How To Grow Out Your Alternative Lifestyle Haircut Less Awkwardly

Once upon a glorious and idealistic time in my youth, I would wake up two hours before my first college class of the day to shower, blow dry, and style my hair. I had epic hair. It was once described as perfect makeout hair. It was also described as mermaid hair and Mufasa hair. I loved it when it looked pretty and hated it the other 90% of the time. You see, I’m an impulsive person, and when I have long hair I spend my time dreaming of short hair and when I have short hair, I spend my time dreaming of having long hair. Am I the only person that does this? In May, I got myself an alternative lifestyle haircut and chopped it real real real short and dyed it blonde instead of my usual bright red. It was awesome for awhile, but now I’m tired of waking up looking like a cockatoo and not being able to braid it or put it in a ponytail when I’m lazy. So. Commence the awkward and long and toiling growing-out-hair process.

From L to R: Glorious red hair, really great ALH, awkward grow out and my adorable cat.

Are you growing your hair out from that awesome alternative lifestyle haircut, too? Isn’t it awkward? Let’s commiserate over accidentally looking like Carol Brady. Maybe you’ve spent a long time googling “How to make my fucking hair grow faster because I think I have a mullet” because I have.

My best friend Amanda Miller recently graduated from The Paul Mitchell School of Really Pretty Hair and now she cuts my hair in my living room like my own personal Tabatha Coffey and I pay her in beer. Technically, she started cutting and coloring my hair when we were sixteen and in her kitchen (it never occurred to us to use toner when we bleached my hair, so my high school years were permanently orange). I consulted her on the best tips for growing out your hairs in the least awkward possible way and, along with my intense Googling and Pinning of hair solutions, we’ve compiled a handy dandy HOW TO guide on growing out your alternative lifestyle haircut.

Amanda’s first tip: Biotin will not make your hair grow faster. It can make the hair that grows after you start taking it stronger if that is what your hair is lacking. However, if your hair is already brittle, you don’t want to add another protein. Instead, use oil treatments or collagen supplements to reduce breakage.

Collagen supplements can be taken as powders or capsules. It’s the stuff that makes your nose and ears flexible and keeps your skin elastic. We lose the ability to produce it as we age. Before she had told me about collagen supplements for hair, I really had only pictured collagen in Goldie Hawn’s lips from First Wive’s Club.

Amanda and me in our matching growing-out-A-lines phase.

Make sure in the in-between stages to keep up on trims because trims will keep your hair from becoming a split-end paradise. You don’t have to cut off that much! Trimming your hair will also help shape it into something less awkward so you’ll continue the grow-out process instead of getting tired of the process halfway through and cutting it off again. That is a vicious cycle, my friends.

Also, the hair below your occipital region (that protruding bit at the back of your skull near your neck) grows faster and you’ll end up with a Carol Brady mullet. Nobody looks good with a Carol Brady mullet, not even ironically. Amanda said, “When I was growing out my hipster A-line, I got trimmed about every two weeks just to keep [mullets] from happening and to blend the layers between the back and front.”

Bet this took FOREVER.
via {fuckyeah-hair tumblr}

Sometimes, if you book three or even six months worth of frequent trims with your hairstylist at once, and you keep all of those appointments, you might get them at a discount and also you’ll probably become bffs with your stylist. Tabatha Coffey recommends communicating with your stylist on growing out your hair. Tell your stylist about “your game plan so that they know how much hair to cut off and can also adjust their cutting technique to keep a stylish shape while retaining as much length as possible.”

When I asked Amanda if anything, anything, will pretty please make my hair grow super duper fast, she said that the best bets are probably scalp treatments or shampoos with tea tree, mint, and caffeine. Tea tree is a natural antiseptic, so it’ll make your hair follicles healthier. Mint and caffeine stimulate the scalp. Basically, though, you just have to make sure that your hair is as healthy looking as possible and it will look longer and better and you’ll feel better about those awkward in-between stages. Remember, nothing will make your actual hair actually healthier. You can make your hair follicles healthier, but the hair that is outside of your scalp is dead. You cannot “repair” split ends no matter what any shampoo commercial tells you.

