We’ve all been there at one time. You look in the mirror, notice a shaggy lock out of place and decide to snip it off. Then the other side looks uneven and you figure you’ll just try to make things look symmetrical. Fifteen cuts later and your head looks like it’s been attacked by a rabid weed whacker.
Whether you’re trying to be more self-reliant, save a few dollars or shape a coif that no stylist could ever understand, being able to cut your own hair is a great piece of knowledge.
Even if you like going to a professional salon, being able to confidently trim around the edges of your bangs or thin out the sides comes in handy.
Here are basic tips for cutting a woman or man’s hair and making it look great (or at least not demolishing it). Keep in mind these are general tips and if you have curly hair, the suggestions may not apply.
You shouldn’t just grab your child’s safety scissors out of the cabinet and start going at it. Depending on how serious you are about doing your own 'do, you may want to get some professional hairdresser supplies, but let’s at least start with the necessities. Specific shears are designed for cutting hair and aren’t expensive. If you’re going to cut your own hair, get a pair.
Buy a decent comb and brush — ones that doesn’t get stuck in your scalp every time you try to shag it through. Does the brush feel like it’s massaging your follicles? Even better.
Clips are great for holding up sections of your hair and trimming underneath. Even if you’re not expecting to layer your hair, they’ll come in handy. Hair ties are also useful, for similar reasons.
Wash and Straighten
Wash your hair if you haven’t. (Brad Mondo, who stars in the embedded videos, has a line of hair care products.) The right conditioner or shampoo can help the tangles out. Then blow dry it straight. While many hairdressers and barbers cut long hair when it's wet, they also have the experience and forethought to know how those locks will appear when dry. The advantage of cutting it dry is knowing what the hair will look like immediately.
Caveat: If you have curly hair and wear it curly, you will want to cut the hair in its natural state, not when everything is blow straight.
Divide Your Hair into Sections
Some haircutters prefer dividing a head of hair into two sections and coming everything to the front. If you do that, you may wind up with a “V” shape in back. By dividing the hair into four quadrants, you have more options.
Start by parting your hair as you normally do, either in the middle or to the side. Continue the part all the way down the back of your head. (You will probably need a mirror or a friend to help.)
Find the apex of your skull and create another part from the top of your head down each side, behind the ear. Clip each section to keep the hair separated, for now. Then group the hair together, decide where you want it cut and wrap a hair tie at that location. Repeat the step with each quadrant of hair.
This step can definitely be helped with a friend or family member. It can be tough making sure the hair on the back of your head is laying flat while you’re simultaneously wrapping a hair tie.
Once you have all of the sections tied, use the comb to check that the markers are in line.
Instead of cutting the ponytails straight across, you’ll want to point cut. Snip at vertical angles to take off little bits of hair and create a feathered look. Anyone who has ever tried to do their own bangs knows cutting a straight line across can be tough. With point cutting, you can trim your hair with a more natural look. If you want a clean line, you probably need to have a stylist cut your hair.
Take off the ties, and see how you did. You should have a fairly straight line all around, but there will likely be areas where the line goes up or down. If so, point cut a bit around those sections to help even out the line.
Many people can stop at this point. The cut is basic, but will work for many people.
If you want a little more style, you can layer your hair. Brush up each quadrant of hair to the apex of your head and let half of it fall down, tying up the other half. Take those ponytails and snip an inch off of the top, point cutting all the way. The final result will look a little frayed. Repeat on each ponytail.
For short hair, you also need a part of haircutting sheers. If you’re serious about giving yourself a top notch trim, you may want thinning sheers as well. Clippers make trimming the side and back easy. Most clippers come with guards that enable cutting at several levels. Be sure the one you get has them. One of the nice plusses of the guards is that the higher levels allow you to cut less hair so you can get comfortable with the approach before sheering anything too close.
You need a good comb throughout the process to ensure everything is straight. Hair clips can hold up sections of the hair when you want to focus on shaping specific parts. A spray bottle helps for dampening the hair.
Section Your Hair
The sectioning for short hair is a bit different than long hair. For short hair, you start at the corner of your hairline and then create a part along the side, combing the side town and the top up. A clip can be useful for holding up the hair on the top. Create another parallel section on the side.
In the back, check for the back of your crown and create another part there. When you’re done, you’ll have a horseshoe shaped part with a pad of hair bunched up on top and the sides and back combed down. It may help to wet the hair on the top to move it up and out of the way. Keep the hair on sides and back of your head dry.
Clipping the Sides and Back
Using a 3 guard on the clippers, trim away the combed down hair. The hand motion should almost be like scooping ice cream, trimming away hair and then pulling back from the head. That motion will leave a beveled edge above the ears and around the crown of the head. If you’re doing the clipping to your own head, it helps to use one hand to hold the clippers and the other as a guide on the head, ensuring it doesn’t cut too high.
With a smaller 2 guard, trim up about halfway to make the bottom half of the head a little closer. If you want the gradient even closer to your head, you can repeat the process with the 1 guard and only sheer up about a quarter of the sides and back.
Trimming the Hairline
With no guard, trim where the hair meets the face. Definitely tread lightly with no guard since you can cut off a lot of hair quickly. You may want to use trimming sheers to think out and blend the shelf of hair near the middle of the head.
Cutting the Top Hair
Let the hair on the top of your head out of its clips, part it down the middle and create four or so smaller sections on each side (no need to be exact on the amount of sections). Pull up the first section of hair near the front and cut up so to square off the top. Pull the first section into the sections behind and cut at the same length so the hair will get shorter toward the back of the head. Trim one side of the head and then the other to create a parallel pompadour shape.
When making the first cut on the second side, be sure that first lock of hair is as equal a length as the opposite side. Pull up the top of the hair and even out the high points. Once the loss are evened out on top, you can style it as you see fit.