Like most of us right now, I’ve recently taken my beauty routine into my own hands. Some of this process has been refreshing—I’m finally making a dent in my massive serum reserve—but I found myself putting off one major self-service: trimming my bangs. I’ve had bangs since I was 8 years old, and don’t plan on growing them out any time soon, but somehow I’d never trimmed them at home. Now that I was pushed to learn, I envisioned mastering the art of face-framing fringe, saving thousands of dollars on future cuts and impressing my friends with my craftiness.
Suffice to say, it did not go as planned. “I’ll just feather it a bit,” I thought to myself, promptly lopping off an inch of hair. I tried to even it out, going shorter and shorter until my lush Brigitte Bardot curtain bangs were a jagged mess. I stared at the foregone strands on the bathroom counter, and vowed then and there that no one else should have to go through this. So, I sought out a few experts for tips and tricks to master before breaking out the clippers – and intel on what to do if you already messed up. Below, get the ultimate advice on saving yourself from a bad at-home haircut.
Use the Right Tools
For salon results, dull craft scissors aren’t going to cut it (sorry). “Using hair shears or sharp scissors will help,” says Cherilyn Farris, a hair stylist and color specialist based out of Los Angeles and Kansas City. "If the scissors are dull they can bend the hair or push the section you are cutting—increasing the likelihood of uneven results.” When shopping around, I found that prices varied by hundreds of dollars, and professional shears can be pricey; for the occasional at-home trim, a cheaper option is fine as long as you properly care for them (keep your scissors in their case, and commit to using them only for hair).
Opt for Dry Hair
The good news? There’s no complicated prepping required when you trim your bangs—just style them normally. Deana Morton, stylist at Rock Paper Salon in Los Angeles, advises, “When cutting your own bangs at home, the best way to make sure your bangs aren’t too short is to not comb them down!” To help prep your hair, Morton recommends a little dry shampoo: “Dry shampoo is a great little refresh and soaks up all those stronger oils at the root that change the way your clean hair naturally lays. My go to is Give Me Clean Hair by Eleven Australia.” And while it may seem natural to cut your hair wet – after all, you get a shampoo first at the salon – the experts advise against it. Farris warns: “Cut your bangs on dry hair – wet hair is elastic and will shrink up as it dries.”
Have a Game Plan
This advice may seem like a no-brainer, but during my own DIY adventure, I found that I quickly abandoned my initial vision once I started snipping. Once you’re in the zone, it can be hard to pause and check your progress, so having a clear plan is key: “The first few cuts are definitely the most crucial,” Morton says. “If those are done incorrectly your bangs can be too short or even start to stick out depending on your hair type.”
Take Baby Steps
Reassessing between snips can save you a ton of trouble later. “Start by defining the length you want with a small pinch of hair in the middle front section of your bangs before adding more hair,” says Farris. From there, keeping the right amount of tension is key. “You want to control the section you're cutting,” Farris notes, “but don't pull on it so much that you're temporarily forcing the growth pattern into a new position because they won't lay like that naturally.” Work in small sections to catch mistakes early and keep the length consistent.
Cut at an Angle
You can trim straight across for super blunt retro bangs, but for most modern styles, you’ll want to angle your shears. “Try point cutting instead of blunt cutting across to soften the ends, unless you're going for a super blunt fringe,” says Farris. Translation: cut with the scissors pointing up, rather than horizontal. Morton adds, “If what you’re finding is that the ‘line’ that the bottom of your bangs create to frame your face is really strong or blunt looking, you can always cut UP into that line to soften or diffuse it.” She recommends starting with small snips to get the shape of your bangs, and then thinning them out: “Going in [with your scissors] about one to two centimeters will help blur the line, if you go in farther than that you will begin to thin your bangs out. Thinning your bangs out will make them appear textured, help them stay to one side more easily, and give you control. If you choose to thin your bangs out, use the smallest and sharpest scissors you have and always start with less."
If You Mess Up—Wash, Dry, and Accessorize
Uneven fringe? It might not be as bad as it looks. One of the biggest mistakes I made was overcorrecting before taking the time to let my bangs settle into their natural shape. “Try wetting your bangs then re-drying them to see how they lay before going back in with scissors,” says Farris. “Blowing out your hair or using a brush to dry around the face can help blend mistakes. Using a good air-dry creme and manipulating damp hair how you want it to dry can encourage how you want your hair to lay.” Unhappy with your dried bangs? Try an of-the-moment clip or headband while you wait for your hair to grow back. “If you’re dying to hide or fix a bad haircut,” Morton suggests, “updos and braids are your new best friend. Lucky for you there are tons of barrettes, clips, headbands and other accessories out there for you to try."
Ask For Help
If your new ‘do is truly unsalvageable, Morton says, “Your other option is your stylist!” Having professional help can make all the difference when it comes to rescuing a tragic haircut, or avoiding one in the first place. “A lot of stylists [do] ‘virtual haircuts’ where they coach you through a Band-aid haircut until we can get you back in the salon,” Morton elaborates.
While you can’t change a bad chop, you can adjust your attitude. “If you have already cut your bangs too short, or uneven… walk away for a second and laugh,” says Farris. “Hair grows back, it will be okay.” Trust me, I know this one is hard—after my own bad cut, I gave into an anxiety spiral thinking about the impending FaceTime date I’d scheduled for that night. It turns out my anxiety was unwarranted: Once I washed and brushed my bangs, pushing them around a little made the uneven bits blend into the rest of my hair. Ultimately, my boyfriend didn’t even notice. And there’s no shame in making a mistake while learning a new skill. “With all this being said, trust that your stylist has your back,” says Morton. “Whether you come in to your next appointment with roots longer than your blonde or a crazy box dye experiment gone wrong, know that we are in your position as well. We will not shame you for trying something out of desperation, boredom or insanity but we will help you get your hair back to a safe and healthy place."