Layered vs Non-Layered Hair: What’s the Difference?

To layer or not to layer? It’s a question you may have asked yourself from time to time – or maybe every time you step into a hair salon. Do you want the sleek, sexy look of a one-length haircut or the messy-chic look of layers? There are many factors to consider when deciding if layers are right for you — and what type of layers would work best for you if you do decide to take the plunge.

What is Layered Hair?

Layered hair is hair that is cut so that the ends of the strands fall at different lengths. The shortest layer dictates the length of the layered style. So, if the shortest layer is much shorter than the longest part of your hair, that would be considered a short layered cut. Whereas if the shortest layer is not much shorter than the longest hair, that’s called a long layer. Layers can also be smooth, with a very fluid transition from the shortest to the longest length. Or they can be disconnected or choppy, with the layers more distinct from each other. 

Pros and Cons of Layered and Non-Layered Hair

Before choosing a haircut, it’s important to understand whether it’s really worth it. Layered hair has many advantages for many different hair types and lengths, but it also has some drawbacks. The same could also be said for non-layered hair. Read through the following points carefully and weigh the pros and cons of both before you make your decision.

Pros of Layered Hair

  1. Removes bulk: If you have thick hair, this is a great reason to get layers, especially in long hair. If your hair is weighing you down, but you want to keep your length, a layered style can be a great solution.
  2. Adds volume: Because layers make the hair lighter, you may find your hair naturally springing up at the roots, adding that coveted volume to your style.
  3. Defines curls: That’s right, layered hair is good for curly girls too! Because layers remove weight, those curls that were dragged down before are freed up to coil and bounce as they naturally want to. And layers are a great way to avoid the dreaded “triangle head” shape that can come with long curls.

Cons of Layered Hair

  1. High maintenance: Layered hairstyles lose their definition quickly, meaning that they require frequent trips to the salon to maintain them. Thus, they require a higher commitment of both time and money if you want them to look their best.
  2. Takes longer to grow out: If you choose layers, you’ll be stuck with them for a while. Why? Think of it this way: your layered style isn’t truly grown out until the very shortest layer has grown out to your desired length. Because of this, it’s often a time-consuming process to switch styles once you have layers.
  3. Updos become tricky: With layered hair, sleek ponytails are more difficult to achieve. You’re much more likely to end up with wisps of hair slipping out of hairpins or ties, depending on the length of your layers. Additionally, braids can end up looking scraggly and thin because layers remove so much density from the hair.

Pros of Non-Layered Hair

  1. Sleek look: Hairstyles that are all one length (in other words, non-layered) can easily achieve sleek, neat looks like tight buns and smooth ponytails. For this reason, non-layered hair can look more professional with minimal effort.
  2. Low maintenance: Non-layered hair is great for people who don’t want to put a lot of effort into the upkeep of their hair. It can be quickly and easily braided or pulled up into simple hairstyles. Plus, it maintains its look very well as it grows out, so you may find yourself needing to visit the hair salon less frequently unless you want to keep your hair at a very specific length.
  3. Maximum thickness: Especially for those with thin or sparse hair, one-length styles can be a great choice to keep your hair looking as thick as possible. That’s because your stylist won’t need to remove all that hair for a layered look. So you’re keeping as much hair on your head as possible, which keeps it looking and feeling thicker.

Cons of Non-Layered Hair

  1. More weight: This is especially something to consider if you have thick, dense hair. As you grow it out in a one-length style, your hair becomes heavy very quickly. This will flatten your natural curl pattern. Plus, if you live in a warm climate, it can get uncomfortable in the summer.
  2. Less volume: This relates to the previous point. Even if you have extremely fine hair, the longer you grow it out, the more weight you are putting on your roots. This will cause the hair to lay flatter against your head, which can make it more difficult to achieve more voluminous hairstyles, even with a significant amount of time and products.
  3. Can look outdated: Of course, trends are always changing, and what looked boring and dated yesterday may look vintage-chic tomorrow. But with non-layered hair, it’s easy for a style to look a little less fresh or edgy. Consider your overall style and wardrobe, and whether or not a more classic, laid-back look would suit you.

Layers: Which Type is Right for Your Hair?

If you do decide to go with a layered look, your decision isn’t over quite yet. Long layers, short layers, ghost layers, which one would look best on you? Here is a brief guide to different kinds of layered hairstyles for different hair lengths and types, to help guide you toward your best-layered look.

Short Hair: Layered Pixie

If you go short enough, your hairstyle will tend to develop layers no matter what. That’s because it loses the ability to be one overall length. This is a good opportunity to lean into that and create a fun, piecey pixie cut with lots of layers. It will look chic and trendy with minimal styling, or it can be easily “pieced out” for a spikier look.

Curly Hair: Medium to Long Length With Layers

If you want to go layered on curly hair, it’s best to start with a little bit of length. Opt for longer layers so that the top layers don’t get too frizzy, or lose too much length. You’ll be surprised how much even a little bit of layering can define your natural curl pattern by getting rid of the excess bulk that was weighing your curls down. 

Thick, Coarse Hair: Lots of Layers

If your hair is thick and heavy, layers might just be your new BFF. A look with lots of cascading layers will do wonders to thin out your hair where needed, boost volume in all the right places, and give your style a fresh, flirty upgrade. This will give an especially dramatic effect if your hair has some wave or curl to it, or if you color it in an ombre or balayage style.

Voluminous, Fine hair: Short to Medium Length With Layers

medium layered hair

If you have fine hair but lots of it, feel free to play with layers! But it’s best to avoid them if your hair is very long. That’s because too many layers in fine hair can leave the bottom of your hair looking thin and scraggly. To preserve the look of luscious locks, and get the most out of the volume that layers can lend you, stick to a short or medium-length cut.

Thin, Sparse hair: Face-Framing or Ghost Layers


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With thin, sparse hair, layers can be a blessing or a curse. Since you don’t have as much hair to begin with, you may be scared to lose any hair in order to create layers. But you do still have some options. You could try “ghost layers”, also known as “invisible” or “internal” layers. With this technique, the top layer of the hair is left mostly untouched and layers are created underneath to boost volume while preserving the look of length and thickness. Another option is to only add layers around your face, to add some interest to your style without thinning out the rest of your hair.

Very Long Hair: Long Layers


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The longer your hair is, the longer your layers should generally be. While it is possible to create very short layers in very long hair, it is definitely a risk. It can leave you with a huge amount of hair around your face, while the longer parts look thin (remember “scene queen” hair from 2005?). Instead, opt for longer layers to create movement within your hairstyle while still maintaining a cohesive look.


There are many things to consider when deciding whether to go for a layered vs non-layered haircut, including hair type, style maintenance, and how long you want to commit to keeping a certain style. Both layered and non-layered styles have their pros and cons. Do your research, consult your stylist, and whatever you decide to do in the end, remember that confidence is key to rocking your new ‘do!

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