How To Trim Natural Hair At Home

Oct 10, 2020

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For many of us, going to the salon to get our natural hair trimmed is just not a current option.

Many of us are still self-quarantining, staying at home and protecting ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19.

Some of us may simply want to save some coins and learn how to do it independently – nothing wrong with that!

Whatever the reason is, learning how to trim natural hair at home is a crucial skill, especially at a time like this.

You may be thinking that trimming natural hair is counterintuitive, especially when it comes to growth.

Why cut off hair when you want to retain it?

As a natural, an important philosophy to understand is health over length.

You can have the longest hair in the world, but if it’s unhealthy, it won’t look good. 

It won’t retain a style, it won’t hold shine, and you’ll notice immense breakage – the opposite of growth.

Healthy hair will always grow. That’s just a fact! And trimming your ends on a consistent basis will ensure that your hair stays healthy and split-end free.

And if you’re worried about trimming your natural hair at home and cutting off too much length, don’t fret: we’re going to teach you the art of the “invisible trim” – figuring out exactly where to trim so you don’t cut off any unnecessary length.

Ready to learn how to trim your natural hair? Let’s go!

girl with curly hair with the caption how to trim your natural hair at home

The Importance of Trimming Natural Hair

Trimming natural hair regularly is a non-negotiable. Period, point blank, full stop.

For starters, despite how often you deep condition, protective style and moisturize your natural hair, your ends will always be fragile.

Your ends are the oldest part of your hair. They’ve experienced the most mechanical weathering and as a result, your ends will exhibit the most damage than the rest of your strands.This means that the chances of single-strand knots and split ends are significantly increased, resulting in dead ends.

Dead ends are a simple fact of natural hair life: racist rhetoric has taught us that Afrocentric hair is “kinky and hard’, when that’s further from the truth.

Our coils are fragile AF – the bends and curls of our hair are areas of weakness and fragility, and most breakage happens where at this points.

This means that the coilier your hair (i.e. Type 4 naturals), the increased likelihood that your ends will break.

This is a primary reason why we need to give ourselves trims every so often. We can still manage the breakage through proper protective styling and learning how to moisturize natural hair, but we’re not always perfect.

Slight, microscopic breakage can still occur!

So regardless of great your routine is, it’s best to give yourself a regular trim every so often.

How To Know You Need A Trim

There are some tell-tale signs that you need a trim:

  • Hair is harder to detangle
  • Ends look thinner and more sparse (i.e. there are spaces between the strands)
  • Twist outs and braid out style look frizzy at the ends and don’t last as long
  • Ends feel crispy and constantly dry, regardless of products
  • Experiencing more hair shedding than usual

If you’re experiencing two or more of the above, it’s time to dust those ends!

photo of split ends showing how to trim natural hair

Consider the above photo – notice how the ends are sparse-looking and thin. The line of demarcation, the area where the thin, damaged ends meets the healthy hair, is ideally where you should trim.

What You’ll Need Before You Start Trimming

The most important thing you’ll need is shear scissors.

You CANNOT use regular household scissors.

Household scissors have grooves that will microscopically tear your hair fibres, damaging your hair cuticle creating more split ends in the future.

For trimming natural hair at home, you should invest in a good pair of household shear scissors. Thankfully, they’re not too expensive!

Hair Scissors by Utopia

These scissors by Utopia are professional grade shears, made of 100% stainless steal for long-lasting durability. Natural hair is fragile AF so they won’t cause additional breakage to your sensitive coils. Best of all – they’re only $15 bucks! A steal!

Three Ways To Trim Your Natural Hair

There are 3 widely used ways to trim your natural hair – the twist and trim, the stretch and snip and the search and destroy method.

Let’s get into how to do each.

Method #1: Twist and Trim (for when your ends need a light dusting)

Step 1

On your next wash day, go through the full 6-step wash day for natural hair (including deep conditioning). Do not use a protein treatment.

Step 2

On clean, freshly washed hair, section your hair 4 sections. Apply your leave-in conditioner generously. Do not apply any heavy stylers (i.e. gels and creams).

Step 3

Working in one section, make several smaller twists. Take a look at your ends and decide where you need to trim (i.e. look for the thinnest part of the twist). Once you’ve dusted off each twist, continue styling as desired!

Method #2: Stretch and Snip (for when your ends are severely damaged)

Step 1

On your next wash day, go through the full 6-step wash day for natural hair (including deep conditioning). Use a rich deep conditioning product (not a DIY mask). Do not use a protein treatment.

Step 2

Wash out your deep conditioner thoroughly and apply a heat protectant. If you don’t have one, argan oil is a great alternative (use a dime sized amount of the oil for your entire head).

Step 3

Section your hair in 4 sections. Blow dry each section thoroughly to stretch your hair. Take a look at your ends and spot the line of demarcation – the area between where your sparse, thin ends meet the healthy hair. This is where you should trim!

Method #3: Search and Destroy (for ad-hoc, off-hand trims)

Step 1

Every so often (at least once a month), thoroughly examine the ends of your hair.

Step 2

If a particular section or area looks thinner than the rest, grab your shear scissors and cut about 1/8 inch off this section to keep the area from breaking.

How Often To Trim Natural Hair

Some naturals swear by a regular, consistent, monthly trimming schedule. Some trim their hair every couple months.

And others trim their hair whenever they please.

The question still remains: how often should you trim your natural hair?

The answer: it depends on your goals.

For example, if you’re transitioning to natural hair (or have damaged hair in general) and want to grow out the damaged parts, you may want to keep up a regular, monthly trimming schedule (assuming you didn’t do a big chop).

This will ensure the damaged, split ends don’t split upwards towards the healthy hair.

It will also get rid of the damaged parts of your hair in a less dramatic fashion (unlike the big chop).

But if your hair is in a relatively healthy state, and you want to retain more length, monthly might be too frequent for a trim.

As a general rule of thumb, you should trim off ¼ of an inch, every 6-10 weeks.

Hair grows approximately ½ inch a month, so trimming ¼ an inch every couple months won’t impact your hair’s growth at all.

With a consistent schedule, you will see healthier, stronger ends which means less breakage in the end.

Remember: the trim doesn’t have to be a large cut – even cutting off 1/6 or 1/8 of an inch is a significant amount of damage control.

Final Thoughts About How To Trim Natural Hair At Home

Learning how to trim your natural hair is an essential skill for any dedicated natural, especially in situations when you can’t get into a salon.

The Curl Market is a natural hair blog catered to helping black naturals grow their curls into a long, luscious manes.

We use the latest evidence-based scientific research to provide you with the top tips on growing your curls, regardless of hair type.

We also provide lifestyle tips, both self care and mental care, to ensure you are optimizing your body’s natural hair growth cycle – because you can’t grow natural hair if you’re stressed out!

Come as you are.

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WRITTEN BY

Ayana Aden

Ayana is The Curl Market’s brand founder. When she’s not deep in natural hair research or creating content, she’s hanging on the couch with her husband and her cat, reading a book or scrolling through TikTok. Follow her on Instagram at @ayanaaaden

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Learning your curl type is an important step in learning how to take care of your natural hair. It can help you understand what products will work best for you, how often to shampoo, how to style your natural hair, and other key information.

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