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Here’s Exactly How to Cut Your Own Hair (and Avoid Major Mishaps!)

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Photo by dimid_86/Getty Images

Listen, not everyone has Beyoncé-level clearance at their salon—some of us do, unfortunately, have to wait until an appointment opens up to get a haircut. But by then, your split ends can wind up being longer than the wait. When you can't bear to look at them any longer, it's time you take matters into your own hands. 

Before you get desperate and chop off your hair with your childproof craft scissors, take a deep breath and read on for a step-by-step guide—featuring pro tips that are sure to come in handy. Because when it comes to your hair, winging it is never the answer.

About the Expert:

George Papanikolas is a professional hair colorist and MATRIX celebrity stylist who has worked with Hollywood A-listers like Britney Spears and Khloé Kardashian.
Aaron Barry is an LA-based celebrity hairstylist specializing in lived-in cuts, color, and on-set styling. He has worked in the industry for 18 years.

How to cut your own hair:

Try A Trim

"Drastic changes require skill to create balanced, blended layers," says George Papanikolas, MATRIX celebrity stylist, who advises against any big changes at home. "Ideally," he says, it's best to "stick with a trim and follow the previous cut as a guide." A trim isn't as easy to botch as a major cut, so maybe now isn't the time to try out that new shag you've been seeing all over Instagram (as much as we love it!). 

Start Slow

While you can always decide to go slightly shorter, you can't add length if you've gone too short. "Less is more at home," says Papanikolas. Since the first snip will determine the length, it's better to take a conservative approach from the very beginning. Papanikolas tells us, "if you feel like you are going to be cutting a big chunk off, then put the scissors down." 

Reach For Sharp Scissors

Before you perform some minor maintenance on your tresses, be sure to invest in the right pair of scissors before you cut hair. Papanikolas tells us, "hair-cutting scissors are sharp and need to be re-sharpened regularly to give a clean, crisp cut," so those kitchen scissors and the ones in your desk drawer simply won't make the cut. "Dull blades will cause the hair to fray, encouraging split ends," he adds. The truth is, if you use the wrong scissor, you risk sacrificing more length in the process and can harm your hair cuticle.

Condition Your Ends

Moisturizing your hair with a deep conditioner and a leave-in product will strengthen your tresses and lead to less breakage, but it also seals the cuticle, making it easier to work with. "When your hair is hydrated, it will look and feel healthier, allowing you to keep as much of your length as possible," says Papanikolas. "Dry ends will encourage you to get more scissor-happy." No, thank you.

For Curly Hair: Wash And Dry Your Hair First

If you're nervous about taking off too much and simply want to remove split ends or trim your bangs, wash and condition your hair and allow it to fully dry before you start cutting. This will give you a better idea of the length and sets you up for the least amount of error, because hair shrinks as it dries. "Dry hair allows you to only trim the dry damaged parts that you can see," says Papanikolas. If your hair is curly, opting for a dry cut is also your best bet. "Curly hair is more forgiving of mistakes," says Papanikolas. "It's better to work with it dry and think of it as more like sculpting."

For Straight Hair: Cut Your Hair Wet

If you have straight hair and want to ensure your cut is even, a wet cut is the way to go. "Straight hair is actually easier to work with when it's wet, and if you are going for a trim or dusting will give you a cleaner finish," says Papanikolas. It will also be more obvious on straight hair if you make a mistake, so precision is key. "Damp hair is easier to manipulate and gives more precision," says Papanikolas. Just be aware that it will look shorter than it does when it dries, so don't get too scissor-happy if you want to preserve the length.

Work In Small Sections

Start your hair the same way you normally wear it for the best results. Once your hair is parted, it's time to start sectioning away. Dividing your hair into small sections allows you to have more control over your cut. "Working with too much hair is difficult to cut and can result in choppy unevenness," says Papanikolas. You'll want to divide it into one-inch sections and begin to cut one at a time. "Start at the bottom and then work your way up using the previous section as a guide," says Papanikolas. As you cut, you'll lift your hair away from your face and match the current section up with the one you last cut to ensure they're even. 

Cut Your Bangs Dry

Barry tells us you should never cut your bangs when they're wet. He says, "the hair stretches when it's wet and shortens when it dries." In other words, if you cut them while wet, they'll look much shorter when they dry. For the best haircut with bangs, Barry tells us, "always dry cut the bangs always, so you know how they'll sit on the face."

Point Cut Your Bangs

Since bangs are at the forefront of your look, it's important you proceed with technique. Barry recommends, "when trimming bangs, opt to point cut into the hair," meaning you hold the scissors vertically instead of bluntly across. "This method is very forgiving and will hide a multitude of DIY trimming mistakes," he says. To do this, section your bangs away from the rest of your hairstyle, then subsect your bangs, bringing each section forward. Barry says, "allow the hair in the first section to sit on the face and decide where to cut, then by lifting the section off the face point cut to get your desired length." Continue one section at a time. 

Make It A Group Effort

If you're feeling nervous about holding a pair of scissors to your own head, consider enlisting the help of your partner or roommate to play hairstylist (you can make an at-home spa night out of it). "Doing it yourself is tricky, especially if you are [removing some length] and [when you're working] in the back," says Papanikolas. 

Take A Look In The Mirror

If no one's around to lend a helping hand, make sure you're set up in front of a mirror that gives you a view from alternate angles as you work. "You can use a three-way mirror or even your medicine cabinet mirror so you can see the back," says Papanikolas. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures as we're all starting to turn to at-home solutions for beauty maintenance more than ever before. While we wouldn't advise you to cut your hair just because you're feeling bored at home and want to try a new hairstyle, attempting to clean up your unruly tresses and saying goodbye to split ends can be done. Have you performed a home haircut? Show off your handiwork and upload a photo on Instagram or Twitter and be sure to tag us @IPSY so we can see your DIY haircut. 

Want more DIY beauty Inspo? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get in on the IPSY Glam Bag fun. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Keep up with us on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Stephanie Montes
Stephanie Montes
Stephanie is a freelance contributor covering all things beauty. She writes about her adventures testing the latest trends in skincare, hair, and makeup. Stephanie's bylines have also appeared on Who What Wear, Elle, Byrdie, Bustle, and more.
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Article Last Updated February 25, 2022 12:00 AM