How to cut long hair at home without ruining it
Bangs covering your eyes? We’ve got you covered.
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Hair salons may be closed because of coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean your hair’s dead ends stopped splitting or your bangs stopped growing into your eyes. Without knowing when it’ll be safe to next visit your hair stylist for a color or a haircut, you’re left to your own devices. Lucky for you, we spoke with Marina Melnikova, hair stylist and owner of Boston-based salon Zenarose, to bring you at-home haircutting tips that’ll reduce the likelihood of a hair mishap and leave your locks looking fresher.
Step 1: Set your expectations
Unless you had a brief stint in cosmetology—or a gullible younger sister to practice makeovers on—cutting hair is completely new to you, and that’s OK. “The first step is to recognize that you cannot give yourself a full-on haircut, so I would just lower your expectations,” Melnikova says. “Just be conservative. You can always cut more, but you cannot put hair back.”
Step 2: Invest in the right tools
Just as she advised with cutting men’s hair, Melnikova suggests staying clear of regular scissors. “I find that whenever people attempt to cut their own hair, they grab regular scissors and that would be your number one mistake,” Melnikova says. “The way that the cutting shears are shaped is different from regular at-home scissors.”
You’ll likely spend between $30 and $90 for a quality pair of shears. The Joewell Craft X Series 6.0 pair from Sally Beauty is made of steel, claims to be comfortable to grip in the hand, and they’ll evenly trim the hair with a sharp blade.
Step 3: Prepare your hair
Even if your hairdresser wets your hair before cutting it at the salon, you should only cut it dry. “Your hair has a lot of elasticity when it’s wet, so you might lose more hair than you intend to cut,” Melnikova says. “You’re going to cut it dry and you’re going to cut it the way you usually have it styled (straight, curly, etc). You want the shape that you wear it in every single day.”
With this in mind, pull your hair back into one ponytail at the center of the back of your head, or pull it into two ponytails with one on each side of your head, if that’s easier for you to see and reach. If you’re also trimming bangs, style them how you typically wear them on your forehead.
Your ponytail does not need to be perfectly placed on your head—it won’t mess anything up to not have your pony equidistant to the front, back, and sides of your hairline, so don’t overthink it.
It’s important to either leave your hair natural or style it how you wear it most often, whether that’s curly, wavy, or straight. This way, there will be no surprises once you shower and style your hair.
Step 4: Cut your bangs cautiously
If you have bangs, you’ll want to do those first so, well, you can see better to do the rest of your hair. Stand in front of a mirror in good lighting. Pinch the center third of your bangs in between your index and middle fingers and hold them out in front of your forehead, allowing a half-inch of the ends of your hair to stick below your fingers. Point the tips of your shears upward toward the very ends of your bangs and make tiny snips at the ends. You want to avoid cutting hair straight across, as this will appear too blunt and unnatural. Cutting into the bangs from below gives them a natural, fringe-like appearance. Work slowly, removing only a little at a time. Once you’ve snipped across your bangs in this motion, let them fall against your forehead and then decide if you want to continue trimming. Repeat this process for as long as needed until you’re completely satisfied.
If you have straight-across bangs that do not taper on the ends, repeat this process on either side, using your center bangs as a guide for the length. If your bangs taper, reset your bangs style to how you regularly wear them; then, starting right from where your center bangs leave off (but without cutting any more of the center) angle your scissors downward and begin snipping at the ends following the shape of your previous haircut.
Step 5: Trim your ponytail gradually
When you’re ready to move on to the rest of your hair—or if you don’t have bangs—start with your dry hair pulled into a ponytail, cinched close to the crown of your head. If you’re having trouble seeing or reaching the ends of your ponytail, you can either pinch it with your fingers when it’s hanging down and then hold the end up above your head, or put it into two side ponytails, so each is easier to access. When you’re satisfied with how your hair is pulled back, use your shears and follow the same scissor-tips-pointing-up technique to cut the ends upward and around the perimeter of the ponytail’s end, following its shape, taking no more than half an inch off in total. Just like with bangs, you don’t want to cut straight across your hair and cause a blunt chop.
Having trouble maneuvering your ponytail (or both, if you did the side versions)? Break it up into smaller sections using more hair ties and snip one section of the ponytail at a time. This may be especially helpful if you have thick or curly hair.
Once you’ve cleaned up the ends in a ponytail, let your hair down and examine the ends again. If there are any stragglers, you can snip into those pieces (again, not cutting across) until they’re even in length with the rest of the hair.
Take the trimming process slowly and don’t forget that you can always cut more if you wash your hair, style it, and find that it’s not short or even enough.
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