How to Cut Your Own Hair: A Complete Guide

Updated 06/06/19

 Ashley Rubell

As a professional hair stylist, the most common confession I hear is, “I cut my own hair.” My mother has made this confession to me before, colleagues of mine (women who work in the beauty industry), and even my clients! That’s about as offensive as it gets.

Hearing what once felt like nails on a chalkboard has now become another talent show on the L train—it’s something I’ve learned to tune out. I’ve accepted that people are going to do it. To be honest, I first cringed at the task of teaching you, dear reader, how to cut your own hair, because I fundamentally disagree that this is something a person should be doing themselves. (That’s why we hairstylists exist!) Then I realized the opportunity at hand. If this is something you're determined to do, it's only right that I equip with you with a few pro tips, so you have a better chance at doing this right!

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Use the right tools.

Ashley Rubell 

  • Shears  

Shears are a major upgrade from kitchen scissors. Put your ring finger in the top hole and your thumb in the bottom. Shears are designed with a grip to help you move your wrist comfortably, give you more control, and a better quality blade for precision. 

  • Alligator section clips

These clips can hold a lot of hair, and their jointed arms make for a flexible grip without leaving any creases.

  • Cutting Comb

This type of comb has both a wide tooth and a fine tooth side. You need both to optimize control of your sections.  

  • Cutting Cape

All the loose ends you cut off will slide down a cape and onto the floor.

  • Disinfectant

Always clean your tools at the end of each use.

  • Fine mist spray bottle* 

If you have any kinks or cowlicks in the hair, water can reset the 

hair to lay flat.

  • Flat iron (optional) 

If you have wavy or curly hair and you’re going to do this cut yourself, it's best to blow dry or flat iron your hair smooth for maximum precision. (Byrdie is a big fan of the Ghd Classic Styling Iron.)

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Smooth your hair.

 Ashley Rubell

Whether you should cut your hair wet or dry is greatly dependent on your texture as well as personal preference. The goal is to get the hair straight, smooth, and tangle-free for maximum control. If you have wavy or curly hair, remember that once your hair is in its natural state, it’s going to shrink up again, so keep that in mind when you get ready to snip. 

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Create your two front sections.

 Ashley Rubell

Use the wide-tooth edge of your comb to create your first section from behind the ear. Keep your natural parting in place.  

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Create your guide.

 Ashley Rubell

Beginning on one side, use the fine-tooth side of your comb to bring all the hair in your section together. Slide down the section with your first and middle finger and keep a taut grip where you want the overall length to fall (at your shoulders, at the top of your ribcage, etc.) and make your first snip! 

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Cut the front.

 Ashley Rubell

Now that you have your first section cut, this will be the “guide” you follow to make your next cut. Use that fine tooth comb and taut finger grip to match the length of your opposite side.

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Do a cross check.

 Ashley Rubell

Bring all the hair slightly forward and together to make sure things are lining up and make any tiny snips needed to get balance on both sides. Your eyes are truly your best tool.   

Ashley Rubell

 If you have heavier hair and are not a fan of the blunt cut, bring your ends up and point cut into them for lighter-weight, piece-y ends.  

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Section the back.

Ashley Rubell

Create your first back section (I aimed to go from the top of one ear to the other), and clip away the rest. Split your back section down the middle, bringing your hair to the front to meet your guide.  

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Cut your first back section.

Ashley Rubell 

Bring the sections in the back forward to join your two front sections. The tricky thing with the back part is that it’s going to be slightly longer. When you let the hair lay straight down, it's falling at a different angle than it is when coming forward. To ensure things don’t get weird back there, keep your lines super straight! If anything, you can edge your line back a tiny bit, but whatever you do, don’t make the back of your sections longer than the front. There’s no looking back now—it’s time to match things up!

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Cut your last back section.

 Ashley Rubell

Time to let it all down! Release the rest of your hair that’s sectioned in the back and split it down the middle to come forward. Again, follow your guide to make the cut.

Ashley Rubell 

Now that you've cut the last back section, consider framing! This is an optional step, but face framing can add movement and open things up. If you decide to do this, I suggest a technique called slide cutting. I started right around my cheek bone and pulled out a small chunk of hair in front that I slowly graduated down with open shears for a soft finish. 

 Ashley Rubell

Layers are also another way to elevate your new haircut! If you want layers, take vertical sections and bring them forward at a 45- or 90-degree angle depending on how much layer you want. The higher you raise your hair, the more dramatic your layers will be.

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Clean your tools.

 Ashley Rubell

No matter what you do, clean your tools when you’re finished. Remember, we’ve graduated from the kitchen scissors. No more unsanitary habits when it comes to hair care!

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Apply styling products.

Ashley Rubell

Having good styling products on hand always make for the best outcome. I use the Virtue Split End Serum after every haircut. It helps to seal the cuticle and prevent future fraying. I also used a little texturizing spray around the face framing bits to help give it some shape and body. 

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The finished product:

 Ashley Rubell

I’d say it’s pretty passable! It definitely doesn’t look bad. But I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I made a salon appointment before I could finish writing this tutorial. Why? Because I fundamentally believe that I can only achieve hair that will grow out in a flattering shape and last me a few months if I have it done professionally. You know how learning to French braid on someone else is easier than learning on yourself? It’s a matter of perspective and quality, and it applies to haircuts, too. There are some things we just can’t do for ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Even as a professional, one of the best lessons I’ve learned is knowing when to ask for help.  

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