Time and time again, we've been warned not to cut our own hair at home. Hair stylists everywhere, myself included, remind their clients and followers that such a risky move that could backfire and leave you in need of more help than you were originally after.
But speaking as a stylist, I can confidently say that cutting your own face-framing layers is easy-to-achieve and can give your haircut a huge boost (and some major reshaping). While I can only suggest cutting your own face-framing layers on medium to longer lengths, I've outlined everything you need to know about doing this DIY move carefully and confidently, just like a pro. Keep reading for our 10-step guide on how to cut the perfect face-framing layers at home.
- Shears (must be hair-cutting shears, not regular scissors)
- Cutting comb (with fine and wide teeth)
- Cutting cape
- Mirror, preferably in a well-lit area
- Clips for sectioning
- Blow dryer
Prep Your Hair
I believe in a dry cut, no matter what type of texture you have. The key to doing this properly is making sure the hair and scalp are clean. This will ensure there is no product build-up or sebum (naturally produced oil) weighing the hair down at the roots, which would cause the hair to lay differently after it's washed. So make sure your hair has been recently washed and is free of all products. Now let's focus on your texture.
You're going to do one of two things: leave your natural texture in tact and let it air dry 80% of the way, or smooth out your texture if that's how you normally wear it every day. The point of this is to cut your hair the way its worn so you can notice how and where the hair wants to fall. Do not curl, straighten, or use any hot tools to style your hair just yet. We only want to choose between natural movement or a smoothed out blow dry.
If you're wondering why we aren't cutting the hair while it's wet, it's because our hair will naturally shrink up once it's dried. For a DIY home cut, we don't want any surprises. By cutting your hair while its dry, we'll be able to cut the hair in response to its cues, not against them. It will also give you a better visual of any dried out, split ends that need to go. Simply put: leave the wet cuts for the pros.
Section Your Cutting Area
Find your natural or preferred parting. If you like to toss your hair around a lot or switch up your parting frequently, settle on a center parting. Once you've identified and cleaned up your parting, use the edge of your cutting comb to section your hair from about half an inch behind the ears. Going slightly past the ear line should give you a small bit from the back length so that you're cutting to meet the longest point of the hair. Comb the hair forward and use your clips to section off the rest of the hair.
Decide On Your Starting Point
Where do you want your layers to start? Face framing layers are all about opening things up and highlighting one's facial features. Keep this in mind when choosing your starting point. With most of your hair already clipped back, take a moment to notice your face shape and the features you want to highlight. I would say my face shape is square, and for best results I typically like front layers to accentuate my cheekbones. With this in mind, I'm going to start my layers somewhere between my cheekbones and my chin. You'll also want to take your length into consideration. If you have extra long hair, starting just below the chin is always going to be your safest bet. No matter your length or face shape, you never want to start your face framing layers above the cheekbones or nose level.
The shortest point to begin your face framing layers is at the same level as your nose or cheekbones.
Create Your Guide
It's finally time to start snipping away. To begin, use the fine tooth end of your cutting comb to bring forward a small quarter inch section of hair from each side of your natural parting. Carefully bring that down to your starting point, pull it out slightly so you can view what you're doing with more accuracy, and begin to gently glide your shears down the hair. You will not be closing your shears, or dragging them, but slide cutting your way down the hair. Keep reading for more thorough instructions on how to properly slide cut.
For this particular cut, I suggest a method called slide cutting. Slide cutting is a very gentle approach that enables flexibility and less room for error. The trick is to take it slow. By keeping your shears open and making delicate pulses—never fully closing your shears together - let your shears glide their way down the front of the hair. Remember you are not cutting into the hair at all. It's all about going straight down from your guide.
Slide cutting will give you a perfectly imperfect gradation to serve as a base for your face framing layers. Use your cutting comb to direct all the hair forward, over your face and pinch out one tiny subsection at a time, each one beneath the other. Taking small subsections and a gentle approach with this cutting method will give you the most control over what you're doing as a beginner.
To glide your shears down safely, you want to subtly pulse your two fingers as they make their way down. You can always practice doing this before taking the shears to your hair. Without these gentle pulses, you could make the mistake of dragging the shears down instead of gliding them and that would cause more fraying at the ends, leaving the hair prone to damage and frizz.
Once you have your guide cut in the center, go back to your natural parting and let that starting point guide you down to other tiny subsections on each side. While cutting one side will always feel more natural, slide cutting prevents that other side from feeling extremely foreign and more prone to major mistakes.
Now that you've made a loose face framing shape, we're going to use point cutting to fine tune our layers. Beginning at your shortest length, slowly lift the hair up in small sections and make soft cuts directly into the hair. This will soften our lines and give us another chance to eliminate any frayed looking ends. It will also help us lighten things up wherever the hair appears to be a bit bulky. By point cutting directly into a single spot, we can achieve a little separation in our layers.
Use your comb to direct the hair across your face at a low 45 degree angle. This will show you the line you've created in the front. If there are any longer pieces on the top, or uneven areas that stick out from a clean-ish line, you'll want to point cut into those spaces to even things out, as shown above. Continue to take small sections all the way down to your longest length. Once you've finished on each side, you should begin to see your results taking shape.
Comb the hair down around your face. Check to see that there aren't any major differences between each side. Remember, we're going for a perfectly imperfect look, but there should still be some obvious symmetry. You might find one side feels more challenging, so take your time. This is a moment to go back in and slide cut or point cut any uneven pieces. Use slide cutting to adjust your length and point cutting to adjust your overall shape.
Blending the Back Section
After you know the front is looking good, it's time to bring the back forward and see how it all blends together. Remove your clips and use your comb to split the hair down the middle, bringing each side forward. By using point cutting to blend our lengths together, we'll be able to soften any "shelf" looking areas in curly or wavy hair, and any disconnected areas for smoothed out strands. Blending your front layers into your overall length is important in order to avoid any disconnection between your longest front layer and the ends of your overall hair length. If they don't organically mesh well together, you may have some corners to eliminate or soften up. Personally, I am not a fan of a U-shaped haircut, so in order to avoid this, I first used point cutting to trim my ends on both sides directly across. Then, I blended my newly trimmed ends into my new face framing layers but using point cutting to soften the point between those two lengths. But it's all about personal preference.
Style As Usual
Once I finished cutting, I styled my hair as usual with a blow dryer and curling iron. I went straight for my go-to products: a blow dry primer for natural lift, heat protection, and smoothing and a dry texture spray for finishing to showcase the movement and piecey-ness I created in my front layers. Although I only layered the front bits and trimmed the ends, I felt like my entire haircut got a much needed makeover.
If you're still feeling unsure about doing this on your own, don't hesitate to reach out to me or whoever your go-to stylist is for an online consultation to walk you through the motions listed above!