Dusting Vs. Trimming: Which Technique Is Right For You?

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Dusting Vs. Trimming: Which Technique Is Right For Your Split Ends?

27 April 2018
photo of stylist trimming hair in salon

Emily Arata

Senior Editor, Hair.com

As an employee of L’Oréal, Emily works with celebrity stylists to make finding the right cut, color, or style easier than ever before. She's previously written for Allure, Elite Daily, and First We Feast.

Trying to fight split ends without losing length is like battling a many-headed Hydra, the mythical snake that could grow back two heads in the place of every severed one. No matter how careful you are with heat protectant, it seems as if they always occur.

To keep your damaged ends from splitting all the way up the strand, your stylist will likely recommend you chop those traitorous split ends right off. If you’re trying to grow out your hair or fear accidentally ending up with a bob, however, the word “trim” can sound mighty threatening. That’s why it’s so important to understand dusting versus trimming and which maintenance technique is right for you.

These two cutting methods will be your best friend while trying to maintain your length. Jill Engelsen, L’Oréal Professionnel artist and brand ambassador, has the low-down on the best ways to escape Split End City.

Dusting Vs. Trimming

Technically, a dusting is a haircut that takes a quarter inch or less off your hair’s length. If you said “dust” and lost inches, there was a major miscommunication with your stylist along the way. However, there’s a tricky difference between a cut that takes off length and a “surface dusting.”

“Surface dusting is when you blow dry the hair straight and rest the hair flat on the open palm of your hand and cut parallel on the surface to remove any small hairs that stick out and are damaged. It’s a great way to keep the hair healthy throughout and not just the ends,” Engelsen explains.

The cut is optimal for ladies with curly texture or those who frequently touch up their hair color. It’s also an excellent preventative technique, meaning you’ll need fewer trims in the future because those dead ends couldn’t accumulate.

If you do need a trim, however, it’s no great loss to your length. Trims are all about maintaining the lines of your cut over time, mitigating the need for intensive cuts every time you stop by the salon.

Still not sure which cut is best for you? Your personal stylist is the ultimate resource. He or she can take the complexity of your cut into consideration, as well as your budget and lifestyle.

The Tool Matters

Most importantly, the tool matters as much as the technique. Professional stylists work to maintain the quality of your cut for future appointments, so they always treat your hair as gently as possible. And, while it might seem tempting to look in the mirror and run wild with your kitchen shears, Engelsen advises against it.

“We use uber-sharp, expensive scissors—which we call shears in hairdresser lingo—so if you are using dull scissors at home, you are cutting the ends off but you’re tearing the hair so you will just get split ends again right away. Our shears are sharp enough to cut the hair cleanly and give you longevity,” she says.

Unless you’re hiding a pair of professional grade Japanese metal shears like Engelsen’s in your kitchen somewhere, let the professionals do their job.

...And So Does The Frequency

Most of us let our cuts grow like untamed hedges before asking a hair stylist to get them back under control every six months. Unsurprisingly, this is not the way Engelsen recommends handling your hair.

“As a general rule of thumb for keeping a haircut line sharp, you should come in as soon as every four to six weeks as hair can grow approximately half an inch a month,” she says. “When the hair grows out of your head, that will affect the line on the bottom depending on the direction of your hair growth.”

If you’re wearing a short cut, Engelsen would like to see you in her chair every six to eight weeks. Long-haired ladies, you’re good for eight to twelve.

Just because you have a grace period of several months, it doesn’t mean you should forget about your stylist entirely. Making use of dustings and trims will ensure your hair stays beautiful and healthy-looking. Now, you’re armed with the lingo you need to maintain the cut you love.

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