How do I cut my own (long, curly) hair?
June 8, 2014 5:46 AM   Subscribe

I don't want another salon cut but I do want shorter hair. How do I do it?

My dark brown curly hair is pretty long (the longest bits reach the bottom of my back/top of my butt when I pull the curls straight, the shortest bits reach my mid-lower back when doing the same thing, and I'm 5'11 with a long body), but it's also pretty straggly at the ends and I want to cut it up somewhere between my shoulders and my jawline.

I've never had a salon cut that I liked and I don't really have any money at the moment, so I'm intending to cut it myself. I've only cut my own hair once before, and that was a trim to even out the ends about six months ago, but I'm feeling good about doing this myself and would rather try it than spend another £30-50 with a professional for a cut that comes out too short and uneven because they don't know how to work with curly hair.

It's lost a lot of curl being this long and heavy, so my plan was to wash it and comb it out straight, tie it with a hairband two or three or four inches below my shoulders (at a point where the hair is an even thickness compared to length, rather than straggly), cut it across there so it's all the same length to start with, let it dry a bit (or completely?) and then tidy up the individual curls so it sits evenly. I wear it with a side parting on the right side of my head, and will cut it so that it looks even with that parting.

Things I do have: haircutting scissors, a willing accomplice for the bits at the back
Things I don't have: experience, fine motor skills, attention to detail, limitless patience

I'd like to make this quick and easy. I definitely don't want to end up with triangle-/Christmas tree-shaped hair (flat against the head but bulky at the ends) - I'd prefer something more like a bob, with the curls evenly distributed around my head.

What should I do to get a cut I'll like? And how do I cut the individual curls themselves when they're dry(-ish) - straight across or at an angle?

posted by terretu to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I would start on YouTube to see what people are recommending, such as this video that follows a particular method for self-cutting hair.
posted by xingcat at 5:49 AM on June 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Curly Girl, the curly hair bible, has a whole section on cutting your own curly hair. You can get a used copy on for £4 and I just plain would not proceed without it.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:26 AM on June 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I cut my own thick, curly hair; here are my tips:
  • Get it wet, comb it out, cut it wet, just like you plan.

  • Do not cut it parted on the side. Cut it parted in the middle. I'm not sure why, but cutting with my usual side part in ends up with a weird uneven volume thing going on. (It's very 80s. One side of your head will be flat, the other side will be a triangle floating into the sky.) Cutting it in the center I have no problem later parting it on the side, and the volume looks right that way.

  • Don't put it in clips; hang it as flat as you can and just cut straight across. Generally it's easier for the amateur to do the two parts in the front first so they're even, and then do the back. If you go all the way around from one side to the other, you'll be uneven by the time you get back to the front.

  • I've done ALL of it myself, but it is much easier to have your accomplice do it.

  • Your hair will curl more -- possibly a LOT more -- with all that weight off it. When I cut mine to shoulder length, it curls up to chin length as it dries. Keep that in mind, and maybe cut it a little longer than you think is necessary for your first try. You can always cut off more; if you cut off too much you'll just have to wait for it to come back in. Not the end of the world, but you may be unhappy with it.

  • Curls on top is a matter of drying the hair so the roots aren't lying flat against the top of your head; if you lie on your couch and hang your head upsidedown off the couch, you'll end up with all-over curls. You can also let it dry with a few clips in it on the top to lift the top up as it dries, then remove them. (Curly Girl, mentioned above, has good tips for this.)
  • posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:45 AM on June 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

    I have reaallyy curly hair (see profile). I cut it myself often- same deal, anywhere i could afford was giving me a crappy cut anyhow, I can do at least as good of a job. I don't wet it at all because that radically changes my hair and I won't know where to cut anymore, I just grab each curl individually and chop it off one by one dry (the ends are a little funky poofy until I wash it). I like to have some pictures to follow so I have a visual of what I'm trying to do in terms of layers.
    posted by geegollygosh at 7:19 AM on June 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

    I've been cutting my own curly hair for about two years. To cut off the length, brush all your hair into a pony tail in a rubber band on the top of the back of your head. Put a second rubber band near the first one and then slide the second one towards the end and use it as a cutting guide. I cut my hair wet with conditioner in it and make a big mess.

    Next, put your hair in another ponytail right in front on top and do the second rubber band thing and cut again. This helps add more layers to the front. (The first ponytail cuts the length and adds some layers.)

    After that, I sort of do what the girl in the xingcat's video did, except I have about 1/15th of her patience and accuracy. I cut some bits here and there like her but I also do this: did you ever get your hair highlighted and the hairdresser willl weave a pointy comb end across a section of hair to divide it and then wraps a foil with the bleach around the bits she just pulled out? I sort of do that with my fingers and then cut the bits I piulled out and leave the rest longer.

    I only cut some layers and then I stop and wash and style my hair and fix whatever's too long later. I don't cut anything shorter than chin length because it'll be shorter when it's dry.
    posted by artychoke at 7:37 AM on June 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

    Seconding the suggestion to use the instructions in the Curly Girl book -- it's even got a DVD that covers that part. I have followed along with that and done OK.

    Mileage varies, but I wouldn't cut my own hair wet any more than I'd pay someone else to cut it wet -- it looks entirely different wet v. dry and I'd be likely to mistakenly cut a lot more off than I intended with it wet. If you're cutting off a whole lot, probably easiest to get the first few inches off with the ponytail-on-top-of-head method and then wash and dry your hair again to figure out where to start neatening it up curl by curl. (Yes, this is gonna take forever. So do the haircuts I pay for, since I refuse to see anybody who cuts my hair as though it's straight. It's usually a two-step process in which my hair's cut dry, then washed, dried, and cut a little more. No hairbrushes, no fine-toothed combs.)
    posted by asperity at 8:08 AM on June 8, 2014

    Here are some tutorials for DIY haircuts. (I have never tried them, so I can't comment on their effectiveness.)
    posted by Lycaste at 9:50 AM on June 8, 2014

    This book: Curly Girl

    Absolutely LOVE the book - I've never liked my hair in my entire life, but it's SO much better after disccovering this book!
    posted by stormyteal at 10:58 AM on June 8, 2014

    FYI, I just used this tutorial to cut 6" off my own long curly hair. I cut it dry. Someone else had to trim some stragglers with a $10 pair of hair scissors but it worked great.
    posted by DarlingBri at 7:46 AM on July 11, 2014

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