We can’t count on much these days, but one thing is for sure — your hair is getting defiant and it’s not gonna stop. Normally, you tell people you get your hair cut every four to six weeks, but you actually milk it to two months with the help of a ball cap. Now you’re past that. You’ve gone from Forrest Gump to Cast Away and you’re tempted to tame the mane yourself.
But before you do something rash, you want to have the right tools for the job (please step away from the checkout screen). We talked with New York City barber, Joey Henao of Cotter Barber about the actual equipment he and many other barbers use as well as how to use them.
“Before you experiment with cutting, experiment with styling and products you have lying around because it could lead you to something new,” Henao says. If you don’t use one already, try using a blow dryer. It can allow you to experiment with new hairstyles in ways you couldn’t without one. Styling your hair with a comb and a blow dryer can get your hair to lay in directions it might not otherwise naturally. Your usual cut may not work for you at its current length, but another style might.
“This is the time to experiment,” Henao says. “Many people are afraid of not washing their hair because it gets greasy. You’re not seeing anyone now — try not shampooing for a couple days.” Getting into a routine of shampooing less can really give your hair new life. It can make it more mobile. Over-shampooing your hair can strip it of its natural oils which are beneficial to your hair’s overall health.
YS Park Comb
“This YS Park comb is kind of the gold standard for barbers, but any drug store comb will do,” Henao says. “Just look for a rigid spine and combination of fine and wide teeth.” You might opt for the paddle brush or round brush you have, but those brushes are designed for styling, not cutting and sectioning. Try and avoid these. Combs offer more precise styling than brushes, which is essential when cutting. Plus, you can still style your hair with a comb. “Anything with bristles is going to make your life harder,” he says. “You want consistently spaced plastic or metal teeth for accuracy.”
With a comb and damp hair (not wet, but not completely dry), isolate as much of the top hair from the sides as you can before you take the clippers to the sides and back. Once you’ve done that, comb the hairs at sides and back of your head straight down. If your hair has a part, make sure to use the comb to part it as best you can. Once you have your hair parted, you can see the shape of your hair more accurately and thus get a better trim.
Wahl Professional 5-Star Magic Clip
“This was pretty much every barber’s first clipper,” Henao says. “And it’s as reliable as you could want if you’re cutting at home.” It’s cordless and relatively light, making it easier to reach all the hard-to-reach areas along the nape. Though cordless clippers are typically less powerful than corded options, the Wahl Magic Clip is more than enough for DIY jobs.
It’s a little more expensive than one you might get at the drug store, but Henao says it’s totally worth it. “Cheaper alternatives won’t cut hair as evenly or effectively and will require numerous passes in order to catch every hair,” he notes. Many cheaper clippers will actually miss hairs as you run them through your hair, leaving a mess for you to clean up.
If you settle, you’ll just end up paying for it by spending more time passing the clippers through your hair to cut all the strands evenly. It’s a problem that’s highlighted when you get to awkward spots like the back of the crown. So, you’re paying a little more to save yourself time and frustration.
As far as using the clippers, they’ll come with several attachments and guards which should be numbered from 1-8. If your hairstyle is like a crew cut with sides that gradually get shorter from the crown downward, Henao cautions not to use anything less than a 2. Below that, it gets difficult to blend. “Take a four, come straight off the head, do a two underneath that, and that’ll make it look really clean.”
Andis Slimline Pro Li Trimmer
For maintaining beards, Henao recommends finding a trimmer that’s cordless and has a deep tooth. The Andis Slimline Pro is his recommendation. “It has deeper teeth which allow for bulk beard-cutting without pull or drag, and it’s cordless,” he says. “It’s also the lightest option available to allow for maneuvering and cutting in all directions and along all growth patterns precisely.” Smaller trimmers have narrow teeth that are better for detailing, but they’re not what you want for tackling thick beards. The narrow teeth will drag though the beard, pulling hairs along (ouch!) instead of gliding through it.
The Art of Shaving Safety Razor
When you get to cleaning up the sideburns and your neck, or if you want a close shave while you’re already in the groove of cutting hair, Henao recommends a good safety razor like this one from The Art of Shaving. “While regular cartridge razors do the trick, single blades are better for your skin, a cheaper alternative in the long run, and allow for more precise edging of your beard,” he says. Straight razors are great, too, but they have a steeper learning curve. That’s why Henao suggests most people use safety razors instead. Whichever razor you buy, just make sure you’re buying compatible razor blades.
For a close shave, take a hot, steamed towel and apply it to the skin you’re going to shave. After about 10 seconds, the heat will have gotten your hairs to stand up, making them easier to shave. Once you’ve shaved, apply a toner and aftershave balm.
Wait, what about scissors?
“Leave that to the pros,” Henao says. “You’re either gonna cut yourself or give yourself a really poor haircut on the top. As long as you clean up the sides, you shouldn’t need scissors.” Instead, he suggests growing out your hair and working with your current style before you try cutting the top portion of your head. Simply cleaning up the sides and the back can do more than you think. Though it may not sound like enough, oftentimes it’s all you need to refresh a cut. Take your time and pay attention when clearing the hair around your ears. Remember, you can always cut more.