This is a guest contribution.
I used to hate going to the hairdresser.
I’d pay an exorbitant amount of money to have someone massage my scalp, cut my hair and make it pretty, only to find they’d not done it quite how I wanted, and that the next day my hair looked just as flat as ever.
When I was about 19, I decided to start cutting and dyeing my own hair. It was quick, easy, and I got what I wanted without the huge price tag.
Since then, I’ve almost exclusively cut my hair save for a few times in the last year after my daughter was born when I was tired and just wanted to be pampered. As of this month, I’ve gone back to doing it myself.
The best way to start cutting your own hair is to start with a trim.
You use the same technique as for cutting, but only take off a centimetre or two from the ends. The more casual your hairstyle, the easier it will be to cut – and the more you cut it yourself, the more skilled you will become.
To start with, you’ll need a quality pair of hair shears from somewhere like Hairhouse Warehouse and a comb.
If you plan to do this regularly, don’t get the cheapest pair – sharp shears will make it quicker and easier to cut, and be less likely to cause split ends.
It’s easiest to cut your hair while you’re in a towel or your underwear because tiny tufts of hair, like sand, can discover crevices on your body that you didn’t even know existed – and they’re really irritating!
Pick a chunk of time you know you won’t be interrupted. You’ll need to wash your hair first, then take up residence in front of a big mirror in a brightly-lit room.
I cut my hair and let it fall onto the floor before sweeping it all up at the end, rather than aiming for the sink, because it ends up half on the floor anyway. If you can set another mirror behind you, that’s even better, but I’ve never had that luxury myself.
HOW TO CUT YOUR OWN HAIR – THE STEPS
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
This sounds obvious but as with any haircut it’s the most important; choose a hairstyle that you like and that will suit you and your hair itself.
For years I asked for haircuts that were bouncy and voluminous, and it somehow took me over a decade to realise that no matter what I do, I have dead straight, flat hair.
Even in the face of back-combing and liberal amounts of hairspray, it goes flat within an hour, so now when I cut my hair I look for styles that work on flat, straight hair.
After washing your hair, comb in out as straight as you can.
Try to keep your head in a neutral position (eyes forward, how you’d naturally hold your head) so you can see how your hair falls.
Split it in half down the back of your head and pull it either side of your shoulders, like you’re going to put it in low and dorky pigtails. The divide doesn’t have to be perfectly straight unless you’re cutting a severe and dead-straight style. For most “natural” hairstyles, a rough divide is fine.
If you have a lot of hair, or are cutting in layers, you will need to divide the top half of your hair off and tie it or clip it on top of your head so you can work on the bottom half.
I work back-to-front, as it’s less tiring and gives me a good visual guideline as to how long my hair will look.
The first snip is always the scariest, but it’s also going to be your benchmark for length by which you will cut the rest of your hair.
There is no right or wrong, only what works for you, but if in doubt, cut less than you intend. You might need to go back and cut more later, but it’s better than chopping off too much.
Grab the farthest back section of your hair on one side, roughly 2-3cm wide. Comb it out straight and, using your non-dominant hand, hold it taut with a scissor-hold. Slide your fingers down to the point you want to cut at.
If you want to have a traditional blunt cut, cut straight across the bottom. Personally I prefer a rougher, more natural look that doesn’t look just-cut, and then cut at a forty-five degree angle with several snips to produce a mini-zig-zag.
Once you’ve made the first cut, gather roughly half of the initial section of hair and another section of the same size.
Comb it straight and pull it taut downwards while looking forward into the mirror – you should be replicating where the hair will hang naturally.
Repeat the same cutting technique, trimming the hair to the same length as the initial section.
You then repeat this as you move slowly across towards your face.
If you can, holding the hair taut to the side will make your hair slightly straighter, but if you’re using the jagged-edge technique, you can touch this up later.
It’s important after every cut to let the newly cut hair hang in place, comb it out and check that you’re not slowly making each section shorter or longer. With all this combing, your hair may start to dry, so be sure to splash or spray some water on it and comb it through as needed.
Slowly work from the back section of hair to the front on both sides. This is a good time to check that your hair is even across the back – get someone to help you, or use self-timed camera if need be.
Once you’ve done the bottom layer of hair, and checked that it’s all even, you can unclip the top section of your hair and let it down.
If your hair is very thick, you may need to again divide that top section in half, letting the bottom fall down into the hair you’ve already cut. Go with what you feel comfortable with.
You can repeat step 4 here, working from the back to the front, except you’ll be matching the hair to the bottom layer that you’ve already cut.
If you want layers you can do them now, but I personally like to cut all my hair first, and then add layers.
Repeat the back-to-front, bottom-to-top technique, frequently checking your hair from different angles, until it’s all one length. Check that you’re happy with it, and don’t want it shorter.
If you want a single-length cut, then skip to step 8.
If you want to create layers, then go on to …
Layers can be done in different ways – around your face, throughout your hair, or piecemeal. Personally I kind of choose sections at random to cut as I like a slightly messy look and it gives my hair a little more body, but this will depend on the style you want.
Regardless of where you want layers, the technique is the same – choose a vertical section of hair (about 3cm high and half a centimetre wide), like this:
Comb it straight out from your head and hold it at a forty-five degree angle away from your head, with your fingers holding it perpendicular, and snip across (or, if you like a rougher look like I do, you can use my jagged technique).
If, like me, you have quite long hair, you might need to use your other hand to “reel” your hair closer to as your stretch to the end. I keep saying it, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.
If you want lots of layers, you can do this all over your head (don’t forget the back!). If you want it just at the front, take the front sections of hair.
There are so many variations to try, so play around with it. Unless you have a dead-straight hairstyle, little missteps won’t matter, and you can add to them later for a rougher look.
Repeat the layers wherever you want them – if you want dramatic layers, you can hold your fingers closer to parallel, and if you want a softer look, hold your fingers closer to horizontal.
Once all your layers are done, comb out your hair to check that everything is the length you want. Make sure you check that it’s symmetrical, too (unless you’ve chosen an asymmetrical cut).
Then, jump back in the shower! You don’t need to re-wash your hair, but it can help get all the little snips of hair out of your hair and off your skin.
Jump out, blow-dry your hair (or just dry it normally) and check that everything sits how you want.
You can add in a few more layers, trim outlying hairs or snip strays, but if you really want to take off more length or change it more, you’ll have to get your hair wet again.
You just got a haircut for the cost of shears and a comb (and each time you cut your hair, you’re reducing the per-use cost of them!).
If your hair doesn’t look quite how you wanted – don’t fret, it will grow back! Sometimes, if your cut isn’t as you wanted, you can go back and cut it again to improve it – it really depends on what you want.
If you really like your cut, then make sure to trim it every month or two to keep the shape that you worked so hard for. If you get bored with it, you can change it as often as you like!
While I loved having long hair, and it would look nice if I spent an hour styling it, I never do unless it’s a formal event, and even then it’s a hassle.
Having a short, works-every-day style is best for me (see step 0), and I have to work with what I have, not what I wish I had.
In the end, cutting your own hair is a great skill to have, and it will quickly extend to cutting the hair of others’ (I’ve cut my mum, step-dad, husband and step-daughters’ hair!), as nobody likes to shell out a lot of money for something small.
Enjoy cutting your own hair, and you’ll save thousands of dollars over your lifetime (even more if you have kids)!
DO YOU CUT YOUR OWN HAIR? WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS AND TRICKS?
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