Haircutting For Dummies book cover

Haircutting For Dummies

By: J. Elaine Spear Published: 01-19-2022

Your short cut to stylish home hairdressing

Ever wondered if you could hack it at cutting your friends' and family's hair, or could even make it as a full-blown stylist? If you've got a little creative spark—a love of crafting or painting or a talent for home makeovers—and an obsessive yen to redo the dos you see around you, it's more than likely you can make the cut. The new edition of Haircutting For Dummies shows you how to draw out your inner artist and bring your ideas to glorious life on the heads of your nearest and dearest—and will help shave dollars off your beauty budget into the bargain!

In a free-spirited, chatty style, master stylist and social media corporate beauty consultant Jeryl E. Spear sits you down for a comprehensive snip-and-tell overview of how to reproduce the latest short, medium, and long hairstyles, as well as fancying things up with cutting-edge techniques like slicing, notching, and layering. Jeryl also provides a drawerful of tips on the tools you'll need to get started.

  • Get a grip on men's and women's styles
  • Set up shop at home
  • Choose your tools and keep them sharp
  • Take the first steps to embracing a beauty career

Packed with detailed illustrations and model shots to guide your work, this book has everything you need to begin the creative work of making everyone you know—and the world—a smarter, more beautiful place!

Articles From Haircutting For Dummies

9 results
9 results
Haircutting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-23-2022

If you want to cut hair, you'll need a few tools to get started. Once you feel comfortable with haircutting, these tips will help you gain the trust of children, your family and friends; give touch-ups to prolong the life of a style; and approach new styles with confidence.

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Striving for a Headful of Healthy Hair

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Although you see a lot of media and marketing hype about wellness these days, you never really hear anything about what a detrimental lifestyle can do to hair. Hair damage may not seem like such a big deal because hair doesn't become overweight or suffer from a fatal disease. Yet, when hair is damaged, every day can be a bad hair day — something that most people find depressing. Avoid habits that cause damage Some lifestyle habits can prove to be deadly to hair: Frolicking under UV rays: No matter whether you're at the beach, by the pool, or at your local tanning salon, UV rays fade color and cause dryness and brittleness to the point that the only practical solution is to cut off the damage with your scissors. Sun streaks in the hair, by the way, are a sure sign of sun damage. To solve this dilemma, suggest to all your sun gods and goddesses that they wear hats, use hair products containing antioxidant or sunscreen ingredients, and do deep conditioners — those that are recommended remain on the hair five minutes or longer — as frequently as once a week. Compromising the health of hair by taking too many shortcuts: Overly committed people who don't have time to do things right often become their hair's worst enemy. They often take shortcuts, such as blasting the hair with hot air to make it dry more quickly, roughly combing through the hair while it's still tangled, and not conditioning properly for the sake of saving a little time. To speed up the styling process without doing more damage, encourage busy folks to wrap their head in a towel while applying their makeup, shaving, brushing their teeth, and so on to remove at least 50 percent of the water before even going near their hair with a blow-dryer. Never