I think about hair a lot. I feel like we all do. It’s something that’s so intimate and so personal, but it’s also so expensive and so time-consuming when you’re going to a pro. Don’t you wish you could just do it yourself? I know cutting your own hair sounds intimidating, but so does moving out or filing your taxes. You really have to just get out there and do it.
Luckily you don’t have to go it alone. I taught myself to cut my hair a few years ago, so I might as well coach you through your first trim. It may get tense, it may get frustrating, it will get messy. I just want to reassure you that there’s hope in the least helpful way possible.
On Cutting Your Own Hair Unprofessionally*
You can’t just start cutting your hair willy nilly! It’s a slow process. Figure out your Dream ALH by staring at one too many tumblrs of naked ladies with sweet ass haircuts. Make sure to peruse frequently “for research.” Hunt down a hairstylist that perfectly executes said style. As they work their magic, become increasingly aware of your inability to engage in small talk. Make up for your perceived social awkwardness by tipping more than financially advisable. Set up a follow up visit for eight weeks from now.
Visit said hair dresser for at least six trims. This will give you enough time to memorize their movements and become overly confident in the simplicity of your ‘do. Set up a follow up visit for six weeks later.
Hem and haw for weeks on end about starting to cut your own hair as you realize your addiction to hair perfection has taken its toll on your budget. Set up a follow up visit for four weeks from now.
Check your account balance and sigh. Cancel your next appointment.
Go to a beauty supply store and cautiously circle the clipper aisle for the next hour. Finally wave down a sales person to explain the differences between the models since you are not a professional hair stylist. Become simultaneously incensed and embarrassed as they learn that you, a lady, are planning to shave off more of your own hair. Quickly purchase the model your hairstylist used. Slink away.
As soon as you get home, ensure that no one else needs to use the bathroom for the next hour or day.
Lock the bathroom door. Create your haircut game plan: leave the fringe on top and create a graduated fade wrapping from temple to temple. Everyone will assume you wanted to be Miley. But don’t worry, that accusation won’t come up for at least three years.
Construct an inception type situation by propping one mirror across from another. Lay out your supplies: clippers, guards, bobby pins, comb and scissors.
Open your new toy and take the time to play with all of the gadgets and guards. Turn it on and imitate its whirring noise while making airplane motions. Stop when you remember that you are no longer five.
Contemplate making a sweet cape-poncho out of garbage bag for 30 seconds. Dismiss this idea since you’re home alone. Derobe.
Underestimate how far away you need to set your clothes to keep them out of the hair spray zone.
Pin your fringe/bangs/mohawk/mullet/rattail back with more bobby pins than you thought humanly possible. Make sure that one of the pins is missing its rubber cap so you jab it into your scalp, ensuring you’re alert enough to continue.
Snap on a guard and flick the power switch. Take a deep breath and set the clippers to your temple. Narrow your eyes and grit your teeth as you make the first pass. That wasn’t that hard! Breathe a sigh of relief.
Look down. Nothing’s there.
Realize that the shears weren’t short enough to actually clip your hair. Switch to the next shortest guard. Same deal. Curse yourself for having bought a professional version with a limited number of lengths instead of the at-home kit with 16 different guards and a sweet ass cape.
Try again. Marvel at the difference between your newly shorn stripe and the rest of your hair. Marvel at the fuzziness of newly clipped hair.
Keep circling around your head in vertical swipes. Pause as you decide how to tackle the back of your head. Cautiously shear the back by training your eyes on your reflection’s reflection. Contort your arm in a way you didn’t think possible. Settle on “good enough” and make a note to even out your neckline once you’re done clipping the rest.
Start to smile as you realize how awesome you’re going to look and how much money you’ll save in the long run. Switch to a longer guard as you continue circling. Feel a sense of accomplishment! Resist the urge to kiss your clippers.
Rub your head as you celebrate your new found talent!
Discover that newly cut strands of hair can embed themselves in your skin making your fingers resemble patchy porcupines. The more you know! Spend the next five minutes removing your hair shrapnel.
