In a world of DIY where video tutorials continue its onward march, learning how to cut your own hair is just one click away. But before you go all Mulan-crazy with your hair, are you picking up the right shears? Do you know there is a particular hair cutting tool that’s best for a particular cut? Exactly. Save yourself from hair horror stories and get an understanding of the different tools used in cutting and trimming hair.
Even if you have your own stylist that does your hair, make sure that your next cut is the most perfect hairdo ever. Learning about the different hair cutting tools and their usage will help you get specific about what you want and effectively communicate with your hairstylist. With all of these said, let’s dive into the fundamental cutting tools used in the hair industry, what they are best for, how to properly use them and more importantly, how to buy the right cutting tool for you and your hair needs.
- Hair Cutting Shear
- Texturizing Shears
- Hair Clippers
- Hair Trimmers
- Hair Cutting Razors
Hair Cutting Shear
Best for cutting, layering, and trimming
Also known as straight shears, barber shears, hairdressing shears or simply hair shears, the hair cutting shears are a specialized type of scissors designed for cutting hair. One may ask, can I use a regular scissor to cut my hair? Well, you can but the blade on regular scissors is usually thicker in contrast to a hair shear, which means it will be difficult to get the precise cut and may additionally damage your hair cuticles.
Shears that are specially designed for hair, on the other hand, are significantly sharper and are made convex or beveled to foster different hair cutting techniques. Moreover, a hair cutting shear is built with a certain amount of tension in the pivot area that is neither too loose nor too tight, just the right amount of tension to open and close the shears as you cut.
Tips and Techniques:
- Hold the shears as you would with a regular scissor. Use your ring for the hole on the outside blade (the hole which is usually smaller) and the thumb for the hole on the inside cutting blade (the bigger hole).
- Rest your pinky finger on the tail-like tang or brace attached to one of the hole ends. This will give you additional control when cutting.
- When cutting, you just want one blade to move. Use the inside ring or the thumb hole to swivel the shears for optimum control. You can flip your hand upward and downward as you work your way through the hair, whichever position is comfortable, but always work with the thumb ring.
- If you intend to cut hair other than your own, you may find it hard to juggle between a scissor and a comb. One hairdressing trick is to take your thumb out of the ring, keeping the ring finger on the hole, then toss the shears inside your palm using your pinky.
You can switch back to the original cutting position by swinging the scissors around into your palm. Keep practicing the motion and soon you’ll find it easier and quicker to cut without the tools getting in your way.
Choosing the Right Haircutting Shears:
Always choose blades made of steel. Japan and German-made shears gained a reputation for manufacturing good quality stainless steel. One great example is the Equinox Professional Shears Razor Edge Series, the most top-rated hair cutting shears made of premium Japanese stainless steel with very precise blades and sharp cutting edges to evenly trim hair with ease.
The shears are available in several sizes, from 5 to 7 inches long. Choosing shears is relative to the size of your hand. Obviously, you should go for larger shears if your hands are larger and smaller shears only if your hands are small.
Additionally, you need to take into consideration the hair cutting technique you intended to execute. The length of a large shear, for instance, is ideal when lifting hair over a comb. Techniques that do not require the use of a comb — such as cutting the hairline around the ears or on the back on the neck — should use smaller blades since they can handle it better.
Handle and Insert Hole
Today’s shears are built to have ergonomic handle and grip to put less stress on stylist’s wrists and hands which is one thing that you should look for. You should also look into the design of the swivels and the adjustment of spacing between finger holes for you to be able to work comfortably and efficiently. The following are the available designs for the grip.
The type of shear that features asymmetrical finger holes to allow more movement and lessen over-extension of the thumb.
If you are used to cutting with the middle finger on one hole and the thumb on the other, this is the type of grip for you
The prominent feature is the swivel joint which is in line with the shear’s shank. This gives the thumb more movement whilst allowing the wist to comfortably move as you cut. It’s best for those who have wrist issues.
This is a special type of shear which is made for left-handed stylists. It works around the adjustment of the dial that ensures a comfortable fit for the fingers of the left hand.
Best for Thinning and Blending
A texturizing shear has the same two-finger blades as the hair cutting shears except that they have blending teeth that are edged like a comb on one or both sides of the blades.
