How To Style Curtain Bangs: Stylist Tips & How To Determine Which Length Is Best For You
Whether it's the result of a fresh breakup, the irresistible urge to revamp your look, or even the answer to a semi-botched haircut, curtain bangs are ever-present. While the look may have had moments in the spotlight here and there, the swooped, lived-in style is timeless at its core.
Like any hairstyle, you'll get out of it what you put into it. Translation: If you put effort into learning how to style curtain bangs, you'll reap the benefits. This isn't necessarily intuitive, so we asked stylists the 101 on styling curtain bangs so you can become a master ASAP. Let's get into it.
What are curtain bangs?
"Curtain bangs are bangs parted in the middle, framing each side of the face (just like curtains)," pro stylist Dominick Pucciarello tells mbg. "Soft and sweeping, this type of fringe is longer than typical bangs [and] shaggier," he adds. The look is a tad more "lived-in" than a blunt-cut bang.
As with any style, there are a few different variations that come with curtain bangs. They can be shorter, hitting just below the cheekbone, or a bit longer. They can be light and wispy, or dense for a statement look.
If you're looking to complement your unique face shape, there are a few things to keep in mind. As Pucciarello says:
- Oval face shape: Can pull off about any bangs. The heavier the bang, the better. It's very important to tailor the fringe length to the forehead.
- Round face shape: Thin, wispy, and textured. This will help elongate a round face.
- Heart face shape: best with longer bangs. You want the shortest piece to hit just at or below the cheekbones. This balances the angular face.
- A square-shaped face: Benefits from short curtain bangs with a strong jawline and high cheekbones. You want to elongate the face and balance these angles.
How to style them
Now that you know what the many variations of curtain bangs look like, let's get into the styling process:
Grab your tools
There are a few options to choose from when it comes to tools. You'll need a blowdryer regardless, but which brush you use will deliver a different look. If you want your bangs to curl under (think '80s bangs look), then commit to a round brush.
For a flat, fringe-like look, some stylists opt for a paddle brush—like pro stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago Shelly Aguirre. "I don't recommend a round brush because you don't want the bangs to get too round," she says.
Start with the roots facing down
After separating your bangs from the rest of your hair, start with "The roots facing down toward the face but the ends sweeping upward toward the top of the head, which can be counterintuitive," celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of Trademark Beauty Joseph Maine tells mbg. "Almost as if you are trying to flip the ends upward," he adds.
By keeping the roots flat but the ends swooped, you'll achieve the classic curtain bangs style—not too round, not too flat. You can use either brush for this approach, but a round brush will deliver more bounce and volume.
If you have a widow's peak, then you'll want to work on reversing the natural sway of your part. Do this by blow-drying your widow's peak in the opposite direction that it naturally falls. This will help relax the kink so you can part your hair straight down the middle.
It's important to note that it may take some time for your widow's peak to lie flat. To assist the process even more, be sure to set your bangs with clips (more on that to come). And remember, you can still rock curtain bangs with a widow's peak!
Split the bangs into curtains
"Then, take a small round brush pulling the hair toward the face but wrapping the hair around the brush away from your face so you get a soft, lived-in look," Pucciarello explains. This will help nail down the curtain effect—close at the top, swooping away at the bottom.
If you want a subtle swoop, then don't wrap too much of your bangs around the brush. Or, use a paddle brush to minimize the curl.
However, if you do want a dramatic swoop, then spending a few extra seconds blow-drying the ends and twisting your brush is a must.
Set in place to cool
After your blow-dry job is done, you'll want to set your bangs in place to cool down. This will ensure the style lasts. There are two ways to do this—either with clips or with a Velcro roller (or both).
The roller method: Roll up your bangs on a wide Velcro roller. You'll want to make sure the bangs are getting pulled up and back, not forward—this will prevent the over-curl. Leave the roller for a few minutes or until your bangs feel completely cool. Then, gently pull it out toward the back of your head and drape your bangs as you see fit.
The clip method: If you don't have a roller on hand or you want to minimize the volume of your look, then using creaseless clips is for you. After you finish your blow-dry process, drape your bangs like curtains and clip the ends. If you pinch the bangs at the top, then your fringe will be more visible. If you keep them fairly separated at the top, then they'll be more subtle.
