Unprofessional hairstyles can make your boss and higher-ups take you less seriously at work. Know which styles to avoid and how to always look the part with our hairstyle guide.

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What Is an Unprofessional Hairstyle?

Unprofessional hairstyle featured image showing a post it note with the Un crossed out
Mary416/Shutterstock

Whether it’s your first serious job or you’re just looking for styles to avoid in the workplace, it pays (literally) to know how not to style your hair for work. 

When first impressions really count, like for a job interview or first meeting with a new client, your hair is a big part of the equation. Those first impressions are made within the first few seconds of meeting someone.

Since your hair is one of the most noticeable features about you, it makes sense that it’s under scrutiny right away. Studies have even shown that unprofessional cuts and styles have a lot to do with your likelihood of getting promoted.

They also affect how favorably your boss and coworkers view you. There’s a strong case for making sure your hair is always on point at work. That means avoiding the styles most often seen as unprofessional.

We thought it’d be helpful to compile a list of the 30 most unprofessional hairstyles that could ever darken the office doorway. Take a look at our list, and don’t miss the six keys to professional hairstyles at the end! 

30 Unprofessional Hairstyles to Avoid

Unprofessional hairstyles can actively work against you and hold you back in the workplace. These are the ‘dos you shouldn’t do. 

Featured Unprofessional Hairstyle: Messy Bun

Woman with dyed hair in a messy bun for a piece on unprofessional hairstyles
Celeste Duffy/Shutterstock

We, too, are crushed that Ol’ Reliable, the messy bun, doesn’t work as a professional hairstyle. There are ways to dress it up. But to be on the safe side, save it for the weekend, sister. 

Bold Undercuts

Young person with colored hair cut into a high fade with a small and tight bun which is an unprofessional hairstyle
Irinaorel/Shutterstock

The mismatched hair color, the roots, the high undercut – someone’s not getting a promotion with this unprofessional hairstyle. 

Pigtails

Woman with pigtails holds her hand up to her face
Pixpan_creative/Shutterstock

Pigtails can be really cute, but your boss might confuse you for a kid who’s job shadowing. Avoid this schoolgirl style if you want to craft a professional image at work.  

I Literally Woke Up Like This

Person with an unprofessional hairstyle holds up a mobile phone to her face
Voyagerix/Shutterstock

There’s nothing professional about unbrushed hair. It’s a great way to tell the entire office that you *maybe* got 4 hours of sleep last night. 

Wild and Vibrant Hair Colors

Woman with an unprofessional hairstyle and dragon fangs holds her hand up to her neck
Anna Heludkova/Shutterstock

You might be able to get away with a little peekaboo color in the hue of your choice. But electric blue and magenta don’t exactly scream, “I’m ready for the C-suite.” 

Featured Unprofessional Hairstyle: Shaved Designs

Woman with an unprofessional hairstyle with a star and shaped shaved into the side of her head looks to the left of the background
Dmytro Kolesnikov/Shutterstock

This would only fly in the beauty industry, and even then, it’s probably a little over the top. You might be forced to resign if you opt for shaved designs. 

Crimped Hair

Woman with an unprofessional hairstyle because it is crimped and heavy purple eyeshadow
More Than Production/Shutterstock

Resist the urge, however small, to dig out your crimping iron and recreate this unprofessional hairstyle. It’ll really put a kink in your career development. 

Space Buns

Woman looks directly at the camera wearing space buns against a grey background
Moskalenko Yuliya/shutterstock

We miss the 90s too, okay? But you’ve got to promise to keep this style out of orbit during the workweek. 

The Grease Trap

Woman with thin greasy hair holds a hand up to the right side
Alon Za/Shutterstock

No hairstyle is powerful enough to overcome greasy, oily hair. And there’s not enough dry shampoo on the planet to make this style look promotion-worthy.  

