At one point or another, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of a split end while typing away on your laptop and thought — can I just cut these pesky strands by myself? Well, to answer your question: Yes, you can take matters into your own hands by learning how to trim split ends at home. In fact, with a bit of guidance from the pros, there’s no need to wait until your next hair appointment to get rid of dead ends.
For starters, how long can you go in between trims? "Ideally, you don’t want to go past eight weeks,” Nick Stenson, a hairstylist, senior vice president of Salon Services and Trend for Ulta Beauty, and Matrix artistic director, tells TZR. “Eight weeks is about the furthest you can go without compromising the health of your hair.” This time frame is even shorter for certain styles, too: "If you have a heavily layered or a short haircut, going past six weeks will make it hard to keep any shape build into the haircut," he adds.
Yes, that's frequent. And yes, you can trim your own split ends completely on your own — however, some stylists suggest holding out until you can visit the salon. "Don't cut your hair!" says celebrity hairstylist Scotty Cunha. "You're going to have more anxiety than if you leave it."
Opting to go full steam ahead anyway? In that case, you’ll need to know the proper way to do so. Below, everything you need to know about at-home trims, from identifying broken hair shafts (aka split ends) to keeping hair looking its best long after you've taken the plunge.
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How To Trim Split Ends At Home: Pinpointing The Damage
You don't need a microscope to pinpoint the teensy, tiny splits. "Once hair is dry, run your hair in between your two fingers all the way to the ends," Stenson says. "You will feel a change in texture and you will also see that the ends start to split from the ends moving up to the point of where you feel the texture change."
"Split ends are much easier to detect in straight hair, as curly and coily styles can often mask the true state of hair ends,” Robin Groover, a hairstylist and founder of Too Groovy Hair Salon, tells TZR. “However, hair that becomes stuck or tangled when running your fingers through it is often an easy detector of split ends. The split ends create knots for curls and coils on the ends. And as a result, the hair will often break on the ends, resulting in length stagnation."
How To Trim Split Ends At Home: Getting Prepped
Stenson recommends picking up professional, fine-point tip shears for at-home trimming (so no, don't just use any scissors you have lying around, please). And you know how a professional stylist routinely sanitizes his or her tools? Incorporate that into your own DIY routine. "Only use them on hair and don’t cut any other object with them," says Stenson. "Spray them with Barbicide after each use and keep them in a secure case."
Although you will need precise shears made for cutting hair — "This will prevent damage caused by blades that may split the strand," says Groover — don't fret too much over sharpening the blade between trims. "A decent pair of shears should last a non-pro three to five years before needing a sharper blade, unless they are cutting hair for their whole tribe," the hairstylist adds.
How To Trim Split Ends At Home: Cutting Straight Hair
Although your stylist may cut your hair while it's wet, Stenson recommends trimming when dry after following your regular haircare routine. And as far as the cut technique itself goes: "If you’re trying to trim your split ends on your own, they should be trimmed by point cutting into the ends to create softness,” he says. ‘This will show the least amount of error when doing it yourself.”
Pause. Let's circle back to point cutting. "'Point cutting' is achieved by holding scissors vertically pointing up, then bringing your ends facing upwards and point cutting into them vertically (be careful of your fingers!)," Stenson continues.
How To Trim Split Ends At Home: Cutting Curly Hair
Those with wavy, curly, and coily hair should add a few steps. For waves, Groover recommends parting your hair into four to six sections, then twisting or braiding each section. "Hold the twist or braid at zero degrees, close to the shoulder area, and snip the less dense strands," she explains. "It's easier to do frequent tiny trims than trying to cut at once."
Add in more sections for curly hair — Groover suggests six to eight. After twisting or braiding them, "Smooth the hair into a straighter form with a blow dryer or air drying, then brush for a more even texture," she explains. "This helps the form to be more even for better precision." Then twist each section, hold them at "zero degrees, close to the shoulder area," and snip with the same frequent, small cuts. This method complements coily hair, as well; just swap from potentially air drying first to using an ionic blow dryer.
How To Trim Split Ends At Home: Fixing Mistakes
Fingers crossed it never reaches this point, but both experts have some tips to keep in mind if you do accidentally snip off too much. "Either bring the entire length to the new cut length, or leave the hole and hide it with styling till your pro can fix it," he says. Groover agrees on the latter. "Stop, cry, and get over it. Do not try to make it even," she says, adding that you should let it grow until you can see your stylist.
How To Trim Split Ends At Home: Preventing Future Damage
Caring for your ends doesn't just stop with the trim. "Prevention is everything when it comes to split ends," says Groover, who explains that you can monitor your hair's "cycle" to tell when it's time to snip. "Once you have identified the time period, be proactive with scheduling an appointment to get ahead of any damage."
What you use on your hair matters, too. "Make sure you’re always using professional products and use a mask once a week," says Stenson. "These two tricks will keep your hair looking its best for the longest period of time."
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