wrap a towel around the head too tight, as this stretches the hair and causes damage. Cruising the coast in a convertible sans scarf: Not only does this activity expose the hair to too much warm air and sun, the wind literally beats it up, creating roughness and split ends — the forked tips that develop on the ends of the hair. You can prevent this type of damage simply by wearing a hat or a full scarf, and, if the hair's long enough, by securing it in a bun to protect the fragile ends from whipping about. If a helmet's involved, always put a scarf on the hair first to prevent the lining from tearing the hair. Being a chemical junkie: The too-frequent use of hair color, hair bleach, relaxers, and permanent wave solutions is extremely detrimental to the hair. In short, chemical junkies literally burn — sometimes even melt — their hair. The first signs of chemical abuse are extremely dry, dull hair. If chemical abuse continues, this leads to a noticeably rough hair texture, quick-fading color, the inability to hold a style, and breakage. Much of this damage can be avoided by refraining from dramatically changing hair colors every month — going from red to blonde, for instance, requires extra stripping of the hair — and never overlapping hair chemicals when doing touch-ups (treating the new growth at the roots). Letting the hair grow out at least 1/2-inch before retouching the hair color makes it easier to avoid overlapping applications. This same advice applies to chemical relaxers. As for permanent waves, overlapping perms is tough on hair. People should space permanent wave applications three months apart for very short hair; every six months for hair that's still above the shoulders; and as infrequently as once a year for hair that drapes barely past the shoulders. Fortunately, with today's smoother styles and better product formulas, most people don't need a permanent wave for their hair to look absolutely fabulous. Restless sleeping: A little bit of tossing and turning is okay, but when restless sleeping becomes a way of life, the hair can become worn to the point that it looks like a frayed rope. The solution is simple: While you're waiting for your nerves to settle down, rest your head on a satin pillowcase, allowing the hair to glide easily across the fabric. Screen for hair health Creating a custom haircare plan means nipping problems in the bud — the onset of split ends, for instance, or the first signs of dryness — while working to correct past transgressions that are showing up in the hair. These sins are particularly apparent on longer hair because it hangs around for years rather than months. A haircare plan should include the following A five-minute hair assessment to check for dryness, brittleness, breakage, and fading hair color. A talk about tools: Tell the person which ones to use to get the job done without harming the hair and when those tools need to be thrown away. Shampoo and conditioner recommendations: What products do individuals need to use in order to promote optimum health of their hair. Lifestyle recommendations: Discuss hair sunscreens and give advice about protecting the hair against wind, heat, sun, chlorine, salt water, and other harsh elements. A treatment schedule: The person may need treatments weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly, depending on the extent of damage and the length of the hair. Re-evaluate the hair and the people's lifestyles every time you cut their hair: You may find they have been doing more swimming and hiking during the spring and summer. They may have taken up skydiving, or bicycling, or developed a restless sleep pattern due to stress. These things need to be addressed as they pop up, because they can affect the health of the hair.

