As far as at-home coronavirus curiosities go, buzz cuts may seem like the least risky. (Until you do a quick search of some of the internet’s biggest disasters, that is.) Still, it’s a pretty straightforward process ― as long as you have some best practices and tricks to guide you.
Tony DeAngelis, co-owner of Blue & Black barbershop and apothecary in Brooklyn, New York, recently shared his DIY buzz on his Instagram account, and was kind enough to tell us how to achieve the perfect buzz cut.
Step one: Know that there may be no such thing as a perfect buzz cut in quarantine, and that’s OK.
Below, the other do’s and don’ts of giving yourself a buzz cut at home.
Get yourself some gear
DeAngelis told HuffPost there’s no need to buy super fancy or expensive tools. “You can get something that is no more than $30 to $50 that will work great for home use,” he said.
He prefers the Wahl Self Kit Pro, which comes with “everything you will need,” including shears, a comb, a clipper and a wide range of plastic guards for various lengths.
Prep the area
Whether you live at home or with a partner or roommate, no one wants to deal with hair everywhere. DeAngelis recommends lining your sink with newspaper and wearing an old T-shirt for easy clean-up.
Know your numbers
Clippers typically come with attachment guards that indicate how short the buzz will be. The 0 attachment will leave your hair shortest, while something like a 3 leaves the hair a bit longer.
“I always say start high,” DeAngelis said. “You can always bring it shorter.”
For beginners, he recommends starting around 3 or 4. “When you start raising it higher than that, it might not take the hair off as well, and I don’t think it looks as nice,” he said.
Clippers also all come with a lever on the side that determines how close the guard is to the blade. Open the lever and you’ll have a looser cut; close it and the cut will be tighter.
Before you even start adding your attachment guards, it’s important to add a few drops of oil to the clippers themselves. Kits will typically come with oil, DeAngelis said, but in a pinch you can also use WD-40. “That’s going to keep it from seizing up and give you a nice, clean cut.”
Start at the top
DeAngelis said you can start on the sides, but he prefers to use the top as a starting off point to see what direction he wants to go ― whether that be all one length or a fade (more on that later).
Comb it out
Hairs will stick to your head, so DeAngelis recommends using a comb throughout the process to prevent that from happening. “You’re able to loosen things up, you want to casually use the comb while you’re buzzing.”
Go against the grain
Once you’re ready to start buzzing, it’s important to against the grain of the hair, instead of with it, to get an even cut.
“It’s key to taking the hair off,” DeAngelis said. “You can go over it a few times, but if you’re not going against the grain, it’s not going to take the hair off evenly, and you’ll end up with patches or clumps because you’re not being aware of what direction the hair is going.”
Make your choice: fade or full buzz
Once the top of the head is done, you can make the decision to keep it all one length ― or try doing a fade for a more advanced option. If you go with the latter option, you want to count down from the attachment number you used on the top of the head.
“Say you did a 3 on top, now you can do a 2 around the crown and a 1 around the temple,” he said, adding that you need to blend in each as you go.
Don’t neglect your neck ― or near your ears
Ideally you’d have someone on hand to assist for the back of your head and neck hairs. But if you don’t, you’ll need a hand mirror.
“You want to take the guard off the blade, open the lever, and start at the base of your neck and bring it up,” DeAngelis advised. “When you hit the hairline, flip or rake it up a bit, which will give you a taper to keep it looking clean and natural.”
When you buzz the hair closest to your ears, you should also take the guard off, with the lever closed.
“First, you want to take a look in the mirror and see if there’s any hair hugging around your ear, which is very difficult to get with the guard on,” he said. “You have to pull your ear down a little bit and with the other hand and clipper gently tap that area with the corner of the clipper.”
Do your best with the back
“You’re gonna have to go into it blindly,” he said. “To be honest, when I did that video I thought it looked great, and my friend was like, ‘You missed a spot.’ That’s what happens. You can’t really see back there. So you’ll want to use a hand mirror and refer to a video. Essentially, though, you’re just kind of rubbing the clipper behind your head in repetitive motions.”
Use your ears
A good trick for knowing when to stop, especially in areas like the back of the head, is to listen to your clippers. They will stop cutting once they reach the length of guard you’ve chosen.
“You can hear the hair coming off, and once you stop hearing the hair come off that means it’s good,” DeAngelis said. “Just be aware of that sound of the hair, at a certain point you’ll just hear the clipper moving and not your hair coming off.”
Watch your stroke
It might be tempting to go straight back and forth while you buzz, but DeAngelis said your stroke should look more like a curve.
“The motion of the clipper should be kind of coming out with your strokes,” he said. “Instead of going straight up and down you want to angle a bit, almost like the letter C, scooping out rather than going straight will allow it to blend nicely.”
You can see the movement in action in the video above.
Be kind to yourself
Ultimately, it’s probably not going to be perfect ― and that’s OK!
“Everyone’s in the same boat, we’re all not going to our stylists, we can all be forgiving with each other’s hairstyles,” he said. “It could be a really fun experience, a new skill. You’ll get more comfortable as it goes along and realize this is kind of easy.”