This type of layer gives fine hair natural-looking volume and thick hair lightness

Written by Morgan Fargo

A haircutting technique to add volume and shape, here’s what to know before you cut invisible layers.

As a young woman, I avoided cutting layers into my hair for many years. Born with puffy curly hair (and after a particularly bad haircut as a tween), I believed layers would lead me to become a triangle-head.

Listening to very sensible and very good hairdressers, I was swayed into trying long (emphasis on the long) layers to add shape and natural movement. As they promised, they did exactly that. Then, 70s-style hair roared into fashion and layered hairstyles seemed to shout at me from every corner. Tousled shags, feathery Farrah Fawcett haircuts and swoopy curtain bangs became everything I wanted.

So, when I sat down in stylist Adrian’s salon chair at Hershesons, Fitzrovia, ready for my first (subtle) fringe and soft shag cut, I was surprised to find out the type of layer you request can make all the difference: in my case, invisible layers. 

What are invisible layers? 

“Invisible layers are very different to standard layers,” explains Paul Percival, founder of award-winning British salon brand Percy & Reed. “You create invisible layers by cutting into sections of the hair, removing some (but not all) of the layer. This means there are no lines or definite layers visible.

“Many people don’t understand why invisible layers exist. If layers are cut well, you shouldn’t see a line in the hair, right? Well, if you have fine hair, invisible layers give you a little ‘scaffolding’. Leaving shorter pieces of hair under the sections gives the hair natural bounce and volume, especially in fine hair. There are not many things you can do to give thin hair volume, but invisible layers help give a natural lift.”

I have naturally curly, fine hair that has undergone years of heat and chemical manipulation. Cutting into the hair from underneath (the way you create invisible layers in fine hair) added volume that doesn’t look awkward or out of place when my hair isn’t blow-dried or tonged. Instead of feathers that would curl into a Christmas tree-esque shape when natural, invisible layers gave my straight hair volume and my curly hair shape.

Beauty editor Morgan after invisible layers at Hershesons, Fitzrovia.

Are invisible layers beneficial for all hair types? 

“They work well for thick or for fine hair,” says Percival, going on to describe that they have different purposes. “For thick hair, you remove hair from the top of each section to reduce volume; whereas, with fine hair, you cut the sections from the underneath which helps to increase volume.

“If you have thick hair and find that your hair feels heavy, the great thing about invisible layers is that they remove weight and make the hair feel more manageable. It’s a very clever technique because it can make thick hair feel lighter and add movement and texture.”

Can invisible layers be cut into any length?

“They can, but really, invisible layers work better on shoulder length and longer hair,” says Percival. I like to create some roughness in my hair to help it maintain volume throughout the day and keep Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo, £20, and R+Co Outer Space Flexible Hairspray, £24.50, close to hand.

For more mid-length and long-hair inspiration, we have you covered. Or, if you’re more interested in figuring out if a curtain fringe or bottleneck bangs would suit, we’ve got you there too.

Main image: Getty

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