Another lockdown, another opportunity for a home hair cutting disaster. But if you absolutely can't wait (and who knows how long it'll be before you can see the inside of a salon again), we can offer a bit of help.
Cutting hair, as many of us are finding out, is difficult. The advice from hairdressers is to keep it simple. You should be aiming to control the shagginess and maintain the hair's condition. Think trim rather than restyle.
(On the other hand, if you want to get experimental, it's probably not the worst time. Do you mind wearing a hat in Zoom meetings?)
Following is a list of the equipment you'll need and some ideas on where to buy, as well as haircutting tips for different hair types and styles.
Don’t use any old scissors you have lying around. If you can’t wait until the end of lockdown for a haircut, at least wait until your new scissors have arrived.
As you might expect, many places have sold out but Amazon UK has a few options. Prices for stainless steel haircutting scissors are at around the £15 mark.
Here are some options. For a bargain £7.95 you can buy stainless steel hairdressing scissors from Candure.
Alternatively, for £19.99, you can buy a home hairdressing kit that includes scissors, thinning scissors, a brush, comb and clips.
Amazon also sells hair thinning scissors for £7.94 (if you’re absolutely sure you know what you’re doing with them).
Don’t use the scissors on anything other than hair or you may damage them. Make sure they are clean and dry before you put them away to keep them in the best condition.
If you want to go the whole nine yards, you can also get scissor oil. Groom Professional Scissor Oil costs £5.99 and can also be used to maintain clipper blades.
If you have short hair, it’ll be much easier to cut it with clippers. When you are buying clippers, double-check you have the right item as beard and stubble trimmers look very similar to hair clippers (and the Philips products are very similarly named).
Argos has lots of options. Prices start at about £20 and go up to £90. You may be able to get a set for just over a tenner but we can’t vouch for their quality.
For £32.99, you can get the Remington HC366 25-piece men’s clippers set. It comes with 8 guards, scissors, a comb and a case – as well as other bits and pieces. The clippers have a charging light and can be used corded or cordless.
The Philips Series 5000, available for £39.99, has everything you’ll need for home haircuts. It has a selection of guards so you can cut hair from Grades 1-8, plus scissors, oil, a barber’s comb and a cleaning brush.
If you want to go digital, the Philips HC9450 Digital Swipe Cordless Precision Hair Clipper is available for £89.99. It comes with three guards of varying lengths. If you can’t get it from Argos, you can buy it from Philips online for £90.
It’s no good sorting out the hair on top of your head if your facial hair is out of control.
Very has discounted the BaByliss Pro Beard Trimmer by over £20. It’s down from £45 to £24.99.
It can be used corded or cordless (the latter for up to 60 minutes from an 8 hour charge), and will give a hair length of between 1 and 12mm, in 0.5mm increments. It comes with a travel case and has a three-year guarantee.
For a full list of recommendations, have a look at our round-up of the best electric shavers and trimmers.
Mirror and comb
If you're cutting your own hair, you’ll need two mirrors so you can see what's going on at the back of your head.
The Trixes salon hairdresser’s handheld mirror could be perfect. It's exactly the kind you get in the hairdresser’s when they show off their nifty scissor work on the back of your barnet. The mirror is 20cm by 17cm and will set you back £9.99.
You also need a plastic straight comb, which should only cost you a couple of quid. Amazon sells one for £1.79.
General haircutting advice
- If you have shorter hair and can use clippers, do. You’ll get better results than using scissors.
- Double-check the setting on your clippers before you begin. When using new clippers, don’t assume the settings will be the same as your old ones.
- When trimming (straight or wavy) hair, don’t cut across. Hold the hair to be trimmed between your fingers and gently cut vertically into it.
- Cut off less hair than you think you need to – that is especially important when cutting the fringe.
- Find a YouTube tutorial for a similar hair type and cut to the one you're planning. Study it.
Cutting long hair
Divide your hair into sections – front to back and from top of ear to top of ear. Pin up the top two sections of the hair and start work on one of the back sections. Comb it straight down, then forward into a curtain, the edge pointing to your jaw.
Follow the shape of the hair. Aim to trim 1 to 2cm. Don’t cut straight across, instead cut up, into the hair.
Repeat the process with the other back section, then the front sections, following the line of your already trimmed hair.
If you have Afro or very curly hair, cut it dry. Twist the hair into sections – the more sections you have, the more even your cut will be. Secure each section in its centre with a hair tie if necessary. Work on one section at a time.
Use a wide tooth comb to detangle and then a fine-tooth comb to work through the hair. Pull it taut, in a flat ribbon between your fingers. Trim straight across a centimetre from the ends of the hair, or where you can feel the hair damage begin.
Only cut your fringe when your hair is dry or it’ll come out much shorter than you intend.
Tie up or pin back the rest of your hair. When you begin cutting, aim your scissors up into your hair. Don’t chop across.
Use your eyebrows as a guide and don’t cut your fringe higher than them. Your fringe should end at either side where your eyebrows do.
Cut into the hair only half a centimetre at a time, using the end of the scissors. Be prepared to spend some time brushing it and evening it out.
For short hair
Remember that with clipper settings, the higher the number, the longer the hair you’ll be left with. If in doubt, go with a higher setting.
The taper lever lets you change the closeness of the cut between guide comb lengths. Move the lever up for a closer cut, and down for a longer cut.
If you’re cutting someone else’s hair, start at the back. You’ll probably want a 1-3 setting to begin but the setting you use will depend on the hair length you’ve started with and how short you want it.
(This is definitely a good time to watch a YouTube tutorial and decide.)
Work up from the base of the hairline and keep close to the skin for a couple of inches. Following the shape of the skull, move up and out with the clippers. Next, use a slightly longer clipper guard as you move up higher on the head. Press lightly and move the clippers up and out for an inch or two. Repeat the process again with a longer clipper guard.
If you want to leave the hair on top longer, you can trim it with scissors – but the best home cuts are likely to be with clippers.
For more advice on hair styling tech, have a look at our round-ups of the best hair dryers and the best hair straighteners we've tested.