How to trim and color your hair at home and save money


Many people turned to trimming their own hair or touching up their color during lockdown. "We recently looked into the growth of at-home coloring kits during quarantine in the U.S. and saw a 33,978% increase in sales in just one month," says Square economist Felipe Chacon. 

If you were among those experimenters and happy with your results, you may want to continue doing some work on your hair at home. Getting your color touched up at a salon costs an average of $80, according to data from Fash. So skipping monthly visits could save you more than $1,000 each year, counting tax and tip.

A man's haircut costs $27 on average, according to data from Square. So grabbing a clipper or a pair of haircutting scissors and opting for DIY trims instead could save you about $300 per year, after you factor in the cost of hardware. And a woman's haircut costs $46, on average, according to data from Square, so going to the salon for fewer of those by doing trims yourself can save you money, too.

Here are some tips from New York City hairstylist New York City freelance hairstylist Chris O'Leary, who has worked with celebrities like Rosario Dawson, and designers like Gemma Kahng and Carolina Herrera.

When trimming hair: Don't attempt layers ...

O'Leary says it is possible to successfully trim and touch up your hair color at home if you're careful and you have the right tools.

Layering can be complicated, so O'Leary recommends aiming 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 begin with the back. "Start with one section, and comb it straight," he says. "Don't wear any hoodies or anything that will add bulk."

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." 

... and 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.

While in lockdown, Grow writer Sofia Pitt gave her boyfriend Lex a home haircut. "I'm the girl on every bachelorette trip who does everyone's hair and makeup," she says. "Skills related to beauty have always come naturally to me, so I figured I'd have a knack for cutting hair. Well, I figured wrong." 

The experience was more challenging than she expected, Pitt says. "Fortunately, Lex was pretty relaxed about the whole thing and comforted by repeating the phrase, 'It's hair, it grows back!'"

How to cut hair at home

Video by Ian Wolsten

She says that while a few sections didn't come out as even as hoped, she has kept going. "And practice makes perfect. I think Lex would prefer a professional barber, but if we're ever looking for additional ways to save money, it's nice to know I am semi-capable of cutting his hair."

Doing this twice a month would probably save about $100 a month, Pitt estimates.

Grow video producer Ian Wolsten, meanwhile, cut his own hair and was pleasantly surprised by the results: "I learned that it's a lot easier than I thought it was with clippers!

"I was very nervous that I'd have to buzz it all off after messing up," he says, though in the end that wasn't necessary. "However, I will likely go back to the barber after quarantine to keep the routine. If I didn't, I could probably save $20 each month, since that's around how often I get my hair cut."

When coloring hair: Only color the roots you see ...

If you're covering gray or blond roots, focus on what's visible, O'Leary says. You can use a touch-up spray or crayon for those areas, though you should make sure you find one that's close to your desired color.

And, he says, "just touch up the parts you see — usually the temples and the hairline around the face, as well as along your part. All you need to do is just your regrowth. You don't have to do the whole head."

Touching up dark roots on your own could easily go badly, so try to avoid it. "Going darker when it comes to hair color is a lot easier than going lighter," he says. Going lighter brings out your yellow or orange undertones. "Your natural dark hair may not be what you want but think of it this way: Neither is yellow and orange," he says.

For a longer-lasting and more accurate fix, go for the dye. Box dye (as opposed to professional dye) will probably be your best choice as it comes with instructions. "One client of mine likes the Olia brand, because it's less harsh on her sensitive scalp," he says. "Find a color match to your own hair, and please do a test strand first, because we want to make sure the color is correct as well as avoiding an allergic reaction when applying on your scalp." 

Going darker when it comes to hair color is a lot easier than going lighter.
Chris O'Leary
freelance New York City hairstylist

... and don't overlap your color

Make sure not to put one shade on top of another. "Don't bring [the dye] to the ends" of your hair, where you might already have color, he says. "And be precise, because overlapping the color on already colored hair will result in making the ends darker than the root color."

Separate your hair into four sections, with each quadrant around the perimeter, he says. "You would do small sections and do the root touch, and continue like that. Four quadrants, two in the front, one in the middle, separate those ear to ear, two sections in the back."

Proceed carefully, and remember, if you're unsure, it might be best to consult an expert. "Better safe than sorry, people! We don't want any one of you creating at-home disasters, for your own sanity," he says.

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