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Choosing the Right Brush for Your Hair

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Hairbrushes come in thousands of styles, materials, and designs. A low-end plastic brush costs as little as $1 and a hand-tied boar brush as much as $100. The average price for a decent brush is from $5 to $15. Knowing what brushes to buy begins with understanding the difference in bristles (boar, nylon, porcupine, and metal) as well as the four basic categories of brushes (vented, cushioned, round, and classic). Other than that, choosing a particular design really depends on your style of doing hair. Types of bristles A number of bristle patterns are available and they're used for different purposes, as shown in Table 1. Each one is designed to create different styles or to care for specific types of hair. Knowing their basic purposes helps you buy brushes that work for, instead of against, your hairstyling efforts. Table 1: Brush Bristles and Their Life's Work Bristle Type Its Purpose Best On Boar This bristle is the actual hair of a boar (hog). Boar bristles are considered ideal because they close the cuticle layer — the outside armor of your hair — and create shiny hair. Because boar bristles tend to be weak, manufacturers usually mix them with nylon bristles, so they don't collapse while you're brushing through the hair. Boar bristles are natural, soft, flexible bristles that gently brush the hair and are suitable for use on children. Manufacturers often combine boar with nylon bristles to create a stronger styling ability. Nylon This name represents a catchall category for all types of bristles made of plastic, nylon, rubber, or similar materials. Nylon bristles can be soft and flexible or stiff and firm. Nylon bristles offer little to maximum control, depending on how closely the bristles are placed and how flexible the material. As a rule, the stiffer and more closely spaced the bristle, the more control you have over the hair. Porcupine Before you imagine quills running through your hair, calm down. Porcupine is a term used for a tufted bristle — multiple bristles grouped together — that usually includes a combination of boar and nylon bristles. It's gentle, but it exerts a good hold on the hair. This design is excellent for controlling fine hair, as well as for thoroughly brushing thick hair right down to the scalp. Metal Unless you're styling a wig, stay away from this category of bristles. Metal bristles — even with soft plastic tips — are too inflexible to safely use on human hair. Not recommended for anything but wigs and hairpieces. Adding some style Trying to keep track of all the different styles of brushes can drive a perfectly sane person crazy, so you only need to be familiar with four basic categories: classic styling, cushioned, round, and vented. To be able to style any hair that comes your way, you should have at least one brush from each category. The following sections show you which brush or brushes you need for specific hairstyles. Vented brush This brush is an old-style sensation that made Farrah Fawcett's wings take flight. The brush has widely spaced, flexible bristles. Openings in the head (where the bristles are attached) allow for good airflow. Today, vented brushes are primarily used for drying hair because they offer superior airflow, making short work of moisture. Vented brushes maintain natural movement because their bristles never force the hair into a specific shape. The ends of the sparsely spaced bristles have tiny, protective balls to guard against hair damage. Frequently check the tips of all your vented brushes. If even one ball is missing, the brush needs to be replaced because the exposed bristles can damage the hair. Cushioned brush This category of brushes includes the oval-shaped cushioned brush (padded head where the bristles are attached) for simply brushing out the hair and the flat paddle brush with an air cushion that's used exclusively for long hair. The latter is an invaluable tool, by the way, because the cushion and bristles are designed to collapse anytime they meet resistance; hence, they prevent long hair from being stretched, split, or broken. Round brush Many round brushes have wooden or plastic handles with a variety of grips that ensure good traction and fit your hand. Round brushes look exactly as named: They have a round, metal barrel for more defined movement. Use a round brush any time you want the hair to have some bend or curl, but not as much as curling irons or hot rollers would provide. Shop this category of brushes carefully because many have heavy heads that put stress on your wrist while you blow-dry the hair. My absolute favorites are called thermal round stylers — round brushes with vented cores made of aluminum. The metal barrel fills with hot air from the blow dryer, while the vented holes create plenty of air circulation. This design enables you to dry the hair in half the time and create a crisper hair shape. The one caution is to keep the blow dryer moving and check your handiwork frequently to avoid over-drying, or possibly damaging the hair. Classic styling Classic styling brushes have a half-rounded head. They traditionally have five, seven, or nine rows of stiff nylon bristles — seven being the most popular. This style is referred to as a half round brush because the head of the brush has a rubberized, slightly rounded shape to create a slight bend in the hair. The classic styling brush is the tool of choice when creating smooth, sleek, precise hairstyles that aren't stick-straight. Women often prefer to use a seven-row styling brush because it is lighter, smaller, and easier to handle when blow-drying hair. On the other hand, many men love to manhandle the hair by using a larger, nine-row brush that is wider, heavier, and styles a larger section of hair at one time.

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Controlling the Volume of Your Hair