Onto the bangs. Suddenly recall that your hair dresser would rotate your chair towards themselves (aka away from the mirror) whenever they cut your fringe. Go for it anyways. Pull a lock away from your face and snip your way down it. Feel each clip tug your hair as it gets caught in the scissors’ dented blades. You can’t stop now! Reach for another piece. Snip. Grab a handful. Chop. Continue shearing wildly. Tell yourself you’re adding “texture.”
Remember that you still have to deal with your neckline. Riding high on the heady feeling of accomplishment, situate yourself between the bathroom mirror in front of you and the one propped behind you. Examine your neckline and decide you want to start from “the left”. Start to move your clippers but immediately become confused with which direction you should be moving your hand. After a few false starts, you’ll manage to create a relatively straight neckline. Confidence level: high.
Feel the back of your newly shorn head and realize you’d prefer if the hair below the base of your skull was tighter to your noggin . Switch to a shorter guard and start to make slow vertical movements. Cockily speed up.
Look around wildly to see what that was. Nothing. Remain perplexed. You always sucked at identifying mystery sounds. Finally look directly behind you. Ohhh. That’s the sound of the guard slipping off allowing the clippers to eat an inch-high bald patch into your neckline before falling to the ground!
Panic slightly and realize you can’t go out looking like this. Mentally nix your evening plans.
Wrap yourself in a towel and tiptoe into the hallway leaving a trail of hair clippings à la Hansel and Gretel. No one’s home but the cat? Right, you had made sure that the house was empty before you started cutting. Stupid panic induced amnesia. Return to the bathroom.
Sheepishly text your roomie asking when they’ll be home to “remedy your situation.” No answer. Oh yeah! No one’s home because it’s exam week and you had the bright idea to cut your hair as a way of productively procrastinating.
Start to sweet up the clippings as you debate what to do. Make the witty observation that hair shavings are pretty much organic glitter when it comes to tidying up.
Fuck it. You can’t spend all day locked in your bathroom wrapped in a towel and a cloud of hair! Your hairline’s gonna be an inch higher, but so what? Pick up your clippers and soldier on. Contort once more so you can cover the back of your head with one hand. Attempt to align its edge with the top of The Patch. Guide your clippers against the edge of your hand, praying for a relatively straight neckline. Check the front of your head for evenness, clipping or tucking away any errant hairs. Refuse to survey the damage to the back of your head.
Step outside. Be prepared to tell people “you wanted it that way.”
Leave a tell tale trail of hair clippings on any human/surface you encounter for the next 24 hours.
Warily receive a compliment. Are they telling the truth or merely being polite? Receive another one. Relax.
The third compliment will quickly mutate into a request for “just a trim!” when they realize you did it yourself. Protest loudly. You don’t know what you’re doing so you’ll ruin their lovely hair and they’ll never look at you in the same way, irreparably ruining your relationship!! Receive a reassuring hug and a whispered, “Please?” Reluctantly give into their puppy dog pleas. Mentally make an appointment with yourself as you start to buzz their hair.
* If you really want to learn to cut hair, you should probably talk to Katrina.
After that beautiful lead-in, no photo of the result???!!!
I’ve gotten better so it is more intentionally-bald than unintentional. Just need to find a photo to prove that…
i think I speak for everyone in demanding PIX PIX PIX!
you know we will ooh and aah over them
I believe we purged all photographic evidence of that faithful night..
I love this article soo hard right now….apart from it being funny and something I would do ….if I would be a lot braver than I really am.
But maybe I can get the wife to get really into this….and learn all the mad skills to do a half decent buzz cut with……
seriously tho. as an actual hair profesional…dont cut your own hair. if you cant afford a salon find a barbershop. one with someone under forty working in it. best haircut you’ll ever have and cheap as chips.
Why not? Aside from the fact that if more people become empowered to cut their own hair that means less business for you? If someone can cut their own hair and make it look good and feels great doing it, why shouldn’t they?
I’d agree with you… if my aim was to end up with a stylish, affordable hair cut.
But that’s not the whole story.
Cutting your own hair, as Emma says, is empowering. It’s also fun, illuminating and slightly terrifying.
For me, my hair was my last real vanity. It’s kinda humbling to chop it all off and realize that it’s ok- it grows back!
I’ve got the rest of my life to look tidy and professional. Right now I’m going to keep hacking off my own hair.
