Adventures in DIY Haircuts

I’ve been to a range of haircut places in my life, and have found that I prefer old-school Asian places – the worse English skills, the better 🙂 Not because of cost (although they are definitely cheaper), but because they know how to tame my very thick, slightly wavy Asian hair. I remember going to a fancy hair salon near my school once that cost me ~$70, which was a lot for an undergrad student at the time, and the lady basically spent half the time blow-drying my hair instead of cutting it. The best haircut of my life was at the Flying Shears salon in Hong Kong, which seemed ordinary at the time of cut, but grew out beautifully and lasted longer than any other haircut I’d ever had. My standard haircut was from a random place I picked out on Pell St. in NYC, which gave me reliably average cuts, without frills or appointment needed.

After moving to current city a couple of years ago, I was on the search for a new haircut place. There were some disappointments initially: a popular hairdresser on Instagram who turned out to be a one-hit wonder and couldn’t cut other styles; and an Asian place that seemed to have the right ingredients on the surface, but was too disorganized to keep up with appointments. I did find one good place that I would return to, but it was a solid 35-minute drive away. What’s a girl to do?

DIY haircuts at home is something I *never* would’ve considered a few years ago. WAY too hippie crunchy, and isn’t your hair the most important accessory that you should lavish money and time on, etc etc? But then I read a post from Save Spend Splurge, and a DIY haircut started sounding more and more appealing. A haircut whenever I want, with less time, hassle, and cost than going to a salon? Might be worth the risk. This was back in the summer when school wasn’t in session, so I was pretty sure that even if I messed up, I could put my hair in a ponytail and let it grow out before school started.

So I used some shears we already had at home, and followed the classic ponytail method using a combination of Method 1, 2, and 3. At the same time, I also tried Lush’s henna hair dye, which is supposed to both dye and help condition your hair. I was pretty sure the dye wasn’t going to take hold on my dark hair, but I was hopeful for the conditioning effect. The water out here is really hard, which isn’t good for your hair condition.

So here are the results. “Before” is on the left (and it’d been about 6 months since my last haircut), and “after” is on the right.

My conclusion? Good enough for government work, as they say. I did clean up the front a  bit following a YouTube tutorial, and thinned out some of the layers with my thinning shears. It’s definitely not the perfect haircut (I can tell the layers are a bit uneven on the front right), but I did get some compliments from my colleagues, so it can’t be that horrible. Btw, the “after” photos make my hair look less shiny and conditioned, but that’s just my poor photography skills, as my hair felt the same or even better.

The henna had very little effect in terms of color, except for reddening the already bleached parts of my hair (left over from my last round of highlights). I did notice a very good conditioning effect from the henna, although that faded a bit after a few washes. Not sure if I’d repurchase the henna, but I’ll at least use up the henna that I have left. It was also kinda fun putting in the henna and creating a huge mess in the bathroom. It’s like putting mud in your hair, if you enjoy that kind of thing (oddly enough, I do). My partner smelled the henna as I was putting it in, and immediately exclaimed that his mom and grandmother do the same thing (they’re from the middle east, so I guess it’s more common out there).

Since then, I’ve done a second round of DIY haircutting in the last few weeks, and although I’m still experimenting to find what works the best (e.g., ponytail cut method 5 doesn’t work well for my hair type), overall the results have been reasonable. I think I’ll continue doing my haircuts myself, unless a really good haircut place pops up in my neighborhood. My current preferred haircut place is a $40 hair salon in someone’s basement in my hometown, but the $700 airplane ticket to get there is a bit of a barrier.

Have you ever tried cutting your own hair? How do you find a good hair salon?

4 thoughts on “Adventures in DIY Haircuts

  1. we haven’t paid for a haircut in my house for years. i did replace the 20 year old clipper this year for a new $30 model. mrs. smidlap cuts mine and it comes out fine. i just have to ask before we have a drink. she cuts her own but it’s so curly you would hardly notice a mistake. my idea was to put the cost of a haircut in cash in an envelope and go out to eat as a treat when the fund builds up.

    your cut looks great. keep with that. it’s good to see a fellow person of science out there writing.

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  2. I have yet to have anyone cotton on that I cut my own hair. If I could find an amazing hairdresser who could do a cut that would grow out well, WHY NOT!? But thus far, the annoying thing is paying $90 for a Meh haircut. I’d rather spend that on two pedicures spaced 6 weeks apart.

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    • I’ve had multiple people compliment me on my DIY haircut so far, so I’m pretty sure people can’t tell! I can’t say it’s been completely easy doing it on my own – there have been a few self-trims which I did not like, but I’m slowly learning my own preferences. Which I didn’t really know before – I used to just tell the hairdresser “long, layered, uh… whatever you think looks good”. But now I know what I like / what looks good.

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