured hair, but it will likely take a little longer and requires stellar understanding of each hair type. For this reason, it’s recommended to choose a hairdresser that has good experience and knows your hair texture inside out. 
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Can you try hair dusting at home?

There’s nothing to stop you from trying hair dusting at home, especially if you own a pair of hair cutting scissors (kitchen or nail scissors won’t do). However, Irwin would advise against it. “It looks easy; lots of clients think they can do it and so they try it at home in front of the mirror,” says Irwin, “but they often end up cutting too much hair and it ruins the cut. It needs to be done by a professional who will understand the shape of the hair and how to maintain it.”

Is hair dusting a good hair cutting technique?

If you don’t want to lose too much length but you want to switch things up, all three hairstylists featured here agree that getting layers is probably your best bet over hair dusting.
“My suggestion would be to do bespoke long layering,” says Bickmore, “which will get rid of the split ends without compromising the length and not create unwanted textures.” Layers — particularly ’90s style layers which cup the face — are a great alternative, says Irwin, especially if you want to achieve length and strength. Try the trending “C-shape” haircut (lots of layered sections of hair which are cut in face-framing C-shapes) and the “oval layer” haircut (where each section is cut and blowdried to resemble oval shapes around the face). Cuts like these are great for those who want to keep some length but make sure that their hair is in good condition, says Irwin.
Lastly, if layers are a little too high maintenance for you, try a dry haircut. Exactly what it says on the tin, a dry cut gives hairdressers better control (especially over curly hair, which can bounce up when dry) and allows for clearer visibility over damage. “I specialise in dry haircuts,” says Suta. “They remove all the ‘bad’ ends without taking away too much length. You still get the feeling of a fresh cut but clients can literally see how their hair will look at home after they shampoo it themselves,” adds Suta. Essentially, there are no surprises.
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