Maybe if you’ve got a bit of dough and a lack of patience (I’ve only got the latter, personally), extensions might be a good investment. Amanda had a weave when she was growing out her hair, and recommends getting non-synthetic hair, especially if you’re going to be doing heat-styling. You can dye human hair extensions to match your color. Make sure to get your layers blended after you put in your extensions and they’ll look more natural.

Hansen Hair Grow Out Pro Tip: Routinely look at pictures of women with long, beautiful, healthy hair. Tape one to your bathroom mirror. Follow hair tumblrs. Make a hair board on Pinterest. Tell your partner you’re going to grow out your hair so that she can talk you down from the “I’m going to fucking shave my head right now” ledge. My girlfriend has mastered the “are you seriously talking about cutting your hair thirty seconds after complaining about short hair” look. Your girlfriend will, too.

Headbands, hair clips, bandanas, and hats will become your very best friends. The most important tip of all: no one knows what awkward in-between style is under your beanie.

 

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Hansen is the DIY & Food Editor of Autostraddle.com and likes to spend most days making and cooking and writing. She is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Colorado State University in her free time.

Hansen has written 186 articles for us.

62 Comments

  1. Thumb up 1

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    Yay this is so relevant to my life! I have a related question: Can I get my very short hair cut at a barbershop? There’s one in my neighborhood that’s always full of adorable grandpas and they charge $7 for a wash and cut. Do y’all think it’s a good idea to get my hair cut there?

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      Yep! My girlfriend gets hers cut at a barbershop. They might give you a terrified look until you explain what you want, but generally if you’re getting something close to what they already do, they’re up for it. I mean, even Audrey Hepburn got her hair cut in an Italian barbershop in Roman Holiday so I’d say you’re golden.

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      It might pay to get your hair styled by a hairdresser first (for the initial chop), and then have it kept up by a barber. In my experience of barbers, they are very good at doing a trim (especially if the style involves clippers) but their repertoire of styles tends to be pretty conservative.

      Also, in my experience (and I wish this was not the case) some barbers will refuse to cut women’s hair… Or they will cut your hair but be super-awkward about it. For instance, my favorite guy would just flat-out pretend I was a dude, to the point of making small talk about the rugby and offering to trim my eyebrows. The best time was when I went into a place, was having a chat with the barber and he told me that they hadn’t had a women in the shop for SEVEN YEARS. Given that this happened in downtown Auckland and the year was not 1937, I was surprised.

      So now I go to a very nice Korean hairdresser who, when I told her I had once shaved my head, paused before replying “… for style?”

      Long story short: barbers are a good choice but you may have to shop around a bit.

  2. Thumb up 2

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    YES I have had the exact same mullet problem if my hair is slightly spread at the back it looks like a small mullet but if I try to make it less mulletty it looks like I’ve got a tiny rat-tail its like being stuck between a Bogan and a Bogan

  3. Thumb up 1

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    This is exactly what I needed right now. I’ve got that long mermaid hair thing going on right now and I’m trying to grow it out even longer (aiming for 2 feet) but I’ve got this one little problem with it.
    I have a patch of 3-inch-long grown-out undercut-leftovers that’s really not working with the rest of my head and it’s just awful!
    This is inspirational.