Because of its special construction, it can only cut half of the hair that is between the gaps. As such, texturizing shears are used to thin the hair or blend layered hair, a reason they are also referred to as thinning shears or blending shears.
Despite its popular use to reduce thickness on hair, thinning shears are alternatively used to create volume with proper cutting tricks. This type of shear is also used to blend in the demarcation line or those cutting marks between your clipper and shear work when creating short-layered hairstyles.
Tips and Techniques:
- Using your finger or your comb, take and elevate a portion of your hair, the section of your hair where you want to remove bulk and create looseness. Holding your shear at about 45 ° to 95 angles, cut into the hair and comb. Repeat this process, working around your hair — or upward to downward if you have longer hair — until you are satisfied with the density of your hair.
- Most hairstylists would cut too many times before combing, but that’s because they have used the shear too many times to know how much hair their tool is taking. But if you are a novice, you would want to cut just once or twice before combing out just so you actually know how much hair your shear is taking out.
- If you don’t want to take big chunks out at once, you can control how much hair you are taking out by just slightly slicing the portion of the hair instead of completely closing the shear to cut.
- Another way to use the shear is through the weaving technique wherein you close the shear onto your hair and slide it as you would when combing hair. This technique is particularly beneficial if you want to add more depth to your hair color.
- Only use texturizing shears on dry hair. Also, be wary of overusing texturizing shears as they can cause hair issues such as split ends and flyaways.
Choosing the Right Texturizing Shears:
Numbers of Teeth
The number of teeth present determines the amount of hair that you can shed off a section. Shears consisting of lesser teeth can cut chunks of hair at once since the teeth are widely spaced. This is the type of shear that you want if you intend to cut more hair in just a few passes so you can proceed with other sections faster.
Shears that have lesser teeth do not have gaps as wide-teeth shears do so they remove much less of hair. This type of shear is often used to polish the final look. For instance, if you want to go back over your hair after you already made a pass with your regular cutting tool, a shear with smaller teeth can blend in the demarcation line to give the layers a softer, lived-in look. You can still use this kind of shear as a standard shear but will require more cutting and passes as they only take lesser hair.
Single-Sided Vs. Double-Sided Shears
A texturizing shear can either have teeth on only one side or both. The former is referred to as single-sided shear while the latter is a double-sided shear. Since the single-sided shear has a straight blade on the other side, they cut more portion than the double-sided shears. Depending on where it was produced from, the teeth can either be on the top of the scissors (such are those that are European-made) or at the bottom (mostly Japanese-made).
A shear with teeth on both blades gives you control over the amount of hair you are taking. These types are commonly used in giving hair a finer section, thin out a certain section of hair or give the tips softer ends.
Choosing what type of shears to buy is more of a personal preference. It really depends on what design you are more comfortable with working and the intended look. Most professional hairstylists, however, utilize all types to achieve a masterful cut that their clients want. Below, you can find the common shears used by stylists.
Standard Texturizing Shear
This is the regular thinning, texturizing and blending shear. This type of shears doesn’t specialize in particular cutting techniques, although they are versatile all-around-tool that does all the job. They consist of 25-teeth and remove over 50 percent of hair in just about a couple of cuts.
If you have extremely thick hair, you’ll want a chunking shear on your arsenal. These are wide-toothed shears, having 7 to 15 teeth that are best for removing about 80 percent of hair in just a single to cut or two.
These shears are used to give your final look finer details. The tooth is often placed closer to each other and usually have a larger number of teeth. Because of the minimal amount of hair they shed, they are best for blending layers or creating even transitions without the weird stairs or holes in the haircut.
Best for All-Purpose-Cutting and Tapering
Hair clippers are the most popular cutting tool to groom men’s hair. While they are commonly used for men’s cuts such as buzz cuts and undercuts, clippers are now also being incorporated in women’s hairstyles, particularly in creating perfect ends in a bob style cut or gradually layering hair.
Two comb-like razors are what comprise a hair clipper. The two blades work in the same fashion as the blades in scissors, they move above the other and slide sideways to cut any hair that comes in between them.
