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NYC hairstylist: 3 tips for cutting your hair at home

Chris O'Leary.
Photo by Eric Eikenbary

With hair salons closed for now in accordance with social distancing rules, many people are wondering how to keep up their cut — so much so that search interest in "cut bangs at home" doubled and "quarantine haircuts" spiked +300% over the previous week for the week ending March 29. And in early April, "How to cut a man's hair with clippers" was among the top five "how to" searches on grooming.

Before you risk giving yourself a trim you may regret, New York City freelance hairstylist Chris O'Leary is here with tips to help you look your best.

O'Leary, who has worked with celebrities like Rosario Dawson, and designers like Gemma Kahng and Carolina Herrera, shares three tips with Grow for keeping your cut in shape.

Trim your bangs carefully

People are very concerned about their bangs, O'Leary says. "I had one client that when I told her I was moving temporarily, she said, 'What about my bangs?'"

Start with your bangs already dry and styled, especially if you have curly hair. Using a comb, section off the bangs you want to trim, and tie the rest of your hair out of the way. "You can just buy a regular haircutting scissor at a drugstore," he says. 

O'Leary recommends working in small sections and combing the hair down with a small-tooth comb before you start. "Then start with a small section in the center and clasp the bang between your forefinger and middle finger," he says. "Make it as straight as possible while looking into a mirror for guidance, and pull it farther down than you want it to go, like the middle of the bridge of your nose. Because after you release your hair, it will spring back up and be shorter."

Then, he says, cut it in sections. "Start with the center, do the left side, the right side," he says. "As you cut each section, use the middle section where you already cut as the guide to where the left and right side of the bang will be cut. Once that's done, comb it down." It could still be too long, he says, but you can go back and fix that: "You can always cut more, but you can't get hair back."

Do a simple full trim with no layering

O'Leary advises you stay away from layering as it's more complicated, and just aim for a basic length trim. You'll need haircutting scissors, a small-tooth comb, sectioning clips, and rubber bands.

Section your hair into four quadrants: in front of your ears, parted down the middle, and parted down the back. Clip those sections together so they are separate, and start with the back first. "Start with one section, and comb it straight," he says. "Don't wear any hoodies or anything that will add bulk."

You can always cut more, but you can't get hair back.
Chris O'Leary
freelance New York City hairstylist 

If you're alone and cutting the back of your own hair, you have to bring it forward to see what you're doing, which can end up giving the hair a less-than-ideal V-shape. "For the back, do the small sections, comb that in front of your shoulder, and comb it down," he says. "It'll still be longer, but at least you have some kind of consistency for now." 

You can also find examples of how to do a simple trim on YouTube.

Be careful with clippers

If you're doing a buzz cut, O'Leary says, make sure to use the guard that comes with your clippers, or you could lose a lot of hair. 

Kyle Clark, an anchor at 9NEWS, an NBC-affiliated television station, in Denver, Colorado, learned his lesson the hard way. His wife trimmed his hair with dog clippers, since that's what they had lying around. "If it was good enough for a decade of giving my dog haircuts, how bad could it be?" tells Grow. "And it was pretty bad."

They started with the back since it doesn't get much exposure on TV, he says. "It went really well for about 10 seconds, and then my wife went, 'Uh-oh!'" His wife told him she didn't realize the guard had fallen off. 

Courtesy Kyle Clark

"My dog passed away last year but I successfully cut his hair for a decade, with these same trimmers, and he was always highly satisfied with the cuts, so it's kind of a surprise what happened to me," Clark says.

They did his cut after watching a YouTube tutorial, Clark says, and he plans to try again after watching a few more videos.  

Clark shared a photo of his results on his Instagram.

"We figured people are cooped up in their houses; they need a good laugh," he says. "And if this is the biggest problem that we have through this, we are the luckiest people in the world."

Are you DIYing your haircuts or hair color while at home? Send us a video of your process or a photo of your results, at getgrowing@cnbc.com. 

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