Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Surviving the Home Haircut

During my twenties, I cut my hair constantly. I experimented with layers, bangs, different lengths -- you name it. Maybe it stemmed from my love of scissors, which I get from my mother. She had a pair of stainless steel sewing Singer's, which now are as old as me, and they still cut through jeans like a knife through butter. As a child, the clicking sound they made was sensational -- the undulating rhythm of creativity at work.  When A was born I vowed not to touch her hair for several years. Her hair was precious in a way mine had never been. But then during a painful, cry-filled, teething day, A started yanking furiously at her hair as it fell uncomfortably in her eyes. The time had come for her first haircut.

I took a couple of deep breaths before I started, and though I merely trimmed the front, I felt a pang of, strangely, guilt? For fifteen and a half months these loving locks had grown with my little girl.  In the end, A was so relieved to have the hair out of her face that amidst the swollen gums she quieted down. I'd helped her cope. And when I took a step back, I saw that the new fringe was a bit Betty Page!

Since then, I've given her a full-on haircut, and experienced none of the emotions I originally had. It was easy. I realized that children need haircuts regularly to maintain healthy hair, just as adults do. It rejuvenates hair growth by alleviating some of the weight. And sure a little kid's ends don't endure the same amount, or kind, of wear and tear that an adult's does, but the ends are the oldest area of every strand. And with A's curly hair, it was refreshing to see how much more her ringlets bounced and spiraled naturally with less weight.

The trick to a successful, at-home haircut is to have a good pair of scissors. Just like with food prep where you're less likely to cut yourself with a sharper knife, your child's hair will be cut more safely and efficiently with a solid pair of hair-cutting shears. Our last haircut took all of ten minutes. I didn't have a smock so I took a small garbage bag and cut out three holes: one at the bottom seam for her head, and then two at the side seams for her arms. You can place a cotton bib underneath the smock for added protection from the falling locks. A went into the high chair, Sesame Street was turned on, and I gave her a snack cup.

With A's curls, my plan of attack was to go around her in a circle and take a 1/2-inch off as evenly as possible. And with curlier hair, remember that when it's wet it appears longer than it is, so be careful not to take off more than you'd like. After spraying her hair with water, I combed it out, removing all the tangles. Then, using the comb to grab one-inch sections of hair from the roots (working around her head in a downward spiral from the crown), I would slide the sections through the index and third fingers of my left hand (I'm a rightie), stopping just short of a 1/2-inch from the ends. At that point I would snip with the scissors in my right hand. I took some photographs with A's doll to illustrate.

While cutting, your fingers should always be there in between the scissors and your child as a safety. You can still manage even lines while using your fingers to hold the hair against their neck, forehead, ear, etc. If you're having trouble keeping your child still -- bangs can be particularly challenging -- you can always try when they're asleep, and/or have a friend/husband/partner help you hold their head. One trick I've used for both my fringe and A's is to cut at an angle (see photo) as you go across. This will give you a softer, easier to cut, line.

Pro Cut 1-2-3:

1) I love these scissors by Diane Professional ($65). They saw me through some of my own at-home haircuts and now they're navigating A's.

2) A spray bottle ($3) filled with water is useful not only for haircuts but for daily styling and detangling. Our spray bottle was actually what kept A still for most of her last haircut. She kept spraying her face with it, exclaiming, "OOOH!"

3) The comb I use for A is this Mason Pearson ($26) one. It is a great detangler for both straight hair like mine or curlier hair like hers.


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on

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