Expert Advice

6 Foundations of Elevation in Haircutting

Lauren Salapatek | December 11, 2014 | 1:44 PM
Photo By Getty Images

Hairdressers can feel stuck in the haircuts they are most comfortable with. What keeps them stuck is the fear of an unfavorable outcome when stepping outside of those few haircuts. Ironically, the way to move past that fear and unlock creativity is actually going back to basics, says Andrew Carruthers, Director of Education for Sam Villa.

"Elevation, over direction and finger angle are all concepts covered in beauty school, but how many stylists really understand what they mean and how they affect the end result of a haircut?" he says. Here, Carruthers reviews these haircutting foundations in a 3-part video series, starting with elevation.


  • Elevation is the up and down (vertical) movement of hair. Whether a section is taken horizontally, vertically or diagonally, the hair within the sections must always travel up or down to control elevation.
  • Elevation changes the silhouette vertically. For example: To collapse the bottom and leave weight up top, or remove weight from the top and leave weight at the bottom, it is all controlled through the elevation of sections.
  • If hair is combed into natural fall and cut without any elevation (haven’t lifted the hair at all away from the head) the maximum amount of weight and density is created at the perimeter. This happens because all of the hair cut is sitting at the same point.
  • In order to build density up and away from the head, elevate hair vertically from natural fall. When hair is lifted or elevated in-between natural fall and 90° from the head shape, it takes weight away from the bottom and builds weight up and away from the head shape.
  • When hair is elevated above 90° from the head shape, more length and weight is kept through the perimeter while removing length and weight from the upper surface.  As the degree of elevation is increased, more weight will be left towards the perimeter and weight removal will be focused higher in the silhouette.
  • Swelling graduation is the most extreme form of elevation. Hair is elevated from one side of the head up and across to the other side of the head where it is cut. Since hair is elevated as far as possible from natural fall, the result is maximum movement on the upper surface while allowing for the maximum amount of density to be preserved through the ends.

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