I did not look like a cool French girl.
Of all the dumb beauty decisions I could have made this year, trying to learn how to cut curtain bangs myself proved to be my downfall. After seeing celebrities like Ariana Grande and Jennifer Lopez rocking the cut, I had visions of myself in similar cheekbone-grazing, face-framing splendor. When done right, it provides the coolest enhancing touch to any style, from curly shags to high ponytails.
“Curtain bangs are the gateway to bangs, because they’re super versatile,” says Emily Heser, stylist at Cutler Salon in New York City. “They’re long enough to grow out or pin back if you want, but they can also be cut into a shorter look.” This is entirely true when you work with a professional to design the exact version of curtain bangs your heart desires. It’s a shakier premise when you find yourself in front of the bathroom mirror late at night, spontaneously hacking away at your hair with a pair of kitchen scissors you’ve just used to collect some balcony chives for your omelet dinner. Spoiler alert: I did not come out of this experience looking like J.Lo.
During my own journey with curtain bangs, I learned some invaluable lessons that I recommend everyone read before they embark on the same emotional roller coaster. Below, six things you should know if you want to learn how to cut curtain bangs at home.
Start longer than you think you’ll want them.
I realize this statement sounds painfully obvious, but it wasn’t until the ends of my curtain bangs started smacking me in the eyeballs daily that I remembered the cardinal rule of any bangs style: Prepare to have your vision obscured at least 75% of the time. I don’t know how some people seem to manage to keep their bangs sitting perfectly in their designated face-framing places at all times, but I am not one of those divinely blessed individuals.
When I first cut my curtain bangs, they happened to sit just shy of where I could securely tuck them behind my ears. If you hate this feeling as much as I do, learn from me and cut them on the longer side. You can always trim more, but you can’t put hair back.
Great curtain bangs need to be blended.
I would never attempt to do a full cut and style at home, but curtain bangs seemed like a relatively low-stakes gamble at the time. As soon as that first tiny chunk of hair fell to the floor, I realized my mistake. “Curtain bangs are tricky, and making them open up to frame your face does take some skill,” says celebrity hairstylist Justine Marjan, which is why her best recommendation is to go to a pro for this. According to Marjan, common DIY mistakes include making the cut too blunt and not shaping your bangs to suit your face shape and features.
“Sometimes when cut at home, they won’t blend into the rest of your hair,” she says. “A great hairstylist will be able to blend them as much as possible for an easier grow-out.”
As a true overachiever, I managed to screw up on every count she listed—and more. Not only did I reach for the closest thing at hand (kitchen scissors, a big no); I also thought I’d casually breeze through the chop without my glasses on, which meant I couldn’t really see what I was doing. My attempt at living on the edge resulted in an asymmetrical fringe that was longer on one side than the other. Since I’m based in Germany, which is currently in the middle of another lockdown, I had no choice but to attempt a fix myself.
On the second round, I wised up one level and went in with a pair of Cricket Thinning Shears, which featured specially designed blades that went a long way in helping the texture appear wispy and carefree.