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Everything You Need to Know Before Cutting Your Own Hair at Home

Stylists break down all the tools you need and methods you should learn before taking matters into your own hands.

Everything You Need to Know Before Cutting Your Own Hair at Home

By Nicola Dall'Asen, Allure

In this current reality, getting a haircut in a salon is just not possible. As a reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local governments are mandating temporary closures of hair salons, among other beauty businesses, across the country. Many salons that are not legally required to shut their doors are doing so voluntarily to keep their employees and customers safe — and we don't know how long these closures will last.

So what are you supposed to do when overgrown bangs, split ends, and unshapely layers start to wreak havoc? When you're practicing social distancing and staying at home as much as possible, learning how to cut your own hair can seem like a viable solution — or the only solution. In any other circumstance, Allure would never advise skipping a visit to a professional, but as hairstylist Justine Marjan points out: "We're in uncharted territory."

We've asked some of our favorite and most trusted hairstylists for their best advice on how to cut your own hair at home for straight, wavy, and loosely curled hair types. Because if you desperately need to take matters into your own hands, you're going to need some professional guidance first.



First, ask yourself if a haircut is actually necessary.

There's a reason you'd normally have to visit a salon and pay a trained professional to get a haircut. Not only do they have the necessary skillset to change the length and overall appearance of your hair, but they're also equipped with certain tools and products that you might not have immediate access to in your own home. So, of course, stylists are encouraging their clients to wait as long as possible before cutting their own hair.

"With all this talk of at-home, do-it-yourself haircuts, I can't help but freak out a little," says New York City-based hairstylist Erickson Arrunategui. "You don't want to end up like that one meme of the girl who cut her bangs to her hairline."

It's taken him a decade to perfect his style and develop his skills, so for you to be able to master a great haircut on yourself with a few helpful tips and tricks isn't something that can be done on the first try (or even the second or third).

Regular trims are a necessity, especially for people with color-treated and/or heat-damaged hair. According to Marjan and Arrunategui, split ends are an indicator that you're in need of a trim.

"Split ends are usually a sign you have to cut your hair because you don’t want those hairs to keep splitting up the hair shaft and cause irreversible damage to the hair strands," says Arrunategui. Split ends, he adds, usually don't start showing up until three or four months after a haircut. If you've seen a professional within that amount of time and your hair isn't feeling brittle, you can probably wait it out longer.



If you can hold off on cutting, invest in some reparative treatments.

If you can keep from cutting your own hair until a salon visit is doable, the right products can help repair and prevent damaged ends, says Arrunategui. "If you are one of the people who couldn't make it to the salon right before this pandemic, I would take this time to focus on the health of your hair in other ways," he advises.

For repairing split ends and managing heat damage, he recommends Bumble and Bumble's Save the Daytime protective hair serum (he works at the brand's salon in downtown Manhattan). Allure editors also love Best of Beauty Award-winning Pro-V Intense Rescue Shots by Pantene.

In addition to treating your hair with masks and serums, heat-styling and coloring your hair less often can significantly lengthen the time between haircuts, says Arrunategui. He adds that if a cut isn't an absolute necessity for you, it wouldn't be the worst idea in the world to simply embrace the grown-out look. "Most of the haircuts I create with the grow-out in mind," he explains.



If you're going to cut, have the right tools on hand.

You might think it's okay to reach for the kitchen scissors in your home junk drawer, but cutting your own hair with them could be a disaster, according to Marjan. "Don't use kitchen scissors!" she says. "They aren't sharp enough and can push the hair as they cut, resulting in crooked lines that are hard to fix.

Hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons agrees: "Low-quality scissors can leave your ends looking sloppy and frayed; no one wants that." He advises buying a pair of hair-cutting shears rather than using any of the regular scissors you already own. "The reason that stylists use shears versus the ones sitting in your junk drawer at home is because the sharp, precise blades allow you to be much more exact and make it easier to get clean lines and edges," he explains.

You can find a selection of shears online from Ulta, Target, Amazon, and more. But if you're uncomfortable having packages delivered to your home right now, Arrunategui says to find the sharpest scissors in your house. The sharper the scissor, the more control you'll have.



Start with clean, dry, and styled hair.

Unless you have natural curls or coils, chances are your stylist normally wets your hair before cutting it. While it might seem like a good idea to copy your usual salon experience by cutting your own hair while it's wet, Fitzsimons explains why that's not exactly the case. "Wet hair allows [stylists] to be much more precise with creating clean lines, but they were also trained to do that," he says.

If you find it easier to cut wet hair, Fitzsimons suggests doing so as long as you "make sure you're comfortable versus just trying to remember what your stylist does."

Still, the best way to ensure that your at-home haircut comes out the way you want is to start with dry hair that, for the most part, looks like it would on any other day. "Make sure hair is clean and blow-dried straight or how you wear it usually so you have a clear and realistic vision of the cut," Marjan advises. This, she says, will help to "avoid any surprises, like how much the hair will shrink up when it's dry."

Whether you cut your hair while it's dry or wet, shampooing and conditioning it before doing so is an absolute necessity, according to Marjan. "If hair is oily or dirty, it will cling together and create an uneven finish," she explains.



Start with small, minor cuts.

Obviously, now is not the time to experiment with a drastic new style. The more drastic a cut you try to achieve at home, the more you run the risk of a major mishap. Marjan and Fitzsimons advise working in small sections and cutting hair little by little. "Don't cut to the length you want the end result to be at first — start smaller and work your way up," Fitzsimons says. "Remember, you can always trim more, [but] it is unfortunately not possible to put [hair] back once you've chopped."

Marjan recommends working in very small sections — just an inch or two wide when spread as thin as possible between your fingers — starting at the very front. "You can see where the hair will land, then use that piece as a guide for the rest of the hair," she says. Make sure to have a set of alligator jaw clips on hand to safely secure any stray sections while cutting.



Pay attention to the direction of your hair and your scissors.

Now comes the part where you actually cut your hair, and the way you hold your sections and scissors can greatly impact how your at-home haircut will turn out. Marjan recommends pulling the hair straight upward with your fingers because it's the easiest way to make sure hair length is even overall. Then, place your scissors parallel to the hair peeking through your fingers and snip hairs vertically rather than straight across.

"Point the scissors upwards and lightly open and close scissors on the ends of the hair," Marjan explains further. "This is a point-cutting technique that gives a more diffused finish on the ends." Basically, it's an insurance policy against uneven strands, which stand out far more when hair is cut bluntly across.

You've likely seen a stylist use this method on you numerous times, but if you're having trouble picturing it, there are plenty of YouTube tutorials demonstrating how to do it. YouTube tutorials in general, Fitzsimons points out, can be a great source of guidance when learning how to cut your own hair.

"Find someone who has a cut similar to what you're looking for and make sure they have a similar hair type," he advises. That especially goes for people with curlier hair that might benefit from a different cutting method. Just make sure you're only watching tutorials hosted by licensed professionals.



Be extra careful with bangs.

Marjan warns that trying to cut new bangs is a surefire path to regret, but trimming existing ones is far easier. She advises sectioning your hair in a triangle as seen in this video of hers. When parting hair like this, Marjan likes to use the arches of her eyebrows as a guide to determine the outermost edges of the section. Then, you might want to take a deep breath and relax your hands.

"Place the hair in a comb with no tension," she explains. "Use the comb as a guide for a straight line, then cut upwards with the scissors." But whatever you do, be patient and keep your cuts minimal. Otherwise, you might wind up cutting your bangs way shorter than you anticipated.

See more at: Allure
Everything You Need to Know Before Cutting Your Own Hair at Home

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