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You can create more volume or fullness with even the limpest of locks by manipulating the roots of the hair. If you want the hair to be full at the crown, blow-dry the hair forward (toward the face) until it's nearly dry, and then brush it back. For longer hair or spiky hairdos, dry the root area with the head bent over and the hair hanging upside down. For shorter hair types or for slightly less volume, hold the hair straight up from the scalp or straight-out from the sides, while drying the roots. Kick it up a notch Styling aids, such as sprays, mousses, and gels, naturally enhance all these techniques. You can find endless brands and varieties of styling aids on the shelves, but the majority of them fall into three formulations: light, medium (or normal), and firm (or strong) holds. Within all three of these categories, you can also choose to use volumizing or smoothing products. All these formulations are easy to spot, by the way, because the holding factor and purpose of the product is mentioned on the front label of nearly all styling products. The natural abilities of the hair and the amount of fullness you desire determine which formula to use on the roots of the hair. If the hair is particularly limp, for example, you'd choose a medium-hold volumizing product for a moderate amount of fullness and a strong hold volumizing product for even more fullness. The trick is to concentrate the majority of the product on the root area where the most lift is needed. If you decide that a firm formula is the way to go, consider using a lighter formula on the balance of the hair to avoid a stiff finish to your style (unless, of course, stiff is the look you're going for). Following are some tips for getting the best volume and overall style with various hair types and styling aids. The styling aids really pump up the hair, and superimposing these products over amplifying shampoos and conditioners creates far better results. With fine hair textures, avoid using any type of gel at the root area because this type of product has more weight and often creates more sagging than lifting. Instead, use a styling spray or mousse. For medium hair textures, use either a light gel, lotion, styling spray, or mousse to create lift at the root area. If you want to use a gel, put a nickel-size amount of the product in the palm of one hand and rub your hands together. Use your hands to apply the slick of gel to the first inch or two of hair next to the scalp. This method allows you to spread the product more evenly throughout the root area. For coarse or curly hair textures, use a medium to strong gel to create a slight lift at the roots, and a smoother texture overall. Choosing a formula specifically made to "smooth" the hair shaft gives the best styling results. To apply the gel, put a nickel-size to quarter-size application of product in the palm of one hand and rub your hands together. Use your hands to apply the slick of gel to the first inch or two of hair next to the scalp. Next, run the remaining product residue left on your hands through the shaft and ends of the hair. By applying the gel this way, you allow the product to spread more evenly, while helping to smooth and better control the hair. If the hair is moderately dry, do what the pros do by mixing two or three drops of a leave-in conditioner with a nickel-size of gel. Mix the two products together in the palm of your hand and run it through the hair. Take it down a notch Some people can't get their hair to stand up, but others can't seem to get it to lie down. If you have to deal with hair that has too much volume, you can use certain products and techniques to make that hair behave better. First, you need to make sure that the hair is richly conditioned — including using a leave-in conditioner just prior to styling. After you take care of the condition of the hair, you can control volume by following the growth of the hair. If the hair is supposed to hang straight down from the head, for instance, blow-drying the hair in that direction helps discourage excessive lifting. And for a smoother, flatter top, blow-drying the hair in the exact direction of the style can do wonders for controlling buoyant hair. Using a classic styling brush, rather than a round or vented brush, also encourages the hair to remain close to the head. Hair that's naturally too full can be troublesome, but you can easily tame it by using good blow-drying techniques and the right products. These products help calm the excitable nature of buoyant hair, while smoothing the cuticle layer — something that's frequently open in this type of hair, making it difficult for the hair to retain moisture. Sealing the cuticle layer is particularly important for dry, damaged, or frizzy hair because these hair types don't normally lie smoothly or possess even a semblance of shine. To control overly full hair, you need the following products: Deeply moisturizing shampoos and conditioners: These two items provide a good foundation for improving the behavior of too-fluffy hair. A leave-in conditioner: This product is helpful when you use it just prior to blow-drying the hair. The brands you choose to use should add moisture, provide better control, and tame frizzies. A medium or heavy gel: A styling aid with this kind of strength helps manhandle hair that's overly full because the sheer weight of it keeps things under better control. A styling serum for curly, full, or frizzy hair: Use this excellent product to smooth the cuticle layer. Make sure to follow the application instructions on the bottle because many of these products are extremely concentrated! Some styling serums also have thermal heat protectant ingredients, which is beneficial to all hair types but particularly to those that tend to become dry. If you're using a heavy gel at the roots, apply your serum, beginning 1 inch away from the scalp to prevent over-coating the hair with product. Pomade, wax, or styling paste: Finish the hair with one of these products to give it superior control. These heavy products help calm frizzes, while encouraging the hair to lay the way it was styled. When applying pomade, put a pea-size of product in the palm of one hand and then vigorously rub your hands together. When applying this product to the hair, skip the first inch of hair next to the scalp as this can cause the root area to be excessively oily. Never use a body-enhancing product on this type of hair.

