You know how if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself? Most people wouldn’t necessarily apply that mantra to something like surgery, or commercial building demolition, or cutting your own hair. All things you should leave to the pros. I’ve cut my fair share of hairs, most of them on other people’s heads—mostly the heads of boyfriends and ex-boyfriends because boys are apparently way more trusting (read: cheap/can’t be bothered) towards a girl who owns a pair of hair-cutting shears than the whatever barber over on Schmo Road.
For the past two years, I was growing out what I can only call an antagonistic (albeit well done) haircut that brought me from a layered chin-length chop with baby bangs to boob-veiling lengths. Until recently, I was nearly back to boob-grazing until my blonding prompted me to have that chopped, too, giving the stylist fairly free reign to “do whatever you feel is best.” He cut off the really frazzled ends—all five inches of them—leaving me with razored ends just past my shoulders, with no layers.
That’s all fine and good for people with thin or fine hair, but for someone with thick, ropey strands, all this equals triangle head. For once in my life, a stylist gave me short hair with no layers—so editorial chic—which looks great on the pages of Dazed or V or other oversized quarterly mags that cost as much as paperbacks; I, however, do not have an on-set hair architect making my triangle hair looking perfectly acute.
Had this been my born-again virginal hair, I don’t think triangulation would be an issue. But as those who’ve gone the platinum route can attest, the double processing does change the texture of your hair. It’s different for everyone, and in my case, my hair made like a spooked cat, haunches arched, tail pouffed. My head is basically covered in puffy cat tails, like the love child of Boo Radley and Medusa.
I have a vague memory from a past hairdresser who suggested that if I wanted to go short, under-shaving would remove the bulk. Dude, what even? Not that I’m a buzzer baby, but the prospect of having to grow that out in any graceful way is just unfathomable. I’ve had my Chinatown hairdresser straight-up slice out chunks of hair from the mid-layers to remove bulk, but this was also in conjunction with long layers, so while I could never detect where the chunk was and how much of it was gone, the fact that there were layers meant that I didn’t really care.
Nothing against my last hairstylist, who did a great job, but a day or two after he cut me, I kind of went to town trimming what he did, about two inches, so it wouldn’t rest in a weird way on my shoulders and poke me in the collarbone. Having cut and trimmed my own bangs many times before, I thought, how hard could it be to trim my own hair? I’m one of those people who pay close attention to whoever is working on my hair to quietly lurk on their technique, just in case I ever wanted to use it on myself.
It takes a while—way longer than if you went to a salon and were like, “Just need something to get rid of all this bulk, Johnny!” Take a night off to just confine yourself to your bathroom with some candles, a pair of shears, and maybe …Baby One More Time on CD. Good lighting is a must. If you want to sing along to “Sometimes” and freak yourself out because you still know all the words, that’s totally cool.
What I set out to do is discreetly cut out some mid-layers so I can still have the effect of a textured, choppy, long bob sans-pouf. You can do this with shears or a straight razor. I don’t have a straight razor, so here we are. I’m basically channel cutting and slicing, two techniques where you don’t snip, so much as slide your shears down the mid-shaft of your hair, applying a bit of pressure to slice layers off to remove weight without the appearance of it.
You can do this with dry or wet hair, but I find it wet hair easier to section off and grab. Also, the scissor blades drag less on wet hair, so I don’t feel the drag as much when I’m slicing. It’s a weird sensation, like my hair is Velcro and I’m tearing it off itself. If that image hasn’t scared you off, let’s move along and do as I do!
I clipped my hair up, leaving the bottom section free, combed neatly to monitor the length. Starting from about three inches up the hair shaft, I placed an inch-wide section of hair between the blades of my shears and slid down, pressing slightly.
You can open and close the blades slightly to slice more hair intermittently for more drastic thinning—something I’d do if my hair were longer. I’m mostly trying to get the ends a bit lighter.
I did that all around and then released another section of hair from my clipped-up section, repeating the slicing to match the first section.
Once I felt that I reached the core of my hair layers, nestled probably three sections in, I started slicing a little bit higher up the hair shaft to remove more layers, maybe four to five inches from the nape
of my neck.
For the top layers, I focused on the ends, matching them to match the layers underneath and making sure everything was even.
When my hair dries after a wash, it dries “normally” and doesn’t pouf out as much. Of course, some taming products assist greatly; I’m into B and bumble’s Quenching Serum and their Invisible Oil for my daily dose of dimethicones. Otherwise, I like to pull some camellia, coconut, or argan oil through the ends each night to condition and keep them from looking like those magic brooms in Fantasia.
Have you ever tried a more complicated cutting technique at home?
This article originally appeared on xoJane.