Not Ready For A Chop? The No-Commitment Way To Cut

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.

How many times have you gone to the salon and asked for "just a trim," only to see half of your hair on the floor? You smile, say you "love it," leave a generous tip, and then sob as soon as you're out the door. If this upsetting experience sounds all too familiar, we're here to tell you about a little hair service called dusting. 

Because, as much as you might wish to avoid the salon and all scissors, not cutting your hair ever again is not the answer. Even if you're trying to grow it out, you still need to clean up the ends every so often, and this is where dusting comes in. Avoiding frequent salon trips and opting for a dusting instead of a trim can help your wallet and your hair-growing goals. But, before you break out the shears, you should be clear on the difference between the two techniques and how you can work both into your hair-care routine.


In order to maintain healthy ends, trim your hair regularly. Although there are myriad products claiming to help get rid of split ends, a cut is the only thing that will remove them permanently. Get a trim if you want to clean up your ends in a noticeable way or if you're ready to take at least half an inch off. While there's no reason you shouldn't trim your own hair at home if you're comfortable, most people prefer a salon visit.

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.

On the other hand, if your ends are in good shape and you're serious about maintaining length, you can probably skip the regular trims (once or twice a year may be enough) and instead opt for a light dusting.

Dusting takes off less length than trimming — about a quarter inch. It's a great alternative to a trim — if hair is pretty healthy with few obvious damaged ends. It has major benefits: You will save money by not going to the salon as often, and you'll control just how much you cut off, so no need to worry about snip-happy stylists and subsequent tears. Usually done every few weeks, it's also a great way to keep split ends at bay since you'll be cutting away damage you can't see before it has a chance to progress. 
Even if you don't fancy yourself very capable with a pair of scissors, if you follow the steps below, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to dust your own hair.
Illustrated by Sydney Hass.

1. Divide your hair into approximately equal sections. 
Twist and clip the sections firmly on your head. If you have curly hair, consider putting it into several small two-strand twists for easier control.

2. Use special hair-cutting shears.
It's worth the splurge to buy professional hair scissors. Regular ones aren't sharp enough to cut through hair without causing damage and split ends.

3. Unclip one of the sections.
Start with the hair in the front (and if you have bangs, begin with those), and work your way around to the back.

4. Examine every single end. (This will go faster than you think.)
When you see a split end, move on to the next step.

5. Trim no more than a quarter inch from the ends.  
More than this amount and you're trimming, not dusting. Cut split ends straight across and not at an angle, as this exposes more of the cortex layer of the hair, which could lead to damage. 

6. Continue like this, checking sections for split ends and dusting hair. 
You can dust your hair when it's wet or dry. If you have curly hair, keep in mind that snipping it when it's wet may lead you to lose more length than you want due to shrinkage. 

While dusting can help save you time and money at the salon, while keeping your hair looking healthy, it doesn't totally replace getting a professional trim. Plan to hit up the pros a few times a year — more if you feel like you need it.

More from Hair


R29 Original Series