Jean Godrey-June getting a haircut

Ask Jean: Can I Trim My Own Hair—at Home?

jean Godfrey-June

We want to answer your most pressing questions—or, you know, just the things that you’re curious about. Please keep them coming to: [email protected]. Below, a q for our beauty director, Jean Godfrey-June.

Dear Jean, How do I cut my own hair at home? I have both bangs and layers. Do I need special scissors? Am I just crazy to even attempt this on my own? —Jennifer S.

Dear Jennifer, We can, and if we must, we must! I FaceTimed the brilliant Sally Hershberger—the woman who taught me to part my hair in the middle and stop blow-drying my hair, the queen of the shag and the layer, the owner of one gorgeous salon in NYC and one in West Hollywood, and the founder of Sally Hershberger 24K hair care—and she had some absolutely fantastic tips. “If you can, book a FaceTime or Zoom appointment with your stylist, if they’re doing it,” she says. “They can help walk you through it, and they know your hair. It’s really worth it if it’s an option.” Whether you can do a virtual appointment with a stylist or not, read through Hershberger’s tips first if you’re thinking of trimming bangs, layers, or your ends. These tips work on short hair, long hair, in-between hair, hair of every texture and type, so…go for it.

  1. 1

    Get some scissors

    If you can wait a few days, order the best you can. “I love Arc scissors, and I know so many other stylists who are using them, too. They’re not inexpensive, but they’re amazing,” says Hershberger. Kamisori is another good brand to look for, and no matter what scissors you have, the key, Hershberger says, is sharpness. “I have literally cut hair with those scissors you have in your desk before,” she says. “It’s not ideal, but make sure they’re sharp as can be and go slowly.”

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  2. 2

    wet your hair

    “It’s much easier to see what you’re doing,” says Hershberger. “Damp is perfect—towel-dried wet hair or water-spritzed dry hair.”

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  3. 3

    pull your hair into a ponytail

    If it’s too short for a ponytail, use a hairband to get all your hair back.

  4. 4

    Pull out just the bangs or layers you want to cut

    Use a brush, a comb, or your fingers. “Rewet them a little if they’ve dried a bit,” says Hershberger. “Then comb them straight against your skin.”

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  5. 5

    Determine where and how much you want to cut

    Remember that when your hair’s wet, it stretches a little farther, so always err on the “doing less” side. “With any haircut, it’s always about doing a little, then stepping back and looking at it again, readjusting, and going slowly,” says Hershberger.

  6. 6

    Start with a quarter-inch section

    “Almost everything in hair is about sectioning it out,” says Hershberger. “Around your face, you want those sections to be pretty small, so you have more control and more leeway if you do make a mistake. People think about haircutting like chopping everything off in a straight line, but that’s only for blunt cuts, and they do take more skill.” Even if you’ve got a blunt cut, use the less-severe “point cut” or twist-and-cut techniques that Hershberger lays out here.

  7. 7

    To “point cut”:

    Pull your section taut with your fingers. Hold your fingers horizontally across the section, at about the level you’d like to trim to. Make small upward cuts into your hair, with your fingers as the boundary. You can work randomly or methodically; eventually, you’ll have trimmed all the hair in the section. Repeat.

  8. 8

    To twist and cut:

    Take your section, twist it with your fingers, and cut. This is less professional but easier for the timid (myself included). When you twist, it positions each piece of hair at a slightly different angle and length, and that randomness avoids creating a too-blunt, too-obvious edge. Explaining this is stretching my ability to use language to its limit, but: Trust. It works.

  9. 9

    For layers:

    Use either technique. Hershberger says to fan your (small! Keep them a quarter of an inch, as patience-challenging as that is!) section along your face if your hair’s long enough to stretch that far. “It just helps you see better,” she says. “If your hair’s too short for that, no worry, but it’ll give you extra help.” From there, point-cut or twist and cut, moving upward. Repeat.

  10. 10

    For your ends, it’s different

    Hershberger’s technique is the same one I’ve watched her use on me for years, and it still confounds me: Part your hair in the middle, all the way to the very nape of your neck, making two sections as if you were about to braid your hair. Pull each section forward and cut. I don’t understand how hair pulled forward looking straight still looks straight when it recombines at your back, but it does. You can point-cut, twist and cut, or, Hershberger insists, you can just cut. “Just keep stepping back, checking to see if it looks even,” she says. “The very best scenario is someone else cuts the back for you, but honestly, I’d still pull it forward to check it and perfect it. And you really can do it yourself.”