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Step Cut Vs. Layer Cut: What’s The Difference?

We know sometimes it can be confusing trying to explain to a hairstylist what kind of haircut you want, especially if you aren’t familiar with haircutting terminology.

Sometimes your cut turns out differently than you had hoped, and that’s why it’s essential for you to know the difference between step cut and layer cut.

Keep reading our step cut vs layer cut guide to discover the differences, which cut is best for your hair type, and what each cut offers you.

What Is a Step Cut?

step cut
Step Cut

Step cuts have been a popular haircut since the 1980s. A step haircut is a style in which you can clearly see steps between each layer of hair. This haircut offers complete visibility of each layer you have placed into your hair, and the hair is cut at different lengths and levels to ensure the steps stand out.

While the layers still blend and lay nicely, there is a clear difference between each separate step or layer created. The layers are cut in a numbered manner, so depending on the number of steps you have, you can label your haircut as a 2-step haircut or a 3-step haircut, and so on.

While you can choose how many steps to add to your hair, one of the most popular step haircuts is the two-layer step cut.

Who Should Try a Step Cut?

A step cut works great for those with thick hair because it will give you the bounce you desire in your hair, but it won’t make your hair appear any thicker than it currently is. It can help to reduce your overall hair volume if you need a reduction to make your hairstyle look more glamorous.

A step cut is also an excellent option for people with wavy hair, so the wave has a defined definition in the hair layers. It will give your hair the appearance of clearly defined waves that cascade beautifully down your head.

The step cut can also work well for you if you have curly hair. The step cut is going to add different steps into your hair that will help your curls appear bouncy and full of life, all while holding their curl shape.

If you have straight hair, don’t worry! You, too, can try a step cut which will give you more textured hair and a little bounce to the movement you may already have.

What Is a Layer Cut?

layer cut
Layer Cut

A layered cut is when your hair is cut in such a way that leaves no space or gap between the created layers. Unlike the step cut, the layers blend nicely, and you won’t be able to see where layers start or end, and your hair will look full of volume and bounce.

Generally, with a layer cut, the stylist cuts the hair at different angles so that the layers blend without beginning or end. There are different types of layers that you’re able to choose from when you decide to go with a layer cut, such as long layers, round layers, and a few other choices.

These types of layer cuts will provide your hair with extra texture and volume, making it appear thicker than it actually is.

Who Should Try a Layer Cut?

If you have straight hair, a layer cut would be a good choice for you! The layered cut will give you more volume and bounce in your hair. The way the cut is done makes your hair look thicker than it is, which gives you the illusion of thick, voluminous hair.

What Does Step Cut and Layer Cut Look Like?

Step Cut Look Vs Layer Cut Look Side by Side Comparison
Step Cut Vs. Layer Cut

There are some main differences between what the step cut and layer cut to look like.

A step haircut a few steps with a few inch gaps added to the hair. Meanwhile, the layer haircut has layers that blend in nicely together with no noticeable gaps.

A step cut is going to offer you widely spaced layers that run horizontally along the width of your hair. They will expressly point out where one layer starts and stops and another ends, offering added volume to your hair but not making it appear thicker.

A layer cut will give you layers running horizontally along the width of your hair; however, these layers will be blended together so you can’t tell where they start and stop, which offers more texture and volume to your hair.

Key Differences Between Step Cut and Layer Cut

Hair Type

A step cut is best for thick hair, wavy hair, or curly hair.

A layer cut is best for straight hair, thin hair, or hair that needs added volume.

Hair Length

A step cut will give you a shorter haircut since the layers are spaced out, and the top layer will be the shortest point of your hair.

A layer cut is going to give you the longest haircut as the layers don’t space out shorter, so the hair can remain close to the same length.

Layer Spacing

Step vs Layer Cut - Layer spacing

A step cut has multiple, noticeable spaced layers—usually two steps or more.

A layer cut does not have any noticeable spacing between the layers, so the layers appear to run as one.


A step cut divides the hair into three main sections for cutting: the ear-to-ear parting, the center parting, and the hair separated at the nape area, which is used as the guide to determine the length of the hair. You will work off each section using the guide to create a step cut.

A layer cut divides the hair into two main sections: a middle part and an ear-to-ear parting. The hair is going to be cut using angles to carefully blend all the layers being created for the layer cut.

Face Shape

A step cut is excellent for people with square, oval, and round face shapes.

A layer cut is excellent for all face shapes since many different and angled layers can be chosen to enhance the face’s natural shape.

Required tools

A step cut and a layer cut both use the same tools. It is up to the hairstylist styling the haircut if they prefer to use one tool over another to accomplish the result you are looking to achieve.


A step cut will only allow you to easily style your hair into braids and updos due to the many layers. This haircut is maintained as average with this type of cut, and a step cut looks excellent styled with curls.

A layer cut is easy to put into an updo or braid, and haircuts will be maintained as average with this type of cut. A layered cut looks excellent styled with loose curls or waves.

Step Cut vs. Layer Cut – Comparison Table

Step CutLayer Cut
LengthShorter CutLonger Cut
Hair TypeThick, Wavy, Curly Hair Straight, Thin, or Hair Needing Volume
Face ShapeSquare, Oval, Round FacesAll Face Shapes
Layer SpacingEstablished Layers with GapsLayers Well Blended
MaintenanceEasy MaintenanceEasy Maintenance

So, Step Cut Vs. Layered Cut – Which One Is Better For You?

We love both types of cuts as they work really well with all hair types and provide added volume to your hair while shaping it nicely. Both cuts offer great versatility and can be styled to look glamorous.

Both step cuts and layer cuts are great options depending on your specific type of hair and the look you are hoping to achieve. The great thing is that either cut can be adjusted at any time, and you are able to try both styles to see which you prefer.

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