How to Cut Hair at Home

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Learn the basics of cutting and caring for hair.
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French braiding
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Plain Braiding 1. Begin by gathering your hair into a ponytail; secure with a coated rubber band. Divide into three strands. 2. Cross the left strand over the center strand; pull hair taut. 3. Cross the right strand over the center strand; pull hair taut. 4. Repeat steps two and three until your braid is the desired length. Secure at bottom with a coated rubber band.
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French braiding

If you ever want to strike up a conversation, just mention
hairstyles and you’re off to a long chat. After all, many
folks feel that hair is the very bane of their existence,
and yet few people are satisfied with their style. Those
with straight hair want curly and vice-versa; many will go
to extreme lengths to achieve what they “think” they want.
Almost everyone has an experience they can recall, often
interesting, sometimes incredulous.

For instance, I knew a girl in grade school who had long,
thick wavy hair which she absolutely hated. She wanted
silky straight hair, and she heard from someone that you
could iron the waves out. You can guess what she did next.
Yup, she took a regular flat iron to her hair and ended up
burning almost all of it. It was so bad that she had to cut
it above her ears and start growing it all over again.

I went about it in a completely different way. I rolled my
hair on soup cans to straighten it. I would cut the ends
out of used soup cans, wash them, and roll my waist length
mass of wavy, tight curls up in them. If you can picture
what I looked like you’ll have yourself a good laugh, and
you can’t imagine how difficult it was to fall asleep in
this state. Worst of all were rainy days. Whenever there
was a day with any rain or even humidity, my hair would
almost instantly frizz and my suffering would be all for

But it’s years later now and I am more comfortable with my
hairstyle. I’ve learned which haircuts work best for me and
I’ve even learned how to cut my family’s hair.

Cutting and Styling Your Family’s Hair

Cutting your children’s hair is a great way to save money.
The cost of a child’s haircut at a barbershop often costs
about the same as that of an adult. It can also be a real
nuisance to plan a trip to town for yourself or your child,
and many times you get to town and your child decides
he/she doesn’t want a stranger to wield scissors around
his/her head. When you think about it, who can blame them?
Living out in the “sticks” as I do and having four kids, I
find that being the family barber is a great asset. Of
course I’ve made mistakes, but nothing that couldn’t be

With all the heads of hair I’ve encountered over the years,
it seems that regardless of the style, we’re all looking
for the same thing–no-fuss hair. Keep in mind that
I’m talking about basic trims, nothing fancy. The most
important piece of advice I can give is this: Cut small
amounts at a time; remember, you can’t put it back on your
head once it’s been cut off. However, if you do cut too
much off the first few times, don’t panic. It’ll grow
out…and of course, there are always hats.

Tools and Tricks of the Trade

Things will go much more smoothly if you lay out everything
you need before you start. It’s frustrating to have to go
looking for a comb when you’re in the middle of cutting
hair–especially a child’s. By the time you return,
the child will have either taken off for parts unknown or
given him or herself a new haircut.

Always start with damp or wet hair. This makes it easier to
handle, but keep in mind that hair becomes shorter after it
has dried. So be conscious of “the drying factor.” As you
may know if you have curly or wavy hair, the drying factor
is even more extreme with curls, which become much shorter
when dry. So try to compensate for this before you start

Invest in a pair of sharp scissors with rounded tips.
Trying to cut with dull shears is hopeless and results will
not be pleasant. Rounded tips are also safer when it comes
to cutting the hair of small chilren; too often they seem
to have ants in their pants, making it difficult for them
to sit still.

A good pair of hair clippers are a must for all types of
hair cutting and trimming. They are indispensable for
shaving the nape of the neck in order to give a short cut a
neatly finished look. They usually come with various
attachments or rakes for cutting hair to different lengths.
They also come in handy for shaving heads in the hot summer

Let’s Get Cutting

Place a towel or piece of sheeting around the neck of the
person’s hair that you’ll be cutting and secure it with a
pin. This will keep the clippings from getting down the
person’s back, which can be extremely irritating.

