How To Trim Your Own Hair at Home *Without* Having a Meltdown

Photo: Getty Images/Kemal Yildirim
I cut my own hair for the first time at the ripe old age of five. Like many before them, my parents made the rookie mistake of leaving me alone for five minutes—and I cut my brunette curls into what could kindly be called a lob. In the quarantine days of 2020, the question of how to trim your own hair became very real; not just something you do as a small, rebellious child. So I asked Sunnie Brook Jones, a stylist with Matrix, how to snip, snip without ending up with a kindergarten haircut.

"Our hair on average grows about half an inch a month," says Jones. "A trim is removing less than an inch of hair length to maintain health. Any amount over that tends to alter the shape and weight of a haircut and then it becomes a different silhouette." Keeping the trim to less than one-inch proves especially important for people with waves and curly, adds Jones, because their hair will bounce back up much more than it would for those with straight hair. (A one-inch cut on someone with curls for days will look way different than a one-inch cut on someone with few waves.)

Before you dive into your haircut, you'll need to make sure you have the proper tools at your disposal. (Kitchen scissors, for example, won't cut it.) Jones recommends stocking your bathroom/salon with five things before getting started.

  1. A Towel: You'll put this baby down before you start chopping for easy cleanup later. No vacuum necessary. The Brooklinen Classic Bath Towels ($59) are minimalist and definite fan favorites.
  2. A comb with wide and fine teeth: Jones likes a wider comb especially for people with curly hair. This will keep you from adding too much tension to the cut, which will deliver a softer finish. A bamboo version like Act+Acre's ($20) is a great eco-friendly option.
  3. A clip or a scrunchie to section hair: You wouldn't want to accidentally chop off the wrong section, would you? The Athleta Oversized Scrunchie ($10) comes in a bright red and a cobalt blue to add a pop of color to your routine.
  4. A pair of fine point scissors: You're going to want a small, sharp pair of shears to achieve the cleanest cut. "The biggest difference is just the size of the scissors,” Garrett Bryant, hairstylist and owner of Hawthorne in New York City, previously told Well+Good. “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, like these from Victorinox Swiss Army($30), are specifically designed to cut hair and the blades are a little bit thinner.”
  5. A fine mist spray: A mist might help you section off your hair, but it's not 100 percent necessary if you don't have one on hand. You can also pour plain old water into a spray bottle an just use that to slick down the strand you're planning on shortening. This glass, reusable spray bottle is a great option that's only $15.

How to trim your own hair without leaving home

How to trim your hair for long, long layers

1. For long, long layers, go ahead and wash your hair and dry it fully using whatever style you rock the most (blowdried or with air drying). If you have curly hair and wear it natural five or six days a week, make sure you don't pull out the shears after you've straightened it.

2. Once your hair is dry, use your comb to part it right down the middle, no matter where you usually part your hair.

3. Using your comb, pull a tiny piece (1/4-inch or less) of hair from the front of your head, making sure to take an equal amount from the right and left sides. Pull your hair down to chin-length, then half an inch or a full inch farther down depending on how long you want your shortest layers. (Again, remember that curls will bounce back up, so don't make the mistake of cutting so short you accidentally end up with bangs.)

4. Once you've found the length you want to snip, twist the strand and cut downward with the scissors. "What that does is give the hair more of a tapered end than a blunt end," says Jones. Check to see if you like that length or if you want it to be a wee bit longer. Cut just a little bit at a time, and you won't accidentally wind up with a hack job.

5. Let the piece of hair separate again so there's an equal amount on both sides. Take another 1/4-inch section from the left side and match it with the piece on the left. Take another 1/4-inch section from the right side and match it with the piece on the right. Tuck the rest of your hair behind your ears.

6. Using the first piece on the right as your guide, cut the second piece on that same side just a little bit shorter (this will create a nice frame for your face). This time, you don't need to twist the hair. Instead, cut downward at an angle, pointing the sheers toward your shoulder blade. Repeat on the left side, then make sure both strands match in length.

7. Continue this same pattern, cutting each layer slightly longer than the last until you get to the hair behind your ears. At this point, pull the hair behind your right ear over your right shoulder and begin cutting roughly upward. This will hack away at any split ends and leave your hair looking smooth and more layered than before.

8. Repeat the same process on the left and style as desired. Ta-da! You just cut your own hair, fam.

How to trim your pixie cut

If your pixie cut is around shoulder-length now that we're well into quarantine, don't you worry. Stylist and colorist Lina Waled will help you tend to the situation—and stat. By the end, your pixie will once again be the no-fuss no-muss haircut yo signed up for way back before quarantine.

How to trim natural hair

All you need to trim your natural hair is a pair of shears, a styling product, and the basic knowledge of how to braid. You got this!

How to trim your own bangs

Take it from me: Bang trims can end in disaster. If you watched hours of Normal People and want bangs more than you want basically anything now, proceed with caution before you wind up with a pile of your hair on the floor. If you're already rocking the fringe, though, try blogger Kitty Cotten's simple tutorial for cutting Zoe Deschanel bangs.

How to trim split ends

If the bottom of your hair is beginning to resemble an old broom (it me), you're going to want take an inch or two off the bottom without necessarily giving yourself layers. Check out hairstylist Brad  Mondo's full video to learn how to take the shears to your hair so that your ends don't feel quite as damaged.

In short: Trimming your own hair at home is inconvenient... but not entirely impossible. So long as you live by the rule of cutting one tiny strand at a time, the worst-case scenario will remain relatively low. Who knows? Maybe choppy bangs and mismatched lengths are the new It style?

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