What You Should Know Before Trying to Cut Your Own Hair

Considering cutting your own hair during the lockdown? These practical tips from a pro barber could save yourself from making a big mistake.

With salons and barbershops across much of the country shuttered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, chances are, you’re feeling a bit, well… Shaggy. Before you take matters into your own hands, however, spare a thought for your hairstylist—the only person who’s as concerned about your ’do as you.

Toronto barber and hairstylist Andrew Jandu warns that do-it-yourself haircare—from cuts to colour—is inherently risky.

“You can watch a YouTube tutorial on trimming your hair that makes it look really easy, but a lot of the techniques involved are very complicated,” Jandu says. What proves particularly tricky for men, according to Jandu, is achieving even results at the crown, where the length of the hair on top of the head should blend into the length at the back. Given the complexity of the job—and the average Canadian’s lack of experience with clippers—it’s increasingly likely he’s going to be dealing with some DIY disasters when the lockdown is lifted.

Similarly, clients who are accustomed to professional hair colouring may now be considering box colour as a quick fix for greys. Jandu’s advice? Don’t do it.

“Box dye is going to set you back with your hair colour goals,” he says, noting that every client he’s had who has taken the box colour route ends up regretting it, even as a short-term solution for roots that are growing out. “It’s really challenging to match your hair colour exactly with box dye, so if you’re attempting to blend out roots, you’ll probably end up with very clear banding,” Jandu says. Even worse, the box colour could end up interfering with your next professional colouring. “If you decide you want to go lighter in the future, you may have to wait until the box dye is fully grown out of your hair, or you may need a professional colour correction.” (Here’s why self-quarantine is the perfect time to embrace grey hair.)

That said, there is still some basic grooming that men in particular can tackle with some degree of confidence. “You can keep your hair from looking shaggy just by trimming your hairline at the back of your neck and above your ears,” Jandu says. This quick clean-up requires nothing more than a comb, a helping pair of hands (you’ll want to enlist the aid of someone with whom you’re self-isolating) and a beard trimmer. If you don’t already own the latter, it’s a worthy investment, says Jandu. “Think of it as the money you would’ve spent on your next haircut,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be fancy, either—you can pick up a basic trimmer at the drugstore or on Amazon.”

Here’s how to trim the hairline at the back of the neck and above the ears:

Editor’s note: This video was filmed in “bubble” conditions.

What you’ll need:

  • Comb
  • Drugstore-quality beard trimmer
  • The assistance of someone in your household

Step-by-step instructions:

  • Begin directly above the ear, using only the outside edge of the beard trimmer to follow the contour of the ear.
  • For a clean look, ensure there’s clearance between the hair and the ear.
  • If you’re starting with longer hair, use the comb to sweep hair down before each application of the beard trimmer.
  • Continue the trim line around the ear, pulling the earlobe down and forward as necessary. Use the full flat width of the trimmer to create a straight line down from the ear towards the nape of the neck.
  • At the neck, focus on cleaning up stray hairs rather than shaving up into the hairline. “Keep it low,” advises Jandu. “Don’t worry about trying to create a straight line.”

“By the time you get back to work, your hair might be a little bit longer, but this way it won’t look sloppy,” explains Jandu. To tame those longer locks until your barber is back in business, he recommends styling it either back or to the side, using your normal styling products. “You may have to start using a brush and a blow dryer after showering,” he says. “They’ll help train the hair and hold it into position.”

Now that you’re armed with this advice on how to cut your own hair, check out 40 more things to do during the lockdown.