How to Trim Your Own Hair

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It isn’t cheap or convenient to go to the barbershop every few weeks, so if you’re in need of a quick trim, consider taking matters into your own hands. Michael Gilman, who founded the upscale salon and shop Grooming Lounge in Washington, D.C., says an at-home trim is an option if you’re “feeling adventurous,” but it will require more than just quality clippers (he recommends Wahl’s Professional 8355). Here are Gilman’s tips to at-home hair maintenance.

Buy the right tools: If you’re not a professional, scissors can be a recipe for disaster, Gilman says. Buy clippers with guards of varying lengths, and remember that the first guard should be the largest. It’s okay to be conservative. If you find that you haven’t trimmed quite enough after the first round, continue using a small guard and work your way down slowly.

Do it dry: For best results, wash and dry your hair before you start snipping – and not just towel-dried, but all-the-way dry. It’s tricky to use clippers on wet hair, and it’s also easier for beginners to measure their progress throughout the trim. “You can kind of see results in real-time as you go,” Gilman says.

Divide hair into sections: Break your hair into sections and tackle them one by one. Gilman recommends beginning with the bottom of the head. For a standard length, use the same guard length all over the head. Keep the teeth of guard facing upward, and try to apply equal amounts of pressure during every pass.

Taper with care: Trimming the hair on the back of your head can be tough, especially when it comes to layering by the neckline. “This is tapering, and it’s pretty crucial,” Gilman says. “If you don’t taper enough, you’ll wind up with a bowl cut, but if you go up too high, it’ll start to look like you have two neck lines or something.” Start by stamping out a straight, short line where the hair meets the neck. Work out to the sides to keep it balanced, and trim less aggressively as you move up.

Check the back: Bring a hand-held mirror into the bathroom (or any room with a large mirror) to verify that the trim is even. If it’s splotchy, guard up and go over the uneven areas slowly.

Keep it simple: When it’s time to cut off more than an inch or so, leave it to the professionals. “D-I-Y haircuts are fine for general upkeep, but don’t go crazy,” he says. “It will only end badly.”

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