I just found an article I wrote for Venus Zine back in 2005 (!), and it’s on hair. (I know, shocking.) But it has some good tips for how to cut your own – or someone else’s – hair without it looking too DIY.
You’ve been there before: gazing into your mirror, scissors in hand, thinking, “I’d look really great with bangs.” Or convincing your friend, “Of course I can even out the back for you!” The next thing you know, you have bangs that barely make it onto your forehead and a friend (with a bob) who is hardly speaking to you. So the next time you think about snipping away at anyone’s lovely locks, first arm yourself with these helpful tips from the experts.
The right stuff
“Regular scissors will just bend your hair,” says Amber Stefaniak, a senior stylist at Art + Science Salon in Chicago. “It’s better to have something that’s sharp enough.” Professional shears can be expensive, but lower-end beauty stores like Sally Beauty Supply will have adequate versions for less.
“If you’re not trained,” Stefaniak explains, “you’re better off cutting dry hair. You’ll make fewer mistakes.”
“Cut your hair to where it’s going to fall naturally,” says Rachel Glenn, co-owner of Prink Salon in Chicago. “A cut isn’t going to make your hair fall where it doesn’t want to live.” Stefaniak suggests holding the scissors vertically instead of horizontally, which may feel a little awkward at first. “You want to chip into the hair instead of trying to cut across in a straight line,” she explains.
Going for an ultra-cropped style? “Start with the top and establish the length,” Stefaniak says. “Then you’ll know how short to cut the sides.“ She suggests Sally Beauty Supply for a good pair of clippers. “The trick [with clippers],” Glenn adds, “is not to go too high up on the head. Only go halfway up, and then blend the rest in with scissors so that you don’t create a definite line.”
In the thick
“With really curly or frizzy hair, you want to sort of chip away at it,” Stefaniak says. If pieces of hair are sticking out of the overall shape, snip them off. “When hair is really curly, work it more as a sculpture and [don’t be] so technical.” Glenn says to avoid pruning ethnic hair with thinning shears, as they will actually create more frizz.
The big bang
“When cutting bangs, don’t use any tension,” Stefaniak instructs. That means don’t hold the hair taught while trimming. “Snip up into the bangs while holding the scissors vertically instead of cutting across horizontally.” And never cut bangs while wet, because the hair will shrink after drying, leaving them shorter then anticipated.
Rapunzel, let down your hair
With long hair, don’t try to make the cut extremely straight or precise. “Always cut up into the hair,” Stefaniak says, “so the line will look soft and jagged. If you cut it straight across, especially with bad scissors, it really looks like you just hacked it off.” Glenn adds that it’s important to keep balance in mind when doing a cut. “Balance has to do with how the shape falls,” she explains. “If it’s not balanced, it’s going to be difficult to have a cut that falls into place.”
Don’t be a blockhead
One of the most common problems Stefaniak sees is the too-straight hairline. She advises working with the natural hairline: “Leave it a little shaggier. Don’t try to give a really fresh-from-the-salon haircut; that way it won’t take as long to grow out if you make a mistake.”
If it’s just a specific area that’s bugging you, snip away the offending locks by cutting them out individually — not by grabbing hunks of hair and hacking away. “Make it more layered and choppy,” Stefaniak suggests.
“If you cut it too short in one spot, you usually have to cut it shorter overall, but if it’s a really little spot, you might be able to just blend it away,” Stefaniak suggests. “You might want to see where it takes you, though; sometimes a mistake can turn into a happy accident.” However, if you start making errors, it might be a sign to stop and call a stylist, warns Glenn.
Suave = savvy?
Is it smart to pass up the salon products and hit your drugstore’s discount bin? “Lower-end products have wax in them and can clog your pores,” Stefaniak says. “But there are a lot of products you can buy from salons that are in the $10-$12 range. Having a few nice things, as opposed to a bunch of cheap stuff, is better.