The Lazy Human’s Guide to Acing 2021’s Biggest Spring and Summer Hair Trends

I don’t know about you, but the shift from 2020 to 2021 has left me feeling like a grizzly bear blearily lumbering out of hibernation. As things are opening up and there seems (knock on wood) to be some light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel, I’m slowly but surely remembering what life felt like pre-pandemic. Don’t get me wrong—I have a newfound appreciation for the collection of slippers that now outnumbers my sneakers, and wearing fleece-lined bottoms for work meetings feels just as innate as flossing or brushing my teeth. (What’s denim?) However, I’d be lying if I said some masochistic part of me didn’t kind of miss swinging a flat iron through my strands on a regular basis, and I’ve most definitely had some serious separation anxiety where my hair salon is concerned. 

Not only are we on the brink of a new and exciting reentry phase of life right now, but spring is also officially here, and daylight savings has graced us with longer, lighter days. Summer is just around the corner, so why not talk about spring and summer hair trends? Sure, there are plenty of hair-centric takeaways from 2020 that will tag along right into the rest of 2021, but there are sure to be some new and exciting twists and turns on the trend horizon as well. No one knows this more intimately than the industry’s best hair experts, and we’re chatting with three of them just below—Jeremy Tardo, a celebrity colorist, and Matthew Collins and Drew Schaefering, two celebrity hairstylists who just launched their very own podcast, The Strands That Bind Us, discussing all things hair with fellow hairstylists and clients. From color trends to cuts to styling, we’re covering 2021’s biggest spring and summer hair trends. Keep scrolling! 

According to Tardo, bold, “look at me” color contrasts will take center stage as one of the top hair trends of spring/summer 2021. “Gen Z is bored of blended highlights and is opting for larger sections of color in the hair,” he points out. “From the bright, face-framing ‘money pieces’ and creatively placed single streaks to juxtaposing dark color on lower layers with lightness in the hair above it, this season will see the most playful hair color placements of the 2000s to date.”

To create this look, Tardo recommends isolating strategic sections and using a different color than what’s on the rest of your hair—think one or two starring pieces in the front or a large section underneath your hair. “Remember that if a bright color is being used, the hair will typically need to be lightened first. I’d suggest doing this kind of color in a salon. Olaplex is a great product to help keep your hair strong when it’s being lightened,” he adds.

Variations of red always seem to be on-trend, but this season, celebrities like Gigi Hadid and Sarah Hyland have made an extra-strong case for going crimson by debuting radiant copper and auburn tones, which Tardo says will only become more and more popular as we ease into spring and summer. 

“I think that this trend is being embraced right now because it feels energetic in a time when so many people are ready for a fresh, new vibe,” he explains.

A bold red hue can definitely be intimidating, but Tardo maintains that the perfect shade of red exists for every single person. “While auburn and cinnamon tones are extra flattering on dark skin, hues like strawberry blonde or light copper can be beautiful on fair skin,” he notes. “Knowing which undertones in your skin you want to enhance or negate will help when choosing your perfect red. My personal favorite DIY reds are from Clairol’s Nice ‘N Easy line.” 

Don’t fret—curtain bangs are still very much here to stay this season. That said, Tardo predicts an uptick in softer takes of the fringe trend.

“Curtain bangs are everywhere, and this trend will be even bigger in spring and summer, but you can expect to see wispy bangs and other shapes as well,” he tells us. “Birkin bangs,” he explains, fall below your eyebrows and are heavier than a curtain fringe but are still soft looking. We might also see “baby bangs” make a comeback thanks to celeb influences like Doja Cat. “Different types of fringe are currently gaining popularity as a way to wear a new look without having to deconstruct the shape of your entire haircut,” he adds.

“Make sure to bring pictures of bangs that you like when you go in for your cut, and discuss what shape of fringe will flatter your features best with your stylist,” says Tardo. “If you have bangs that will need to be styled smooth frequently, use a good thermal protective spray like Milbon’s Weightless Replenishing Mist before you blow-dry.”

According to Collins, big, overdone curls will lose traction this spring and summer, and more natural wave patterns (think mermaid-like, S-shaped strands) will step up to the plate.

“People are less and less concerned with perfect locks, especially when our outfit choices have really been forced to be a bit more casual,” he explains. “I see this lower-maintenance trend continuing even as things open up a bit. It’s also less stressful to achieve and can be done by anyone at all skill levels.”

Collins explains there are a couple of different ways to go about trying the trend for yourself this spring and summer, the first of which involves finding and dusting off your flat iron.  “My fave is Dyson’s Corrale Hair Straightener, by far,” Collins tells us right off the bat. “It imparts 50% less damage than any other iron because of its flexing plates and intelligent heat control, which checks the temperature 100 times per second. To start, prep the hair with a light-hold hair spray, like L’Oréal Professional’s Tecni.Art Infinium 3 Strong Hold Finishing Spray ($28), on each section and then start with the iron at the root and make a ‘C’ shape in one direction, then pause with the plates open and then gently pinch the iron on the hair again and do a ‘C’ shape in the opposite direction. The pauses help to really set the hair in each movement so you have a more pronounced look. As you work your way around your head, begin your ‘C’ shapes in opposite directions so the hair has a more natural look and finish.” Not into heat-styling? Collins says you can also go back to the basics by strategically braiding your hair. Begin by dividing your hair into four sections, starting from the top of your head right near the crown. Then, section your strands down to behind the ears and straight down the back, making sure they’re roughly the same density and thickness. Begin to softly braid each section and tie it off at the bottom with an elastic, gently tugging each braid so you see that trademark ‘S’ pattern emerge. Next, spray your braids with a texture spray and then let them sit overnight. (You can also use the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer, $399, with the Diffuser Attachment, $40, to set them into place with heat for five to 10 minutes, or you can even gently massage each braid from root to end with your Dyson Corrale Hair Straightener, taking care not to press so hard that you flatten them.) To finish, take the elastics out, shake out your strands, and add a drop of oil to your hands to lightly break up the wave.

