Long, romantic tresses with classic center parts may be the majority of what we’re seeing on the runways these days, but I’m still of the seemingly dying school of thought that bangs flatter every face. Throughout four years of college in a remote town in the Berkshires, I steadfastly maintained my fringe, no thanks to the one local salon. I took matters into my own hands early on, after a coiffure massacre that left me looking like a Franciscan monk (and this was when the notorious “freshman fifteen” had already begun to set in, rendering the results all the more tragic). By the end of four years I pretty much had trimming down to a science. However, now that I’m back in the city, OCD has me dropping a cool thirty dollars a month on bang upkeep.
It’s not a fortune, but it does amount to almost $400 per year once you factor in tip. Combine that with the hassle of cramming in salon appointments, and it’s tempting to go back to my undergrad-era quick-and-dirty method. Which got us wondering, is there an actual science to trimming at home? We consulted our resident hairstylist extraordinaire, René Fris of Salon SCK (formerly of Shear Genius) for a professional’s take on how to cut bangs at home—in five easy tips.
1. Cut to the back of your nose. Don’t use your eyebrows as a measure of where your fringe will ultimately lay. Comb your bangs (or the hair that will soon be your bangs) down straight, until you reach the very top of your nose, the point where your bridge meets your forehead. Continue holding your hair down, using the comb. While the comb is resting on the back of the nose, start cutting from one end of your fringe to the other—below the comb! Do this in front of a mirror, and try to get a somewhat straight line. This is the best way of setting your bang length.
2. Break it up. Afterward, if you feel that your fringe is too heavy and you want to break it up a bit, comb the top layer of your bangs straight out into the air. Using two fingers, hold the hair straight out. Then, thin out the hair by trimming the ends with your scissors. This adds soft layers to your bangs without losing length.
3. Cut when your hair is dry. This is the safest time to cut bangs, since “what you see is what you get.” “99 percent of the time I opt to cut bangs dry. If your hair is curly and you cut your bangs wet, the lowest alignment is going to jump up big time. With straight hair the difference may not be as drastic, but you still don’t want to chance it.”
4. Condition prior to cutting. It’s always good to have a light conditioner or light styling cream. It doesn’t hurt to get things a little bit under control and to smooth flyaway hair, but you don’t want your hair to be heavy with product, either. “If you do it dry I would put in a living spray conditioner,” advises René. “My favorite products for this are the L’Oreal Kerastase line.”
5. Mind the gap. In terms of buying hair-grade scissors, the most important thing to note is that there’s no gap between the blades. Also, most scissors are made for those of us who are right-handed. Lefties, make certain you’re buying lefty scissors. Otherwise, because of the arrangement of the shears, instead of a clean cut, your locks will simply flip over the edge of the blade, or you’ll get a dull, uneven line.
Finally, René advises us not to be reserved when it comes to trying out an unusual fringe-shape. “Stylists say that when you have a square face, you can’t wear square bangs, and when you have a round face, you shouldn’t round the edges of your fringe, but I think people can get away with anything these days, and more people want a look that’s more unconventional and dramatic. True, if you have a square face shape and you get straight bangs, you do make your face appear more masculine and exaggerate your natural bone structure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” (Hey, androgyny is in, too.)
Of course, as a seasoned coiffurist, René’s first bit of counsel was that I drop the matter entirely. If you’re already an established client at a salon, they usually throw in bang trims as a courtesy. If not, the most the service will run you is about $20. According to René, bangs are the one thing you should entrust to a professional. Poor layering can be hidden by ponytails or brushed out of sight. Bangs frame the face you show to the world. And “if bangs go wrong, they go wrong and there’s nothing left to do. Once they’re too short, that’s it.” That may be true, but I still believe there are certain valuable fringe benefits (we had to!) of “getting something done right by doing it yourself.”