The Difference Between Choppy Layers & Wispy Layers

By Angela Bakke

When it comes to hairstyles, layers are a girl's best friend. Whether you wear them short and sassy or long and sultry, layered cuts are one of the most sought-after looks. Aside from the length of your layers, the other essential choice is whether you want them choppy or wispy. That is one little detail to get crystal clear before you get your cut because there is a big difference.

Giffoni Film Festival Day 7
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Actress Meg Ryan opts for choppy layers on both short and long hairstyles.

Video of the Day

Wispy Layers

Noche De Ninos Gala
credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Jennifer Lopez with soft, wispy, face-framing long layers.

Wispy layers refer to smooth lines and face-framing layers. Wispy layers are soft and easy to see through if they hang past your eyes. The wispy ends are created by styling techniques that include shearing, which is when the stylist runs one sharp side of a pair of scissors down the length of the layer or the stylist turns the scissors vertically and cuts upward in millimeter-sized pieces, slowly chipping away at the ends of the layers. Both of these techniques serve the purpose of tapering the layer to a barely-there end and, in turn, create a wispy frame around your face and neck. Wispy layers are commonly used to create a side-swept bang on either long or short hairstyles.

Choppy Layers

Premiere Of Tri Star Pictures'
credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Halle Berry in a short, choppy, heavily layered pixie hairstyle.

Choppy layers are a bold type of layer used to create volume, definition and movement in your hair. Stylists cut this blunt and edgier style of layers by taking larger chunks of hair and cutting them in defined, yet uneven or asymmetrical proportion to the other sections of hair. This not-subtle hairstyle creates a chic and modern look that requires a bit of maintenance to replicate once you get home. Styling wax or pomade is often used on choppy layers to accentuate and define the choppy pieces.

Which is the Better Choice for You?

Wispy layers are subtle, so they add shape, volume and movement to just about any hairstyle. If you have curly hair you want to avoid layers that are too short or you will have to start a beauty routine that involves blow-drying to style them properly. Wispy layers are a fantastic way to balance the symmetry of your face if you have a large forehead or want to add definition to your cheekbones if you have a round face. If you have straight, thinning hair, choppy layers will do wonders for adding volume and thickness. If you have a long or angular face, choppy layers add breadth to your face, which can make it appear fuller and softer.

Communicating with Your Stylist

As with describing colors, clearly articulating to your hairstylist how you want your layers cut is important because different terms mean different things to different people. If you want wispy layers you can say wispy, but also include adjectives such as subtle, soft and sweeping. If you want choppy layers, tell your stylist the look you're going for is chunky, shaggy, edgy, modern and asymmetrical. The best case scenario is to find a picture that clearly depicts your expectations. Also be open for your stylist's feedback. Perhaps your hair texture or face shape doesn't suit your desired style and the two of you can work together to find a solution.