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Cutting Hair with Lightning Speed

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Enterprising stylists are always forging new paths in haircutting, whether they're experimenting with a texture technique or simply approaching the basics in a whole new way. A natural outgrowth of these creative approaches to shaping hair is a method called compact haircutting. This system is the exact opposite of traditional haircutting wisdom that touts small haircutting sections and precise angles, by using only one or two large sections of hair to create everything from a perfect frame around the face to a full head of layering. The primary advantage of this bold method is its lightning fast results. Compact haircutting allows you to reduce the time you spend on a haircut from 30 minutes to about 15 minutes, making this method ideal for people on the go, fidgety children, and, of course, busy haircutters like yourself! Compact haircutting isn't the answer to all your styling dreams. Traditional haircutting techniques can create layered styles with very precise shapes and crisp angles. If you're creating a beveled edge or a geometric shape, for example, then patiently cutting small sections of hair is the approach you want to take. In addition, traditional layering methods are the only way to go when you're working with shorter layers that aren't long enough to reach a single compact point. Despite these limitations, compact haircutting is a good choice for many popular haircuts — especially those with gently blended layers and mild graduation (a slight layering) on the ends of the hair. Cutting to the chase Although mastering this method of haircutting requires hands-on training and plenty of practice, you can still use some very basic compact-cutting techniques to your advantage. Compact cutting is great for: Cutting long layers. (Figure 1 gives an example of such a cut being done.) Cutting a full set of bangs that go from corner to corner along the forehead. Creating a variety of disconnected shapes — hairstyles that embody two or more separate haircuts — to create stylish twists to your work. Figure 1: Precisely position the hair up to a single point and create layers with one snip. Photographer: Tom Carson, Hair stylist: Ladies & Gentleman Salon Mentor, Ohio To get started, round up the following: Haircutting scissors Wide-tooth or detangling comb Cutting comb Classic styling brush Spray bottle Leave-in conditioner Willing subject who loves everything that you do to her hair If you don't have one of these adoring fans handy, grab a mannequin head (a doll head with real hair that's sold in beauty stores), secure her to a swivel clamp (a special table clamp that's routinely sold with these mannequin heads), and warm up your cutting fingers. You're about to discover how exciting compact haircutting can be because you accomplish so much with just one or two passes of your scissors! You must be extremely careful when doing compact haircutting because making one wrong snip can skew your entire hair design. To do the best job, follow these simple suggestions: Concentrate on the symmetry of your hair sections to ensure they don't resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa. If you're supposed to bring the hair to the center of the head, for instance, erring a little to the left or right causes one side to be longer than the other. This common mistake happens when you get so wrapped up in managing a large section of hair, you fail to notice that you're not dead center of the head. Carefully plan the hair's position. Anytime you comb the hair to a point in front of the face, you're creating shorter layering around the front and longer layering in back. (Figure 1 shows this hair position.) If this look is what you want, great! If not, you need to re-position the hair. Always cut the hair when it's damp — not sopping wet — so that it clings together and has a better chance of staying put while you trim the hair. Because keeping the hair in place is so crucial to this type of haircut, many stylists use a cutting lotion or a very light styling gel on the hair for added control. Comb the hair carefully. Bringing a large section of hair to a single point may seem easy, but getting every tiny strand of hair going in the right direction can be challenging. Take your time and always be on the lookout for hidden layers that may be bunched up at the scalp or lying in the wrong direction. Comb the hair into the proper cutting position by following these steps: 1. Use a detangling conditioner to ensure that the hair is slick and ready to be combed in any direction. 2. Detangle the hair with a wide-tooth comb or detangling comb, followed by a fine-tooth comb to ensure that no hidden snarls remain in the hair. 3. Comb the hair in the planned direction, using either a wide-tooth comb or a detangling comb. 4. Carefully comb through the hair with a fine-tooth comb to ensure that the hair is lying precisely in the right direction, and is flat and smooth from root to end. Releasing a one-snip wonder: Bangs Cutting full bangs can be as simple as taking a single snip at the bridge of the nose. This technique produces a bang that's slightly longer on the sides than in the middle (see Figure 2), making it an ideal frame for the forehead and eyes. Figure 2: The compact haircutting method is one of the easiest ways to cut full bangs. Photographer: Tom Carson, Hair stylist: Edie's Styling Center Clearwater, Florida This compact cutting technique can do many things, but it's not meant for straight-across or blunt-cut bangs. For those, you need to stick to more traditional cutting methods. Compact bang cuts always have a measure of layering or graduation on the ends, depending on how you position the hair. To do a compact bang trim, follow these steps: 1. Make the bang parting, going from corner to corner on the forehead as shown in Figure 3. The bang parting can either be triangular or run parallel to the hairline. Figure 3: You can cut a full bang in two minutes using the compact cutting method. 2. Using a fine-tooth cutting comb, comb the bangs to a point at the center of the bridge of the nose, making sure that the hair has even tension. 3. Re-comb the hair, using the wide-tooth side of your cutting comb. This second combing relaxes any tension in the bangs, discouraging unwanted shrinkage after the hair is dried. 4. Cut the point of hair horizontal or straight across. If you only want a slight amount of lift, comb the hair flush to the skin and secure it with the side of your hand or the back of your comb. If you want the ends to have more lift, place this point of hair between your second and third fingers — with your third finger flush to the forehead — and snip the ends of the hair. Trimming the bangs lightly and re-trimming if necessary is a smart move since bangs have the uncanny ability of ending up much shorter than expected. 5. Comb the bangs into place to check your handiwork. 6. Dry with a blow-dryer to ensure that everything looks as expected. If you need to re-wet and re-trim the hair, compact cutting makes this process quick and painless.

