Getting your hair trimmed has traditionally been a punchline for hair-lovers everywhere. The joke is that you go in to get a millimeter snipped and you end up with a bob, mourning your lost ends. It’s that very idea that leads so many women to skip the salon entirely, deciding instead to pick up trimming their hair as a kind of at-home hobby.
But here’s the thing: Trimming hair, like anything else, is actually a skill! Professional stylists like Redken’s own Rodney Cutler have made their careers on the ability to craft a straight line, to add volume or take it away. Cutler and experts like him think you’ve probably made a few big mistakes trimming your hair at home.
Hair Trimming Mistake: Trying To Cut Straight Bangs
The expert fix: When it comes to cuts that were clearly done in the privacy of your own bathroom, Cutler says the easiest way to identify them is by the presence of slightly crooked bangs. You see, it’s tempting to create that wine-fueled fringe by placing scissors parallel to your eyebrows, saying a prayer, and slicing...but we’re willing to bet you know what kind of results that will get you. Not great, says Cutler.
“If you try to cut a straight line and it’s not straight, it will be obvious. What I recommend, if you’re cutting your bangs, you want to come in with what we call point cutting,” the stylist explains. “You come vertically into the hair rather than horizontally, so the imperfection becomes a part of the strategy.”
Absolutely can’t resist the urge to trim? Cutler recommends angling your shears to about one o’clock before you slice into your would-be bangs. That way, the imperfection becomes a part of the cut and you don’t spend the next half hour trying to straighten out your fringe.
“It will create a soft and disheveled line, but it will still remove the length you’ve been looking to remove,” Cutler adds.
Hair Trimming Mistake: Layers Of Different Lengths
The expert fix: Layers looks beautiful on most people—we can all agree on that. What looks slightly less appealing are huge hunks of hair or layers that are longer on one side than the other. Cutler says that’s due to the elevation of the hair when you’re trimming it at home.
“You could theoretically comb [your hair] down and just cut it, but haircutting’s so much more than that,” the stylist says. “It’s the elevation—which we call layering—that makes it very complicated. So if you pull out one side to 90 degrees and you pull out the other side to 70 degrees, you’re going to get a variation on both sides.”
There isn’t really a home fix for mismatched layers, which is why it’s so important to take trims seriously. It’s far more time-consuming to grow back two inches you accidentally cut off than it is to schedule a professional haircut.
Hair Trimming Mistake: Wet Cuts
The expert fix: Hair shrinks. It’s not only curly girls that deal with shrinkage, either; most of us have hair that slightly shortens as it dries. If you’re just out of the shower, eyeing your damp strands in the mirror and debating a significant life change, hit pause for a second.
The one-inch trim you thought you cut might look a bit different once your hair is totally dry, Cutler says.
“Ultimately you’re going to walk around in your daily life with dry hair, so you want to see how the hair looks, how did it grow out from the previous haircut. Is the humidity in New York in the summer shrinking the hair and making it swell? You want to get a read on how they manage it.”
To avoid too-short hair, make sure you’re always dealing with bone-dry strands. That, or entrust your inches to a stylist who does this full-time!
Hair Trimming Mistake: Not Seeing The Pros
The expert fix: Trims may have a bad reputation, but haven’t all of us gotten some lousy P.R. at one point or another? Over the years, stylists have gotten savvier than ever about ways to make their clients’ hair dreams come true.
“People pay for what’s left on their head, not what’s cut off,” Cutler says.
When he approaches a trim, it’s all about three things: empowerment, suitability, and trends.
“I want open-ended questions about what makes them feel sexy, comfortable, confident,” he explains. “Suitability, can they manage it at home? Suitability, are they willing to invest money to keep it up?”
Finally, Cutler considers trends. While most of his clients want to stay on the cutting (sorry) edge of the hair world, he never wants to give them a cut that makes them feel uncomfortable. And yes, he’s thinking through these elements every single time a client sits down in front of him. That’s the difference between a home trim and a salon experience.
With all our questions wrapped up, we couldn’t resist asking: Can you immediately tell if someone’s trimmed their own hair? The answer is, of course, a resounding yes.
“It’s funny because I’ve had times where I’ll be like...did I cut your hair last time? And you’re like horrified, right? There’ll be a bit that just doesn’t make sense.”
Armed with Cutler's best tips, you're ready to make some big decisions about the way you maintain your cut. Happy trimming!