  4. Thumb up 2

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    Thank you for this. I’m on my third time of telling myself “I’m going to grow my hair out,” and hope that this time I won’t just say Fuck It and cut it off in the shower again.
    The only thing is, my hair is SUPER CURLY, so I don’t really have to trim it. But at this point, I’m looking at a mini-afro every morning when I wake up. =/

  5. Thumb up 1

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    I’ve somehow had the patience to grow my hair out for a year and a half now. For the last few months I’ve even been able to tie it back! But I still haven’t decided if it’s better to have long or short hair. It’s useful to be able to tie it out of the way, but annoying that it takes so long to dry. My ALH looked cute on the one day a month that it behaved itself, but would often like to try its best to stick out perpendicular to my head. Ever since I started growing it out, I have been considering getting it cut again. One of the main things that was stopping me from getting it all cut off was knowing that I would have to go through months of awkward growing out again. Now this annoyingly helpful article comes along and makes the decision even more complicated! Thanks, autostraddle. ;)

  6. Pingback: How To Grow Out Your Alternative Lifestyle Haircut Less Awkwardly | Look Years Younger

  7. Thumb up 1

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    So great, my growing my hair out phase was a mess and it scares me enough that I’ll never have shorter hair than my shoulders. It is different having curly unruly hair though, I don’t think it lends itself well to really cool short haircuts. But I still with I could rock an ALH like a pro!

  8. Thumb up 3

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    oh man, i’ve been growing mine out for 6 months, no haircuts. been too ashamed to go to a salon with a quasi-mullet and undercut that i’ve been self-trimming! how do i explain that i’ve gone out in public like this for so long?! gah.

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      Just do it. You will be SO happy. I’ve done the same thing a couple times. (I was really good at cutting my hair, then I kind of sucked at it resulting in more-extreme-than-expected ALHs, which I embraced anyway, then for some time I was too depressed to ever get around to cutting it). You can go to a stylist you’ll never see again. Remember, they really don’t care. They’ve cut all kinds of hair.

      I was really lucky to stumble across an organic salon while visiting my sister in Indianapolis. Well, stumble across via Google Maps. A review stated specifically that the woman had been cutting her own hair and had long been too self-conscious to go to a salon, and that the vibe and the people at this place were so authentic and laidback and that it was awesome.

      So pick a place and you’ll be in and out like a shadow. A shadow with much cooler hair on the way out. Good luck!

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      Then when that started growing out this summer I kept the hair on top and just buzzed the back, with the hair on top in back cut across almost in a straight line (shorter in the middle intentionally!). It feels awesome. I highly recommend it.

  9. Thumb up 1

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    I really like this article, especially since I am in the long mullet stage of growing out a pixie, but damn that second tumblr that you linked to is pretty annoying. Gender police much? Long hair doesn’t make you more of a woman, nor does short hair mean that you’re “fickle”, unattractive, or boring.

  10. Thumb up 1

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    The hair at the back of my head actually grows weirdly sideways…so I avoid the mullet thing. But even my hairdresser thinks it’s weird. It gets shaved at the back when I can afford the cuts and she follows my natural hairline because ‘it’s kind of weird and funky’. And sideways.
    Also, I am so jealous of the fact that you can pull all of those hairstyles (even the outgrown one) and look good every time. Seriously, how is this possible?

  11. Thumb up 1

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    This is me ALL over!
    Been growing it since the last week in last march.
    It’s gone from almost a shaved head at the back with a long sweeping fringe to a nearly neck length bob.
    It actually has grown into another style weirdly.. very high 50’s femme. It’s not half bad.

    Also I was sick of my short haircut screaming “HELLO DID YOU KNOW I AM A RAGING HOMOSEXUAL!!!!!!!!!!!”

  12. Thumb up 1

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    where was this article BEFORE I thought the “pob” was a fantastic idea lol…..and I too am a known hair hypocrite and my girlfriend gets quite irritable with me telling her “be prepared, I’m cutting it all off again” and then I come home and I have done nothing :) I await the day when I have a ponytail and not a duck tail again! Hair! Hair!

