Can I Cut Hair With Kitchen Scissors? A Stylist Answers

Photo: Getty Images/Oksana Bratanova and EyeEm
It's day 24 of social distancing and my boyfriend's hair is all over the kitchen floor. Before this very moment, I was convinced that the worst place his hair could be was on his head. It had grown shaggy and defiant, curling in the front in a way that I just could not get behind. And so I quickly remedied the situation with a call to Garrett Bryant, hairstylist and owner of Hawthorne in New York City. He told me that in order to recreate the most basic of men's haircuts, I would need a thin comb and a good pair of shears. To which I replied, "Um, can I cut hair with kitchen scissors instead?" The answer in most cases, says Bryant, is a resounding no.

"The biggest difference is just the size of the scissors," says Bryant. "On the kitchen scissors, the blades are much wider, and so it's going to be harder to get a precise cut out of it. Hair-cutting shears are specifically designed to cut hair and the blades are a little bit thinner." This is true of the scissors' handles (which are endearingly called "finger bows") as well: The kitchen pair will likely have a large handle that's harder to grip in your hand, while the shears are small, compact, and ready for action.

Just like knives, scissors also have quite a range in sharpness between the crazy scissors of your youth, kitchen scissors, craft scissors, and shears. "When you try to cut the hair with scissors, the blunt edge is going to push the hair to the side because it's not as sharp," says Garrett. This is how you wind up with bangs that look more shabby than chic, or uneven ends, says Garrett. I took his note to heart, and purchased a fresh pair of shears.

I quickly learned that a good pair of shears can cost you anywhere from $20 to $1,000, but for quarantine's sake, Bryant says going with a drugstore pair will do the trick without setting you back a grand. I picked up a pair of hair shears (like these) at a local big box store, took a few days to consider backing out of my role as hair dresser, then gradually entered the "what the hell" stage I often find myself in these days. And that's how I wound up standing in the kitchen, ready to snip off the first strand of my boyfriend's hair under Bryant's expert tutelage via video chat.

As Sheryl Crow once sang, "the first cut is the deepest," but slowly—snip by snip—the shears and Bryant (mostly Bryant) start to make me feel natural in my interim role as stylist. By the end, each snap of the scissors feels kind of meditative. And it turns out, Bryant assures me, "very good." To my credit, it does look clean as kitchen haircuts go. I didn't Van Gogh his ear or cut any part too, too short and, hey, my boyfriend looks like my boyfriend again!

After the whole experience, I'm with Bryant that good shears make a good haircut, but in the event that you don't have access to a pair, kitchen scissors can work—to a point. "I think If somebody really wanted to trim their hair and they didn't have hair-cutting shears, they could use kitchen shears in a pinch," says Bryant. "I would just say limit it to just literally combing your hair down to one length and just trimming the ends at the bottom, but anything more than that—like layering or bangs—just grow your hair out."

If you find yourself growing impatient (split ends! roots!), either purchase some shears and book an e-appointment with a stylist like Bryant, or just shut your eyes and follow me on a little visualization. Imagine that quarantine has lifted and your hair is long and mangey. Now just think of how good it will feel to stroll into your now-open salon and get shampooed, conditioned, and treated to a real-life cut.

Feels good, right? In the meantime, though, keep those kitchen-cutting sessions simple.

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