Hair clippers come in different blade lengths, often referred to as the guide comb, which is either detachable or adjustable. The one with changeable blades is often sold in a set that comes with extra blade combs. If you are new to the operational principle of hair clippers, you’ll like the Wahl Color Pro Complete Hair Cutting Kit. The set has everything you need from the actual hair clipper and color-coded ½ to 8 blade comb attachments down to the basic hair cutting needs such as the shears, styling combs, and many more
Tips and Techniques:
- You’ll want to slide the clippers against the growth of your hair so you can efficiently scoop the hair with the blade. Start with the base of the head and work your way up to the top of the head.
- Make sure you are using the right blade attachment. Always use the longest blade guards first if you need to remove extra-long hair. As you remove a lot of hair, you can switch to smaller blades to work closer to your shorter hair.
- If you want to use a clipper to fade or blend demarcation lines, use blade guards with two different lengths. A mix of the shorter and longer blade can help you fade weird cutting marks.
- Comb your hair as you cut so you can better examine if there are stray areas you’ve missed.
Best for Trimming, Lining, Edging and Clean-up
Hair trimmers are very much related to clippers. In fact, it’s hard to distinguish them from afar but upon close inspection, you’ll notice that trimmers have narrower and shallower teeth.
Like clippers, hair trimmers have two blades but because the blade is too small, they cannot fully cut hair. Trimmers are designed for detail and fine work, to clean up edges on short cuts, sideburns, necklines, hairlines, and even beards.
Tips and Techniques:
- There are two ways to trim your hair, using the dry and wet methods. The dry method is just a straightforward process wherein the trimmer passes through blow-dried or dry hair. Those who have extremely thick, textured or coarse hair prefer the wet method, however, because the trimmers pass more thoroughly leaving no astray hair behind.
- Trimmers cannot be used on long hair because their small teeth restrict their cutting capabilities. They are best for very short hair or even shaven hair. Some adjustable trimmers come with snap-on clipper blades so you get a tool that cuts and trims at the same time.
Choosing the Right Hair Clippers and Trimmers
The blades are usually the same rust-resistant stainless steel used in shears. Carbon is often mixed so the blade stays sharper for longer. With this said, the high-carbon blade is a good choice if you are looking for low-maintenance clippers and trimmers.
Titanium blades are also favored because of their durability although they usually will cost you more. However, be wary of titanium-based blades on electric clippers and trimmers as they can get too hot. Unless they are combined with ceramic material that distributes even heat, clippers don’t get hot even with prolonged use.
Length of the Guide Combs
The guide combs are the blade guards that come as accessories to the clipper. They are usually numbered from 0-8 according to the length of the hair they left behind. The smaller the number the shorter the cut. For instance, guide combs numbered as 0-½ will give you barely-there hair, a number 1 will give a ⅛ inch of hair on your hair while that of a number 8 (1-inch) is normally for cutting more chunks of hair.
Unfortunately, each brand of clippers and trimmers has its own guided combs that are not universal. So generally you can’t use combs from another brand. While you might find universal replacements that are sold by a different manufacturer, most of the time they won’t fasten properly or have extra space that causes the cut to be crooked. So if you are going to purchase a clipper or a trimmer, it’s always better if the brand features 0-8 numbered combs so you’ll have more cutting precisions and control.
As with any regular hair cutting tools, clippers and trimmers come in a variety of designs and the choice is highly personal. Below are your options for clippers and trimmers.
Manual Vs. Electric
Today’s younger generation may not have heard of manual clippers and trimmers although some barber shops still use them. As indicated in its name, manual clippers and trimmers are operated manually through a pair of handles that you squeeze and release much like a tweezer. Barbers use them to cut hair fast.
Electric clippers, on the other hand, are powered by electric motors. These electric devices can either be corded or cordless. Those that are corded are directly powered by electricity. They come in a power cord attached at the end of the body which you can plug-in into an outlet. The cordless version comes with a rechargeable battery and a charging unit. The batteries usually just last 2 to 3 hours.
Detachable Vs. Adjustable
Do you want your blades to be removable from the clipper or affixed? Detachable blades as its name suggests are designed to be detachable from the device while adjustable blades are screwed to its unit.
The adjustable blades are for professionals who want a quick touch to the lever. Although they still come with various blade lengths, a variety of hair lengths can be achieved by just adjusting the lever on the side unit.
With detachable clippers and trimmers, various hair cuts can be achieved by interchanging blades. You don’t need to unscrew the blade when changing as the attachments can be easily snap on and off in seconds.