  13. Thumb up 5

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    OMG I’ve just realized why undercuts horrify me so- the grow out would be such a huge fucking PITA! I am you, hair wise. I grow it and grow it (last time it got to my boobs, the longest it had been basically since I got boobs) and then one day I’m like AGH RAWR FEMME PROBLEMS NO ONE KNOWS I’M A GAY MUST HAVE ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE HAIRCUT and BAM! pixie cut and then it’s 50 shades of mullet for at least 6 months.

    This time, after my last ALH, I am making sure to get those frequent trims so I can stay on the wagon, and it has meant EVERYTHING. Instead of a bi-level mullet, I have a chin-length bob. That I can deal with until reaching mermaid perfection.

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      I’ve always felt that a chin-length bob is the perfect intermediate step when growing out hair. It’s a style I really admire on other people.

      Personally I’ve stuck with going through a lengthy mullet phase. (Because that worked so well the last time…?) I’ll have to remember the tip about frequent trims. I neglected that part in my quest to grow hair to its natural stopping point and gave up on that mess as it inched past hip height. It’s now shoulder-length and vaguely Carol Brady. I think it could work with a sleazy vampire costume – hello, self-secreted hair grease.

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        My awkward-growing-out-ALH-phase chin-length bob and I appreciate that comment.

        But I’m still going to reach for the scissors soon because this length drives me CRAZY. It tickles the back of your neck and makes you feel strange and itchy all the time, and you have to style it every morning or it will look… odd. Now that I’ve warned you– I’ll trade you: my chin-length bob for your mullet?

  14. Thumb up 1

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    This would have been so, so relevant to me in 2009. For a good year my growing-out ALH could only be described as “mop-like,” or perhaps, “Paul McCartney’s hair” and I often felt the need to tell people that my hair didn’t look like that on purpose.
    But Amanda’s advice for healthy hair follicles is helpful for all people with scalps! Thank you!!

  15. Thumb up 1

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    Ah, I remember the growing out phase too. Totally agree on the regular trim tip! But I wanted to add that taking Silica can help make your hair (nails, skin, bones too) stronger and has been used to help increase rate of growth. It’s also a pre-cursor to making your own collagen. Collagen comes from cow or pig skin, and sometimes fish skin too. Please…don’t give society another reason to harm animals by purchasing these products. It’s not the miraculous cure all that marketing claims. No demand = no supply…

  16. Thumb up 1

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    Informative stuff. I wasn’t feeling it, though. Something about being the target audience made me think, “So this is how the masses must feel when confronted with those check-out mags.”

    I gotta say, I find that picture #2 in the row has nothing on #3. Maybe in person it held a definite advantage, but not as the photo presents. Then again, #3 has the equivalence of beer goggles (distance/blur and pussy), whereas #2 has outdoor lighting, so throw in different angles and it gets difficult to tell by any measure which is the better hair.

  17. Thumb up 1

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    Autostraddle, how did you know I’ve been rocking a mullet since April?

    My current internal debate is whether I should show up to my cousin’s wedding with my mullet or if I should get it trimmed up a bit beforehand.
    I wouldn’t want to at all, except that I’m in the bridal party and pictures are forever :-/

  18. Thumb up 1

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    EXTENSIONS! Can someone please tell me WHERE in the world you can find good quality hair extensions? Is this a thing you get done at a hair salon? I have the awkwardest of awkward alternative lifestyle haircut disasters right now and I think a weave might be the answer to all my life’s problems.

  19. Thumb up 2

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    i am in the final stages of weird short hair! once my hair is down to my collarbone, i know how it’s going to act, but until then, it’s anyone’s guess what i’ll leave the house looking like. that’s what curly hair gets you i guess.

    but yes, all this exactly. trim the back regularly, do something to keep yourself interested and excited about growing your hair out (color it! give yourself bangs!) and stay away from the scissors for the love of god

  20. Thumb up 2

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    This is one of my main reasons for not cutting my hair short. Growing it out, urgh.
    I started ‘growing it long for my wedding’ back when I was 18 and still trying to delude myself that I was straight.
    I’ve always secretly wanted to be more alternative, especially with my hair. But on the other hand, I love having long hair.
    Aaaaand I don’t want to be a cliche, and come out then get a dyke cut.
    So basically I have a half hour conversation with myself at least twice a day, all about hair.

