A Foolproof Guide To Cutting Your Own Hair

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A Foolproof Guide To Cutting Your Own Hair

Words by Ms Jessica Punter

23 April 2020

So, who feels like their world has turned upside over the past few weeks? If you’re anything like us, you’ve likely gained a new appreciation for once simple pleasures like grabbing a coffee, going for a swim or that routine trip to the barber.

Certainly, anyone currently cohabiting with a hairstylist has hit the jackpot for the foreseeable future, because now is not the time to call out a mobile hairdresser. However, self-isolation does not mean we have to forgo all creature comforts, nor emerge resembling Mr Leonardo DiCaprio’s hirsute frontiersman in The Revenant. While we wouldn’t typically recommend cutting your own hair, these unprecedented times call for practical solutions. As the world gets busy making sourdough starters and learning Portuguese, it’s wise to add personal barbering skills to your repertoire. To wit, we enlisted the help of session stylist, Mr Lee Machin, who gave us the below tips.

01. Prep your kit

Before you embark on your first home haircut, may we suggest that you invest in the proper tools. If you don’t have a suitable rearview mirror set-up in your living quarters, a handheld mirror will be essential to get a good angle on the back of your scalp. Mr Machin advises getting “a decent set of clippers, such as the Wahl Cordless Super Taper. The cordless feature makes using them a dream – in the bathroom or outside for less mess – and you can also use them as a beard trimmer.” 

However, Mr Machin stresses that, “you should not be tempted to use a beard trimmer on your head, so put them down. It will not be powerful enough and give an uneven, chewed up cut.” Most clippers come with standard attachments for grades one to four, but Mr Machin also suggests adding grade six to eight to your cart, for reasons we shall go on to explain. For mid- to long-length hair, purchase a pair of standard thinning or texturising scissors from any large pharmacy or drug store. “In all seriousness,” he cautions, “don’t buy professional hairdressing scissors: they are really very sharp and you could cut yourself.”

02. Don’t rush it

Once you’re suitably equipped, be sure to carve out an adequate amount of time for your first attempt. Unnecessary pressure usually leads to mistakes, so don’t be tempted to squeeze in a quick chop if you’re likely to be pulled into a Zoom meeting halfway through. Similarly, you will get better results with clean hair, so a thorough shampoo is an essential part of the preparation. Start by removing any dirt or product build-up by using a purifying shampoo (Christophe Robin and Horace do brilliant ones), then rinse and repeat for a deeper cleanse. You might be tempted to skip it, but always dry the hair thoroughly before you start – this will make the work easier for the blade and give an accurate view on the length that you are cutting. 

03. Go for a softer buzz

While social media feeds may be filling up with images of freshly shorn celebrities (we see you, Messrs Riz Ahmed and David Beckham), it’s wise not to hit the reset button quite so hard; keeping up professional appearances, albeit digitally, is easier if you skip the penitentiary look. First, select the preferred blade length. Grade four will feel very short if you have not shaved your head before, and so we recommend starting with a grade six or even eight (the longest). Whatever grade you choose – stick to it. “Don’t start mixing them up or attempt a fade until you have got comfortable with a straightforward all over cut,” says Mr Machin, “grade six or eight is much softer and gives a grown-out feel. Likewise, don’t worry too much about tidying the neckline. Leaving it natural will look better than a hack job.”

Keep the blade closed and start at the tip of the sideburn, slowly moving the clipper up towards the temple and away from the scalp, so the cuttings fall down and don’t clog the blades. Work your way towards the back on both sides. Be sure to pull your ears down to get to any longer hairs that may have missed. Then take the handheld mirror, find the best position and work your way around the back of your head, starting at the nape of the neck and moving upwards. You’ll need to go over this area a few times as there may be a few bumps and grooves to navigate. Rub your hands all over your head to feel for any uneven patches. And if you do make a mistake, relax: apart from any cohabitants, few people are going to see the back of your head for a while.

04. Take the weight off

It’s not always going to be desirable to cut your hair very short, so how can you manage a longer cut until the lockdown lifts? Enter the thinning scissors. It’s tricky and risky to attempt to cut the end of longer lengths evenly, so we’d recommend avoiding this entirely. For now, if your hair starts feeling bulky or heavy, thinning scissors will take out the weight without touching the ends. Divide the hair at the front into three sections; one at each temple and a main section around the fringe. Then divide these sections into sub-sections and twist the hair into little “ropes”. Mr Machin advises, “carefully snip into each rope, at random, with just the tips of the scissors, avoiding the ends or getting too close to the scalp. This won’t leave any blunt lines or take too much hair out, but will reduce the overall volume.”  Otherwise, he says, “use this time to let it grow out, or try something new. Thankfully, the natural look is very on-trend.”

05. Ramp up the conditioner

At this time, taking extra care of your hair will keep it feeling more manageable and in less need of a trim. Dull, rough hair is usually the result of raised cuticles on the hair shaft, but can be smoothed shut with the help of a conditioner. You can use a daily conditioner for everyday maintenance of normal hair. Intensive conditioners (try SACHAJUAN or Malin + Goetz) and nourishing masks (try Sisley’s Regenerating Hair Care Mask) are good for the thirsty hair types such as dry, coloured or grey and can be used once a week or more frequently. After shampooing, towel-dry the hair, apply conditioner to the length and ends and leave on for 10 minutes before rinsing to get the extra benefit. In addition, use a leave-in grooming aid on damp or dry hair, such as Pankhurst Styling Conditioner, to smooth the lengths, or rub in a few drops of Sisley Precious Hair Care Oil to seal any split ends.

Illustration by Mr Jason Raish

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