“Because of all of the Zoom meetings and virtual calls we’ve been taking, spring and summer will continue to be all about the casual updos, especially looks that bring back the ’90s-inspired nostalgia,” shares Collins. “With this particular trend, you don’t need to worry as much about what’s in the back. Instead, focus on the money pieces in the front. The ’90s updos are back, baby.”

The beauty of this spring- and summer-forward hair trend is its versatility—you can go for a more polished, ultra-sleek look or something that’s loose and soft.  “For a snatched look, start by adding a volume-enhancing mousse to your hairline in addition to the top and sides where you’ll be slicking the hair back,” directs Collins. “Then, create a strong center part, leaving out two small triangle pieces of hair on either side. Now, use a strong, wet hair spray to slick back the hair where you want to fasten the pony and then use a boar-bristle brush to sweep back the hair and fasten with an elastic. Then, twist the ponytail around the elastic and fasten it with bobby pins.” If you want something more relaxed, Collins recommends swapping your strong hair spray for a texture spray and using your fingers or even a wide-tooth comb to pull back your hair. Last, give your money pieces in the front some soft texture. Collins recommends using a flat iron to keep them straight if you’re trying out a sleek updo or giving them a soft S-shaped wave if you’ve gone looser and more relaxed.

There’s no arguing that many of us embraced a natural, “less is more” mentality when it came to our strands last year, but that au naturel vibe will continue to hold influence as we make our way into spring and summer 2021.  

“This trend is all about embracing what you have and working with it, not against it,” confirms Collins. “Over the last year, people have been experimenting with their natural hair more than ever, and the trick typically involves less styling and putting more emphasis and experimentation toward how much or how little product you actually need to be using. I would say 90% of people have hair well-suited for a wash-and-go, but it can definitely be intimidating, and it does take lots of trial and error. Take the time to really get to know your hair and what does and doesn’t work for your type and texture.”

“If you’re looking to keep natural curls a little tighter and are okay with using tools, I suggest using the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer ($399) with the Diffuser Attachment ($40) to really enhance your curl,” says Collins. “However, it really starts with post-wash. Once you get out of the shower, do not brush your hair and only use your fingers or a wide-tooth comb to detangle your strands. The more you disturb your curl pattern, the more frizz you will get. The amount of product you need completely depends on the texture of your hair, but my fave curl cream is L’Oréal Professional’s Tecni.Art Bouncy & Tender Cream. I add it to my hands, gently rake, then scrunch my hair. Then, I diffuse immediately, or I just let it air-dry. Just be sure not to tuck it behind your ears or really touch it until it’s 95% dry.”

As we mentioned earlier, curtain bangs have had an exponential takeoff over the last year or so, and the retro-inspired style will continue on as one of the most notable hair trends for spring/summer 2021. 

“I see a lot of people wanting to opt for shorter, bolder looks this spring and summer,” Schaefering tells us. “After a year of letting our hair grow out and dealing with mismanaged self-trims, there is excitement around having a new look as our world begins to breathe a bit. Curtain bangs are the number one request I am hearing and seeing with clients this season. By adding curtain bangs, you are incorporating a visual change around the face without the commitment of a full bang. They grow out more gracefully, and since they inherently already resemble grown-out bangs, there is less need for maintenance.”

Schaefering explains that you’ll have a lot more wiggle room in terms of styling and shape with curtain bangs compared to a fuller style. Make sure you take some time to consult your stylist, discussing where you want your bangs to hit and how you want them to accentuate and enhance your facial features. Then, discuss whether you want them to be blunt (which has a very cool, ’90s-inspired feel—think Drew Barrymore) or soft and whispy for a more blended approach. “The trick to styling curtain bangs is to make sure you set them so they can cool in your desired shape,” says Schaefering. “Start by applying a good foundation product like L’Oréal Professionnel’s Tecni.Art Densité Thickening Primer all over and isolate the bang section. For a more polished look, use a round brush and blow-dry the bangs back and away from your face, allowing them to sweep out to the sides when they fall. Use setting clips to clip them in place and cool so the style lasts longer.” For a more natural-looking style, Schaefering says you can skip the round brush and blow-dry them with some help from your fingers to encourage your natural texture. Then, you’ll stick to the same process of clipping them back in the shape you want them to set in. After your strands have cooled, unclip them and finish with your favorite lightweight hair spray or texture spray for added hold. Up next, Curtain Bangs Have Taken Over, and We Have the Screenshot-Worthy Styling Tips