Short Hair
Begin by wetting hair, keeping in mind the “drying factor.”
Don’t part the hair unless you want a bowl-type look. Take
small sections of hair at a time; work with strands of
about a half-inch wide and less than a quarter-inch thick.
If you try cutting large clumps of hair at a time, the cut
will looked unkempt, like you used a dull knife. Starting
at the front, use a comb to pull the first strand of hair
up and trim straight across. Take the next top section and
do the same; continue all the way past the crown of the
person’s head, checking to make sure that the sections are
even with each other. To make the sides of your hair
“feather” (or layer), pull the hair up vertically with a
comb and cut. Continue doing this for each section on the

Long Hair
It has been said that if we could hang upside down and cut
our hair, it would be the perfect cut. Unfortunately this
is impossible and would result in uneven layers anyway. If
you have long hair and only need to trim the ends, wet your
hair and make an even, middle part starting at the top of
the head and going all the way back to the nape of the
neck. Bring the hair forward on each side, and comb out so
that it’s perfectly smooth. Hold your head steady and cut
the shaggy ends off straight across. This will give you a
nicely curved look when your hair is combed back. If you
want it to be perfectly straight, you can line a ribbon up
against the bottom edges of hair trim straight across.

Children’s Hair
Cutting a child’s hair is often nerve-wracking. Most of the
time we treat children like adults and expect them to sit
quietly while we make them look tidy. Wake up and be
prepared for anything!

First, sit the child at a level where you can comfortably
reach his or her head;
bending over to cut hair is a real pain in the back (and
neck). A high chair in front of a mirror works well. You’re
probably best off letting the child watch what you’re
doing. I’ve found that my children will look down while I’m
snipping–they seem to enjoy watching their hair fall.

Another good way set up a hair cutting session is to lay a
sheet on the floor and have the child sit in the middle of
it, admiring his or herself with a hand mirror while you
work around them. In any case, keep that child busy. Have
him or her collect the hair as it falls (later, they can
put it outside for birds, which use hair to build nests).
Don’t hurry; be calm, patient, and choose a time when the
child is in a fairly cooperative mood.

One last important tip: If you’re cutting bangs, be sure
the child isn’t raising his or her eyebrows while you’re
snipping–the bangs will be way too short and give the
child an unfortunate look of permanent surprise.

Beards and Mustaches
Anyone can achieve a nicely groomed beard and/or mustache,
as long as you take your time doing the trimming. Don’t use
a sideburns trimmer, which will make your beard look (and
feel) bristled and prickly; use sharp scissors. Comb the
beard and sideburns down, and then, starting at the
sideburns, bring the hair out with a comb and trim off the
excess, making sure that the scissors fully close with each
cut. Continue; when you’re done, the beard should feel
smooth and soft.

Be extra careful when trimming mustaches. I learned my
lesson the hard way. A friend arrived wanting me to trim
his mustache for him. As I was cutting, I accidentally
twisted the scissors in a way that a mustache hair got
caught. I didn’t notice, and as I pulled the scissors away
from the mustache, I managed to pull the hair out by the
roots. Though there was no noticeable damage done, it hurt
my friend like heck. So hold the scissors properly, and cut
firmly and evenly.

Take Care of Your Hair

No matter how you wear your hair, it is important to keep
it shiny and manageable. Once you establish a hair-care
routine, your hair will be beautiful and you may even start
to feel at peace with it.

As for brushing, hair does not need the “100 strokes a day”
that our ancestors spoke of–25 to 30 strokes are
plenty to distribute the natural oils. Any more can damage
the roots.

There are three basic types of hair: normal, dry, and oily.
Each requires different care. You’ll find shampoos and
conditioners available in the formula that is needed for
your hair type. Other than that, don’t be fooled by all the
fancy advertisements promising you all sorts of
things–just use a good basic shampoo and conditioner
that is right for your hair.

Shampoos & Conditioners
The instructions on most shampoo bottles tell you to lather
and rinse your hair twice; this isn’t necessary for regular
washings. One lathering should be plenty to clean your hair
without stripping your natural oils or drying out your
scalp. Do rinse your hair thoroughly with sparkling clear
water to be sure no soap residue left.

