The Guide to Cutting Hair at Home

June 02, 2021

We’ve all seen it in movies. Lead characters cutting their own hair in a hotel bathroom and coming out with a gorgeous, jaw-dropping makeover. However, we’ve also seen all the real-life horror stories that come with doing your own or your kids' hair at home. Truth be told, when it comes to cutting hair, getting a qualified professional to do the job is always the best choice. We personally believe that hairstyling is an art and every masterpiece requires a trained artist.

Men and women are defined by their haircuts. It tells something about their background, taste, social status, and personality. A professional stylist can help bring those out into perfectly trimmed, perfectly layered hair. But with social distancing being the ‘new normal’, not everyone is comfortable visiting a hair salon for a haircut. Cutting hair at home can also save you a small fortune when money is tight. And let’s face it, everyone is on a bit of a budget these days.  

You don’t have to worry, though. Hair cutting is a skill and like all skills, it’s something that can be learnt and mastered through experience and practice. You might not make it to professional status but as long as it looks semi decent until you’re able to get to a professional  that’s all that matters. This guide will help set you up on how to cut your own hair (or someone else’s) without falling into the expectations vs reality checklist which is still super easy to do.

Who is this guide for?

A word of caution. We’re not intending to teach you how to become a master stylist; that requires years of actual professional experience! If that’s what you’re looking for, then it's best to consider reading more advanced posts or sign up for a hairdressing apprenticeship. 

Instead, this guide aims to help any beginner or amateur hair cutter who wants to recreate a little of the magic that comes with visiting your favorite salon or barber shop. In this step by step, easy to understand guide, you will learn all things hair cutting including:

  • the tools you will need
  • where to buy the tools
  • different types of cuts for men and women, and
  • the three basic methods that are the foundation of every successful hairstyle.

First, let’s talk about the step that every aspiring hair cutter is required to take – choosing the right set of tools.

Basic Hairstyling Tools

Choosing the right hair cutting tools is a critical step. Even a master hair cutter can fail if you give him the wrong set of tools. While tools do not necessarily determine your success, it’s something you’re going to have to invest in if you want your haircut to look more natural. You don’t really need to spend a fortune getting the best professional tools (unless you’re planning to make a career out of this), you only need to find the “right” kind of tools. Here are just some of the tools you need to spend some money on.


Obviously, scissors are the most important hair cutting tool since you can’t cut hair without them. If you are serious about investing in the right tools, it's best to spend some money on scissors more than anything else.

The biggest mistake that any amateur haircutter has ever made is using paper scissors to cut a bunch of hair. Reliable hair cutting scissors are characterized by their sharpness and comfort. For hair cutting, you need to have very, very sharp scissors. If you’re unsure about your scissors, you can simply try out this test.

Sharpness Test

If purchasing from a reputable scissor business (like Scissor tech) you shouldn’t have to worry if the scissors are sharp enough or not. Why? Because it’s where the professionals buy their scissors. However, if you plan on buying a cheap pair that'sNOT from a reputable scissor business then please expect that is the type of cuts you will create - cheap and nasty.  

When purchasing their first pair of scissors, customers are most often concerned about the length of their scissors. There is really no hard rule in choosing the right scissor length. Whether you choose 5-inch or 7-inch scissors, what’s really most important is that they feel comfortable on your hands and fingers. There are a lot of industry tips, however. Like, for example, professionals say that shorter scissors are better when you’re cutting huge masses of hair. Overall, you can use any length of scissors at your disposal as long as you are confident in using them. You can simply adjust to whatever size you’re using. 

In saying that, the average hairdresser generally uses 5, 5.5 or 6inch scissors. The best way for you to ensure that your scissors are sharp enough for hair cutting is to order one from a legitimate hairstyling scissors supplier.

You need to be careful, though, because professional shears can be expensive but they are obviously expensive for a reason. Here are some things you need to consider before buying your first pair.


Not all scissors were created equal. They can differ in size, material, color and purpose. If you are going to invest in one, might as well go with something that fits your preferred style. But first, it is important that you consider your budget.

To get a good haircut, you need to use good quality scissors. Poor quality scissors will cut sharply, giving you an unattractive haircut. For a good trim, you need to have high-quality scissors made specifically for hair styling. Your hair scissors need to be smooth so that the hair can glide through the scissors, avoiding any unnecessary pulls that can damage the hair.

Scissor Tech Australia offers different types of hair styling scissors at every price point.



