Monday, February 12, 2007

Cutting Your Family's Hair

Keri asked me to write about how I learned to cut my family's hair.  So I'll try to do that.

Cutting Girls' Hair

I grew up in a family of four girls.  My Mom always trimmed our hair until we reached an age where we desired different styles of cuts and then she took us to the beauty parlor.  When I was 17 years old, my parents adopted a 1 month old baby girl.  So, I was able to see my Mom cutting a little girl's hair again. 

When I had my children, it was 3 girls in a row.  And it was just natural to me to trim their bangs.  I couldn't see taking a 1 yo to the beauty parlor to pay someone else to do it.  So, out came my scissors after A's bath one day.  I combed her hair and cut off the long point  of hair in the middle of her forehead.  I have always used the eye brows as my cutting guideline.  I comb the wet bangs, hold them between the pointer and middle fingers of my left hand, and trim them at the eyebrows.  I place my fingers just at/above the eyebrows, and cut below my fingers.  (Being right handed, I use my left hand to hold the hair and my right to cut.  Obviously, you'd reverse this if you are left handed.)

As A's hair grew, it was also natural to just comb her wet hair and even up the back of it.  Then R joined the family, and there were two little girls needing to have their hair trimmed.  R had much thicker hair than A did, but she didn't have any of A's curls.  It wasn't hard to adjust to cutting their different hair types. 

I found it easiest to cut their hair right after a bath.  Using the comb I'd comb the hair and hold the hair in place against their back using the comb at the length I wanted to trim it to.  I'd cut below the comb, right up against it.  Then I'd move the comb over and cut at the same level as I went.  After it's all cut.  I comb it again to look for any long hairs I missed.  It's easy to see if one side has ended up longer than the other.  Then I just even it up.  I like to go around to the front and comb their hair again.  Then I can see from the front if the two sides are even (pulled forward in front of their shoulders).  If I find any long hairs, or an uneven length, I hold one side between my pointer and middle fingers again, and cut below them. 

It's really just a matter of having confidence in yourself, and reminding yourself it's only hair, and it grows back.  I don't do complicated hair styles on my little girls.  We like to keep their hair long, with simple bangs.  We did have to cut C's hair into short bobs with rounded edges at the front when she began chewing on her hair, but it is not our preferred style for our girls.  We like longer hair which we can braid or put in pony tails, or leave down (most of the time).  In reality, I may end up with shorter hair than I intended to cut, but it'd be hard to ruin it.  And if all else fails, and you do mess it up ... then you can still make that trip to the beauty salon.  But if you never try, you'll never find out if you can save that money.

Cutting Your Own Hair
From cutting my own girls hair, I soon moved on to cutting my own hair.  To be honest, I had been cutting my own bangs between beauty parlor visits for years.  Granted my first few attempts as a teen were disastrous, and I soon learned NOT to try to "feather" my own bangs.  I just comb them when wet, hold them between my fingers and trim at the eyebrow.  Then comb out again and snip any stragglers.  This usually gives a slightly rounded cut with the sides a bit longer.  I like it this way since it's softer.

I wore my hair in a bob, which I would let grow out to shoulder length and then cut shorter again.  In a moment of desperation one day, I just started cutting my wet hair.  I started by cutting the sides, while looking in the mirror.  Then I reached around behind my head and cut the back of it to be level with the sides.  It was a short bob, but it looked nice.  Of course, I have wave and body that helps hide any uneven ends. 

I also learned that I could cut a slightly longer cut, by splitting my hair in half down the back.  Drawing each half over a shoulder, and then cutting them the same length.  From the back, it gave a slightly  rounded u-shaped cut. From the front, that wasn't as noticeable.   I would let it grow several inches, then cut it back up to my collar bones again.  I did this for years.

Three years ago, I finally decided to grow my hair long.  I found online instructions for cutting your own long hair and used that to cut off some of the u-shape  my hair had.  Feye's Self Trimming Methods  When my hair grew to my lower back, I felt it needed to have the split ends removed.  I actually had to decide to trust my husband to cut my hair that time.  After a shower, I had him come into the bathroom and cut my hair, using the bottom of my bra-line in back as a cutting guide.  It worked well and he now does this for me about 2 times a year.  Although, I still occasionally cut it myself using Feye's Self Trimming Methods as linked above.  I still cut my own bangs about every 6 weeks.