French Braided Pigtails

As an image for a piece on unprofessional hairstyles, braids on a woman in a blue jean jacket
Gorgeoussab/Shutterstock

Nope, not even classic French braids can put pigtails on the promotion list. This cute style is better reserved for weekends or the gym. That’s why this look makes our list of unprofessional hairstyles.

High Side Ponytail

Against a yellow background is a woman holding a teal cassette tape with an unprofessional hairstyle of a side top ponytail
TierneyMJ/Shutterstock

Unless it’s office-wide 80’s day, you won’t find a time when this hairstyle is office-appropriate. Side note: Suggest an office-wide 80’s day to the boss. 

Big Hair Clips

Blonde woman with a natural hairstyle wearing pearly clips in her hair which I think is an unprofessional hairstyle
Dmitri Gromov/Shutterstock

Go on and let this hairstyle fly away. Big hair clips won’t help you give off a professional vibe in most workplaces. 

Over the Top

Woman wearing a black dress and smiling at the camera
Arthur-studio10/Shutterstock

There’s got to be a better way to tell your office that you found your hot rollers. This look is pretty and voluminous, but it’s a little much for the workplace. 

Featured Unprofessional Hairstyle: Bandanas

Young woman holding a bow on the top of her head
Margarite Stomets/Shutterstock

Paisley bandanas aren’t acceptable for work. If you really need to keep your hair out of your face or want to use a cute accessory, opt for a basic headband instead. 

Shaved Sides

A woman with shaved head sides and a long back looks forward in a bra
Avesun/Shutterstock

Honestly, the model pulls this off pretty well. But edgy shaved sides don’t look professional in most office or work settings.

Too-Short Bangs

As an image for a piece on unprofessional hairstyles, a person cuts super short bangs across front
Radharani/Shutterstock

“Baby bangs” might be an edgy fashion statement, but you’re not going to like what kind of statement it makes to your boss. Avoid this unprofessional hairstyles if possible.

High Ponytail

Person with a top pony in a green shirt
Nakaridore/Shutterstock

Ponytails can definitely be worn in the workplace – just not like this. A messy high pony doesn’t look polished and professional. 

Scrunchy Styles

Unprofessional hairstyle in a scrunchie on top of her head on pink background
Camila Silva Miranda/Shutterstock

Scrunchies at work might not get you sacked, but they probably shouldn’t be part of your hairstyle at work.

Featured Unprofessional Hairstyle: Damaged Hair

Woman with damaged hair split which is an unprofessional hairstyle
Doucefleur/Shutterstock

Severely damaged hair makes your locks look unkempt, no matter what style you wear. Get the ends trimmed to renew your professional appearance. 

Messy Waves

Woman has an unprofessional hairstyle of blonde with pink ends
WAYHOME Studio/Shutterstock

There’s a way to pull off beachy, casual waves in the workplace. However, this style is more fitting for, you know, the beach. 

The Goblin King

Person with a skull king hairstyle looks at a skull
Peter Kim/Shutterstock

We feel like you’re not in immediate danger of wearing this style to work, but in case it comes up, just say no. This is one of the most unprofessional hairstyles around. Unless, of course, you’re a rockstar.

Elaborate Updos

Person wearing a wedding dress with a bunch of barettes in her hair
Juice Team/Shutterstock

Professional doesn’t mean fancy. Stick to classic styles if you want to wear your hair up. Rocking this style isn’t likely to sit well with your coworkers, or boss for that matter.

Crunchy Scrunched Curls

Woman with an unprofessional haircut of unkempt wavy hair
Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock

If you’re lucky enough to have natural curls, don’t you dare defile them by gelling them into a mass of wet-looking ringlets that are stiff as a board. 

Barrette Collection

Woman with a barette collection on her head is an unprofessional hairstyle
Creative Lab/Shutterstock

One barrette is no problem for work. Three or more is pushing it. Leave the collection at home to cultivate a professional reputation at the office.  