For let's call it - 'beginner stylists' rather than DIY Scissor tech has covered the best scissor for a beginner, because really if this isn't going to be a long term professional thing, then you wont need the sharpest tool in the shed if you get my drift. So we recommend the Classic Hair Scissor, the scissor that will get the job done without being too expensive. 


There are two main types of blades that you can choose from – beveled and convex. Each blade will give you an entirely different result. Scissors with a bevel edge are advised for layering and tapering hair. On the other hand, the convex blade is used for slide cutting, smooth cutting, and standard cutting.

There are also thinning or textured scissors available for those particular purposes. If you are purchasing general hair cutting scissors, you may want to supplement those with hair thinning scissors to help remove the bulk and reduce the volume by blending the hair - but please note thinning or texturizing shears remove a lot of hair quickly and can again quickly turn bad, so please know what your doing with them before you attack your hair and get scissor happy.


Left-Handed or Right-Handed

Average stores typically sell scissors made for right-handed individuals. On the other hand, professional hair cutting shears suppliers offer tools for both left-handed or right-handed individuals.

Explore Left-Handed Scissors

Handle Type

There are various types of scissor handles, including the standard handle and the offset handle. Offset scissors include offset finger rings for faster cutting. There’s also what we call the swivel handle which has a thumb ring that rotates 360 degrees so you can position your thumb comfortably whether you’re cutting up or down. A standard or offset handle works fine for home hair cutters. The swivel handle is for experienced hairdressers who are at risk of repetitive injuries from cutting hair day after day. 

Swivel Scissors


If you thought that hair cutting scissors only come in one colour, then you thought wrong. There are various scissor designs and colours out there. Scissor Tech Australia offers a great variety of professional hair shears in different colours such as rose gold, matte black, neon pink,rainbow and traditional silver.


Pink Hairdressing Scissors

Rainbow Hairdressing Scissors

Rose Gold Hairdressing Scissors

Having a colored sheer makes the working day a little more fun however, we cant really call this article anything to do with 'a working day' but who says you cant make the color side of it fun!? Scissor tech's all time fav would have to be the ever so stunning Rose Gold (as above) do we need to explain why we love it!? I think not! The color speaks for itself.

Steel Type

If you’re just starting out, you don’t necessarily have to worry about this. However, if you are committed to making an investment, then it’s important to ask your supplier about the type of steel your scissors are made of. To learn more about the different types of steel,please refer to our post here.


For beginners, we advise using a 7-inch rectangular shaped comb. Do not use the angled taper combs that usually comes with those DIY barber kits. The taper comb is difficult to handle because it is too flexible. It usually bends when you’re using it to pick up a large mass of hair.


Any spray bottle with a sprayer and jet option will do as long as you use it exclusively for water and fill it with fresh water each time you use it. You can easily purchase these online or at any general supplies stores.


Chair cloths are basically inexpensive and you can easily find one at any local salon supply shop. We advise you to choose one that’s made of polyester so that the hair will easily slide off. We also advise that you actually use one, to not only protect you from being itchy for the rest of the day but to also protect your clothes from any accidental snipping.


If you are trying to achieve shorter haircuts (buzz cut, flat tops, taper, etc.) you also need to buy some electric clippers. Make sure that the blades are sharp and can actually cut through the hair. Generally, most barbers use clippers that can be plugged into a wall outlet. Battery operated clippers can be used when you're outlining beards, shaping a mustache, trimming the neck, and adding some sideburns.

For best quality clippers, we recommend that you get one from a professional barber supply store. You can use a toothbrush to clean them or use a lubricating oil to remove any hair stuck in the blades.


These tools are entirely optional. You only need these if you are trying to achieve a very specific cut. For example, if you want a flat top cut, then you’re going to have to buy a special “flat top comb”. On the other hand, if you have an afro hairstyle, you’ll also need a fork-type comb, the list can go on! 

Basic Ways to Cut Hair

There are just three basic ways to cut hair which is the foundation of every good haircut.

  1. Trimming
  2. Layering
  3. Clipper cutting

Every haircut can be achieved through one or a combination of these three basic fundamental methods. Master these three and you can get almost any style you want.


A trim is simply cutting off the ends in a straight line. This is typically used when cutting bangs or shortening long hair. It’s also used as a step in other basic cuts.  Before we explain how you can trim hair, here are few things you need to remember:

  •   Always use extremely sharp shears
  •   Untangle the hair with a brush or a comb before trimming
  •   Thick hair often needs to be wet first. When hair is wet, it may seem longer than normal so cut off less than your desired length as the length will be shorter when the hair is dry.