Encourage your confidence in me! I want to chop my hair so bad, somewhere in the middle or Natalie Portman and Tegan Quin…. but I’m really bad at committing especially since I love my long hair! It does grow back, I’m just afraid I might freak out afterwords… Any good success stories?! Advice?!
Why does the stylist have to be under 40? Honestly, I cut my own hair and it continues to look better than when I’ve allowed some fetus right out of hair school cut it for 50 bucks.
I cut my hair all the time, just trimming the longer bits. But seriously, I only have one mirror so I have no idea what it looks like from behind when I’m doing it, and I’m literally doing it with my kitchen scissors.
Me too. ” Refuse to survey the damage to the back of your head” is kind of my mantra.
I would suggest getting a pair of scissors just for cutting your hair- they don’t even have to be for hair, just sharp. Then proceed as per usual. Then at least you won’t be giving yourself split ends ;)
Or you could do what I did in high school and cut your hair in the semi-darkness when you decide you want short hair (and don’t want to wait till you’re back from France). The end result was that half of my hair was shorter than the other.
Thus began an inability to decide whether I wanted short hair or long hair.
This is why I’m glad I’m learning to cut my hair in the Peace Corps. There’s nobody around I’m trying to impress and how gross and generally busted I look distracts from how bad my hair is.
Yeah!I’m into these Schwarzkopf Professional videos. Been rocking the Leann for a year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_cOlOUaLJc
Half a drink for courage and no dope or things will get weird.
I’ve learned to complement people on their hair more often since cutting my own. One nice comment and I’m pumped up for a week.
Psst. Your hair looks really great today.
this is the haircut i want WHY IS MY HAIR CURLY FUCK
If I was brave enough… But also, if you live in a big city you might have some kind of teaching academy near you where you can get your hair done super cheap/free (like the Vidal Sassoon & Toni and Guy ones in London). It’s a little risky but it worked out okay for me!
The Aveda Institute has super cheap haircuts and in the two I’ve been in, nearly all the students are rocking alternative lifestyle haircuts.
yes! all the students will be really happy if you want an alternative lifestyle haircut because it’s more interesting for them, I think.
my tall person cons me into cleaning up her mohawk now and then, and every time it ends in me running out of the bathroom saying “aaaaaah i never want to do that agaaaaainnnnn” because i’m really, really good at gapping. :(
i personally practice the “have most of a bottle of wine and decide you want bangs” method, with mixed results.
Cutting other people’s hair is absolutely terrifying.
Ha! that’s how I ended up with bangs too.
i usually go the route of “shave off all your hair in a depressive episode” so it’s lucky i look good with a buzzcut.
I’m starting to become a master of the drunk-solo-hair-cut. While not always the brightest idea, it’s not so scary, especially if you have curly hair. Curly hair hides the crooked bits better. Just go slowly, don’t cut off too much at a time, and realize that if it doesn’t look that great when you’re done it’s going to look awesome in about a week.
This is literally my life. I cut my hair in the shower like every 2 weeks and my roommates always get mad cause they think I am going to electrocute myself. oops! No one wants hair al over their clothes!
I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who likes cutting their own hair. I routinely trimmed my own hair back when it was longer, but now that it’s super short I generally cut other people’s hair. I recommend keeping a small stash of assorted hair clips and such on hand, and an old sheet for a cape.
Lucky for me my friends are all some combination of poor/crunchy/queer/inebriated/weird so I have a ready supply of willing participants. Notable recent styles include ‘Tank Girl gets a Day Job’ and the ‘Dapper Edwardian Gentleman’s Bob Cut’.
I really should get some clippers.
…I got some clippers.
I’ve cut other people’s hair pixie-short, but never my own because it’s pretty hard to figure out what’s going on in the back.
So after ruminating on this article and talking to my flatmate/enabler, I decided to take the plunge. Turns out clippers are the surest way to cut your hair evenly without looking, thank jeebus.
So now my hair is short on the back and sides and longer/choppy on the top where I can get at it with scissors. Just like Miley you might think, but no!
I look like an eight year old boy.
But I have decided to embrace it. I’m going to cover myself with fake dinosaur tattoos and ride my bike around the neighborhood til bed time.