How often you shampoo depends on your hair type, how active
you are, and the environment in which you live. You should
always wash you hair after strenuous exercise or spending
time in the sun because of the increased amount of
perspiration. And shampoo your hair after exposing it to
chlorinated pool water or salt water, both of which can
damage hair.

As for conditioners, choose one for your specific type. If
you use the same conditioner for more than a month, your
hair can become immune to its formula and won’t be as
effective as when you first started using it. You can avoid
this by choosing a different brand, because companies use
different formulas. The best way to do this is to purchase
three different brands that work well for you. Use one for
a month, then switch to a different one for the second
month, another for the third month, and then return to the
first brand.

Normal Hair
If your hair is “normal,” you may choose to shampoo daily,
although this isn’t necessary. Use a shampoo formulated for
normal hair, and use a separate conditioner about every
fourth shampooing.

Oily Hair
To keep oily hair looking great, shampoo every day. Avoid
shampoos that have any conditioner in them; they will leave
a greasy residue in oily hair.

Dry Hair
Choose a shampoo especially designed for dry hair,
preferably one with a conditioning agent in it. You’ll
notice that many “dry” hair shampoos are also for damaged
hair. This is because dry hair tends to break and split
easily. Wash hair infrequently because soaps and detergents
strip hair of essential natural oils. Special conditioning
is vital to keep dry, flyaway hair under control and

Here’s a good once-a-month treatment: Put olive oil, baby
oil, or conditioner (start with the size of a quarter; add
more if necessary) into the palms of your hands. Run your
fingers down and through your hair, starting at the scalp.
Wrap your hair in a towel or plastic wrap and leave in for
about an hour or longer for extremely damaged hair. Rinse
thoroughly with warm water and lemon juice.

Braids and French Braids

Once the basics are mastered, most people find their own
way to braid comfortably. All braiding consists of is
crossing over hair, tightening, taking up the next section
of hair and continuing. (See bellow) Use coated rubber
bands, which are easier on your hair.

French braids are particularly elegant, and although the
process looks complicated, it’s really quite simple. (See
bellow) As you braid, gather additional strands and add
them to the main braid–this results in graceful
draping on each side. The look of the drape will vary
considering how thin or thick the hair strands are.

Braids, plain or french, are the perfect hairstyle while
you’re looking waiting for hair to grow out. It’s also good
for young girl’s hair because it will stay neat all day and
make the evening combing out process less painful.

Hair Care Tips

•Mix vinegar and warm water to use as a rinse. This
gets rid of excess soap residue and keeps hair extra shiny.
Lemon juice adds golden highlights to hair.

•Always treat wet hair gently. It is weak in this
state and can stretch and snap easily, which creates split
ends and fly-away hair. Use wide-toothed combs to minimize

•To untangle snarls, comb hair out starting at the
ends of the hair, working your way up. Knots at the nape of
the neck are particularly tough; be patient.

See Image Gallery for illustrations.

The French Braid


1. With your thumbs above and slightly behind your ears,
draw back and upward, gathering the hair that meets at the
crown into a ponytail. Do not bind with a rubber band.

2. Divide hair into three sections. Cross left strand over
the center strand so the two strands trade places, then the
right strand over the center so that those two strands
change places.

3. Hold the braid in your right hand, keeping the three
strands separated with your fingers. Place your left thumb
above and behind your left ear, and use it to draw a strand
of hair that is half as thick as one of the original
strands that’s located in the braid.

4. Add newly gathered hair to the left strand and cross
this increased strand over the center strand, so that the
center strand is now to the left.

5. Hold the braid in your left hand, always keeping the
three strands separate. Place your right thumb above and
behind your right ear and use it to draw a strand half as
thick as one of the originals towards the ponytail.

6. Add the newly gathered hair to the right strand and
cross this increased strand over the center, so that the
center strand is to the right.

7. Continue to gather hair from the left and right, adding
it to the strands just before you cross them over the

8. When there is no more loose hair to gather, switch to a
plain braid for the remaining hair and fasten with a coated
rubber band.