How to give yourself a buzz cut

We are now at 3,500+ articles deep in our archives, so we have decided to republish classic pieces every Friday to help new readers find some of the most timeless gems from the past. This article was first published June 2018.

Although it may seem like a disaster to cut your hair yourself, there are ways you can save money by doing it at home. The buzz cut is one the most classic haircuts that a man can have, and it’s also one of the easiest to do. You can achieve professional-quality buzz cuts with a few tools and some practice. Here’s how it works.

1. Make sure you have the right tools

You’ll need the right tools before you can start your buzz. Here are the tools you will need.

A good pair will make your job much easier and faster. You don’t need to trim your beard with them. Instead, save it for details. A decent pair of clippers can be purchased online or at your local pharmacy for as low as $50. Many hair clippers come with multiple guard sizes. You should choose the #2 and #3 guards if you are trying to decide between different kits. These are most commonly used for buzz cuts. After you have your own pair of clippers, be sure to clean them and keep them maintained.

You can see your back with a basic hand mirror when trimming. Most drugstores will sell one for a small fee if you don’t have one. A broom and a dustpan are sufficient to clean up the bathroom. However, buzz cuts can leave tiny hairs all over it. Cleanup will be much quicker and easier with a vacuum that has a hose attachment.

2. Take a look at your scalp

Do your research before you start cutting hair. Remember that no one’s head shape is perfect. A quick buzz cut will reveal any bumps, skin tags and scars. Simply run your fingers over your scalp and feel for any anomalies that might be present with a buzz cutting.

3. Get Clean

Clippers work best with dry, clean hair. Do not use shampoo every single time. A clipper can’t cut through oily hair, making it more difficult to make a straight cut. Also, you’ll end up doing the same thing over and over again trying to trim the same slippery hairs. After your hair has been washed, allow it to dry completely before you begin cutting.

4. Make a Long-Term Investment in Your Top Position

Once you have all your tools assembled, plug your clippers in and select your guard size. It is always better to start with something that isn’t too long. The golden 3-2-1 rule is the basis of buzz cuts. Most barbers use it. This means that there should be a #3 guard at the top, a #2 on the sides and a #1 to trim the edges. Because it is the shortest length you can get before you see your scalp, a #3 guard is a good choice. You can cut your hair shorter than this to give it a 5 o’clock shadow effect, rather than a buzz cut.

After you have chosen the size of your guard, begin at the top of the head and work your way down. As you work backwards, the clippers should glide over your scalp. To remove any stray hairs, move the top side-to-side. Once you have finished the top, you can begin to work on the sides. You can now move from the bottom to the top. Cut in the same direction as the hair grows. You can still work on the sides, but you should continue reading.

5. Man the Mirror to the Back


Stand with your back facing the bathroom mirror, and then hold your hand mirror up in front of your face. Adjust the mirror so you can see your back in the bathroom mirror. This position is to be held while you move the clippers up towards the top of the head.

6. Reduce the size of your sides

After you have completed your head, reduce one guard (to the #2 guard), and trim the sides. This will again be done from the bottom to the top. Why not make the sides shorter? Your hair tends to look fuller on the sides of your head than the top. A shorter buzz cut makes it appear uniform.

7. End with a Trim

After you are done with your buzz cut, there are two areas that you need to trim: your sideburns or the back of the neck. You can start by attaching a #1 guard to your hair clippers.

Place the clippers at the level of your sideburns. Slowly move the clippers upwards until the top edge reaches the desired height for your sideburns. Slowly pull the clippers through your hair, away from your face.

The most difficult part of a buzz haircut is the one at the back. You can ask someone to help you or leave your hair in its natural state. If you have a very hairy neck or asymmetrical hairline, your hand mirror can be used to trim the hair. To finish, trim the corners along each side of the straight line.

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