We Asked a Master Barber How To Cut Your Own Hair at Home Without Screwing It Up
If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, SPY.com may receive an affiliate commission.
When you’re trying to save a few extra bucks, skipping your hair appointments can make a lot of sense. But if you’re expected to look professional, the extra weeks or months in between cuts can really change your look. If you know how to cut hair though, you just might be able to make the time in between appointments work with no one being the wiser.
Alas, learning how to cut your own hair at home is risky, as there’s not much room for trial and error. Unless you live in a remote cabin, your misadventures in haircutting will be obvious to everyone you meet. (And if you do live in a remote cabin, then you should definitely learn how to cut your own hair.) Like anything that requires professional training, cutting hair requires specific skills and tools. However, with a bit of professional advice and the right products, you can learn how to do touch-ups and short trims all on your own.
To help give some guidance on where to begin, SPY spoke with Master Barber Ann Shim, director of education for Grooming Lounge & Grooming Lounge Barbershops in Washington, D.C. If you want to learn how to cut your hair at home without completely butchering your personal style, we’ve got some advice for you.
We based this guide in large part on her product and brand recommendations and sprinkled her advice throughout. By the time you’re through reading, learning how to cut your own hair at home might not feel so intimidating — and you might just avoid a fashion tragedy in the process.
Tips for Cutting Your Own Hair at Home…
You don’t need all of the hair cutting products on this list to cut your own hair. SPY’s Site Director Tim Werth sometimes cuts his own hair and he manages with just a handheld mirror, a trimmer, hair‐cutting scissors and combs. But depending on your needs, all of these tools can help, at least until you see a professional again.
And if you’re still a bit worried to get started, here are a few general tips Shim shared with SPY. Keep this professional advice top of mind.
Here’s how to give yourself a haircut:
- Start with defining and understanding your look. For the average guy just learning how to cut his hair at home, you’ll basically want to stick to the same look and make it a little shorter.
- Always start on clean, product-free, shampooed hair. Hair products can change the texture of your hair, making it difficult to get a comb or clippers through. That means the lengths will be off.
- Pick a well-lit environment with easy cleanup; think bathroom and tiles, not the living room with the shag rug.
- Anything electric, such as clippers, should be done on dry hair.
- Household scissors will not work, so you need real barber shears. Scissor work should be done on damp, but never dripping wet, hair.
- Once you’ve wet your hair, use a comb to part your hair in your usual style before beginning.
- Be conservative because you can’t put the hair back once it’s cut. Start with small cuts with any hair you can easily see so you can gauge the length for hair you can’t see. You can use two fingers on your other hand to hold and pull the hair straight out to hit individual sections. If you can manage using a comb to section and switching to fingers before cutting, that will help you target better.
- If you switch between scissors and clippers, be sure to use a spray bottle or hairdryer to properly wet or dry the hair beforehand.
- Using clippers gets more complicated unless you’re going for a buzzcut, but here are a few tips to keep in mind: Start with a larger numbered clip and work your way down; do your hair in sections by the parts; as you work the clipper up through the hair, slightly flick your wrist and the clipper up and out instead of pushing straight through for a more natural look.
- If you plan to cut hair often or all-year round, it’s best to invest in a pricier tool. If you only plan to cut your hair once or only a few times, it’s OK to go for something cheaper.
- Some professional brands sell consumer products with similar names but lower quality and durability. If you can’t tell the difference, here’s a good rule of thumb: anything less than $60 generally won’t be professional quality.
If you do seek professional quality tools, Sally Beauty sells more expensive, salon-ready tools direct to consumers. However, most of the tools you’re going to need are available on Amazon. In many cases, you can find the same tools your barber uses.
All the Tools You Need To Give Yourself a Haircut…
1. Cricket Shear Xpressions
Once you’ve figured out your look, Shim told SPY, you’re ready to think about what tools you’ll need to get the job done. There’s a good chance if you’re doing anything besides a buzzcut, you’ll need a legit pair of shears. “Scissors from your house drawer won’t cut it,” Shim said, but she recommended Cricket shears for someone looking to cut their own hair at home. They’re made from stainless steel and are sharp enough to cut through hair with minimal effort.
Cricket Shear Advantage Duo
If you’re really looking to dive headfirst into cutting your own hair at home, the Cricket Shear Advantage Duo set comes with standard cutting shears as well as scissors for texturizing and finishing. This is definitely for those seeking a more advanced cut and the price reflects that, so buyer beware.
