How To Trim Your Natural Hair At Home Without Ending Up In Tears

Our wash days usually go a little something like this: We spend at least 30 minutes in the shower, shampooing, sectioning, and detangling our hair. Once that’s done, we slather on an intensive oil or deep conditioner, tie our hair up in a plastic bag, and do some tidying up around the house (or browsing on IG). After the treatment has worked its magic, it’s time to style. But there’s one snag: Those see-through split ends and single-strand knots we’ve been trying to hide for weeks are looking way too obvious.
No matter how much stylists preach about regular trims, we’re guilty of putting off trips to the salon, because appointments can be time-consuming and expensive. Plus, it's hard to find a stylist you can trust (who isn’t scissor happy). But we also know that snipping off the dead weight can make your curls and coils bouncier and healthier in the long run. Experts agree that natural hair should be trimmed roughly every two to three months. And while celebrity stylist Monae Everett sternly suggests going to a professional for a trim, sometimes we take the scissors into our own hands.
If you’re considering snipping your natural hair at home, there are a few key things you need to know so that you don't ruin your shape or accidentally execute a big chop. We talked to natural-hair influencer Ijeoma Kola, who trims her own curls on the regular, to get her tips for trimming your natural strands at home.
Know When It’s Time…
“You can tell you need a trim when you run your hands or a styling tool through your hair and it gets caught in the same place," says Everett. If your hair is frizzy, dry, and won't hold a style for too long, then it might also be time for a snip.
Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
Kola tells us that she pays attention to the way her ends look after a style (like twists or braids). “Once a product I've used a bunch of times stops working, or I'm struggling to keep my hair moisturized, or my ends look visibly scraggly after a twist-out, it's time to trim,” says Kola.
To keep her trim schedule on track, Kola sets calendar notifications for every six to eight weeks on her phone. Now that's dedication.
Do I Have To Straighten My Curls First?
Curly cut versus straight cut. It's a big debate. The not-so-simple answer is: It depends. Everett advises, “If you alternate between wearing your hair straight and curly, I'd recommend trimming your hair while it's blown out. Sometimes when hair is [cut] in a curl by curl process, it can look uneven when you blow it out straight," she says. "If you only wear your hair curly, get it cut in its natural state."
Since Kola wears her natural hair curly most of the time, she doesn't bother blowing it straight before trimming, because she doesn’t want to compromise the texture of her curls by risking heat damage.
Invest In The Right Tools
Step away from the household scissors if you want a good cut. Instead use a pair of cutting shears to get a salon-quality trim in your bathroom. "Shears are sharper than household scissors and give a precise cut," Kola says. Good shears don't have to be expensive either; you can get a quality pair for around $10. You'll also want hair clips to section your hair properly.
And Here's Exactly What To Do
Putting scissors to your hair may seem intimidating, but Kola's technique makes it easy. She recommends snipping the ends of two-strand twists, instead of going rogue with random sections.
After setting your hair in twists (Kola does roughly 20 twists for a more precise cut), cut ends that are thinning or have a diagonal slant. With this technique, “you'll have a much cleaner looking twist-out once you unravel them,” says Kola. If you love a good blowout and frequently wear your hair straight, you can stretch hair with a blowdryer first, and then snip the ends that feel rough and dehydrated.
Another method Kola has had success with is the search-and-destroy technique, where you simply trim knots whenever you spot them to keep your ends clean and tangle-free. This routine is similar to dusting split ends. Still need a visual demonstration? Kola breaks it all down in the video below.

More from Hair

R29 Original Series