The scissors-over-comb technique, often used by barbers, is essential for many different cuts for men and women. This particular technique allows you to cut close to the head and follow the hairline. If you do it right, you end up with a softer look, but not a freshly shaved look like you get with clippers.
You will need to start with a head of freshly washed, damp hair. Cut the top ½ of the haircut, removing the bulk. Instructions for this can be found in The Beginner's Guide to Cutting Hair in chapter 11. After that is completed, you can move onto the lower ½ of the haircut. Here are some guidelines to help you:
* Starting at the hairline, lift a section of hair with your comb in your holding hand (left hand).
* Cut off the hair that sticks past the comb with your scissors (in your cutting hand). The lower blade (the stationary blade) must be parallel to your comb.
*Keep the blade of your scissors moving as you cut a section (one comb's worth) of hair. If you stop "mid cut", you can get little nick marks.
*Open and close the blades all the way so that most of the cutting is done with the center part of the blades rather than the tips. Cutting with the tips can result in choppy, uneven cuts.
* Try to do all the cutting work with your thumb(upper) blade rather than your lower (finger) blade. Your lower blade should stay as still as possible - that's why it's called the stationary blade.
* Cut the hair close to your comb but don't actually touch it (unless the style is very short). You could end up cutting into your comb and damaging your scissors.
* After you've cut the first section, lift some of the cut hair along with the next section you want to cut to act as your guide. Don't cut any of the hairs from your previous cut - they are just there to guide you.
* You must keep your comb at a consistent distance and angle from the scalp to get a smooth cut. This is especially difficult in curved or rounded areas such as the nape of the neck.
* Work your way around the bottom ½ of the haircut, lifting either vertical or diagonal sections. Avoid horizontal.
* Stand to one side as you do this technique, not directly in front of what you are cutting. This allows you to more easily see the angle of the comb and the amount of hair you are cutting.
* It helps to have long scissor blades for this technique. Shorter scissors can result in more unevenness as well as horizontal "steps" because your hand will be in the way.
This technique takes a lot of practice, but once you get it right, you'll be able to blend and cut very short hairstyles with a clean, even look.
Nadine Visscher is the author of The Beginner's Guide to Cutting Hair and Cutting Your Own Hair. She has been cutting hair for 20 years and has helped many people save a lot of money by teaching them the necessary basic techniques to give a great haircut at home.