Yesss! I think I’m a pusher when it comes to chopping off all of your hair. My friends will show me styles, but anything below the neck get a veto. Why would you look like an adult when you could get mistaken for a really tall third grader? And possibly get ice cream and dinosaur stickers as a result?
At 5’10” I haven’t been mistaken for a child in a long time. Usually I rely on whether I get carded as an indicator of how old people think I am: shaved head- not carded, purple hair and glasses- carded.
I will have to subject this new look to rigorous, scientific testing asap.
I shaved my head not too long ago (super liberating, I highly recommend it) and my roommate came home and said, “Did you mean to miss this three inch patch on the back?” I’m still finding hair in the bathroom.
The correct answer is YES I DID.
i’m still discovering pieces that are twice as long as everything else (not even on the back, we’re talking in full view here) and i want to know why NO ONE TELLS ME
I’ve been cutting my own hair for almost 5 years now and only (horribly) fucked it up 2 or 3 times. It’s not so bad.
I realized after a few months that my clippers had become slightly bent so if I went too fast the guard would pop right off. Which is exciting! So nooow I don’t fuck up nearly as much (or at least not in the parts I can see)
Trimming your own mohawk is super easy! Just do it while your hair is still wet after a shower, that way you can spike it without product and cut it as tall as you want, then shave the sides. (I use a moustache trimmer that I stole from my dad, because he hasn’t had a moustache since the 80’s)
How has no one posted about dyi layers yet???
Have not been to a stylist in probably 7 years, and I get more compliments on it that anything (this has stayed true as I have migrated around the gender spectrum). Yes, I would be more nervous about this if my hair were super straight. But I do great with this and I’m a total klutz.
SIMPLE LONG HAIR WITH LAYERS
Flip hair over so that you’re looking at the floor. Adjust angle if you want; the more you tilt your face upwards, the longer the back (longest layer) will be.
Cut a straight line across.
Tips: if your hair is curly DO NOT cut it wet (not just for this haircut, but I messed this up once and made my bangs too short because shorter = curlier= even shorter for me). Be careful not to cut more of the hair you can see because of the angles you gotta hold your hands at.
YES. I did this when I had longer hair and didn’t have the time/money to bother with going to someone else just to get a few inches hacked off. My hair was pretty straight at the time, and I never had any disasters.
This is a super useful tip. Do you cut long straight hair while it’s wet or dry?? Currently I just hack at it until it looks like it might be shorter and then realise I’ve made a mess and pile it up on top of my head for the next 6 weeks. Not efficient.
I would guess wet would be easier? Cutting it dry won’t hurt anything, it’s just a lot easier to find a straight line when it’s wet. Hence my bangs being shorter than I wish they were. There are a few tutorials on youtube, I think.
Thanks, I will have a look.
The BEST thing about having ridiculously curly hair is how forgiving it is. I started cutting it myself 5 years ago after a series of terrible salon visits (the last was when I asked to have it cut short, and the stylist said, oh, no, you can’t! the boys love long hair!). Anyway, since then I’ve cut my not-straight hair my(non-straight)self.
Tip for all y’all who have longer hair and need a trim:
1) comb your (wet) hair straight up up up (or bend over and comb it down! Either way, what you’re going for is a perfect triangle shape extending from the top of your head). Hold this ridiculous top-of-your-head ponytail straight up. You can leave couple inches of hair that falls in front of your ears OUT of the ponytail (I do this, or it gets too short), or tilt the whole thing back just ever so slightly.
2) tie an elastic band tight around it near the end, leaving an inch or two (or however long a trim you want). If you’re cutting more than an inch, do two elastics, and cut between them to avoid the mess.
4). Then cut off the end of the ponytail!
You’ll end up with even layers, and it takes about 5 minutes. Solid, reliable haircut.
It’s not that scary! Try an inch – worst comes to worst, you can go get it professionally done. And best comes to best, you just cut your own hair!
This is the part I really miss about having a girlfriend. She always used to cut my hair and now I have to pay for it :( Maybe I should cut it myself….
I love this.
As someone who almost exclusively cuts their own hair, I can say that making sure another person is around to fix the back a little/cringe is a really good idea. Also, having curly hair makes it supereasy (well maybe not, but probably easier) because it doesn’t matter if every strand is perfect.
