If you’re looking to refresh your hairstyle for fall, you don’t have to scroll on Tiktok or Instagram for long to see that 2022 is all about the butterfly haircut. Spotted on stars like Hailee Steinfeld, Sydney Sweeney, Jennifer Lopez, and social media sensation Addison Rae, this bouncy, face-framing, voluminous layered look has so much movement when styled that with every head toss—or step you take—your tresses resemble the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings.
Others liken the name to the shorter layers in the cut, which give the style the shape of a butterfly, or just the duality of this versatile cut; the butterfly sits somewhere between short and long hair, depending on how you style it. That metamorphosis calls to mind the caterpillar to butterfly transition. Enough with the metaphors though; everything you really need to know about this haircut is below, from what it looks like to how to style it and whether it’s for you or not.
Will the butterfly haircut be part of all your fall fit photos? Let’s find out.
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Meet Our Experts: Alyssia Dotson, stylist and creative team member at Alterna Haircare, Jamie Wiley, stylist and global artistic director of Pureology
What is the butterfly haircut?
While the butterfly haircut term may be new (and is also sometimes referred to as the thousand layer or octopus haircut as well), this cut’s definitely a variation of something the beauty industry has seen before: the shag, which has quickly made a comeback since 2020.
“The butterfly haircut was born from the evolution of the well-known ‘70s shag haircut,” says Alyssia Dotson, stylist and creative team member for Alterna Haircare. “We’re talking about the infamous ‘wings’ from Farrah Fawcett’s haircut and how it moved effortlessly. If you’re looking for the butterfly effect, you’re looking for strong movement and body.”
Some also liken the cut to Jennifer Aniston’s “Rachel,” of Friends fame, but the butterfly effect, as Dotson says, can be far less drastic, since it doesn’t have to involve chopping off all of your hair to chin length or shorter.
The butterfly haircut is a far softer, more subtle look than, say, beachy waves or pin-straight locks. “It is a heavily layered, feathered haircut, with the shortest layers at the crown usually falling an inch below the chin, moving out to the ends of the hair,” says Jamie Wiley, stylist and global artistic director of Pureology. Your longest pieces should, in theory, fall below the shoulders, so you’ll easily be able to wear your hair up in a ponytail or a bun with this cut. You can also leave a few of your shorter pieces out if you want to play up the face-framing strands in this style.
If your hairstylist doesn’t speak TikTok, don’t worry. You can translate the cut into Wiley’s own description to use in the salon chair. “I would tell my stylist that I want short, wispy layers in the crown and around my face,” she says. Again, you don’t have to go shorter than shoulder length to rock this look.
Who does the butterfly cut look best on?
Though it’s a fairly versatile haircut that almost anyone can try, the butterfly can be better suited for certain hair types. “This is a must-have cut for someone with straight to wavy hair, as well as someone looking to give movement to heavy locks,” says Dotson. Because this look hinges on lots of layers, those with thinner or finer hair textures might not get the full butterfly effect with this cut. Of course, volumizers can help in this department, if your locks are on the limper side, and you have your heart set on this style.
As far as face shapes go, any layered look will always add contour to more rounder face shapes. The butterfly is no different; it can soften features and counter fullness in the cheeks.
How to style a butterfly haircut
“This haircut shines best with a killer blowout, so don’t be afraid of brushes,” says Dotson. Wiley agrees and suggests using the words “bouncy” or “movement” as directives if you’re having your butterfly cut professionally blown out. Keep these descriptors in mind when you’re doing your own styling, too. “This will showcase the shorter layers and give your hair the look and appearance of short hair even when you have longer locks,” says Wiley.
As with other haircuts, if you’re open to using products, you’ll likely get a little more mileage out of your style. “A good mousse adds bounce and shine while giving some style memory, like Alterna’s My Hair My Canvas Shine On Defining Foam,” says Dotson.
You might also consider treating your hair with a multi-purpose heat protectant before starting your styling session. “Lastly, to ensure the style lasts, leaving the round brush in the hair and allowing it to cool will ensure the memory of the style holds,” she says. If you’re better with curling irons or blow-drying brushes, you can work your layers with these tools, too. Just be sure to finish with a light hairspray for extra hold.
Danielle Blundell is a New York City-based lifestyle writer and editor who has written on topics ranging from home to health for a variety of publications including Rachael Ray Every Day, Redbook, Family Circle, This Old House, Elle Decor, Esquire, Domino, and Apartment Therapy. She’s a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism and has appeared as an on-air expert on Today, The Doctors, The Celebrity Page, and other local news programs. Website: https://danielleblundell.myportfolio.com/