  21. Thumb up 1

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    This is great but I think I am still in need of advice….

    For some silly reason I got a sidecut last year which now leaves me with really long hair that goes down my back and short hair on one side of my head that just covers my ear (after growing it out for 7 months). The short hair is my natural colour (ash brown), the long hair at the back is various shades of brown from not dying it in ages and the fringe/long side is regrowth then turquoise with faded pink underneath…. there’s way too much going on and I don’t know what to do about it! I’ve always had long hair and nearly always have coloured hair so I’m scared of the only solutions I can come up with – cut it all short/dye it all to my natural colour! Please help! :)

  22. Thumb up 1

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    Point re: collagen supplements. If you consume collagen orally, it doesn’t remain as collagen, but like all proteins is broken into amino acids during digestion. So it does increase the availability of amino acids to be manufactured into long-chain proteins like collagen, however taking a collagen pill is the same as eating quinoa or chicken or cheese (except a lot more expensive).

    If you want to increase collagen production, increase protein intake.

  23. Thumb up 0

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    Ok you guys always read my mind I guess I’m just getting used to it at this point.
    I got a rockin’ ALH about a year and a half ago but went through SO MANY awkward growing out phases and now it’s at an intermediate length where I can just put it in a ponytail and I am tempted to cut it off again just to get it out of my way because I WANT LONG HAIR BUT IT GROWS SO SLOWLY OMG. But now that I’ve been reminded of all the terrible awkward stages and how I don’t want to do that again and I have been INSPIRED. I am SO INSPIRED RIGHT NOW. I’m going to do all kinds of healthy organic hair shit and stop dying it and help it grow long and beautiful…
    (At least I think I will. Until next summer when I decide to chop it off and bleach it and dye it rainbow.)

  24. Thumb up 0

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    I’m kind of the opposite – got a not-very-extreme ALH (asymmetrical style) felt it wasn’t alternative enough, got it dyed pink and red and orange like a flame, washed out really quickly, dyed it back to a natural-ish light auburn and now want a MUCH shorter more extreme cut but less of the crazy-bright colours.
    ARGH
    I have been scouring here and pinterest and tumblr for inspiration.
    Although I totally get the constant dissatisfaction thing, always wanting what you can’t have!

  25. Thumb up 0

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    I’m so glad I’m not the only one that describes it as Carol Brady hair! All my friends look at me strangely when I describe my hair as Carol Brady hair. It’s such a terrible stage of growing out! Thanks heaps for the article, and it is true, beanies are my very best friend at the moment!

  26. Thumb up 0

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    I’m exactly the same. When my hair is long, I’m complaining that it never does what I want, takes ages to dry and I can’t do anything with it, when it’s short I complain that I can’t do anything with it and wish it was long.
    I’m also an impulsive person when it comes to hair. When I’m bored or annoyed by it, something has to change. If I can’t dye my hair anymore I get the scissors. (And I’m the kind off person who also picks up her own scissors and cuts thick bangs in her haircut, cut off 3 inches at the back etc.)
    Personally I just let short haircuts grow out, and cut off the mullet on my own (don’t need to spend 30 bucks when I can do it myself). Longest I haven’t been to a hairdresser is 1,5 years, and by that time I started noticing a few split ends. I just don’t like the work it takes after six years of getting up, running my hand through my hair, use a little wax and be done. Now, I’m starting another attempt to grow out my hair, see if this time I can get it past my shoulders ^^ I’m not too hopefull though XD

  27. Thumb up 0

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    Seriously…best article ever! I cut my hair for overseas, deployment, to a faux hawk and now I have the Brady look. I cannot wait to get back to the states and make it even and better. Your words really helped!

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