2. Wahl Self-Cut Personal Haircutting Kit
The next thing you’ll want to consider adding is a nice set of clippers. Before we go further, we have to clear up a major misconception: Clippers and trimmers are not the same thing. Clippers tend to be a bit heavier and fit better in your palm. That’s because clippers are designed for bulk hair removal. On the other hand, trimmers tend to be lighter and skinnier because they’re designed to go around the edges of your head and handle detailing around the ears, neck and sideburns.
When it comes to clippers, you can’t go wrong with anything from Wahl, Shim said, which is why we recommend the Wahl Self-Cut Personal Haircutting Kit. It’s easy to use for beginners and runs pretty quietly given how powerful it is. Plus, you get a whole kit’s worth of attachments and grooming tools, including 12 attachments, two combs, scissors, a maintenance kit and a travel case.
3. Kent 16T Fine Tooth Comb and Wide Tooth Comb
You should already own at least one comb, but if you don’t, you should buy one with two sides, a fine side and a wide side, Shim told SPY. Having the two sides makes it easier to control your hair — you use the wide side for control and use the fine side when cutting. Thankfully, a decent comb doesn’t need to break the bank, so SPY recommends Kent’s 16T Comb. It features wide teeth and fine teeth to help you control your hair while you cut it.
4. Andis Professional T-Outliner Trimmer
You’ve successfully used your clippers to cut the bulk of your hair, but now you want to tidy up your ears, sideburns and perhaps any facial hairlines. For that, you’re going to need a solid trimmer. Shim recommended a few professional brands for clippers and trimmers, like Oster, Wahl and Andis, but Andis Professional Outliner/Trimmer stood out to SPY the most for its professional quality and its price point. If you’re planning on cutting your own hair at home for the long term, a properly oiled and cared for Andis trimmer will last you forever.
Andis Slimline Pro Trimmer
Our best overall pick for trimmers may turn some men off due to its cord and lack of additional guards. If that’s the case, Andis still has a trimmer for you in its Slimline Pro Trimmer. It offers similar quality blades, it’s also wireless and slimmer than the top pick and it comes with additional plastic guards.
5. SELF-CUT SYSTEM 2.0 – LED Lighted 3 Way Mirror
You should already have at least one mirror in your bathroom. That’s good for cutting the front, but if you want to cut the back, you’re going to need an extra mirror, Shim told SPY. One product she recommended was Self-Cut System’s lighted 3-way mirror. The additional lighting and viewing angles make touching up those tough spots a bit easier, and the mirror comes with a free app to help you learn how to cut your own hair at home.
ForPro Large Hand Mirror
If you’re not looking for a deluxe smart mirror, any old handheld mirror will do. SPY recommends this basic black mirror from ForPro because it’s cheap and the mirror is tall and wide enough to help you cut the back.
Pro tip: Cutting the hair on the back of your head is really hard, so take your time.
If you have a friend, roommate or partner, ask them to help you even things out. If you are cutting all on your own, be extra careful with the back of your head. After making a few cuts, check on the progress in the mirror. If necessary, use the trimmer to even out the hairline at the base of your neck.
6. YAMYONE Continuous Water Mister Spray Bottle
BEST SPRAY BOTTLE
You’ve probably noticed your barber or hair cutter constantly wetting your hair with a spray bottle and drying it with a hairdryer. That’s because, Shim told SPY, scissors need wet hair and clippers work best on dry hair. If you’re planning on using shears, a water mister spray bottle will help keep your hair damp, but not dripping wet, which is important for cutting hair properly. YAMYONE’s spray bottle sprays a fine mist, perfect for wetting but not soaking your hair.
7. BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Hair Dryer
BEST HAIR DRYER
If you’re planning on incorporating clippers into your haircut, you’re going to want a hairdryer because many clippers can’t handle cutting wet hair. Shim mentioned BaByliss hair dryers as an excellent option, and SPY recommends the BaBylissPro Nano Titanium Hair Dryer. It’s a little expensive, but you want something consistent, durable and high-quality. Anything less will only make getting the hair you want at home more difficult.
8. EdgUp 2.0 – Neckline Shaving Template and Hair Trimming Guide
BEST NECKLINE SHAVING TEMPLATE
As we mentioned previously, getting the hairline on the back of your head nice and trim is where most DIY barbers go wrong. But there truly is a product for everything, even just to help you shave your neckline. It’s not something you’ll see in a legit barbershop, but EdgUp’s Neckline Shaving Template can help you learn how to cut your own hair. It’s a silicone guard that straps to the back of your head so you can move trimmers along the guard in a line. Shim said, “It’s gimmicky, but a lot of guys who cut their hair at home might appreciate it as opposed to eyeballing it.”