Hair trends 2021: styles to watch from pastel balayage to chunky highlights

Following a year of DIY hairstyling, hairdresser George Massoud talks us through hair trend predictions for the year ahead

Haircare resolutions 2021

From Beirut and Amman to London and now Dubai, hairstylist George Massoud has seen the same mistakes made by customers all over the world. In the chair or at-home hair care, here are the resolutions he wishes his customers would make for the year ahead.

1. 'I will seek consultation from professionals'

You may know what you want, but are you sure it’s going to suit you? Haircare professionals can tell you what will work best with your skin tone, hair texture and lifestyle.

2. 'I will tell my hairdresser when I’m not happy'

Massoud says it’s better to offer constructive criticism to work on in the future. Your hairdresser will learn, and you may discover how to communicate exactly what you want more effectively the next time.

3. ‘I will treat my hair better out of the chair’

Damage control is a big part of most hairstylists’ work right now, but it can be avoided. Steer clear of over-colouring at home, try and pursue one hair brand at a time and never, ever use a straightener on still drying hair, pleads Massoud.

A hair cut can't solve all your problems, but it's a great place to start. In 2021, this old saying (OK, fine, the slogan calligraphed on to salon a-boards) might carry more weight than ever. This year our hair was subjected to several work-from-home and DIY lifestyle changes rather than trends spotted on the runway or styles discussed at the salon. Consequently, damage control is high up on the agenda of most stylists, says hairdresser George Massoud, who also talks us through the growing demands of his customers for the year ahead.

“People are looking to lift their spirits,” says the hairstylist and appearance consultant. Having recently opened The Salon by George within Dubai’s opulent Palazzo Versace property, he’s been observing first-hand how the impact of Covid-19 has trickled down into our grooming decisions as we begin to break up with 2020.

While many will go bold to lighten their spirits or aim to undo some of the damage wrought by DIY cuts and colours, Massoud predicts "we will also see a lot of low-maintenance cuts and styles that are easy to keep up during these uncertain times. These days, it's all looking like a combination of infrequent salon visits and virtual instructions from hairstylists".

Keeping in mind these two distinctive approaches – going bold versus opting for a low-maintenance ‘do – the Beirut-born stylist walks us through his trend predictions for 2021.

Pastel balayage

Since the mid-2010s, hair hues that are a far cry from au naturel have made their way back into the mainstream. Everyone from Jourdan Dunn to Helen Mirren has given the fun trend a try. For 2021, pastel shades are likely to make a comeback, but with a more manageable update. Applying the colour using the balayage technique – swapping out traditional foils for freehand painting that avoids taking the colour to the roots – means it will still look fresh, even when faded or grown out. "It's proving popular because, surprisingly, pastel goes with every season," says Massoud. Pink, orange and teal are hot shades to try.

Copper rouge

Less intimidating that Rihanna-red yet more eye-catching than classic brunette, copper rouge is the middle ground that's slated to be everywhere in 2021. "This will prove popular as it is vibrant and makes a statement," Massoud says. It's the ideal stepping stone for diehard brunettes in need of a change. While confident that the colour can be worn on straight, wavy or curly hair, Massoud says the style is best tested by those with soft and silky hair for full effect, as the lustre might be lost on brittle locks. Lighter skin tones should tip the scales towards copper, while darker complexions can lean in more on the rouge.

Wispy waves

Short hair has been in vogue for the past few years, persuading even the most scissors-shy among us to make the chop. But now – perhaps in a nostalgic nod to simpler times or maybe due to changing access to readily available hairdressers – lengthy locks are back. But to nail the look for 2021, ditch a poker-straight mane for wispy, teased-out waves. Styled but not polished, this look will strike that balance between overdone and fresh out of bed. Massoud is a fan as the style "can be pulled off with minimalistic make-up and a dressed-down outfit to give the hair more attention. It's as trendy as it is subtle, yet very fashionable, especially when seen and done by experts."

Chunky highlights

Many of us thought we'd never see this peak-1990s trend revived, but the past year has been full of plot twists. So how has the formerly fallen trend climbed its way back to the top? "This look is going to be popular for the year ahead as it is [now considered] very unique and rare,"says Massoud. He says it's best on longer hair, because there is more room to play around. But chunky highlights 2.0 have evolved. Streaky colour clashing has been ditched and lessons of the past 20 years – babylights, balayage and face-framing – make for a softer finish. "It very playful, and exhibits a fun and creative personality."

Classic bob

If you've been rocking a bob over the past few years, it's probably been long, layer-free and blunt with clean edges. But Massoud says the classic layered bob is set to return in 2021. Owing to the fact it needs less styling than longer tresses, more clients are willing to give it a go. "It is easy to maintain and adds a pop to your look." Massoud says the style best suits those with smaller face shapes. On-trend, cute, and easier to manage day by day, it's ideal for those who have become accustomed to working-from-home, minimal-effort grooming.

Haircare resolutions 2021

From Beirut and Amman to London and now Dubai, hairstylist George Massoud has seen the same mistakes made by customers all over the world. In the chair or at-home hair care, here are the resolutions he wishes his customers would make for the year ahead.

1. 'I will seek consultation from professionals'

You may know what you want, but are you sure it’s going to suit you? Haircare professionals can tell you what will work best with your skin tone, hair texture and lifestyle.

2. 'I will tell my hairdresser when I’m not happy'

Massoud says it’s better to offer constructive criticism to work on in the future. Your hairdresser will learn, and you may discover how to communicate exactly what you want more effectively the next time.

3. ‘I will treat my hair better out of the chair’

Damage control is a big part of most hairstylists’ work right now, but it can be avoided. Steer clear of over-colouring at home, try and pursue one hair brand at a time and never, ever use a straightener on still drying hair, pleads Massoud.