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Tips for Mastering Any Haircut

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Be cautious if you’re trying out a new style of haircut on yourself or someone else. Practice, start slowly and then let your stylish wings take flight. Keep these things in mind when cutting a style for the first time: Get a mannequin head to practice your first cut of a new style. These mannequins are available at beauty stores and can be purchased for as little as $20. Cut lightly the first time you do any haircut. If you want to shorten the hair 1/2 inch, cut it 1/4 inch the first time around to ensure that you’re on the right track with your new design. After you’re satisfied with your handiwork, re-cut the hair to the desired length. Use a traveling guide. Keep the hair pinned up as directed, so you never lose your way. Pinning helps you concentrate on one small section at a time instead of trying to fight your way through a jungle of hair.

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Gaining Your Friend’s and Family’s Trust as a Hair Stylist

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

If you’re brand new at cutting hair, you may find your friends and family hesitant to let you work on their locks. Try winning them over one haircut at a time, and keep these things in mind: Start small, but think big when it comes to cutting your family’s hair. In the beginning, do small things like bang trims, end trims, and crisping up the haircutting lines of the men in your life. Extend the time between salon appointments by shortening their haircuts 1/4-inch midway between their scheduled trims. Keep your word. If you say that you’re only going to trim this much, or leave the bangs a certain way, build your family’s trust by delivering as promised. Ask for haircutting tools and supplies for your birthday. If this request doesn’t show sincerity about doing a good job, who knows what will!

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How to Prepare Kids for a Haircut

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

When it comes to children’s haircuts, you might have to pull out every trick in the book to keep kids happy in the styling chair. Try to provide a fun and fast experience for children by using these haircutting tips: Pick their best time. Children have a way of derailing your haircutting mission when they are tired and cranky. Plan your haircut designs in advance to speed up the haircutting process. Make sure your combs and brushes are kid friendly by being smooth, soft, and well-rounded on the tips. Plan their haircuts around their favorite television programs or rent a popular video. Bribe them with whatever you have — a cheap toy, a lapful of their favorite cookies, whatever!

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Extending the Style of Your Haircut

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

On average, hair grows about 1/2 inch per month. By doing your own light haircutting touch-ups, you can keep your style between salon visits and save yourself time and money. If you receive a haircut every six weeks, touch up your haircut at the three-week point. If you receive a haircut every eight weeks, four weeks is the ideal time to freshen your haircut. Pick a good moment when you have plenty of time to concentrate on the task at hand. If you don’t take your time, you may end up running to the salon for an emergency fix-up. Only cut the parts you can easily reach. When stretching your haircutting appointments, concentrate on the very top, the bangs and the sides of your hair. Never cut more than 1/4-inch, or you’ll skew your haircut by creating dips and separations between what you’ve trimmed and what you have left for your hairdresser to deal with.

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