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20 Hairstyles That Will Look Absolutely Fire on Your Medium-Length Hair

Photo by Rich Fury / Staff/Getty Images

Medium length haircuts are essentially the holy grail of hairstyles. They're short enough to dry and style quickly, yet they're long enough to create updos, braids, and other fun looks. Basically, they're the perfect blend of versatility and ease. There are tons of different hairstyles and haircuts you can try when you have mid-length hair—and we know, it can be overwhelming. From a super blunt bob to a soft layered look (think Emma Stone or Ciara), choosing a medium-length hairstyle depends on your hair type, face shape, lifestyle, personal style, and more.

Whether you're considering undergoing “the big chop” for a shoulder length cut, or you're in need of some fresh style inspo, we've got you covered. Below are 20 stunning medium-length haircuts and hairstyles to try at home or show your stylist when you meet again.

About the Expert:

Tish Ferguson is a New York City-based freelance makeup artist, hairstylist, male groomer, beauty blogger, beauty educator, and public speaker.

1. Braided Tendrils

Chiara Ferragni rocking a wavy hairstyle with braided tendrils at the red carpet
Photo by Pascal Le Segretain / Staff/Getty Images

This is the simple, elegant way to look just a bit more put together. Create a center part and then braid the first few strands of hair closest to your face. You’ve probably seen this trend on 20-something TikTokers, but Chiara Ferragni proves that anyone can rock this chic look. Ferragni has an oval face shape, and these braids help frame her face.

2. Wet Waves

Ciara rocking a side-part medium-length wavy hairstyle
Photo by Rich Fury / Staff/Getty Images

Don’t let the word crunchy send you back into an early 2000s fever dream. Ciara updates this classic trend by simply adding dry texture to her sleek side-part look. A deeper side part helps hair stay in place how you want it to all night. To recreate this look, try a dry textured hair spray, like this one from MOROCCANOIL.

3. Wurls

Annie Mumolo looking elegant in a wavy hairstyle and glittery gold dress
Photo by Kevin Winter / Staff/Getty Images

We’re not sure if we completely made up this term for Annie Mumolo’s hair, but we love it either way. We will officially use it to describe a style that is not quite a curl or a wave, but rather somewhere in-between. This full-bodied look works well on her square face shape because it keeps the ringlets out of her face, creating a sort of halo-like effect behind her.

4. Retro Half Updo

Diane Kruger rocking a retro-inspired half updo hairstyle with matching black velvet bow at the red carpet
Photo by Kate Green / Stringer/Getty Images

Just like Allison Williams’ retro look below, this one from Diane Kruger takes a throwback look and updates it for modern times. She’s basically like Ariana Grande from the ‘50s. This look works well for Kruger’s square face shape and medium-length hair because it allows her to keep it back without having to worry about it all night while still framing her square jaw and keeping it on display.

5. Swooping Volume

Tina Fey looking glam in a voluminous hairstyle and black suit
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris / Staff/Getty Images

A little teasing action at the roots will help an oval face shape, like Tina Fey’s, find a bit of balance. To achieve this look, tease the roots towards the back of your head first with flexible hold spray and a comb. Then, curl all of your hair while fluffing up the part you teased.

6. Flipped Out Ponytail

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge rocking a pulled back ponytail hairstyle and blue plaid coat
Photo by Chris Jackson / Staff/Getty Images

Medium-length hair is perfect for a ponytail. You can tease it, pull it back, invert it, whatever and you’ll still look classy while keeping the hair out of your face. Ponytails become a lot more playful and youthful the longer they get, so if that’s your vibe, definitely go for it. Otherwise, a medium-length ponytail is the perfect accessory for a day of errands, getting to work after a sweaty subway ride, or a royal appearance, like Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

7. Long Bangs

Cristina Abad rocking a medium-length hairstyle with long bangs
Photo by Carlos Alvarez / Stringer/Getty Images

For rectangle face shapes, this look is perfect. Cristina Abad’s long, feathered bangs hide extra forehead space without taking center stage of your entire look. Feathering the look out towards the ends of the hair helps this style emulate a relaxed look that still appears put together.

8. ‘90s Updo

Rihanna rocking a '90s-themed messy bun hairstyle and black turtleneck top at the red carpet
Photo by Steven Ferdman / Stringer/Getty Images

Remember in the ‘90s when you’d twist your hair into a clip and let most of the pieces hang down over your face? Well that look is back, and if Rihanna says it works, then it works. This is a great style to keep in the summer when you want the hair off of the back of your neck while also adding some trend to your ‘fit.

9. Half-Up Braided Bun

Issa Rae rocking a half-up braided bun hairstyle and glittery dress at the red carpet
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Staff/Getty Images

There are a few moving parts to this look: the top half that’s pulled up features cornrow braids and then is gathered into a top knot. The bottom half of Issa Rae’s medium-length hair rests just at her shoulders while two face framing braids stand out to frame her oval face.

10. Dip-Dyed Waves

Florence Pugh rocking a wet look wavy hairstyle with dip-dyed ends
Photo by Gareth Cattermole / Staff/Getty Images

Florence Pugh’s edgy hairstyle perfectly complements her round face since her side part pushes most of her hair to one side of the face, creating the illusion of a longer face. This look started out retro-inspired, but with the addition of hair gel and a dip-dyed lavender bottom, Pugh shakes up a timeless look and makes it work for her in the moment. She is an action superhero, afterall.