If you aren't comfortable trying to cut your own hair, and you can't bring yourself to trust your husband, you could find a friend to trim it for you.  You could even exchange trims.    Obviously, this will not work if you have a layered hairstyle.   For me, I have found that I prefer a simpler style that doesn't require regular beauty parlor visits.  I don't want to be controlled by my hair style.  When I had more complicated styles, I always reached a point of frustration with my hair.  Sometimes I'd have to put up with it for several weeks before I could afford to go to the beauty parlor.  With a simpler style, I'm not having to pay anyone else to cut my hair, and I don't have to be frustrated that it needs to be cut before I can get in to have it done.  My hair isn't controlling my finances, my moods, or my self-esteem.  (I don't want to imply that it is wrong to have a style and visit the beauty parlor regularly ... but if it is a financial hardship to your family, then I do think it is something to reconsider.)

I did go to the beauty parlor in December and had some length cut off my hair and some layers cut in.  It was the first time I'd had a salon cut in 7.5 years.  My hopes had been that the layers would add some body as well as helping to let more of my wave come out.  I'm not sure if it really does or not.  I am not sure that I can cut layers into it myself, and I'm not sure how often I can get it cut at a beauty parlor.  So I may not continue the layers.  I do have instructions from a friend (former hairstylist) on how to do it myself.  But until I do that successfully, I will not share them here. 

Cutting Boys' Hair
Now, to the harder part of this ... cutting my husband and sons' hair.  Several years ago, I was reading MOMYS Digest and several ladies were sharing about how they cut their sons and husband's hair.  I mentioned it to Steve, and he was willing to give it a try.  This was actually before we had any sons, so it was over 6.5 years ago.  We bought a set of Wahl clippers from Walmart, that came with a video.  I watched the video on cutting hair and then I gave it a try. 

It helped that Steve paid attention at his hair cuts.  He knew he like the #3 guard on the back and sides of his hair.  He knew he liked the back of his hairline and his sideburns trimmed shorter than their natural growth line, and shaved off.  He knew he liked the cowlick at the back left longer so he could plaster it down with hairspray and avoid the Alfalfa look.  The scary part to me was using the scissors to layer the top of his hair and then blend the sides in with the part that had been clipped.  But we gave it a try, knowing that if necessary, I could just fix my mistake by giving him a buzz cut.

I began by using the clippers on the sides and back of his hair.  Then I followed the instructions on the video to use the comb and my fingers to hold the hair up and cut it level, going in several different directions to get a nice even layering.  I followed the shape of the cut he'd recently been given, and did my best.  After that, I finished it up by shaving his neck and making sure his neckline and sideburns were neat and tidy.  Then Steve examined it and gave me pointers on what to change. 

Some things I've learned are that he likes his neckline raised about an inch.  So I shave the hair that grows further down on his neck, and raise that neckline an inch, evenly across.  Then I use the #2 guard (one step down from what I used on the back of his hair) to blend the bottom inch of his remaining hair into the rest of his slightly longer hair.  After I shave off his sideburns, I also use the #2 to do the edges around his ears.  Just to soften the edge a bit and give a smoother look to his cut.

I'm not perfect.  Sometimes I do get the cowlick area at the back too short and it gives him fits for a week or two.  Sometimes I get the front bang area shorter than he likes, especially since he also has a cowlick in that area, and a widow's peak.   But for the most part, we are both usually pleased with his hair cuts.  We've tried some long buzz cuts (using the largest guard on the top of his head) during the Summer months, but he prefers a scissored cut.

