How To Cut Your Own Hair, If You Absolutely Must

Use these experts tips and video tutorials to trim long hair, curly hair, short hair and bangs.

You’re scared. You’re bored. And with each passing day, you’re increasingly shaggy. Should you trim your hair at home? Not getting a haircut before the coronavirus pandemic hit has been on a lot of people’s minds.

Stylists’ advice differs, no matter the length of your hair. One stylist who advocates for waiting it out is Sophia El Alami of the Brian Graham Salon. “I strongly advise against [cutting your hair at home]. Your stylist will be here when it’s all over, so if you possibly can wait, you really should,” she told HuffPost.

She suggested delay tactics you can try before you pick up scissors for yourself: “Now could be the time to try some new styles. Brush it back, swoop it to the side ― experiment a little. Use some texturing hair spray to give it more texture and body as it’s growing in.” Another idea is to dig deep in the closet for hair accessories you haven’t used in a while. “Tie a scarf around your head, or use barrettes,” she said. “Barrettes are big right now.”

Perhaps after reading El Alami’s advice, you’ll work on cultivating patience with your follicles. On the other hand, perhaps you just can’t stand your hair for one more minute. Could it be that all the worrying you’re doing has supercharged the blood flow to your scalp, leaving you looking like an Einstein bobblehead? If so, it is possible to take matters ― and scissors ― into your own hands with the help of some expert advice.

We talked to stylists and prowled the internet for the very best advice on giving yourself a home trim. Even if things don’t turn out the way you wanted, remember that it’s only hair. For most of us, it’s a renewable resource. And in the meantime, you can wear a hat during Zoom calls.

Step One: Arrive at “the salon”

Step outside your front door. (Don’t forget your key.) Now step back inside. Ta-da! You’re in the salon! Sit on the fanciest chair in the house and page through an old gossip magazine. Accept the receptionist’s offer of cucumber-infused water. (Hint: You might want to make some cucumber water.)

Step Two: Set up your station

It’s time! Move to your stylist’s station. Wondering where that should be? According to stylist and colourist Tim Foster from The District on 50th Salon + Spa, you’ll want to work in a small, enclosed space in which you easily can see what you’re doing and can sweep up when you’re done. For most people, that’s the bathroom.

“To make cleanup easier, you can lay down a few towels and shake them out after,” he told HuffPost. “Hair is very lightweight, and it goes everywhere when you’re cutting it, so be prepared.” Pro tip: While it may seem smart to snip away in the shower, it’s probably not a good idea. “You really need to have a well-lighted mirror in front of you to keep checking your work,” he said.

You should cover up your clothes, even if it’s only that sweatshirt you’ve been wearing for the past six days. If you have a rain poncho stowed with your camping gear, try that. Otherwise, try a tip from Maryam Maquillage (see below): Cut a hole in a plastic garbage bag and slip it over your head for a salon cape that gets the job done.

It’s ideal if you have hair clippers, a razor or hair-cutting scissors. But these are desperate times, and it’s possible to make do with what’s on hand. “If you have sharp scissors that you only use for cutting cloth, those will work,” Foster said. “With old scissors, the tips are usually the dullest, and you need the tips for haircutting. And don’t use the scissors you use to cut your toenails, because that’s just gross.” If in doubt, Foster suggested testing your scissors by snipping a tiny bit of hair as a test. If it cuts easily without having to saw away at it, you’re good to go.

Step Three: What are we doing today?

Have a conversation with your stylist (yes, it’s yourself, but it’s still fun to pretend) about what you’re looking for. Do you need to keep bangs from falling in your eyes? Hoping for a trim around the ears for your short cut? Want to cut a couple of inches of split ends off the bottom? We’ve got you covered with expert videos below.

The stylists we interviewed and the videos we watched all said the same thing: Take it easy. “You’ve got nothing but time right now, so leave it a little longer at first, and you can always go back and trim off more,” Foster advised.

Bang trim

Enjoy the company of the most straight-talking stylist in all the land, Amber. She is sure to win your award for “Person I’d Most Like to Have a Beer With When This Is All Over.” In the meantime, view this as your virtual happy hour and bang trim all in one.

Her 12-minute tutorial is a guilt-free zone. “It’s OK if you trim your bangs instead of going to your stylist, because everybody’s got the right to see,” she earnestly says. “There’s not just one way to do anything, including bang trims,” she adds philosophically. By the time you’ve watched the video through once, you’ll be ready to follow her dictum to “cut a little and check it, cut a little and check it.”

You’ll laugh, and possibly do a spit take, when she tells you to “be careful not to poke yourself in the eyeball or cut your eyelashes.” She even offers a texturing tip that’s “only for professionals,” in which she cautions amateurs not to be “going and doing this and then telling me you cut your bangs off.” When you’re done, you and Amber will have finally conquered those bangs.

Trim ends on long, straight hair

More than 3 million people have viewed this video, whether just to soak in the glamour of Maryam Maquillage herself or to actually trim their hair. She offers clear step-by-step instructions on trimming straight, shoulder-length hair. She’s also refreshingly honest, admitting that she ended up cutting off 2 1/2 inches when she only wanted 1 1/2 inches off, but, as she says with a shrug, “That’s OK, my hair was dead anyway.” She uses her fingers, not a ruler, but the final result looks absolutely perfect ― which might have something more to do with her own fabulous hair than with her expertise, so keep in mind that your mileage may vary.

Trim curly hair

Mell, otherwise known as #ManesByMell, is a stylist with super-curly hair. In this 14-minute video, she dispels the myth that you can’t cut curly hair yourself and offers steps to removing thinned-out, broken-off and scraggly-looking locks. She also provides plenty of sass and wit along the way, delivering a performance that’s a combination of a hair tutorial and “My Cousin Vinny.”

Yes, Mell is funny, confident and laid-back, but, like the coolest teacher you loved in high school, she drops plenty of knowledge along the path to the perfect “trimmy trim,” as she calls it. If you’ve been seeking an exact definition of “hair maintenance,” or some sidebar tips on keeping your hair so healthy that you won’t have to trim as often, Mell is the person to help.

Trim short hair

Just want to fix what’s happening on your neck and above your ears? Not interested in hearing someone’s life story before you get this job done? This is the video for someone who selects a barber based on the dual criteria of speed and silence, not artistic flair. In a little over 11 brisk minutes, Mr. Tips for Clips teaches you how to trim and fade a short hairstyle, including a special trick for cutting the back without the help of a three-way mirror. Note: You do need to have an electric clipper to follow these instructions.

Trim natural hair

Naptural85 promises not only that her trim tips are super easy, but that they’ll work on natural, relaxed, curly and straight hair. Plus, with her wide smile and friendly demeanour, she makes the whole idea seem not only possible, but fun to do. She tells you right up front that this will be an easy process, and this short-and-sweet 9-minute video delivers on that promise. Without using heat methods that can harm hair, she demonstrates how to gather a few simple pieces of equipment (hair shears, three types of combs and some optional duckbill clips), twist hair, then work back-to-front to remove dead ends. Video highlight? Check her out at the 2-minute mark, when she pulls her split ends into view and mutters, “Oh, my God, look at my hair.” We, her fellow split-enders, can sympathise.

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