Cutting My Kid’s Hair at Home

Early last year, I started cutting my son’s hair at home. We had tried the various children’s hair salons in our area as well as the barbershop my husband frequents. For every okay haircut, there would be 2 or 3 that we looked at and said, “it’ll grow”. At $25 a pop plus tip, I decided to take the plunge and learn how to do it myself.

The first thing I did to prepare was research how to cut boy's hair. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos and made a list of equipment to buy. The most helpful videos I found were this one, which shows a mom cutting her toddler’s hair, and this one, which shows a professional cutting a grown man’s hair.

Once I felt like I had a rudimentary grasp of the basics, I went online to order the tools I would need. Initially, I bought entry-level clippers, hair scissors, a drape, clipper oil, and a comb. After I had some experience under my belt, I bought a trimmer because it made it easier to get around the ears and thin out the sideburns. The reason I waited to buy the trimmer was because I didn't know if I would continue cutting my son's hair and didn't want to invest in too much equipment if this was going to be a short-lived experiment.

How I Do It
When the weather is nice, I cut my son’s hair outdoors. It’s easier to sweep up and let the extra little hairs fly away where they will. Cleaning up indoors is not that much harder, I just sweep up and then vacuum if I’m on a floor surface, or a vacuum seems to do the trick on carpet.

The first thing I do is gather all my equipment. This includes a stool, clippers, clipper attachments (#3 and #4), trimmer, trimmer attachment (7mm), scissors, drape, comb, spray bottle with water, and iPad or laptop. If we’re inside, I usually seat my son in front of the TV because it’s easier to get him to tilt his head in the direction I need. The screen is bigger, so he can see what’s going on more easily. On the iPad or laptop, it's a smaller screen so he feels compelled to look in one specific direction.

Once I’m all set, I get my son on the stool and cover him with the drape. Then I use the #3 clippers to trim the section right above his ears and follow the hairline down along to his neck. I have him tilt his head forwards when I'm working on his neckline to get a clean cut. I use the entire width of the clippers. Then I switch to the #4 clippers for the section above what I already cut, up to the corner of his hairline (where the top and sides meet). I follow this around to the crown of his head, about an inch below his hair whorl. If needed, I blend the area where I switched from the #3 to #4 attachment, but it usually looks pretty seamless. This is all done with the hair dry.

For the top of his head, I wet his hair with the spray bottle and use the scissors. The videos linked above do a good job of laying out the step-by-step instructions and techniques. I cross-check the length horizontally and front-to-back. I also blend the hair on top with the hair on the sides.

Then I thin out the sideburns using the 7mm trimmer. I use the trimmer without an attachment to shorten his sideburns and clean up the edges behind the ears and along the neckline. For the area right above the ears, I use scissors because I can fold the ear down and it gives me the most control. When I tried to use the clippers or trimmers for this, I would have to hold them at an angle and it would abrade his skin.

This last part is the only time that it's really important for my son to keep his head still. One, so that his sideburns come out even and two, so that I don't accidentally cut his ears with the scissors, which are extremely sharp. I am happy to say I have only ever had two accidents with the scissors and they were both cuts on my fingers.

What I Learned
The first few times I cut my son’s hair, things didn't go exactly as I planned. The first time, I used this tapering clipper attachment (probably incorrectly), and the area above his ears looked a bit choppy. Good thing he wears glasses, because the arms of the frames covered this up pretty nicely. The second time, I used too short of a clipper to clean around the neckline and it also wound up looking choppy. Once I figured out which clipper attachments to use, things went a lot smoother.

Another thing I didn't know as a newbie was to go over the same spots many times with the clippers, in different directions, to catch all the little hairs. I didn’t do this when I was first learning, and it resulted in his hair looking kind of fuzzy from longer hairs not being cut. You can hear when an area is pretty even because no more hairs will get trimmed no matter which direction you move the clippers.

I also learned that every head is different and it will take time to get used to a person's hair growth patterns and head shape. Hair can grow sideways, upwards, downwards, or out, from what I've observed. With my son, if I cut the top of his hair too short, he gets a cowlick. So I have to know exactly where to stop with the clippers.

Since I started cutting my son's hair, my husband has asked me to cut his hair. I can cut the hair on both sides of his head the same way, but they will look different because his hair grows differently on each side and there are different bumps on either side of his skull. This can require some experimentation and experience to get the results you want.

In Conclusion
There was definitely a learning curve and I’m still working on my technique, but it’s been totally worth the effort. I have also tried cutting my daughter’s hair on two occasions and it came out good enough that people have complimented her and asked where she gets her hair cut. I don’t plan to make a habit of it though, because long hair can wind up uneven very easily if the head is tilted, and it’s understandably very challenging for my daughter to hold her head in a certain position for an extended period of time.

My reasons for cutting my kid’s hair myself are similar to why I changed my own brake light, as I wrote about here. I like being able to cut his hair as often as needed and on our own schedule without having to schlep to a salon, wait, drop $30, and cross my fingers. It takes some trial and error, and patience on the part of your kids, but like most things, the process gets easier and the results get better over time.


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