Two-Tone Colors

Beautiful woman with an elaborate multi-colored hairstyle on her head
Sofia Zhuravetc/Shutterstock

You can admire this dimensional, two-tone color, but don’t get it done if you’re working in a professional setting. 

Featured Unprofessional Hairstyle: Plain Pony

Woman with frizzy hair smiles to the right of the camera
Ollyy/Shutterstock

Nothing says “I’m serious and dedicated to my job” like a 2-second messy ponytail, right? If you’re wearing your hair back, make sure to tame any flyaways. Try wrapping hair around the hair tie to dress it up a little. 

Half-Up Double Top Knots

Woman with tight cat buns on her head point to one of them
Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Double top knots are best left to those who don’t need to make a good impression on their boss, which is why it made our list of unprofessional hairstyles. They’re cute, but do they convey that you can be trusted with accounts payable? 

Chunky Cornrows

Tight cornrows on a woman looking to the right
Gorgeoussab/Shutterstock

Thick, straight-back braids aren’t going to fit into the office environment. It’s nice to keep your hair out of your eyes, but try a single French braid instead. 

Frizzy Curls

Woman with an unprofessional frizzy curly hairstyle
Darya Komarova/Shutterstock

We know it’s the weather’s fault, not yours. Just have some elastics on hand to secure that mane if you notice it’s getting humid or might rain today. 

Featured Unprofessional Hairstyle: Long Faux Hawk

Woman with a trendy hairdo with a short mohawk
Jandrie Lombard/Shutterstock

If your workplace doesn’t involve a setlist or electric guitars, we suggest steering clear of this long faux hawk. You can always style the long top over to the side for a more professional look. 

6 Keys to Professional Hairstyles

Now that you’ve seen what not to do, let’s look at some of the keys to wearing a professional hairstyle. Promotion and corner office, here you come! 

Stick to the classics. Classic hairstyles are usually appropriate for work. Examples include wearing your hair down straight, wavy, or curly, sleek ponytails, buns, low chignons, French braids, and half-up, half-down updos. 

Professional doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s easy to confuse the two, but professional hairstyles are not the same as fancy hairstyles. In fact, you shouldn’t go over the top if you want to appear polished and professional.

After all, you’re wearing a suit or business casual, not a ballgown. Keep your curls tamed, avoid elaborate updos, and don’t “tease it to Jesus” for the workplace. 

Avoid the edge. Unless your workplace is super progressive, you’ll want to avoid too-edgy looks while you’re at the office. That means no wild colors, overly asymmetrical cuts, spiky styles, or shaved designs. 

Dress for the job you want. Even if you’re an intern or junior employee at your workplace, it still pays to look professional each day. Get your coworkers and higher-ups used to seeing you in a professional, promotion-worthy light by avoiding unprofessional hairstyles. 

Keep it clean. Even if you only take a minute or two to actually style your hair for work, clean hair is necessary. Dry shampoo can only do so much. Make sure your hair is looking clean and smelling fresh to cultivate a professional image at work. 

When in doubt, don’t wear it out. If you’re ever unsure if a style will meet your workplace’s standards, err on the side of caution. You can always show your boss or HR an example to find out if it’s suitable to wear in the future. 

Fair or unfair, there’s no denying it: Your appearance and hair really matter at work. Follow the tips above to create a professional image in the workplace and keep yourself top of mind for upcoming promotions and special projects. 

By taking a little time to learn which styles to avoid and ensure your ‘do is never a don’t, you’ll increase your chances to succeed at work. Need a new style? Use our database to find a hair salon near you today.

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Debra Carpenter
Author: Debra Carpenter

Debra is a Nashville-based content creator and strategist. As the daughter of a long-time hair stylist and salon owner, she’s spent most of her life as a guinea pig for new color and cut techniques. Writing for respected publications like Forbes and HuffPost, she’s committed to bringing her passion for great hair to the masses.