The motor is the “engine” of the blade. The design and construction of the motor is one thing that often overlooked but they affect the performance of the blade. There are three common types of clipper motor which we rounded up below.
This comes in AC and DC units and the motor behind the most high-performing clippers and trimmers in the market. A rotary motor is unbeatable when it comes to power and blade speed which makes it versatile in terms of varieties of cuts it can support.
Magnetic or Universal Motor
While a magnetic is generally reliable and capable of reaching high speeds, they provide less power and tend to be noisier than their motor counterparts. On the flip side, a magnetic motor is lighter and inexpensive than its motor counterparts.
Many stylists and barbers prefer pivot motor because it produces twice the cutting power of a magnetic motor which makes them good on wet and dry hair. The only downside, they tend to have a lower blade speed.
Hair Cutting Razors
Best for Blending, Cutting, Shaving, and Texturizing
Hair cutting razors are different from that of electric and manual shavers, although they may also serve the purpose of cleaning up the head. There are two types of hair cutting razors, a styling razor, and a razor comb.
A styling razor or a straight razor resembles a knife. They come in different shapes and grinds as well a handle so you can avoid razor cuts.
Meanwhile, razor combs are literally combed with a razor inside it. Much like thinning shears, they are used to thin out hair as you comb.
One may ask, why use razor cuts when there are more convenient tools that are easier to use? While this may be true, hair cutting razors present unique results that are different to find other clippers or trimmers of today. They deliver a lot of texture and movement to other wide straight blunt cuts.
Tips and Techniques
Using a razor to cut hair requires a stable hand and the basic know-how. In the clip below, you can learn how to use cut hair properly using a styling razor with some useful trick to get the look you intended.
Choosing the Right Haircutting Razors:
The diameter of the blade or the width does not necessarily affect the cut. Thicker blades or those the are sized 8/8 are heavier and beefier. They plow through stubborn strands and are great for thick and coarse hair. They are difficult to work through sideburns or hairlines, however. This is where smaller blades come in handy. They are much more maneuverable and easier to see especially doing touch-ups.
The tip of the blade in styling razors are available in different contoured variations. Below are the 3 types of razor tips.
A straight drop is what makes the end of the razor. This allows for more precise edging and shaping. They are good for cutting around sideburns.
The tip is exactly what the name implies, a convex curve to the edge without a sharp corner. This is great for beginners as this makes cutting a bit easier and safer.
A concave end is what defines a barber’s notch. This type is less popular because it’s a bit complex to use. The technique requires folding the scales all the way as you directly hold the razor by the spine of the blade using your fingertips. You then place your index finger in the notch to maneuver.
Straight Razor Vs. Shavette
Styling razors can either have straight razor which has a fixed full metal blade or a shavette which features two disposable half-blades. There are takeaways downside of these configurations. For instance, with shavette’s shorter blades, there’s an increase in visibility which makes them ideal for touch-ups. They are also much cheaper and the cost will only come when it’s time to change the blades. They are also lightweight which gives the stylist more control.
Conversely, because a straight razor’s cutting edge goes from the shank all the way until the head, they weigh heavier. However, if you are not a fan of changing blade cartridges every now and then, a straight razor is for you. It just needs regular sanding and a few adjustments for maintenance.
Design: Styles are available in different variations although one may not necessarily mean it’s better than the other. It’s relative to how comfortable you are in the design. For example, a European design styling razor has a blade mounted on a rotating pin like that of a swiss knife. This is to protect the blade as well as to ward off accidents when the tool is not in use. Then there also those that have the knife-like appearance in which the blade is permanently mounted on its handle and does not allow rotational movement.
Our Final Thoughts
There are still many people around the globe who ask for a trimmer when what they really wanted is a clipper. And so they end up getting lesser hair than they originally wanted. Lucky you, you now know the different hair cutting tools and honed new lingo you can use to effectively express yourself better the next time you get a haircut.
Or perhaps you’re leaning towards a DIY? Knowing the right hair cutting tools for different hair cutting techniques can mean the difference between a disastrous haircut and your best perfect cut ever. We hope that we armed you with the new learnings you can use to build up your confidence to make the next big move, namely cutting your own hair.