Getting a good haircut is about more than just length and shape. It's about making the hair feel good, highlighting your features, making strands easier to manage and catering to your lifestyle. Hairstylists have a lot of factors to take into account when approaching the full-picture of your strands and how to best help them help you. Thankfully, we have an array of tools to choose from to help us achieve the results requested. Today we'll be talking about one of my personal favorites, the thinning shear.
Meet the Expert
- Sunnie Brook Jones is a celebrity hairstylist and licensed cosmetologist in Los Angeles. Her clients include Elisabeth Moss, Sarah Silverman, and Adria Arjona.
- J. Small is a Los Angeles based hair stylist. Working from a private studio, Small focuses on cut and color while creating hair care products for all facets of the beauty industry.
What Are Hair Thinning Shears?
Thinning shears are scissors that have one blade with teeth and one blade without. These teeth are little grooves on the blade that will quickly take your hair out in even sections to help alleviate excess weight, soften lines, and blend between sections.
"Don’t use thinning shears to build the shape, use them to 'decorate' the shape you created," says LA-based hairstylist Jay Small. These shears are a secondary tool to any haircut and should not be used to achieve your overall shape or structure in the hair. "When using thinning shears, it should only be for the last 10% of the haircut," Small tells us.
Types of Hair Thinning Shears
"There are three types [of thinning shears]," says celebrity hairstylist Sunnie Brook Jones. One can be used for texturizing and blending, one for chunkier weight removal, and one for finishing, she explains. The main differentiating trait to thinning shears is the amount of teeth they have. Some teeth are set wider apart, and some are spaced much closer together. The significance of the number of teeth your shear has will inform how it's used.
Smaller teeth are best used to blend and soften blunt lines. "The finer the tooth, the more blended and even the weight removal will be," says Small. These finer tooth shear options are your texturizing shears and finishing shears. "Finishing shears have 15-22 teeth, and texturizing shears will have about 25 teeth [or more]," Brook explains. "They create a soft finish on the ends of the hair and give "heavy" hair more of an airy movement."
Wider teeth like the chunking shears, as Brook calls them, will have 7-15 teeth. These wider set shears can be used for taking out unwanted weight in the hair, but Small and Brook both advised not to go too wide with your shear's teeth spacing. "The larger the opening or space between teeth, the chunkier or more aggressive the cuts will be," says Small.
Is it Safe to Use Hair Thinning Scissors at Home?
While there is certainly still room for error, our experts deem thinning shears safe to use at home, with the necessary precautions. Thinning shears have a softer edge than hair cutting scissors, so you're less likely to hurt yourself or accidentally chop sections of hair. Here are some of the major points you need to bring your attention to when using thinning shears:
- Selecting The Right Thinning Shear: "Be careful how you use them and what type you use," says Brook. "The easiest ones to use on yourself are the texturizing and finishing shears," she says. "[Texturizing shears] can give the hair more movement and lift," Brook advises, whereas with finishing shears, "you really only want to use them on the mid lengths to the ends to remove [unwanted] weight."
- Where You Make The Cut: If you overdo it using thinning shears, the issues you run into will be due to cutting placement and the direction your shears are facing as you make the cut. "These shears can leave holes in the hair (especially the wider tooth ones)" says Brook. Thinning shears cut sections of your hair shorter, so getting too close to the scalp or hair line can also be extremely problematic. "[The shorter hairs] may start to lift off the head similar to when a cowlick is cut too short and it stands on end, like Alfalfa," Small explains. And if your shears are facing the opposite direction that your hair grows when the cut is made, it'll result in a noticeably chunky, misplaced snip.
- Know Your Hair Type: Thicker hair to medium-bodied hair may benefit from weight removal, while finer, straighter hair will benefit most from blending harsh lines. Though Small suggests, "It's less about the texture and more about the length." Since longer hair typically isn't cut as frequently, Small says that overusing thinning shears may leave the hair feeling thin, weak or brittle. "Relying too heavily on thinning shears can result in a lack of shape," he says.
Remember: a few snips will go a long way with this tool.
How to Use Hair Thinning Scissors at Home
To Blend Shorter, Finer Hair:
1. Dry the hair.
2. Use a scissor over comb method between two distinctly different length points.
3. Gradually graze your way up and out with the thinning shear and comb. Make sure the flat edge of your shear is on the bottom of your grip, and the teeth are on top.
To Texturize or Remove Weight:
1. Comb through your hair to remove any tangles.
2. Take a one inch section and place between your middle and pointer finger.
3. Take the shears one inch up from the length and angle them down in the direction of the hair growth. Each snip using thinning shears should be like gliding a comb through your hair, so when you make your cut, be sure and glide the shears all the way down through your ends.
4. If you want to remove more weight, Brook suggests starting your first snip an extra inch higher up from the length of your hair.
The Best Hair Thinning Scissors
This 28-tooth thinning shear is a great option for texturizing and seamlessly adding that "airy movement" Brook was talking about. These shears are made of Japanese steel which will give you a cleaner cut and are designed with an ergonomic grip to make that glide through your ends a little bit smoother.
With 18 teeth on this finishing shear, you'll give yourself a nice, soft finish at the ends. Brook uses the analogy that regular straight blade shears are like a new pair of jeans, and thinning shears are like your already worn-in, relaxed-fit jeans. It's safe to say these shears are bound to give your strands a relaxed fit.
These shears are only to be used on extremely thick, heavy hair and even so, require extreme caution. For your best shot at using this type of shear at home, make sure to have a consultation with your stylist and get the green light from them on how/where to use these in order to best serve your strands for a lighter fall. As our experts mentioned, these chunking shears can leave holes in the hair or ruin the shape entirely, so steer clear if you consider yourself a beginner.
If you're looking to blend a cropped cut or men's cut, these shears are a great option for beginners. With 30 teeth on this shear adding natural, soft texture to your hair will feel effortless when used correctly.
Once you get the hang of using a thinning shear, find the one that suits your needs best and invest in something a little more upscale, like these blending shears from Sam Villa. These also have 30 teeth so your hair will have a very delicate finish on the ends. They're also great for blending fine hair and blunt lines and can soften your fringe if needed. When investing a little more money, be sure and check that a warranty is included to get added protection for your tools.