Keep these things in mind whenever you’re doing a trim to avoid any regrets later on.

How to Trim Long Hair

Here is a step-by-step procedure that you can easily follow, especially if you’re not dealing with extremely thick hair. Bulky hair may need more time and patience.

  1. Set up the patron. This includes draping the chair cloth, cleaning the tools, etc. You need to do this step even if you're cutting your own hair.
  2. Make sure that the hair is absolutely tangle-free and there are no hair strands hidden behind the ears or at the back of the neck. This can take a little bit of time especially if the hair is dry, thick, or damaged. If you’re working with thick hair, it is best to shampoo it first. Wetting hair is used so that hair can easily stick together, making it easier for you to cut it. The main disadvantage of cutting wet hair is not being able to predict how much it’s going to shrink once it’s dry. This is particularly risky with “cowlicks”. As a rule, only wet hair when it is too thick. If you’re cutting bangs with “cowlicks” or are working with fine hair, there’s no need to wash it first.
  3. Split the hair in the middle (Ear to ear) and brush it all the way back.
  4. Turn the patron’s head forward so they’re looking down at the floor. You will begin by cutting the hair underneath. The hair at the top of the head should be longer than the hair close to the nape so that the hair appears to turn inwards instead of outwards.

How to Hold the Shears

  1. The way to properly use your shears is to hold them with your preferred hand – either right or left. Insert your thumb through the larger ring handle and the middle finger into the smaller ring. Holding your shears this way will maximize the amount of tension on your cutting edge.
  2. Begin cutting on whatever side you are most comfortable with. Start by cutting about ¼-inch longer than needed in a straight line. Use fewer cuts to make the trim look more uniform.
  3. Cut until you have trimmed across the entire length at the back.
  4. Check to see if the cut is even. Make sure that there are no ends left uncut.

How to Trim Bangs

  1. Separate bangs from the rest of the hair. If you have thicker bangs, then section off further away from the front. If you have thin, wispy-looking bangs, section around 1/4 inch or less from the hairline in front.
  2. Cut in a straight line at least ¼ inch longer than the desired length. It is important for you to note that the bangs don’t have to be connected to the rest of the frame on the sides. It is okay if the bangs just drop-off into the longer hair with no connecting lines. If you are unsure, you can simply follow the standard rule of cutting from eyebrow to eyebrow. The absolute, most important rule of all when trimming bangs is to never cut too much. Bangs tend to shrink more than any other part of the hair because it does not weigh heavy enough to hold down the hair.
  3. Check if the trim is even and touch up if needed.



“Layering” is the most commonly used method of cutting hair. Trimming, framing, or outlining, cuts length. Layering cuts bulkiness. Layering hair can involve cutting the hair from all over the head instead of just cutting the end length. The best way to visualize this is to imagine a cartoon in which the character is electrocuted and his hair would stand straight out on end.

To layer hair, you will pick the hair up in small sections, all around the head, and cut some off. Here’s a simple layering style for you to get started.

The Shaggy Cut

This cut works very well for naturally curly long hair. Below is a step-by-step process on how to do the shaggy cut.

  1. Pull all the hair up to the top center of the head.
  2. Hold the hair up with lots of tension 
  3. Cut the hair straight off 5” or more from the top of the head.
  4. Realize the hair and let the hair fall to reveal the “shaggy haircut.”
  5. Frame according to preference.

Lifting hair with the comb

To layer hair, you must learn how to pick the hair up with the comb and hold it with the first 2 fingers of the other hand. There are three different ways for picking up hair with a comb:

1) Push the comb into the hair and lift

2) Pull the comb toward you and lift

3) Section the hair in small partings and lift section by section.

To begin, hold the comb in the preferred hand (right or left). Either push or pull a small parting of hair up with the comb. At the same time, grasp the hair underneath the comb with the index and middle finger of the other hand.

The only difference between the push and pull method is, the push method pushes hair away from you and up with the comb, and the pull method pulls hair toward you and up. We suggest you use a combination of both push and pull methods, instead of going into the hair with the comb randomly, sections of hair are taken up in small partings. These methods will make more sense to the more experienced haircutter.

If you are just starting, these methods should become more understandable with experience. In these instructions you will begin the layer cut in front and work back from there. It really doesn’t matter where you begin and end the cut after you learn how to do it. You should keep in mind, haircutting is not always methodical. Every person’s hair is different.

