Three Tricks For Parting Your Hair


Cup of Jo has been running for 13 years (!) so we’ve decided that every week, we’ll be highlighting one of the most popular posts from the past. Here’s one of our favorites, originally published on April 28, 2015…

Did you know that one of the quickest (and most dramatic) ways to change your look is to change the way you part your hair? We didn’t understand the power of parts until recently, when Vanessa Alcala, a hairstylist at Marie Robinson Salon in Manhattan, let us in on the secret. Take a look…


Here, our friend Hayley Nichols wears her everyday side part. “A lot of women part their hair on auto-pilot,” says Vanessa, “but if you’ve been doing it the same way for years, changing your part can update your whole look.” Here are her three tips:

how-to-find-the-best-part-for-your-face-side part

1. Go Far Right or Far Left
Vanessa says women who part their hair on the side usually approach it too conservatively. A side part can look meh if it isn’t far enough over. Instead of combing your hair into a side part when it’s wet and then blow drying around the part you created, try blow drying your hair until it’s at least 50 percent dry – working in all directions – before creating your part. Rake and lift your hands through your hair to find a natural part that’s emphatically on the side. If you’re wondering which side is best for you, Vanessa says to try both and then choose the side that gives your hair the best volume.


2. Don’t Be Too Centered
If you’ve tried a center part before but felt it looked too severe, give it another try, but this time create your part a little to the left or right of center. As with side parts, don’t create the part until you’ve dried your hair at least halfway and then use your fingers to lift and separate the hair before letting it fall on its own, creating as natural a middle part as possible. “Don’t be too contrived about finding a middle part,” Vanessa says. “Your natural middle part is rarely ever dead center.”


3. Mess It Up
Women often make their parts too straight, says Vanessa, by creating a strongly defined part line. But letting your part to fall naturally into place, allowing it to meander and curve, it looks more modern and less flat. Put down the brush, Vanessa says: “Use your fingers to encourage your hair to fall into place organically.”


That’s it! But since hairstyles are often easier said than done, here are some additional pro tips from Vanessa…

* Choose the Right Part
Vanessa says there are a few rules for what works best: Round faces benefit from a style that elongates the face, so try a middle part. Squarer faces, or women with strong jaw lines, look great with a deep side part, which softens their angles. And anyone lucky enough to have an oval face can experiment with either part.

* Work With Product
Vanessa swears by three products when creating a pretty part: Use Oribe texturizing spray before blowdrying. It gives fine hair a slight grit, which makes it much easier to style. You can also try using a little mousse in your damp hair to help set the style you’ll create. And, finally, light hair spray holds everything in place. (Vanessa prefers to spray her fingertips and apply it to just a few sections of hair, to keep it light.)

* Gather the Best Tools
A two-inch round brush like this one is a good everyday tool for blow drying, Vanessa says. She also recommends trying a flat iron to smooth a few individual sections of hair (you don’t have to do your whole head), slightly bending the flat iron with your wrist, back and forth, as you go to create a very subtle, bedhead-y wave.

* Create a Blank Canvas
If you normally part your hair on the side but want to try a middle part, or vice versa – or if you’ve had a super straight part for years and years and want to make it more natural – you might need to encourage your hair to start over. To do this, blow dry the whole center section of your hair (the hair that frames your forehead) while pulling it up and back. Brush toward your crown without letting it fall into a part. Then blow upward on either side of your head to create volume. Now you’re ready to make a fresh part!

Whichever part you try, Vanessa recommends giving yourself a little time to get used to a new look. It sounds strange, she says, but adjusting to a new part can be even harder than adjusting to a new cut. Keep the faith, though. We have seen the light.


Thank you so much, Vanessa!

What a difference, right?! Where do you part your hair these days? Would you try these?

P.S. How to blow dry your hair like a stylist and a genius hair trick.

(Photos by Nicki Sebastian for Cup of Jo. Hair styling by Vanessa Alcala of Marie Robinson Salon. Modeling by our friend Hayley Nichols, who is the office manager for Friends Work Here, home of Cup of Jo’s office.)

  1. Amazing how a simple part change can make such a drastic difference! I def need to try and do this more!

  2. jane says...

    I have a long British face, so I generally wear no part, just pull it back but when I do wear it down I’ll part left. I’ve tried a center part and it actually gives me the giggles with how uncomfortable it makes me feel emotionally. Because it actually looks just great but I don’t know who that person IS and I just can’t wear it out yet. I practice occasionally at home, which again, makes me laugh.

    • Neysa says...

      This is just adorable, Jane. Reading this made me smile wide.

    • Nora Romanoff says...

      What a wonderful comment. So sweet – and I can relate!

  3. Patricia says...

    I like the gif so you can see it all at once. Also, I read a fascinating article on hair parts one time years ago. I still think about it all the time! I also read the Jimmy Carter went from being a right-parter to a left-parter and his likability rating shot up. So crazy. I can’t find the exact article I read, but here’s a link that explains the theory.

  4. stu says...

    Oh my gosh, SO glad y’all revisited this post! I have been struggling to figure out how to get my (crazy, thick, very cowlicked) hair to cooperate with my middle part dreams. I’d read that I should part my hair and blow dry when it was soaking wet so I’ve been doing that but I’m definitely going to try the 50% trick! Thank you!

  5. Jil says...

    For a moment, I thought Lexi was back. I liked her writing so much, and I miss her.

    • Kelley says...

      I thought the same thing! I got so excited to read a guest post by Lexi for a minute. I hope she’s doing well!

  6. As a former hairdresser, I have to say this is genius! Love that you can see how much it makes a difference on her.

  7. Laura says...

    Hey! I love the beauty tips and the hair posts have such great explanations and photos. Would you consider doing a tip for curly gals? It seems like every single hair-related post so far is for straight hair…

    • Anna says...

