Of all the ways you could cut your own hair, the easiest for us to endorse is the DIY buzz cut. As long as you aren’t getting fancy with fading or trying to etch cat scratches above your ears, then giving yourself a buzz is simple. That’s why it’s the military’s go-to style, after all: the uniformity of it all. That’s not to say you’ll look like Private Pyle—a buzz cut can look damn good!
But there’s a reason you’ve only resorted to cutting your own hair in a pandemic. There are also plenty of ways things can go awry, and you might end up with an uneven trim, the wrong length, or just find the entire process much more tedious than necessary. So, here are all the ways to do it right the first time, with tips from barber Rob McMillen, owner and lead barber at Mildred New York.
1.Get good hair clippers
A beard trimmer will almost never be powerful enough. Instead, you should get a hair clipper set that can easily mow your dome in one steady swoop, as opposed to starting and stopping and clogging over and over. Here are two of our favorites.
The best pro-grade clipper
The clipper that will fit nicely in your medicine cabinet
Another thing you’ll need, if you don’t already have one, is a handheld mirror, to tackle the sides and back. Like highway driving, blind spots are dangerous!
A simple handheld mirror
2. Wash your hair and study your scalp
You get better results with fresh, clean hair. This ensures your hair is resting in its natural state—not the direction you styled it or slept on it. So, give it all a shampoo and condition. Then, McMillen suggests taking a careful audit of your scalp. That is, looking for moles, skin tags, scars, and the like. “You may not want to buzz super close to these—consider relaxing the guard a setting or two,” he says. Best to avoid any DIY Sweeney Todd situations here.
Another thing to consider is your hair thickness and texture. Or rather, just keep in mind that every guy has different texture, density, recession, thinning, strand thickness, and so forth. So just because your buddy clipped himself on the same settings doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have the same result. But either way, the only way to know how you’ll look is to try it. So….
3. First timers: Buzz slightly longer than you think you want
If this is your first rodeo, play it safe: You can always trim more, but you can’t add anything back. So if you think you want a quarter-inch buzz, a #3 guard, then start with a half-inch #5 and see how it looks. Then, work your way down if you still want it shorter. Slow and steady on that first time out the gate.
4. Go against the grain on the sides
McMillen advises that you buzz against the grain of the hair growth, so that you’re pushing the hair upward as you cut it. Buzzing with the grain might allow some of the longer hairs to lie down and avoid being cut altogether. It’s easiest to start at the sideburns and buzz upwards, keeping against the grain. “Once you get to the back of the head, then work your way up through the crown,” McMillen says. “This is a good time to stop and clean out your clipper, to make sure it keeps cutting smoothly.”
5 Then tackle the top
After the sides, then buzz into the top of the head. The grain of your hair gets more complicated up here, so you can have a little fun with things, running the clipper back and forth, then back and forth again, after that initial pass. Then do it side to side, too. This prevents you from missing any patches—repeat as needed.
6. Spot check or repeat everything on a shorter setting
If you want it shorter, then start with a smaller guard and do it all again. You’ll need to do a good dozen passes or so around the dome to make sure you don’t miss any spots.