After we had started this adventure with cutting Steve's hair, God sent us our first son.  I have cut both our boys hair since they were about 11 months old. We usually begin cutting their hair when ladis at church start making tiny ponytails on top of their head.  When very young, Steve holds them on his lap while I cut.  Usually, it helps to play one of their favorite videos.  I still use the #3 guard on the back/sides of their hair, just like their Daddy.  But I use a larger guide (#6 or #8) on top of their head, and blend the two areas together with my comb and scissors. I do this by holding the comb vertically and combing sections of their hair out away from their head.  I can see the shorter clipped hair, and the longer clipped hair.  Using my scissors, I then cut a straight line against my comb.  This gives an even blended look to the sides of the head.   Sometimes I give J (brown hair) a shorter buzz cut in the summer, using a #4 guard on top of his head, and the #3 on the back and sides.  But this does not look right on 3 yo M with his blond hair.

In the past two years, my Father-in-law has begun to ask me to cut his hair.  I was very reluctant at first, because I didn't want to mess up someone else's hair, outside my immediate family.  But I gave it a try.  He was very specific with what he wanted.  And thankfully he likes his hair very short, so I do it all with the clippers.  He likes a #2 guard on the back and sides of his head.  Then he likes a #3 or #4 guard on the top.  And he likes his hair trimmed with NO guard at all around his ears.  I use the #1 guard to blend from the shaved area into the rest that I cut with the #2 guard.  And I use the #1 guard to do the same on his neckline in back, too.  Then I use the scissors and comb to make sure the slightly longer hair on top of his heads blends in smoothly with the shorter side hair. 

Sometimes my Father-in-law comes with something different he wants to try.  Like the month he wanted a #1 guard on the sides and back and the #2 guard on top. My Mother-in-law was not happy with that super short haircut, though, and the next month she came with him to make sure he didn't go that short again.    And then several hair cuts ago, he started directing me to shave around his ears without any guard at all.  That was new, because he was frustrated with how quickly the hair around his ears was growing back.  It's easier for me this way because he always tells me what he wants, and I just do it. 

Having the right tools

I will say that it really helps to have quality tools.  I originally had a pair of hair cutting scissors from Walmart, which I occasionally used on non-hair things.  I started to notice it not cutting well, which makes for uneven edges, so we bought a new set of hair scissors from a beauty supply outlet.  I've carefully guarded these and only used them on hair.   My hair clippers need to be replaced, they are starting to fight with me.  Sometimes they seem to reluctantly slug their way through the hair.  Sometimes (especially when the blades need to be oiled or the hair is longer) they will pull at the boy's hair instead of cutting it quickly.   We had bought a new pair of clippers, but they never cut well from the very beginning.  I went back to my Wahl clippers, but I know I need to start looking for a replacement pair. 

If anyone else is thinking of cutting their family's hair, I think they should give it a try.  You can find videos or books on hair cutting at the library or buy them online, if you want to study it a bit more.  As I said earlier,  if you keep the cuts basic, it's rather simple.  And if you do mess it up, you can either cut it shorter or have someone else fix your mistakes.   Don't give up!!   It grows back, and you can always try again.  

Of course, if you have teens they may not want to take the risk of letting you cut their hair.  It helps to start when they are young.  And if you have any girls who wear their hair shorter or layered, then you may not be able to cut their hair unless they are willing to grow out their layers and wear it in a simpler style.



  1. sorry that link didn't work.

  2. our Wahl never did a *great* job, just adequate. After a few years I bought a slightly-used Andis through eBay after surfing around and reading some reviews. It is <i>so</i> much nicer than our cheapie Wahl was. I've been using it for years and really like it.

    <a href="">Andis Clipper Like Mine</a>

  3. I have always cut my girls hair also. My oldest did want a different cut for awhile so my hairstylist cut it. My hardest thing is finding the time.


  4. I just checked out a book from the library on how to cut your childrens hair. I normally cut my sons hair at night(he's autistic and hates his hair cut) and trim my dd bangs. I have stared nipping on mine a little. Thanks for the tips!

  5. "It's really just a matter of having confidence in yourself, and reminding yourself it's only hair, and it grows back."

    What a fantastic post! I am definitely inspired to give this a try; it is such a hassle to watch my boy's hair grow....and grow....and grow....until I finally make the time to haul everyone to the barber that is 25 minutes away.

    Thank you so much!


  6. That was me, Ms. Anonymous :)




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