11. Relaxed waves

Image of Ciara all glammed up
Photo by Mike Coppola / Staff/Getty Images

“A wand curling iron will be your best friend for achieving sexy, sultry beach waves,” says Tina Ferguson, an NYC-based stylist. “Take medium size sections and wrap the hair around the wand and let it go after about ten seconds. Curl the sections closer to face away from your face to frame it nicely. The rest of the head you will curl in different directions. Once your head is fully curled you can finger comb your hair to get the tousled look. Add hair spray and some texturizer for more volume or a more piecey look.”

12. Blunt Lob

Emilia Clarke smiling and rocking a blunt lob hairstyle
Photo by Cindy Ord / Stringer/Getty Images

Over the past few years, no cut has been as popular as the lob (AKA a long bob). It's an effortless, low maintenance style that looks good on just about everyone. If you have fine hair or thin hair, opt for a blunt chop like Emilia Clarke. If you have textured or thick hair, you can still go for a blunt look, but ask your stylist to help take a bit of weight off the bottom for added movement and bounce.

13. Soft and Wispy

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley glammed up with a layered medium length hairstyle
Photo by Kevin Winter / Staff/Getty Images

If you're loving soft waves like Ciara, but want something with a bit more texture, go for a layered cut like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley here. It’s slightly shorter with wispy layers woven throughout. Be sure to ask your stylist for face-framing layers and some shorter layers all around. Styling-wise, you'll still want to use the same technique Ferguson recommends to create beachy waves.

14. Layered Bangs

Emma Stone rocking a hairstyle with layered bangs
Photo by Andrew H. Walker / Staff/Getty Images

If you’re looking for a face-framing haircut, try this shoulder-length hairstyle with bangs. Pairing slightly longer bangs with soft, piece-y layers transforms this medium haircut into a simplified shag. It looks sleek and polished with straight hair, and it gives natural waves a gorgeous, bohemian feel.

15. Medium-Length Curls

Halle Berry with medium length curly hair
Photo by Jamie McCarthy / Staff/Getty Images

“This is a great cut because it’s effortless and takes minimal time. You can wash your hair, throw some product in it, and go,” Ferguson says. “If you have curly hair and you’re looking to get it cut into this style, Ferguson recommends making sure you tell your stylist if you normally wear your hair curly or straight or both so that they can make adjustments accordingly.

16. Straight & Sleek

Goo Goo Atkins with straight hair smiling
Photo by Rick Diamond / Stringer/Getty Images

If slick, straight hair is on your radar, you're going to need a few key products and tools: a concentrator attachment, a flat iron, and a heat-protecting leave-in conditioner. Use the leave-in conditioner on towel-dried hair to fight frizz, give hair a silky shiny look, and protect it against the hot tools you'll be using. Blow-dry hair using a round brush or paddle brush and a hair dryer with the concentrator attachment to straighten hair as it dries. Finally, use the flat iron to polish off hair texture, making sure it's super straight. Spritz on some flexible hairspray so that it stays straight all day but can still move naturally.

17. Tumble of Curls

Lucy Liu with black, wavy hair
Photo by Mark Davis / Staff/Getty Images

If your medium-length hair is bordering on long hair and you want it to appear slightly shorter, a quick and easy solution is to curl it. To get these sort of big, soft, red carpet-approved curls you'll want to first dry hair straight and then curl the ends away from the face using a wide-barreled curling iron or curling wand (something close to 2" in width).

To help make hair appear nice and glossy like you see here, try using something like the ANDALOU NATURALS Sunflower & Citrus Brilliant Shine Hair Spray which will not only hold those curls in place but will also boost its luster. Hollywood, here you come!

18. Lots of Layers

Cameron Diaz with a layered hairstyle
Photo by Evan Agostini / Staff/Getty Images

Similar to Emma Stone's layered look, this wispy style also has a lot of short, face-framing layers with longer, side-swept bangs. This sort of cut with a thinner front is an ideal choice for people with round face shapes (like Cameron Diaz). The soft feathering can help to create the illusion of a more defined jawline in rounder faces.

19. Retro Pin-Up Waves

Allison Williams with retro, wavy hairstyle
Photo by Jamie McCarthy / Staff/Getty Images

Ferguson recommends achieving this look by pin curling your hair and letting it set. “Once it sets, take the pin curls out, add hair spray, and finger direct your curls into this desired look,” she says. “Use hairspray to hold the hair in place. This is a great style to get done by a professional because of the technical aspect of achieving this look. This is for more advanced curlers.”

20. Side-Part Waves

Maise Williams rocking a side part wavy hairstyle
Photo by Tim P. Whitby / Stringer/Getty Images

Switching up hairstyles doesn't have to require a full-day trip to the salon. Something as simple as switching from a center part to a deep side part can help make a medium hairstyle feel fresh and new. Here, Maise Williams sports a choppy, shoulder-length cut that feels slightly more dramatic thanks to an off-center part.

To replicate this look, you'll want to use a small-barreled curling iron (something closer to 1" in width) to curl hair, alternating directions between toward and away from the face. Once you've curled all the hair, lightly run your fingers through the curls to tousle them just a bit. Finally, help give those curls some definition with a spritz of texturizing spray.

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About the author
Brittany Leitner
Brittany is an award winning beauty, health, and lifestyle writer and author of the poetry book "23 Emotions." She has eight years of experience writing for brands like Elite Daily, The. Dr. Oz Show, Shape, Stylecaster, Bustle, and more.
About the author
Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated September 13, 2021 12:00 AM