A Professional Stylist’s Advice for Men’s At-Home Haircuts

Is your hair starting to annoy you? Stylist Josh DeMarco has some tips that can help.

mens at-home haircuts

Stylist Josh DeMarco is here with the men’s at-home haircut tips you need. Photograph by Dean Mitchell/Getty Images

It’s been about three weeks since Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-essential businesses in Pennsylvania to close in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Among those businesses? Salons and barber shops.

Given that some men hit up their local barber shop biweekly for a trim, we’re willing to bet that men in particular are feeling pretty antsy about their hair this far into self-isolation. In fact, Josh DeMarco, founder of 2019 Best of Philly winner DAPR Grooming Parlour, says he’s gotten over one hundred requests for house calls from men wanting a cut.

While DeMarco has, of course, made the responsible choice to turn down all of those requests, it has made him reflect on how he can better help clients who are itching to cut their own hair. DeMarco’s first question for clients is, “Why do you care? No one can go anywhere anyway, so why do you care what your hair looks like?” But he realizes that for his more frequent customers, there’s genuine discomfort in an overgrown cut. And while being able to worry about the state of your hair right now is a luxury, if it’s bothering you, DeMarco has some smart tips that can help. Read on for his advice.

Start With the Areas Bugging You the Most

“There are things you can do to the perimeter of your hair that’ll make you feel a lot better and cleaner,” says DeMarco. “One of the main reasons guys feel dirty and like they need a cut is that their neck is really hairy.” 

To clean up your neck area, DeMarco recommends combing down the hair on the back of your head, then using either electric hair clippers (if you have them), a beard trimmer, or even a simple Gillette-style razor to shave down the neck, going with the grain. You can start with an electric trimmer to create a clean line between the hair and the neck, then lather up any leftover stubble with some shaving cream or soap and follow the trimmer with a razor.

Because it’s along the back of your neck, this task will be easier if you have a partner to help. Here’s a video DeMarco filmed at home with the help of his wife that demonstrates the technique (turn the volume up to hear his instructions).

How to Clean Up Your Neck Hair:

After you’ve tackled your neck hair, DeMarco says another spot of frequent irritation is around the ears. “I would comb all the hair straight down so it goes over the ear,” says DeMarco. “And have the trimmers go towards the back of the head. If they clean up around their ears and at the back of the neck, it’s going to make a huge difference.” 

If you don’t have trimmers for this task, you can also try scissors — but use caution. “Scissors will be harder,” says DeMarco. “If you do want to use scissors, keep the one blade on the skin and just follow around your ear shape. Don’t take the scissors off the skin or you’ll have a chance of cutting [yourself]. If you keep the one blade stationary on the skin and follow it, it’ll be way easier.”

Oh, and about those scissors? Never, ever use kitchen or craft scissors or the thinning scissors that come with some kits. Non-hair scissors can bend the hair before cutting it, and you’ll risk ruining your hair cuticle in the process. Instead, you’ll want to purchase some basic hair cutting scissors. DeMarco says picking some up online for $10 to $15 should be just fine for at-home cuts.

“You’re essentially giving yourself split ends if you use the wrong scissors,” he adds.

If your hair is starting to hang too much in your face, you can also use a trimmer to clean up the perimeter of your face. See how DeMarco does it in the video below.

How to Trim Around Your Ears and Face: 

Take Off Length, But Don’t Destroy Your Hair

Overall, DeMarco doesn’t recommend people attempt full-on haircuts at home. There are more ways it can go wrong than go right if you’re not experienced.

If cleaning up around your neck and ears isn’t cutting it and you’re desperate to take off some length, DeMarco suggests you use clippers with an eight guard — typically a standard for a one-inch guard, he says — to go over your whole head. (Note: Only try this if you’re used to having short hair. One-inch all around might feel too short if you typically have a longer look.)

Want more shape to your cut? Before you go wild attempting an at-home fade, keep in mind a few ways you can, uh, royally screw this up. For instance, DeMarco warns, don’t take the clippers on a short setting too high on your head. “There’s an area called the parietal ridge on the side of your head. That’s where your head starts to round towards the top of your head,” he explains. “If you cut above that with clippers, that hair is going to grow straight out. It’s going to be really, really hard to fix.”

Another thing to avoid: Cutting your cowlick too short. If you mow it down with clippers, DeMarco says, it sticks straight up — and no amount of product will hold it down.

When it comes to shaping your sides, DeMarco suggests starting with a high-number guard and working your way down. That will help ensure you don’t take off too much length from the start.

“If you are going to use clippers, start with a higher number and work your way down. Start with a number eight and go up the sides. If that doesn’t take any length off, go to a seven, and then to a six,” says DeMarco. “You can call that reverse fading. You start higher and go lower, whereas in the shop, most barbers start lower and then go higher.”

DeMarco doesn’t recommend you take it below a two guard at home. “It doesn’t show skin, but it’s still short,” he says. “Once you expose the skin, you’re going to have lines all over your head.”

And a piece of general advice? DeMarco says he’d rather have long hair that needs a cut than wait for a bad cut to grow out.

Play Around With Styling Products

Given that DeMarco’s primary recommendation is that you don’t attempt an at-home haircut, that may mean you’ll have some extra length to play with. Now is a good time to experiment with different styles and products.

“One of the questions I get asked behind the chair all the time is, ‘How should I style my hair? What would you recommend?’ Well now is the perfect time for these guys,” says DeMarco. “If your hair is long, experiment with what products you have. If your girlfriend or boyfriend or wife or anyone has products, start with them. Put gel in, put cream in. Try out your products.”