Prep your work space
When you’re ready to start cutting, the first step is to think about your area. Marinelli says to place all your tools out on a towel, making sure each piece is clean and you have a neat area to work in. “The most important thing is to have a mirror where you can see the front and the back of your head,” he said.
But, if you can, Annette Moore of BoldBarber suggests equipping your station with two mirrors, one big and one smaller to see the back of your head, clippers, scissors and a comb.
Start with a clean canvas
Before the first snip, make sure you’re starting out with freshly washed and conditioned hair. Use a comb to get out any knots and dry your hair with a towel. Then take a breath and get ready to work slowly. Your hair isn’t going anywhere.
Pick your guard
Measured in millimeters, the guards begin at .5 and go all the way up to an 8, explained Sergio Boy of Defined Culture Hair Studio. The higher the number, the less hair it cuts. In between haircuts, it is crucial to ask your stylist what number they’ve used — the guard numbers are all universal. For first-timers at home, Boy advised you use only one guard for the entire first cut until you gain confidence. “Using one consecutive guard is essential for at-home grooming because it makes it easier to achieve a smooth and even haircut,” he said. “Using different guard lengths allows for a more custom-tapered look but is more complex and requires practice.
Be conservative as you go
Once you have your method and clean hair, start with a larger guard and take your time as you go. You can always switch to a smaller guard if you started off too big. “The best trick is to start longer than your desired length. You can always cut more and go shorter — you can’t put it back,” said Lewis. “Remember: The only difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut? Two weeks.”
Best tools for a DIY haircut
Best shears: Equinox International
1. Equinox Professional Shears Razor Edge
“These scissors are lightweight, easy to use, suitable for home users and, most importantly, affordable,” said Moore. “Do not use any type of scissors that aren’t used exclusively for hair cutting — you want them to be as sharp and in as good of a condition as possible.”
Best comb: Rocky Mountain Barber Company
2. Rocky Mountain Barber Company Hair Comb
Don’t overlook the importance of having a comb on hand when giving yourself a haircut. “A comb is important because it allows for picking up more hair,” said Sparks. This handmade, anti-static wood comb can be used for hair, beards and mustaches.
Best mirror: Self-Cut System
3. Self-Cut System Three-Way Mirror
If you’re serious about committing to the home-haircut lifestyle and are looking to invest past a simple handheld mirror, here’s your splurge. Joe of Tricoci suggested always cutting in a bathroom for optimal lighting and might include multi-side mirrors built-in— this three-way mirror offers exceptional guidance if yours isn’t equipped that way.
Best clipper: WAHL
4. WAHL Magic Clip
“The WAHL Magic Clip is a cordless professional grade clipper that allows me to work efficiently, effectively and precisely at a 90+ minute run time per charge,” Boy said. “I use this personally at my shop for all haircuts and beard trims. It comes with multiple guards and a convenient taper lever that allows barbers to smoothly cut the hair all the way down to skin, and achieve various trim lengths, fades and blending techniques.”
Best trimmer: WAHL
5. Wahl Professional Beret Lithium Ion Cord/Cordless Trimmer
Lively’s go-to trimmer for home use is the Wahl Beret because, despite the higher price point, it offers him the best results outside of the salon. “You can recharge it, it is wireless and it has sharp enough edges where it makes your hair look good but it doesn’t cut you,” he said.
For a more affordable option, consider this highly-rated Philips Norelco trimmer, which boasts a 4.6-star average rating from more than 13,000 reviewers on Amazon.
Best shampoo: ArtNaturals
6. Majestic Pure Tea Tree Shampoo and Conditioner
To give yourself the best haircut results possible, it starts with the shampoo you use. Lively said that guys should try shopping for sulfate-free shampoo because it is soft on the scalp. “Most men and people with short hair wash their hair almost every day and, if they don’t use sulfate-free shampoo, it may dry their scalp out,” he said. “It’s also their choice if they want to use a conditioner. Some people don’t use it because it feels heavier, especially with thin hair, but it is good for people with thick hair.”
Tips for a DIY haircut
As you get started, Truman Lively of Truman’s Barber Shop Style and MY SALON Suite of Las Vegas advised not to cut too much into your natural hairline. “Make sure your edges are straight on and only cut the parts of your hair that are sticking out,” he noted. “And for the neckline, just be sure to follow a straight line down.”
But as a general starting off point, focus on one side of the head first before moving on to the opposite side, hitting the back last as this will ensure a more symmetrical cut, Moore explained. Then, cut in the opposite direction of your hair growth. Keep in mind that the growth direction may change across different parts of your head. “So, run your hand through your hair and find the direction in which you feel more counterforce,” explained Moore. “This will be the best direction to cut your hair.”
If you’re feeling confident as you move from the sides to the back of your head, moving the clippers upward against the direction of hair growth, use different guards to blend the lengths into a fade. “This will create a more professionally-designed look,” said Michael Sparks of Tabb & Sparks Salon. The easiest way to achieve this fade is to “gradually transition from using no guard along the hairline to a higher guard (a 1 or 2) as you move up the sides of the head.”
Complete the cut by using a “rocking motion” to blend the transition from the sides and back to the longer top of the haircut. However, styles that have more than a few inches on top need to be finished with shears, Sparks noted. This longer hair should also be slightly damp so you can easily mold and cut it. “Part the hair into sections and cut each section in a straight line, following the previously-cut section,” he explained. “The final step would be cleaning up the hairline and facial hair using a trimmer.”
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