How To Cut Curly Hair At Home

A Five-Step Guide to Cutting Curly Hair at Home

Lorraine MasseyPhoto: Courtesy of Roberto Ligresti

Any natural girl knows: Curlier and coarser hair types are more prone to breakage. So when thinking about how to cut curly hair by yourself, you need to go in with the right game plan. While most hairdressers encourage you to leave the cutting to the professionals, hair maintenance is oftentimes an at-home activity that is just needed. “Giving yourself a trim in between professional cuts can help maintain your style for a longer period of time,” says Lorraine Massey, founder of the Curly Girl cutting method and the New York-based salon Spiral XYZ

Here, Massey along with Andrew Fitzsimons, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Andrew Fitzsimons haircare, and Annagjid “Kee” Taylor, owner of Deeper Than Hair salon, share their step-by-step guide for the safest and most effective way to cut curly hair, no matter what your natural curl pattern may be. Read on and trim coils, kinks, waves, and curls the right way, while at home.

Required Tools

Taylor cautions against using regular household scissors to trim your hair, as their blunt edges may cause split ends or more damage to the hair cuticle. Good quality hair shears are key for trimming any hair length and hair type. “You don’t need to spend a fortune on hair scissors, but you also don’t want to use blunt scissors,” for example, do not use kitchen or paper scissors. “Think of your hair as being a priceless fabric,” Massey said. She recommends the Hikari scissors.

“You are cutting your hair when it is in its natural state, “ says Fitzsimons. “With that, you are going to want a scissor with a very sharp blade as it will not allow your curls to bend or spilt after it has been cut.” He recommends the Equinox Hair Cutting Scissors for something affordable and easy to use. 

Taylor also recommends having a wide-tooth comb so you can precisely section off hair while you trim, as well as section clips to hold hair in place. 

After that, be sure you have a hand-held mirror as well as a mirror “big enough to see the back of your hair,” Massey says. Add good lighting and a plain wall “so that you can see the shape and silhouette of your hair” clearly.

Make Sure You Cut with Dry Hair

Taylor says that cutting curly hair is best with a dry cut. She explains that wet hair can become very condensed and you won’t be able to gauge the amount of hair you’re actually cutting, which can lead to shrinkage and other major cutting mistakes.

Massey suggests it might even be best to do the trim on the second or third day after washing your hair because by that time, “it has fully settled into its natural state. It’s better to approach the hair as it really is. Each strand will react, contract, and expand differently once it’s cut,” Massey says. “After all we wear our hair dry, not wet.” Similarly, it’s very important to not trim hair after straightening or curling it with heat tools, as that’s not how it’s going to look when you ultimately wear it curly. “Really take your time to observe the landscape of your hair, paying attention to all the different strands, their shapes, and how they each fall,” she recommends.

Position the Hair

Start by gently swaying the hair back and forth to “allow your hair to naturally position itself.” Then, observe the length. “If your hair is longer and past your shoulders, part your hair and bring it forward from both sides, placing it in front of your shoulders as though you are making pigtails.” Look carefully at the ends and plan where and how much you want to trim. Massey suggests trimming only a fraction of an inch because, “with curly hair, small snips can go a long way; an inch is like a mile.”

Work from the Front to the Back

For a simple cutting technique, Taylor recommends starting with the front pieces of your hair, going curl by curl and only cutting off the dead ends. As you move towards the back, she says to tilt your head slightly and brush the section you’re working with to the front. She says it’s crucial that you work with small sections and trim just a little bit at a time. So don’t just cut straight across, no matter how tempting it may be.

Or Use the Clock Method

Whether or not your curls are short, long, loose, or tight, you want to imagine your own hair as though it’s on a clock. From the canopy—or top of the head—take a curl and raise it upward so it’s in line with the 12 o’clock position on your imaginary clock. “Hold it up as far as its length allows, and place it between your index and middle fingers at the point where you plan to trim. Pull hair forward and carefully snip the end of the hair that is anchored between your fingers with the tip of the scissors. Once you cut that first strand, bring the neighboring strand—which would be 1 o’clock on your imaginary clock—to meet the 12 o’clock strand and snip the end there,” she says. Do the same process on the other side of your head.

The clock method helps to make sure everything is even, regardless of length or coarseness. “Whenever you cut, you have to be guided. It can’t just be random,” Massey says, adding: “make sure you occasionally sway your hair back and forth to see how the trim looks in motion.” Massey also says it’s important to snip the end of the hair unit with the tip of the scissor blade; don’t open the blades too wide as you don’t want to chop off too much. And don’t hold the scissors at an angle, as “this will fray the ends of the hair.”

To finish off, spread your hands around your scalp and gently shuffle at your roots “to open the hair so you can observe the overall shape.” At this time, it’s important to take note of any ends that are still split. “Simply give them a snip or wait until after cleansing.” If the ends are still split after the hair dries again, return to tend to those areas. 

Style Based on Your Hair Needs

Once you’re done, you can pretty much style your naturally curly hair however you want. “I always recommend people do what they want when it comes to styling their hair,” says Fitzsimons. “But I love to play with different hairstyles, like half-up or half-down, high ponytails, and adding accessories or a few clips to jazz it up.” He recommends using nourishing hair products that will add definition to your curls, control frizz, and provide needed moisture, like his Fantasy Curls Curl Amplify Texture Spray or the Salwa Petersen Oil of Chébé™ Fortifying Hair Oil

Taylor likes something like the NatureLab. Tokyo Texture Curl Cream to give curls some bounce after a fresh cut. 

This article was originally published on

More From Vogue

Share now on:
FacebookXEmailCopy Link