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How To Cut Your Kid’s Hair At Home

Written by Erin Feher

Photography by Aubrie Pick

By now, we’re betting most kids (and grown-ups!) are peering at their iPads through a shaggy mass of bangs, as visits to the salon are ancient history for all of us. So, we turned to one of the most talented mamas in the biz—Michelle Snyder of S.F.’s Barrow salon—to give us some tips for how to cut your kid’s hair at home. Michelle’s client list reads like an issue of People mag: Sienna Miller, Zoe Kravitz, Zooey Deschanel, Karen Elson, Amanda Peet, Emily Mortimer, and even a small army’s worth of the Game of Thrones cast have sat in her chair. But since she had to shutter her Bay Area salon, she’s tending to one extra-VIP head: her 6-year-old daughter River. Michelle shares all her pro tips below. And remember, these are hard times for all, and the service industry is being hit especially hard. You can show your support (and guarantee yourself a stellar cut and color once we are on the other side) by buying a gift card from Barrow (email them here) or your own favorite local spot.

What tools do I need?
“Some scissors, a comb, a spray bottle, and a tall chair or stool. If you want to take it up a notch, get one of my favorite tools: a feather guarded razor.”

What is the best way to set up?
“Sit your child on a tall stool, so you aren’t hunched over, and then set up some form of entertainment in front of them—you’ll want to prop up the book or screen, versus letting them hold it, so they don’t dip their head down towards their lap. You want a balanced, still head. If you only have a phone, prop it on a counter. I like doing cuts in the kitchen the best because it’s easy to sweep up!”

Should you cover them with a towel? Or just strip them down and go for it?
“I’m a fan of a towel because the little hairs that get cut off usually start itching them and then they get more wiggly. Anything to get them to sit through the entire cut—you don’t want them revolting in the middle.”

Is it better to cut wet or dry hair?
“I think if your kid has tons of hair, cutting it when it’s wet gives you more control. If it’s finer and short, I recommend cutting it dry or just lightly spraying it with water. Reminder though: wet hair shrinks!! That’s why I always cut bangs when they are dry.”

Bangs—walk us through it.
“Put the comb flat on top of your child’s head and move slowly towards the forehead. Where the head starts to round, that’s the ideal starting point for a fringe—a fringe is basically any section that frames the face. Bangs are the classic fringe. From that dot, follow to the recession—or create a line down towards the temple—on each side. This should make a triangle, and that’s the proper section for the bangs. From there, stand in front of your child—this is a great time and place to offer up a bribe—and comb the entire triangle section down with a little elevation, a.k.a. lift the hair off the face just a bit. Now you are going to point cut a line, going longer than you think at first. A point cut is a softer option than cutting blunt (i.e. trying to cut a straight line all the way across). To point cut, you cut a line that looks like baby shark teeth. Imagine if you are looking at the face of a clock, you would be cutting little diagonals to 11. It’s even easier if you have a feather guarded razor, as it creates a soft line that is forgivable on fringe!”

What about cutting or trimming the long stuff?
“I try and do the back first and then move on to the sides, combing neatly the whole way through so you can get a more balanced line. I recommend that you always point cut and elevate the hair a little away from the head, so you avoid any harsh lines. And if you have a feather guarded razor, you just grab and twist small sections of the hair and make combing motions at the ends—that creates cute soft lines.”

For short hairstyles, do I have to use clippers?
“Clippers are easiest on the moving targets, i.e. kids. I love Wahl Rainbow Clippers. They are super easy and cheap!”

Can you walk us through the basics of using clippers?
“The bigger the number, the longer the hair will be. Usually for short hair, I start with a number 2 or 3—you can always go shorter later—but you can never go longer after the fact. Run the razor against the grain of the hair. Just move down in number as you work down the neck.”

Any tips for getting wiggly kids to sit still?
“Honestly, bribing with treats helps a lot and turning on the TV. All the things we aren’t ‘supposed’ to do! But I mean, desperate times call for desperate measures.”

What are the common DIY haircut mistakes and how do we avoid them?
“Cutting bangs wet and having them shrink to a Dumb and Dumber vibe. And using too much tension when holding the hair (pulling too hard). Think soft.”

Any other tips?
“I know at Barrow most of ur stylists—including me!—are down to FaceTime, or you can DM us on Instagram. We can walk you through it!”

You can read more about Michelle and River in their MOTHER Stories profile. 

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