      I second this! These tips are clearly not for curly-haired readers. Words like “blow dry,” “brush,” and “flat iron” are absolutely not part of my vocabulary, not to mention routine.

    • Natasha says...

      I third this. My hair looks like something out of “perms gone wild” … except it’s naturally so!
      Flat irons, brushes, and light hair products are not for the robustness of the hair that even our moms gave up trying to contain.

    • Rusty says...

      Me too!
      My hair was dead straight, but since chemo and regrowth, its quite curly with some ringlets.
      I’m trying to make friends with it. ?

  8. Dm says...

    How do i do the mess up part ive tried and cant get it like that

  9. How cool! I’ve never thought about how much a part changes the look of your face.

  10. Abigail says...

    This is great advice! But I do want to point out that in my experience middle parts tend to shorten the face rather than elongate it, beside that this is a great article.

  11. Hey Jo, I just found your website and am so glad I did! I’m in the middle of a bad-hair day, and this is just what I needed to read. My part has been the same for years and years, so I’m in desperate need of an update. Thanks so much for sharing :)

  12. Wow, I never noticed how different someone can look by just changing the parting! Amazing post x

  13. cara says...

    omg I LOVE hayley! Went to high school with her, I knew that beautiful face looked familiar!

  14. Nice hair tips. It completly changes how the face looks!!! Love it

  15. Such a great way to instantly change up your look! :) Love the gif!

  16. I am one of those people who literally feels like they have a headache if they part their hair in a different spot. Only left-side parts for me… I have tried changing, but it physically hurts!

    • Misty says...

      You have to do it little by little – just a tiny bit over at a time ;-)

  17. Jo what an awesome post! Haha my hair looks so much like the first picture that now I’m super excited to try the other parts.

    Also, need to get my hands on some texture spray!


  18. My favorite is the side part, you can never go wrong! Will you ever do ideas for curly hair? I always love the hair tutorials that are featured but they’re always for the exact same type of hair.

  19. I think the SMILE at the end made a bigger difference than any of the hair parts.
    “I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.” – Audrey Hepburn


  21. It really is incredible how much of a difference a change in your part makes! I especially like the suggestion to “mess it up” – I think that will help with my goal of a more natural look.

    Natalie | Intrusions of Beauty

  22. Great article! I have followed your blog for years and was shocked when I recognized Vanessa’s name. I went to school with her and her sister. Small world!

  23. I’m not trying to dismiss the dramatic beauty of the hair part, but what about the skirt on the girl to the left of Hayley in the picture? I love the spring colors! Joanna – do you have any info on the skirt?

  24. I’d love to see some tutorials on curly hair! Not just beach waves, but actual curls:)

  25. Any advice about parting your hair when you have a widow’s peak?

  26. love this. i actually parted my hair on the side my whole life, and then randomly one morning i woke up with a middle part and was surprised how much i liked it. one thing i’ve found to be true with trying out new parts — they may feel awkward or unnatural at first, like putting a left shoe on a right foot, but after a few hours your hair relaxes into it and it starts to look better. :)

  27. I recently started wearing my part differently for the first time! I am now working a deep side part with a new red lob and let me tell you it’s crazy what a difference it makes! And my hair seems fuller (since Luna took all my hair and it’s taking its darn time coming back). I like the messy part too, but it actually seems like more work!

  28. @Lana: I just asked Vanessa, the hair stylist, and here’s what she had to say about colored hair and parts: “Next time you get color, talk to your colorist about highlighting along a few of your different natural parts rather than committing to only one part.” Hope that helps!

  29. they all sound like life philosophies as well! lol! i tend to be not to centered, but always trying!
    your model is a beauty. thanks for sharing! i need to try mixing it up more ‘up on top.’

  30. I am all about a harsh middle part these days. I love the 70s vibe it gives to your over all look.

  31. How cool! I’ve never thought about how much a part changes the look of your face. It’s quite remarkable! Of course, my greatest fear is the middle part… *relives painful childhood days*

  32. I learned this trick a long time ago and it has helped me so much! Especially those days when you are in a hurry or your hair seems to not want to do anything, I will just flip my part and it usually does the trick!! I have a squareish face and I never really looked great with a middle part until I got full bangs. Now the middle is my part of choice. But it’s always fun to experiment!!

    Thanks for sharing! Have a great day!

    Keely /// life, love, and exploration

  33. What about those of us who get highlights? My stylist does mine from my part, do I’m
    Wondering if this will make my roots look weird and grown out.

  34. I also have bangs so my hair just falls to a middle part. I would love to have the deep side part but I can never grow out my bangs since I have a high forehead. Wah wah!

  35. This is really helpful. I’m currently in a heated altercation with my side party, which I’ve had for ages. I’ve tried the middle part recently, which has yielded more volume, but sometimes I’m afraid it’s a bit much for my face, which in my mind looks like the Burger King Man.

  36. I’ve always had bangs so I have to part my hair in the middle.

  37. Hmm I liked the first one (flipped further over on one side) but I would have to disagree that a super straight part with a disheveled look can be really great! It can look super polished an less I-just-walked-out-of-the-wind and the part just sort of flopped wherever. But that’s just me!
    My favourite stylist out there that I follow on Instagram is Anh Co Tran (IG: @anhcotran)and he does amazing work!

  38. why do women have to try so hard to look like they’re not trying so hard…

  39. I’ve been parting my hair to the side (parted on the left) for yeaaaaaaaaars. I just feel like it suits me so much better than a middle part. But maybe I’ll give it another shot! I think I was making the line too centered and too severe.