Going to the barber can feel a little more demoralizing than it should when you’ve got thinning hair or a receding hairline. But if you’re self-conscious about what’s going on up there, the first thing you should do is relax! Barbers are professionals when it comes to hair—no matter how much you have. There’s literally nothing they haven’t seen already. And they want to help!

We talked to four barbers to get the 10 best haircut tips so your next trip to get trimmed can be an opportunity rather than a sufferfest.

1. Find the right barber

If you want to take control of your hair, you need to start by finding the right barber. After all, your haircut heavily depends on who is cutting it, so it’s important to find a professional you trust who knows what they’re doing.

“To cut men’s hair well — whether you’re a barber or a stylist — you have to be a craftsman as well as an artist,” says Rob Johnson, a traveling barber for Blind Barber and stylist at Le Petite Salon in Philadelphia.

“Find a barber who takes their time to sculpt and craft, and doesn’t rely solely on the fundamentals of haircutting. You can always add an element or dissolve contrast with the right blending techniques.”

Johnson recommends finding a barber who thinks outside the box, and ultimately, is someone you can trust.

Asking friends for referrals and scouring Yelp reviews are two ways to find barbers with consistently good reviews and happy customers.

2. Go short

While it’s hard to make blanket statements when it comes to hairstyles, the general consensus is: Trying to hide thinning hair, bald spots, or receding hairlines with excess hair is a tricky game that nobody wins.

Johnson recommends trying shorter cuts for all hair types as a way to be progressive without completely changing your appearance (like shaving your head).

3. Mix things up with a fade

“If the hair is cut too low to style, a well-blended fade can help,” Johnson says, referring to a cut that keeps hair longer on top and super short on the sides and neck.

“Considering the hairline, you can adjust to the height and graduation of a fade to build weight and add dimension, or dissolve contrast.”

4. Keep things symmetrical

If there’s anything Adrian Wood, owner of Paul Mole Barber Shop in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, knows about thinning hair, it’s this: stay away from comb overs!

“There’s nothing worse than walking down the street and seeing the wind blow, and some man’s hair blows basically away,” Wood says.

Wood recommends keeping a short, symmetrical cut. This is especially important for individuals with wavy, curly, or kinky hair. Since these hair types are more likely to stay in one place, it’s harder to hide or cover up problematic spots: “It works for all hair types,” Wood says.

5. …Unless you’ve got a more grungy look

One exception to keeping things short is if you have a more grungry, rock and roll vibe.

“If you’re not keeping a super clean cut look and have a messier, scruffier hairstyle going, you can make some of the mess cover up part of the bald or thinning areas,” says Brian Girgus, owner of New California BarberShop in Los Angeles’ Echo Park.

Having a messier style, no matter what type of hair you have, gives you a little more freedom to get away with teasing up certain areas or spiking out others to cover up thinner areas.

6. Consider going darker

Gray hair always looks thinner, as it’s basically translucent.

“If you’re losing hair and going gray or white at the same time, another way to make your hair look thicker is to go a shade or two darker,” Wood says.

(And don’t worry, dying your hair won’t affect any hair loss treatment you’re using.)

7. Grow a beard

Facial hair can help a lot.

“I can cut the top low, fade it out, and taper the sides into the beard or facial hair,” Johnson says. “This gives a very clean, masculine appearance.”

Johnson recommends keeping a shapely, maintained beard to help take focus off the hair on your head — plus, you’ll get a new element to your appearance.

(If a beard would be a new look for you, check out our top beard care tips.)

8. Ask for advice

Your barber is a great person to ask for advice—especially if they’re balding themselves, like Girgus. He encourages everyone to talk with their barber about their concerns or preferences with an open mind.

“People ask for comb overs, but they don’t understand that it’s just a bad idea,” says Girgus. “I’m not there to put down customers’ ideas, but I’m there to help them look better. I try to coach my customers as I cut. It’s good to be a balding barber, because you can really gain the trust of your evolving clientele.”

9. Sometimes, the best fix is going bald

When men with thinning hair approach Alberto Chapin, a barber for Chronos Barbershop in West New York, New Jersey, about their thinning hair, sometimes his best advice is just to shave it all off.

“If I see they have a very round head shape, I’ll tell them, ‘You’d look good with a bald head,’” Chapin says. “The bald and bearded look is in. And some men just have the right head shape for going bald.”

10. Remember: What’s happening is normal

This isn’t a haircut tip, per se, but it’s definitely worth noting: losing your hair is normal. Two out of three guys will start to lose their hair by the age of 35, and by 50, 85% of American men have significantly thinning hair.

To help clients who feel less-than-amped about their receding hairline, Johnson tries to get them to focus on being confident with what they have: “Self confidence is the opposing force to being self conscious. Work with what you have and develop what’s in your control.”

The bottom line? It’s hard to predict how thinning hair will impact your personal style, but there are plenty of resources you can turn to if you find yourself struggling with hair loss. This doesn’t just include styling and cutting your hair a certain way: You can also opt for medication, like finasteride or minoxidil, or a thickening shampoo and conditioner. (Both options are available through Keeps.)

Most importantly, keep in mind that while hair loss may be inevitable, you can control what happens next.

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Photo by Hai Phung via Unsplash