I Cut My Dad’s Hair During Quarantine—Here’s What Not to Do

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Cutting hair at home is a lot trickier than you'd expect.

If you’re like me, you maybe get your hair cut twice a year, meaning that the current quarantine has not affected that aspect of your life whatsoever. But if you’re someone who takes a lot better care of yourself than I do… well, this story is for you. About a month into quarantine, my mom began shopping for headbands, and my dad decided he couldn’t wait any longer and that something must be done. Admittedly, it took a bit of cajoling on my part for my dad to allow me that close to his head with scissors, but in the end, I managed to give him his first at-home haircut since his childhood and not permanently scar him. Despite that relatively high success level, I was easily able to compile a list of things I would do differently next time, and I feel morally obligated to share it with all of you brand new at-home stylists.

1. Have the right tools

toolsIsabel Roy/rd.comKitchen shears or your child’s school scissors aren’t going to do the trick. To get a haircut that looks like it was done by a human and not a lawnmower, you’re going to need the proper tools. For shorter hair, stylists have been recommending the use of electric hair clippers like these to all of us at-home novices. Because of the various guard sizes, the same length of hair can easily be achieved across your entire head. Who knows, maybe you’re just like these geniuses who produced their best work during quarantines and your future as the world’s best hairstylist is about to emerge, but even if that’s true, get the right tools.

Unfortunately, my mom had thrown out our decades-old electric hair trimmers less than a month prior to the lockdown because they hadn’t been used in ages. I mean, come on—when were we going to need to cut our own hair, right?! If you don’t have access to electric clippers, or are attempting to cut longer hair, invest in an actual pair of hair scissors. They’re relatively inexpensive, and I can tell you from experience, whatever you’ve been storing in the clutter drawer at home is not going to work.

2. Watch a video or two

cutting dads hair quarantineIsabel Roy/rd.comIf you, like I did, catch yourself thinking, “I mean, how hard can it be? I watch my stylist cut my hair all the time, and I cut my doll’s hair that one time, this will be fine,” stop what you’re doing and open YouTube. Since this pandemic started and people have been staying inside, professional stylists have been taking pity on all of us and posting countless videos showing the dos and don’ts of a DIY haircut. There are videos showing you how to cut your own hair, how to cut someone else’s hair, and of every style and length under the sun. Even if all you’re doing is trimming your dead ends, watch a how-to video.

3. Don’t assume you know what they want

cutting dads hairIsabel Roy/rd.comHypothetically, let’s say you lived with someone for over 20 years. You’ve looked at this person more than you’ve looked at yourself. Maybe this person has even had some variation of the exact same haircut for nearly that entire time. Apparently, that doesn’t mean you know how they like it done! After brushing and cutting my dad’s hair, and finally getting it to a point where I thought it looked exactly like he did it, I found out that I had brushed it all forward when, apparently, he brushes it back, which means half the hair was either too short or too long. Perfect. Just like a real stylist does, it probably wouldn’t hurt to just ask them what they want and how they like it before you begin.

4. Don’t just attack with gusto

dad hair cut coronavirus quarantineIsabel Roy/rd.comEnthusiasm is not part of your final grade, nor will it keep your mother from laughing when she sees how hard you went for it. Take your time. Work in sections and check in often. Just because you’ve pictured how thrilled they’ll be when you reveal the final product doesn’t mean you can just do the whole thing and then ask how they like it. It won’t go as well as it’s going in your head right now, I can promise you. Do a bit, and then give them a mirror and ask if they want it shorter, or if you took too much off, or if you were somehow pulling on their hair every time you snipped it. (I’m still not quite sure how I managed that.) You’ll also want to avoid doing something like that on purpose no matter how infuriating your subject becomes. For an insight into what I had to deal with while trimming, here are all the jokes my dad told me while we were quarantined together.

5. Know when to stop

giving dad a hair cut Isabel Roy/rd.comJust because we’re all bored and have virtually nothing to do in quarantine doesn’t mean you should keep looping hair off of the human who has agreed to allow you to do this. It may be more fun than you were expecting, but it’s already going to look shorter than you expected when you step away and look at the overall appearance, and you should really stop while you’re ahead. Besides, hair grows, and more likely than not, you’re going to have to do this again before we can all go back to our incredible hairdressers.

woman trying to cut her daughter's hair at homePhynart Studio/Getty Images

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Isabel Roy
Isabel Roy is the newsletter editor at Reader’s Digest. She writes and reports on home, culture, and general interest stories. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse in 2017 with a B.A. in Rhetoric and Writing.