Basic Layer Cut

  1. First imagine how the hair would look standing out on end.
  2. Comb all hair out so there are no tangles. It is probably better to wet thick hair first.
  3. Face the person whose hair you are cutting. Remember this! You must be facing the patron whenever you layer the top-front and the left side of the patron. (For left-handers, face the patron when layer cutting the right side instead). You must always cut in these positions in order to get the best access for the section of the head you are layering.
  4. First, hold both the scissors and the comb in the hand you favor. Begin by lifting a small section in the front with the comb. This is just like when you section off the bangs, only, instead of combing the hair down, you pull it up. Grasp the section of hair you have just pulled up with the first 2 fingers of your other hand. Once you have a grip on the hair, transfer the comb to the hand that is gripping the hair, holding it between your thumb and first finger. The scissors should not switch hands.
  5. Start to layer by cutting the hair you are lifting.

Note: Be sure not to cut much shorter than 5 inches unless you want the hair to stick up a little or unless the person whose hair you are cutting uses some formula to keep the hair in place. Usually cutting shorter than a 5-inch layer is too short.

Cut the hair grasped above your fingers only to the second knuckle. The remainder of the hair in the fingers cannot be grasped well enough. You will cut that hair in the next row of sections.

This first cut is called the “guideline” because you want the rest of the hair to be the same length.

  1. Now push the comb into a section a little bit further back than the section you just cut. Pull up the hair. Try also to pull up a small amount of hair from the previous section. You should be able to actually see the guideline from the previous cut.

Important: There are three ways you can find the guideline when layering the hair.

  •   by looking at or “seeing through” the hair from the previous guideline
  •   by estimating the measurement of how long the first section was cut, in other words, by feel
  •   practice, practice, practice.
  1. Continue steps 5 and 6 straight back toward the crown of the head, then start a new row continuing the same process. The crown is that section at the top-back of the head where the hair comes out of the scalp in a circular, tornado-like pattern. Be especially careful not to cut too short in this section or the hair will stick up.
  2. Once all the top sections are cut, you are ready to layer the left side (or for left-handers, the right side). Continue to face the patron. Pull a small section of hair out with the comb from the left front side so that you meet the guideline from the top. Hold the comb at the same angle as the side of the head. All hair must be picked up and cut perpendicular (directly out) from where the hair grows. Cut again from front to back in rows.
  3. Now move to the back of the person whose hair you are cutting. Always stand in the back of the patron when layering the right side and back of the head (except left-handers, who should stand in the back only when cutting the left side and back of the head).
  4. Layer the right side and back using the same procedure. See illustrations. It doesn’t really matter how you do it as long as all the hair is picked up in small sections and cut the same lengths. Instead of layering starting in front and going back, it is all right to start in back and go forward, or even in another direction, like from side to side. This is also a good way to check for overall evenness of the cut.
  5. Once you have completed the layering part of the cut, you can trim/frame the hair according to the desired length. Many stylists prefer to trim the hair first and use this length as the first guideline. Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to do it. What is important is the end result. I prefer to trim (or frame) after layering because there is less hair to trim.
  6. Don’t get discouraged. If the haircut looks “choppy” or if you see obvious “lines” from the scissor chops, then continue to re-do those sections. Instead of layer cutting from the front to the back, try cutting going the other way, from side to side.

How to Use Thinning Shears

If the cut still looks choppy, you may need to go to a professional and get it fixed or if that isn’t an option you can use some thinning shears. These will give the hair a smoother or softer appearance. If this is necessary, lift the hair out from the head with the comb in the area that looks choppy.

Thinning shears should touch flat against the outer part of the comb. Cut only 1/2” or less with the thinners. Never go too close to the scalp with the thinning shears. Use the thinners only in the areas that look “choppy”, that generally includes the ends of the hair on the baseline or layers.

Most cuts will not even require the use of these shears. Thinning shears are most useful on super thick hair because scissor lines tend to show up more on lighter shades of hair.

Leave it to the professional 

Look, I’ll be real with you - Of course I/we all have tried to do something we’re not actually qualified in and 9 times out of 10 it is never a great result, but for the 1 time it does well, go you! For the love of hairdressers and their artist-qualified ways please, please, PLEASE get a professional to your haircut, trust us -  you’ll much prefer the end result! If however,  you can’t get to a professional then follow the guide above with absolute caution you crazy fools!    

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