That itch you’re feeling? Yeah, I know the one. I’ve felt it too and I’ve been trying to fight it for so long. I am, of course, talking about cutting your hair while in lockdown. While scores of short-haired people might just be whipping out the clippers for an all-over grade 3 cut, those of us with longer hair don’t have it quite so simple. Add curly hair to that mix and you’ve got yourself a home haircut that could go dramatically wrong.
As someone who has been blessed with wavier-than-average hair, I can’t tell you the number of terrible haircuts I have had over the years. However, after some disastrous looks during my early teens (a v choppy Rachel Green–style bob is not a good idea for curls), I realised that I just needed to find a hairdresser that knew what they were doing to make the most of my natural hair.
But as we are in isolation mode, that means we don’t know when we’ll all next get to a salon. So I did what any journalist and someone desperate for a haircut would do: I spoke to an expert. George Northwood, to be exact. That’s right—I spoke to Meghan Markle’s and Alexa Chung’s hairstylist about what we curly haired people need to consider when attempting the at-home cut.
Keep scrolling for Northwood’s tips before you even consider whipping out the scissors.
“Before you do anything, you need to ask yourself, Do I really need to do this? And how much is it annoying me?” says Northwood. His thinking is that as we don’t know how long this will last you might end up with hair you’re not so happy with other people seeing and while it might just “be hair” curls take longer to grow. “It’s sometimes really good to let them grow,” advises Northwood, “as you can then go back to your hairdressers, after this is all over, and ask for a restyle.”
While it might be tempting to reach for the kitchen scissors, Northwood advises against this. “These scissors are too blunt and clunky and you need [haircutting scissors] to be sharp at the end. You can go on any retailer online and get a cheap pair.”
And if you’re worried about using them after lockdown, fear not, as Northwood says hairdressing scissors are also great for cutting fabric. The other thing you’ll need is to ensure you’ve got a comb. Northwood recommends that you hunt down a Japanese carbon comb, as they’re not only longer but also matte in finish so they’ll give you a better grip (and therefore more control).
You’ll also want a couple of section clips to keep your hair divided up as you work on it. Finally, Northwood’s last tip before you start chopping is to cut outside (rather than inside) of the house if you can, as it’ll make it much easier to clean.
There’s a debate about how to cut curly hair dry or wet. If you have longer curly hair, you’ll know that this is because when you cut it wet, it doesn’t give you a good idea of the length of the hair when it’s dry, as curly hair jumps up so much (and this obviously depends on just how curly your hair is too).
However, cutting it dry will mean that it’s difficult to cut as precisely as possible. Northwood suggests a third option: Brush your hair and blow-dry it straight. Even if it ends up looking a little frizzy, you’ll get a much better understanding of where you’ll want to cut.
As you won’t be blow-drying straight, Northwood suggestions another option here. As short curly hair is quite difficult for sometimes even professionals to cut, Northwood says to see it as if you’re cutting a hedge and just gently prune the bits you don’t like and are getting in your way.
For longer hair, once blow-dried, part it down the middle and pull both sides down the front so they’re hanging over collarbones. “Pull one side down, comb it to the bottom, put fingers where you’ve put the comb and cut it where the comb is. Don’t go two inches shorter. Let your hairdressers do that. Just trim the ends but flipping it up to look at it and point cut into it.” For the back, with longer hair, if you want to shape around the front, pull it all forward and follow the line that was there already. Push it forward like cousin it and visually look at it and see what your hairdresser has already done. Don’t go bold. Then you can dry it curly and then cut.
When I asked my fellow curly haired colleagues about what tips they most wanted for cutting hair at home, the reply was unanimous: “How can we do the back?” Well, it is not an easy task, and even professional hairdressers can’t do it accurately by themselves says Northwood.
There’s no way you can cut it properly at the back. “If it’s longer, just pull it forward, so you look like cousin It, cut the two sides and you’ll brush it back and you’ll see it like a V-shape.” Don’t worry, though, as Northwood says this looks fine on longer hair. “The problem with a bob is that it looks a bit odd and can go pageboy, so if you live on your own and want to do a bob, don’t do it unless you’ve got someone to cut the back for you and join the sides up.”
The good news though is that “hair around the front and the face is the bit that tends to get drier. The head is so much stronger at the back.”
Now keep scrolling for all the equipment and products you might need for cutting your curly hair.