Both: If you really want to nail a classic curtain bang look, Maine recommends doing both.
Finish it off
Now it's time to top it all off. You can opt for hair spray or styling cream—whichever fits your fancy. "I like to finish the style with True Botanicals Hair Cream Oil to add extra shine and hydration," Pucciarello says.
Finding the right process may take a few tries, so don't be too hard on yourself if you don't love the result on your first go.
3 extra styling tips:
- Sleep with your clips in: As said above, curtain bangs generally call for a middle part. If this is new for you, then sleeping with clips or bobby pins in your hair will help you train your part, making the styling process even easier.
- Rinse your bangs daily: Bangs lie on the skin and thus collect more oil and sweat than the rest of your hair. This means your bangs will probably look greasy before your designated wash day. Rather than loading them up with dry shampoo, opt for a daily hair rinse. You can either rinse them with just water or use a gentle pre-formulated rinse like the DpHue Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse.
- Use a blow-dry brush: To streamline the process, you might consider using a blow-dry brush like the Trademark Beauty Easy Blo. These tools are ideal for the uber-voluminous '90s blowout.
How to trim them at home
If you notice your bangs growing out beyond your ideal length, you can certainly go into the salon for a quick trim. However, you can nail the process at home, too. We recently covered the full tutorial, but here's a quick summary to get you started:
- Wet your hair and have your scissors and fine-tooth comb at the ready.
- Part your hair down the middle. Then, going from the front of your head to the back, take 1 to 1½ inches of hair on each side (more if you want thicker bangs).
- Pull one section of your hair (either the left or the right side) to the opposite side—think of it like drawing an "X." Make sure the hair is combed out and flat when you do this.
- Decide how long you want your bangs. You'll cut just below this length for the initial trim (Remember: You can always cut more if need be).
- Holding the flat section of hair between your two fingers, cut the hair parallel to your part. This means holding your scissors horizontally for the cut rather than vertically chopping at the ends of the hair.
- Once you've done your initial cut on both sides, you'll want to compare them to ensure they're even. Comb your bangs down directly in front of your face and trim any uneven ends.
- If you're cutting your curtain bangs for the first time, finish it off with some face-framing layers. You'll want to do this step on dry hair and with some thinning scissors if you have them. Trim the next-closest front sections of the hair (right behind the bangs) a bit shorter than your longest layer, going from shortest in the front to longest in the back. Imagine cutting down in a diagonal line.
Other types of bangs to try
While curtain bangs are certainly low-lift in terms of styling, they're not your only option for some fun fringe. There are a few different types of bangs you may not have heard of yet. We go in depth in this story (photo examples included), but here's a quick list of the basics to get you thinking:
- Baby bangs: Also called "micro-bangs," these bangs stop super short, no longer than the center of the forehead. They're typically cut blunt, sometimes with choppy ends for some separation.
- Blunt bangs: The typical chop where the bang spans the entire width of the forehead. These can vary in length from right above the brow to right above the lash line.
- Curly bangs: Any style of bangs can be done on curly strands, but truly curly bangs oftentimes require a slightly different cut. Curly bangs usually vary in length, ranging from a few shorter springs below your brows to a one-length trim. No matter which style you go for, the pros typically snip them a bit longer to account for shrinkage.
- Textured bangs: Also called "wispy bangs," "choppy bangs," or "Birkin bangs" (courtesy of the enviously effortless Jane Birkin), these are cut similarly to blunt bangs, but the stylist will point-cut vertically into the ends to achieve that feathery fringe.
- Braided bangs: Let your braids frame the face by making the outward pieces a bit longer (say, to the pupils), then snipping them shorter as you move to the center of your forehead (with the shortest braids reaching the arch of the eyebrows). If you don't feel like cutting your braids at all, you can always just tuck a few long strands into loops—all the fun, none of the scary permanence.
Curtain bangs are a timeless style that requires minimum upkeep. The styling process is fairly simple but will require a few trial-and-error sessions to get it right. Be patient with yourself and remember that if you don't love your bangs, they will grow out—here are a few tips for making the growth process a bit easier if need be.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.