Welcome to day 9,659,280 of social distancing. We may have lost count of what day it is, but we do know that we're all getting a teeny-weeny bit antsy. And when we get this way, it can be tempting to look in the mirror and whip out those scissors or a razor to make some minor (or drastic) hair changes.
This time can be particularly difficult for those who typically wear their hair short, especially if you're accustomed to getting a crisp fade or line-up every week or two. For perfectionists, the unevenness that comes with new growth can be irritating, to say the least. But with salons and barbershops closed in most states until further notice, you've got two choices: go boldly into overgrown and unknown territory right about now, or pick up a buzzer.
If you choose to do the latter, take a breath first. You're going to need some direction if you want to give your fade a little love. Fortunately for you, we got in touch with the pros for a little insight on how to go about doing it yourself – and how to achieve it without making your barber cry when you're able to see them again.
How to start
Emmy-nominated hairstylist Derick Monroe tells ishonest that you first need to be sure you have the right tools to achieve the look you want. "For a home haircut, you will need a pair of clippers and trimmers — clippers are for the cut, and trimmers provide clean lines." Great clipper options include the Wahl Color Pro Complete Hair Cutting Kit or the BaByliss PowerLight Pro Hair Clipper Set. Make sure you have safety guards for the clippers, because we don't want any accidents (or lost ears), as well as a comb, brush, and a mirror. Note: Please, please try to avoid using a beard trimmer on your head. You deserve so much more.
"When it comes to touch-ups, the main focus should be from the bottom of the hairline approximately to the temple," grooming expert Elle Medico of Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa at the CORE: Club in NYC, tells ishonest. "You will have an imaginary guideline using the eye or temple, and try not to go above that to ensure this is a touch-up and not a full haircut." Why do use your eyes or temples as a guideline? According to Philip Wolff, Matrix Global Ambassador, "Generally speaking, for faded haircuts it's usually the sides and/ or the perimeter of the haircut. Tight sides make [folks] feel like [they're] leaner in the face." The perimeter is important because the minute that cut looks shaggy, it's time for barber or stylist intervention — not something a lot of us have access to right now.
Pick your guard
Monroe has one key suggestion when first starting out: "The main mistake people make is taking off too much hair. Start with a guard that feels like it is slightly too large as a tester and get an idea of how much hair is coming off." (Read more about how to choose the right guard here.) Every stylist consulted for this piece shared the exact same advice for anyone who might be a wee bit terrified: You can always take off more hair, but you can't add hair back after it's gone, so err on the side of caution, use a large mirror, and go in at a snail's pace. "Go over your whole head to get an idea of how good you are with cutting your own hair, especially if you’re using a hand you normally don’t use," Monroe directs. Ambidextrous people, this is your time to shine.
Monroe knows not everyone is a professional stylist. "If you are not very good with cutting your own hair, your focus should be on looking presentable and not perfect." Unless you've gone through years of cosmetology and barbering courses, you'll probably be a little nervous. There's no need to worry here! "It’s about taking off some the hair on the sides and top, rather than focusing on a perfect fade," Monroe says. You hear that? Hair off the sides and top, good; trying to copy your barber's work at home, bad — don't do it.
"Underdoing it is better than overdoing it. It's much easier for a professional to fix something when there's something to work with. When it's all gone, well, all we have is time at that point or the Brad Pitt buzz cut in Fight Club," Wolff jokes. There are certainly worse looks to have, right?
So if you're nervous, take your time. And if you're really unsure of something, don't do it. Also, it's always better to reach out to your barber/stylist before you cut rather than after your attempt gone wrong.
Trimming and winning
Monroe says there's an extra-credit tip if you're feeling like you've really got a tight grasp on this whole barbering thing. "If possible, use a blade or clippers to shape up your hairline for a more clean look." But at the end of the day, his main advice is to "pace yourself and take your time," you don't want to wind up with Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the poster for 50/50.
Alright, so you've achieved a fade that makes you look stellar again and you're feeling more confident — how on earth do you style your hair? Pomade, dude. "Sportin' Waves Gel Pomade make a great pomade for hold and control," Monroe shared. "Massage in your hand to warm and make pliable, then apply directly to the hair." Really, any other pomade or defining styling clay works. Wolff likes the Matrix StyleLink Play Matte Clay, but just pick a styling product that works best with your hair texture.
"You can easily hide excessive weight or length both on the sides and top of one's hair, however, for the back or the 'mullet', unfortunately there's no hiding that." Embrace your inner Joe Exotic during these chaotic times. Looking to achieve waves on swim? No problem — just trim really, really low-level (we're talking level 1), brush your hair into its desired pattern, make sure it's moisturized with product, and tie on a durag (the most important part). That will keep your style in place.
Looking for more hair stories? Here’s some we know you’ll love:
- How to Cut Your Own Short Hair at Home, According to Experts
- Selma Blair Dyed Her Hair for the First Time Since It Grew Back
- How to Remove Hair Dye From Your Skin, According to the Experts
Now, check out the history of hairstyling tools:
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