Hair getting a bit shaggy? Here’s how to give yourself a buzz cut

Yes, you can use beard clippers. Yes, you will make a mess. And, yes, it will grow back

Home haircut: for beginners, sticking to a buzz cut is best. Photograph:  iStock/Getty

Home haircut: for beginners, sticking to a buzz cut is best. Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

How can you give yourself a buzz cut? Here, let us show you.

You will need:

  • Clippers with comb attachments, which control the length of a cut.
  • A mirror, plus maybe another mirror or a smartphone.
  • A rubbish bag or towel.
  • A normal comb or hair pick, depending on your hair type.

One note: Yes, you can use whatever you have. A beard trimmer or even (clean!) dog clippers can work. If you have clippers but no comb attachments, just know that you will have a very short cut. A beard trimmer works but will take more time. Michael Gold, a New York Times reporter, agreed to try it at home. Desiree Marshall, a barber who works at Classic Men barbershop in Brooklyn, walked us through how to do a simple buzz cut.

Step 1: Prepare your work area

Michael’s tip: “Think about where you’re standing, and where the hair is falling. At the very least, carve out some time to clean your bathroom”

Start with clean, dry hair that’s free of any gel, pomade or conditioner. Cover yourself with a towel or garbage bag so you don’t get hair all over yourself. If you’re cutting over a sink or counter, consider putting down a rag or paper towels for easier clean-up (or to not clog your drains). Situate yourself in front of a mirror. It helps to have someone cut your hair for you, as they will have a better view of your head, but it’s possible to do this alone. And if you’re beginning with longer hair, it may be helpful to pull it into a ponytail and chop the excess hair off with scissors before beginning the buzz cut.

Step 2: Brush, brush, brush!

Brushes or combs work fine, just make sure to get all the knots out

If you have straight hair, wavy hair or hair with looser curls, use a normal comb to brush the hair on the top of your head forward toward your forehead. Comb the back and the sides downward and comb through any knots, if you have them. If you have supercurly, thick hair or an Afro, use a pick to comb the hair out as full as possible.

Step 3: Choose your own adventure

Beard trimmers work in a pinch if you don’t have hair clippers. Our model chose comb attachment number three for the initial buzzing

Ideally, you’re using clippers with a comb attachment for your preferred length. Here is a brief guide:

  • If you want a very close-to-the-scalp cut: choose no comb attachment.
  • If you still want to brush your hair but not have to do much with it: choose comb attachments Nos 1 to 3. (The number will vary depending on your hair texture and thickness.)
  • If you want hair long enough to pull with your fingers: choose comb attachment No 4 or higher. (Any comb attachment below a 4 will generally result in hair too short to brush through with your fingers.)

Step 4: Mow

From here, there is no turning back

Turn your clippers on. Start from the forehead and buzz the hair back to the crown of your head.

You want to hold the trimmer so the blade is flat against your head. Going in small sections, slowly move the clippers from one end to the other – you will have to go over sections a few times to get an even look. If you’re using a tool other than clippers, this process may take longer. Always use gentle strokes.

To do the sides, go from your sideburns back to the crown.

This part takes longer than you think

For cutting the back, guide the clippers from the base of the neck to the crown, going against the direction your hair grows. If you’re doing the cut yourself, this is where you’ll use a hand mirror to see what you’re doing to the back of your head.

Your phone is more helpful than a mirror

Step 5: Don’t forget your ears!

“With no hand mirror at home and my roommate occupied, I used my iPhone to try and see what was happening on my neck. Maybe a supportive friend can guide you through the part of your head that nobody will see”

Look over your work in the hand mirror, checking for spots you may have missed. Be sure to fold your ear down so you don’t miss cutting the area around and behind your ears. Once you feel you’ve achieved an even look, you’re done.

Tips

Michael’s best tip: “You can’t put the hair back again. So if you’re nervous about the length, start with a higher comb attachment just to be safe. I used a three all around, then went back over the sides with a two, because I thought the side of my head looked like a puffball”
  • If you have no experience cutting hair, now is not the time to attempt an at-home fade or other style that requires a lot of technique. For beginners, sticking to a buzz cut is best.
  • If your clippers aren’t grabbing hair, switch to a lower number of comb attachment.
  • Take some “before” photos in advance, in case of disaster. “I still spent the morning stockpiling selfies for dating apps, my Instagram close friends and sentimentality’s sake, just in case something went horribly wrong,” Gold told us. “It’s important to be prepared!” – New York Times
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