How to Cut Your Own Hair

Updated on November 2, 2019
Mulan does not require rules.
Mulan does not require rules.

So, here's a confession: I haven't had a "real haircut" in over a year.

And no, I'm not a hippy with hair down to my ankles. I cut my hair all the time. Every couple of weeks, I stand in front of my bathroom mirror and trim a little off. That's more than most people cut their hair because they have to make a trip all the way to the hairstylist, shell out a bunch of money, and spend the better part of their day making small talk and trying to describe a haircut that the stylist will never really give you.

Me? It takes me five minutes, tops.

Below is a picture of me with hair I cut the night before. (I also did the color myself: check my article "How to Dye Your Hair Pastel" for information on how; even though my hair's more fluorescent than pastel, it's the same technique.) I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, and I don't have to wait out that awkward period between haircuts when it starts to look a little iffy. As soon as I notice a bit growing too fast, I traipse off to the bathroom, and it's gone in a flash.

Nervous? Here's how I do it.

C'est Moi!
C'est Moi!
Professional Barber Scissors. Pretty fancy, and not expensive.
Professional Barber Scissors. Pretty fancy, and not expensive. | Source

First, You Need Tools

  • Scissors: Okay, another confession: I've used any scissors I found lying around. I've even used those rounded-tip safety scissors. But, surprise: they're not going to get you the most precise cut (I know, right? Who would have thought). You want a good sharp pair, like the ones pictured here. I just steal the ones my roommate uses to trim his beard. Don't tell him.
  • A straight razor: For your ends, if you're feeling fancy. Not necessary.
  • Mirrors, plural: You gotta see the back of your head. I have a medicine cabinet mirror that folds out into three sections, which is amazing. If you're not so lucky, you need to find a way to rig up a hand mirror behind you so you can see more of your head at once. Alternately, have a friend hold the mirror. Even more alternately, have a friend cut the back, which is kind of cheating, but I won't tell if you don't tell my roommate about his scissors.

Preparing Your Hair

Wash your hair to get any product out, comb it, and then let it air dry. Don't style it in any way. Cutting wet hair and knowing what it will look like dry is not a skill we possess. You want to work with your hair in its natural texture so you can see exactly what you're doing.

Wrap a towel around your shoulders unless you like having itchy hairlets all over your back until your next shower. It's probably also a good idea to put something under you so you don't have hair all over your bathroom . . . but I just cut it over the sink.

And before you do pick up the scissors, make sure you have some idea of how your hair works. Where do you like to part it? Do you have a cowlick? Do parts of your hair grow faster than the rest? (Answer: yes. It is probably the back of your head. It probably aspires to be a mullet. Don't let it.) You'll want to know these things. Don't fight them. (Except for the mullet. Cut. That. Off.)

Time to Cut!

The most important thing to keep in mind is: Take it slow. You can always cut more later. You can't cut less.

Hold the scissors vertically, not horizontally, and take small slices out of your hair rather than chopping off a chunk. Big horizontal slab-cuts are what makes your hair look homemade. Keep holding the scissors vertically or, at the very least, diagonally, until you've cut off as much as you want. Imperfection is good. Partly because perfection is impossible, but also because it looks cooler and more natural that way. You want people to think that your hair looks awesome, not that your haircut does.

Holding scissors vertically is especially important for bang trims. Never cut your bangs straight across. Don't do it. Please.

So remember: No big horizontal cuts. You are not Mulan. The only time you should ever hold the scissors horizontally is if you're chopping off a whole ponytail, and after that, you better spend a lot of time doing vertical cuts to even out and soften up everything so you don't end up looking like you just cut off your whole ponytail.

Stop before you're done. Seriously. Sleep on it. If you still want more gone tomorrow, do it then.

Especially for bang trims, ALWAYS hold the scissors vertically, not horizontally.
Especially for bang trims, ALWAYS hold the scissors vertically, not horizontally. | Source

When You Should See a Professional

So there are some things you really shouldn't do yourself.

  • Creating bangs. You can do it yourself if you're really confident; there's a video of this below. But this is a really easy one to seriously mess up.
  • Cutting complicated layers. If you're really into a layered look, your best bet is to get it done once professionally and then do the upkeep yourself. Spend some time investigating your hair and where all the layers end, and you'll be able to trim it yourself without issue.
  • Trying to directly copy something from a magazine. The problem is, magazine pictures are photoshopped to death, and the kind of styling that went into that cut might not be something you want to deal with every day. A professional will be able to tell you what kind of techniques stylists on-set used to create that hairstyle, and if your hair is the right type for it.

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You...

How Much Money Do You Spend on Haircuts?

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