Bustle May 15, 2023



Shoulder-Length Hair Has Been Dubbed "Hair Purgatory" On TikTok

Feel the breeze on your neck.

When growing your hair out after wearing it short, there comes a moment when it finally reaches shoulder length. This can be an exciting achievement — or, according to TikTok, it can be really annoying, as it lands your strands in what creators dub “hair purgatory” length. In fact, users on the social media platform are calling shoulder-length hair the most frustrating hair length — for a number of reasons.

What’s wrong with it, exactly? This is a question creator @sohltrain recently asked on TikTok. In her video, which now has over 4 million views, she noted that shoulder-length hair often looks so much better when it’s either two inches shorter or two inches longer. And it seems like the entire internet — or at least thousands of folks in her comments section — agreed.

One person said, “I call it the awkward hair length” while someone else commented, “I’m with you. Short or long or nothing.” Another person chimed in to point out yet another issue with the length, saying, “Agreed, and it feels like it takes 39 years to grow those extra two inches.” Turns out that they’re right: If you don’t like the look, you will have to wait up to five months for your hair to grow to a more agreeable length, which is basically like being stuck in hair purgatory forever.

To get to the bottom of why it’s so divisive, I asked stylists to explain what’s wrong with shoulder-length hair — and to graciously share a few ways to cope with it.

Why Shoulder-Length Hair Can Be So Frustrating

If you love shoulder-length hair, all the power to you. But if you’re sipping mid-hair haterade, here’s what’s up: According to Raven Hurtado, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, the main issue with this length is that it can look like you’re halfway through a grow-out phase. It’s giving non-style vibes.

That’s because a bob haircut is chic and stylish, while a lob looks lived in and luxe — and both require frequent trims to maintain. On the flip side, hair that flows down your back takes time and patience to attain, and its length also offers countless different ways to style it. In comparison, shoulder-length hair is often a little too short to wear up in certain ways, so you’re more limited from a styling perspective.

To make matters worse, when your hair is at this length, “its movement and shape is disrupted by the shoulder,” says Tatum Neill, the creative director of Aveda Arts & Sciences Institutes. Because the length crashes into the tops of your shoulders, the ends tend to flip up or curl, often resulting in a country-club vibe you didn’t sign up for. “Most clients refer to the look of that flip as the ‘mom cut’,” he tells Bustle. On TikTok, one commenter pointed out that they have to battle with their hair when it’s at this length by constantly blow-drying and styling it in order to prevent the flip. Another said that they simply don’t like how this hair length touches their shoulders — so add physical annoyance to the list, too.

What To Do With Shoulder-Length Hair

On the upside, stylists do have some tips for making this length work with you, not against you. According to Clint Dunlap, a colorist and owner of Material Tampa, you can make shoulder-length strands look cool by adding a loose wave with a flat iron and some texture spray. The wave will lift your hair up just a bit so it’s less likely to rest awkwardly on your shoulders, he says. Half-up hairstyles and hair accessories are also your friend. Another pro tip? Ask your stylist to take some weight out of the ends with a quick trim. With some weight gone, they’ll be less likely to curl, says Dunlap.

Of course, time — or a haircut — will also cure what ails you. “Your options are getting a haircut or patiently waiting for your hair to grow a couple more inches,” Neill says. He recommends pre-booking your haircuts before you leave the salon so that you go back for a trim before you reach the dreaded hair-flip zone.