How to Give Yourself a Buzz Cut

If you’re wondering how to give yourself a buzz cut, know first of all that there aren’t a lot of DIY haircuts we would advise you to administer. Sure, the pandemic era forced some of us to go to extremes (be it with hack kitchen haircuts or skipping them altogether), but it also got a lot of guys comfortable with the concept of the DIY at-home buzzcut. And a lot of you got pretty good at it. Making the refreshing choice to just shear it all off is always an option, pandemic or no. And no matter your reasoning—whether you’re embracing hair loss or simply love how the short hair looks on you—the buzz cut is a universally sharp look. It also requires next to no styling and is easy to maintain.

But, before you grab your beard trimmer and go to town, please read up on the proper procedure for how to give yourself a buzz cut, with expertise from one of our favorite barbers in the business, Rob McMillen, owner and lead barber at Mildred New York.

See also: How to Shave Your Own Head Without Nicks or Irritation

1.Get good hair clippers

 A beard trimmer will almost never be powerful enough for the hair on your head, which is much more densely concentrated than even the thickest beards. Instead, you should get a hair clipper that can easily buzz your head in one steady swoop, as opposed to starting and stopping and clogging over and over. The guards will be a lot more reliable, too, in terms of navigating all your head’s contours without looking like a hack job. You can in theory use a hair clipper on the beard, but it might not be nimble enough to navigate delicate areas like your upper lip. 

Another thing you’ll need, if you don’t already have one, is a handheld mirror, to tackle the sides and back. Like highway driving, blind spots can be dangerous.

The best top-tier DIY hair clipper

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Andis ProAlloy Hair Clipper

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Wahl Color Pro Cordless Clipper Set

A simple handheld mirror

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2. Wash your hair and study your scalp

Just like when you go to the barber, it’s important to have freshly washed hair before you tackle the cut. This ensures that the hairs are resting in their natural state—not the direction you styled it or slept on it. Plus, it’s a lot trickier to slice through product-clogged hair. So, give it all a shampoo—and maybe hold the conditioner until you rinse all the clippings away.

Then, McMillen suggests taking a careful audit of your scalp. That is, looking for moles, skin tags, scars, and the like. “You may not want to buzz super close to these—consider relaxing the guard a setting or two,” he says. Best to avoid any Sweeney Todd situations here.

3. First timers: Buzz slightly longer than you think you want

If this is your first rodeo, play it safe: You can always trim more, but you can’t add anything back. So if you think you want a quarter-inch buzz, a #3 guard, then start with a half-inch #5 and see how it looks. Then, work your way down if you still want it shorter. Slow and steady on that first time out the gate.

4. Go against the grain on the sides

McMillen advises that you buzz against the grain of the hair growth, so that you’re pushing the hair upward as you cut it. Buzzing with the grain might allow some of the longer hairs to lie down and avoid being cut altogether. It’s easiest to start at the sideburns and buzz upwards, keeping against the grain. “Once you get to the back of the head, then work your way up through the crown,” McMillen says. “This is a good time to stop and clean out your clipper, to make sure it keeps cutting smoothly.”

5. Next, tackle the top

Now that the sides are done, you’ll move onto the top of the head. But this is where it can get a little tricky, because the grain of your hair gets swirly and more complicated to track up there. That’s a green light for you to have a little fun and mow to your heart’s content. Run the clipper back and forth, then once again after that initial pass. Next, do it side to side, too. Repeat as needed. 

6. Spot check or repeat everything on a shorter setting

If you want it shorter, then start with a smaller guard and do it all again. You’ll need to do a good dozen passes or so around the dome to make sure you don’t miss any spots.

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