When I was in high school I would occasionally cut a few inches off my (then long-ish) hair with a pocketknife. God knows why. Something to do, I guess.
‘Tell yourself you’re adding “texture.”‘
this was funny. my hair grows super fast, so I’d save a lot of money if I learned to cut my own hair. I’ll need to drink first.
Do it. Then use the the excuse, “it’s not lopsided it’s asymmetrical.”
I move every couple of months, so I always strive for salon independence. I also know how my hair ‘works’, so I like to do it myself. Sometimes it doesnt work out, like when i cut my bangs at 3 am back when i had long hair. Sometimes it does though, like my current choppy pixie ‘do. (It was totally meant to be choppy and uneven.)
One day I’ll grow up and stop DIYing my hair.
thought i’d give myself a short break from working on a term paper, but 10 minutes on autostraddle and now all i can think about is giving this a try!
also forgot how much i miss having short hair. after two years of growing out, my hair is screaming for a change.
productive procrastination, right?
I say this as a post-grad student with a deadline looming on Monday. Buy clippers.
I’ve been cutting my own hair for about 8 years and when people ask me how I do it I always say “faith and mirrors”. In equal parts.
I started out using kitchen scissors, then I got some real hairdressing scissors and now I have clippers as well. The clippers were the best investment. I’ve only messed up a couple of times, such as when (pre-clippers days) I used my housemate’s beard trimmer on the side of my head and accidentally cut 2 much shorter patches which I then coloured in with eyeliner for a few weeks until they grew back in.
I’ve cut a lot of my friend’s hair over the years and they always seemed to like the results and now I cut my mum’s every time I visit home – and she wouldn’t let me anywhere near her with scissors if she didn’t think I did a decent job.
To anyone thinking about doing it all I can say is CLIPPERS. Get/borrow some. Totally worth it.
I cut my own hair, and I always go for the hack job look. It think it work on my hair because it’s that wonderful level of curly/frizzy that makes almost any hairstyle look exactly the same. Getting the sides uneven gives it a bit of variety.
*I think it works…
I also use my all purpose scissors :)
I have alwaaaaaays cut my own hair. Incredibly badly. As a child I’d just randomly decide to give myself a fringe or a bob or whatever. My parents would never know what to expect when I came downstairs and hairdressers would always MAGICALLY KNOW and TELL ME OFF ABOUT IT.
I am now doing the ultimate of unprofessional haircuts and am shaving. it. all. off. *sob* for charity, but still… http://www.justgiving.com/hattiebecomingbritney
My first girlfriend had gorgeous, curly long blond hair and wanted me to cut it one day. So I read a book about cutting hair and then cut her hair. She cried, a lot.
Since then, I haven’t touched another head with scissors.
I spend so much money on haircuts.
I cut my hair myself and now I have a mohawk.
The only time I hate myself for not going to a pro is when I can’t reach the back of my head but that’s when I bug my roommate and walk her slowly through how to trim it without also ruining my hair.
I think I started cutting my own hair because when I got it cut the first time and after subsequent trips to the salon, they kept asking me if I wanted to add volume. The ladies around here are firm believers in ‘the bigger the hair, the closer to God’ and I have plenty of volume and body on my own without teasing the life out of it.
My girlfriend cuts my mohawk and it’s awesome. We haven’t quite figured out scissors for the middle yet, and one time she gave me a bald spot right before we went to the beach. Tip, if you shave your head and you are a super pasty white person, sunscreen your head!!
“You can’t just start cutting your hair willy nilly!”
I beg to differ!
While getting your hair did at a salon gives certain evenness and quite frankly zero anxiety if the hairdresser is good, there isn’t much that beats a nightly impulse haircut.
I’ve been cutting my own hair regularly since the age of 14(26 now) and honestly, it doesn’t have to look perfect. Give it a week and it evens out. More power to self-hairdressers!
This article is amazing – i strongly relate to it!! I find that cutting your own hair is also an awesome de-stressing therapy. More likely to occur after a drink. And if it stuffs up you haven’t spent a heap of money on it so it’s ok! Definitely helps if you’re on a budget too :)
This is beautiful. I am quietly laughing to myself.
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the best iron in the world for sure. Karmin