Figure Out What You Really Need
Take a close look at yourself in the mirror (or during your next video call) and decide what you really need to do now. Most women can probably get by with just a bang trim and by snipping off split ends, experts say. And most men can probably make do with a few careful passes with a hair clipper, an electric cutting tool used by most barbers. Cool beard designs short hair.
Even if you're ready for a dramatic hairstyle change, this is not the ideal time, according to the stylists we spoke with. “Don’t try to cut new layers, give yourself bangs, snip off several inches, or attempt a whole new style,” says Renee Cohen, a hairstylist at Oscar Blandi Salon in New York City. “This will be over eventually, so just do the minimum you need to get by.”
Take your hair length and texture into consideration as you're considering how to do your DIY cut. It's hardest to hide mistakes in fine, straight hair, and in short women's hairstyles, so trim only what's essential. Thicker hair, whether straight or wavy, is a bit more forgiving, while highly textured tresses—such as corkscrew curls or natural African American hair—is easiest for amateur stylists to tackle.
And keep in mind that less is more: Most stylists agree that at-home cuts should involve taking off a quarter-inch to a half-inch maximum. “You can always cut more, but you can’t put it back,” says Cohen, the New York City stylist.
Consider a Digital Tutorial
If you need a hand, a slew of YouTube tutorials can guide you through some basic trimming techniques. Caitlin Collentine, a hairstylist at Wabi Sabi Beauty in San Francisco, recommends looking for one that best matches your hair type, texture, length, and goals.
Many stylists are also offering live video lessons—helping clients move step-by-step through simple cutting and trimming techniques.
Collentine, for instance, is currently working with clients via videochat. If you want to try this, it's wise to ask your stylist first. “A virtual cut will work better with someone who already knows you and knows your hair,” says Cohen.
You can also check with local salons whose reputations you're familiar with, or websites like youprobablyneedahaircut.com, which connects consumers with virtual stylists and barbers.
Latest men's facial hair styles
To get the most out of a digital session, Collentine recommends sitting in front of a mirror during the call. “It’s much easier to watch me, then look at yourself in the mirror instead of just your tiny image on the screen,” she says.
Gather the Best Tools You Can
Normally, tools like professional-grade haircutting scissors are widely available online and at beauty supply stores. (If you're searching for them on the web, “Look for a pair with a thin, 5-inch blade,” Cohen says.)
But if haircutting scissors are hard to find, experts say you can do a reasonable job with almost any sharp scissor. “I have clients who’ve trimmed their bangs with manicure scissors or used small [about 4-inch] sewing scissors,” says Tracey Wingo, a hairstylist and owner of Downtown Refinery Salon, in Boulder, Colo. “The most important thing is the scissors have to be really sharp.”
To determine how sharp a pair of scissors are, spray a tissue with water and make a small cut in it. “If it makes a clean cut in the tissue, the scissors are sharp enough,” says Wingo. “If it snags or pulls the tissue, the scissors are too dull.” (You can sharpen slightly dull scissors by cutting strips of sandpaper or several layers of aluminum foil.)
For men with short hair, experts say the best approach is not scissors but an adjustable hair clipper with guards. These allow you to set the clipper to the length you want your hair to be, typically from 1/16 of an inch up to 1 1⁄2 inches.
But sales of clippers are reportedly up 166 percent over this time last year, so they may be tough to find online. “In a pinch, you could use a beard trimmer—at least to clean up around your ears and the base of your neck,” says Josh Craig, a barber in Shrewsbury, N.J.
Use the Right Techniques
Set yourself up in front of a mirror, with your scissors or clippers, a comb, hair clips or bobby pins if you have them, and a hand mirror in reach. Then, get ready to trim.
For bangs: Gather the rest of your hair into a ponytail or clip it out of the way. Then comb all of your bangs into place on your forehead and hold them there.
Next, instead of making horizontal cuts, use a technique called "point cutting:" Hold the scissors vertically and make tiny snips up into your bangs. (For bangs or ends, a perfectly straight line is too challenging for most amateurs; this will give your hair a softer and slightly diffuse line, so mistakes are harder to see.) “Stop when the bangs are right below your eyebrows,” says Cohen.
For shoulder-length or longer straight or wavy hair: Trim any bangs first. If you have face-framing layers, use a similar technique to the one above: Clip full-length strands back, and comb layers forward. Working in small sections, hold the hair between your pointer and middle fingers, then use point cutting to snip off the ends. “This will create a soft, feathery edge,” says Cohen. If you must, trim your ends and finish them with some vertical snips.
For curly or kinky hair: Condition and detangle damp hair, and clip everything except one small section back. Run a comb through that section, stopping near your ends, then snip off just the bottom quarter-inch. “This is also a great time to let chemically relaxed hair heal,” says Collentine. “Experiment with natural looks, like twists and braids instead.”
For women’s short hair: Because reshaping a short cut that’s growing out is tricky, video guidance from your stylist may be your best bet, Collentine says. But if you have to DIY, “my advice is to snip a little from the hair you can see when you’re looking at yourself straight on,” she says, and leave the back alone.
For men’s hair: If you usually wear your hair long enough to run your fingers through, “use a clipper or trimmer just to trim around your ears, sideburns, and neck,” says Craig. “That may be enough to help you feel less scruffy.”
For shorter cuts, a clipper with guards will help you navigate safely. He suggests that men with thick hair start with a number 2 guard, and those with thinning hair begin with a number 4. To trim hair on the neck, use the lowest number guard and follow your natural hairline.
Hair style and beard
And if you usually wear your hair super-short, now might be the time to try a buzz cut. “You don’t need to take it down to the skin,” says Craig. “Use a number 1 or 1.5 on your clippers and work methodically around your head.”
For kids’ hair: The techniques are the same as those for adults, but because kids may be much squirmier, hand them a book or tablet to focus on as you cut, recommends Debra Parker, owner of Tipperary, a kids’ salon in Beverly Hills. “For trimming most everything except bangs, you’ll want them not only still, but looking down,” she says.