How to cut short hair at home, with tips from a professional barber

Business Insider US

Hair cuts
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  • With barbershops and salons currently closed, people are trying their hand at cutting their hair at home.
  • Rather than an act of desperation, an at-home haircut can be an opportunity to pick up a new skill that might stick with you even when barbershops open back up.
  • We spoke with a professional barber to provide you with tips and tricks on how to cut your hair (or someone else's hair) at home.
  • For mores stories go to

Maintaining a regular grooming routine might keep you looking your best, but whether you realise it or not, it also plays a major role in morale. Getting a haircut can boost your confidence and improve your attitude, but with barbershops and salons closed all around, achieving that fresh look isn't as easy as booking an appointment or walking in.

As we continue to practice social distancing, many people are long overdue for their scheduled haircuts. Rather than roughing it out until barbershops open back up, some are taking matters into their own hands by grabbing the clippers.

To help you achieve a haircut you'll be proud to show off, we talked to professional barber Sydney Shlakman of Hairrari Hair Salon in Brooklyn, New York for a few tips, tricks, and guidelines.

Even though attempting an at-home haircut might seem like an act of desperation, it doesn't have to be.

"It's an opportunity to get creative and try different things because we aren't going out and seeing people as much," says Shlakman. "Since most people have never cut their own hair before or even another person's hair, it's best to go slow and just get an understanding of the tools, hair, and head shape."

What are the most important parts of a haircut?

You've got a set of clippers and you're ready to go, but before you start haphazardly cutting into hair, there are a few key factors that you'll want to keep in mind.

1. Achieving your desired length

Unless you're going for a baldie or a buzz cut, you'll want to pay attention to the clipper guards being used. Clipper guards are numbered to signify the length of hair left in eighths of an inch. A 1 guard will cut the hair to a 1/8" length, a 2 guard will cut the hair to 2/8" (or 1/4"), and a 3 guard will cut the hair to a 3/8" length, and so on. Not using a guard at all will give you the closest cut.

If you don't already have a set of good clippers and guards, we recommend the Wahl Magic Clip Clippers because they're professional-grade, wireless, and come with guard attachments.

2. Fading/tapering and blending

Most people with short haircuts have some form of fading or tapering on the back and sides of their heads. Regardless of the style of fade or taper, properly blending the hair is imperative to avoid a "bowl cut" look.

When doing a fade, you want to first start by cutting with a longer length. For example, if you want to fade your sides down to a 2, start by using a 5 or 6 guard. Then use the 2 guard to the desired height depending on your style preference (if you want to do a high, mid, or low fade). Using a longer length first allows you to make sure the 2 is creating a clean and visible line to fade out. It also makes it easier to cut the hair off cleanly.

3. Edging up the hairline

No matter what style or length you like to wear your hair, a sharp line can clean up your appearance. Keep a steady hand and follow the natural lines of your hair, and just clean up the stragglers. You can use the clippers you have on-hand to do this, but if you're interested in clippers specifically for line ups, we recommend the Andis Outliner II or the Andis T-Outliner.

Frequently Asked Questions answered by a professional barber

  • Should I cut with the grain or against the grain of my hair?

Starting out, you should cut against the natural grain of the hair as it is the most effective way. If you are only cutting the sides and back with the clipper, just go against the grain, but go over it a few times to make sure it's even. For people with curly hair, you should go both with and against the grain. If someone is giving themselves a complete buzz cut, I suggest they go against the grain everywhere (top and sides) and then with the grain everywhere to make sure it's even.

  • I'm cutting my own hair with no help. What's the best way to cut the hard-to-see areas?

If someone is cutting their own hair I suggest, if possible, doing a double mirror technique, so they can see the back and sides better. If you don't have a second mirror on-hand, you can also use the selfie camera on your phone for this.

  • In addition to clippers, what else should I have on-hand while cutting hair?

Barbers usually have an array of extra tools to use at their convenience, and you can likely collect similar items from around your home: Combs and hairbrushes for making sure the hair is laying properly, hair clips for keeping long hairs out of the way while fading or lining up, and a brush to clean up cut hair along the neckline are all useful. Most people don't have barber capes at home, but a towel or an old sheet can make cleaning up easier.

Using other resources

It goes without saying that reading this how-to (or any other guide online) won't automatically give you the skills that professional barbers have gained from years of cutting hair, but there is tons of useful information online that can help you along the way.

Whether you're looking for a guide to a specific haircut style, best practices for cutting your hair texture, or visual aid for techniques like fading, you'll likely find it on YouTube. There are plenty of professional barbers, hairstylists, and everyday people who groom their hair at home who have shared their knowledge online.

The video above is just one of many helpful videos you can find on the internet.

The bottom line

With the right tools, a bit of preparation, and patience, the most novice home barbers can give themselves or others a decent haircut. Who knows, you might become skilled enough to continue cutting your own hair even when barbershops open back up.

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