If split or raggedy ends are driving you up the wall and you can’t get into the salon for a trim, there’s a way you can do it on your own—though our expert emphasizes caution above all. “Trimming your own hair should happen in emergency situations only—anything more, and it has all the makings of a disaster,” says New York City salon owner and stylist Mark Garrison.

With necessary warning noted, here are some essential rules for trimming your own hair.

Have the right tools

A wide-toothed comb will allow you to brush hair so that it lies flat without static. Garrison recommends using Fiskars scissors at home for a sharp, crisp cut; they’re typically around $10 for an inexpensive pair.

Cut dry hair with a straight edge

“You’ll have more control and will cut less when hair is dry,” advises Garrison. Leave fancy layering to professionals, and just stick to a straight-across trim when going it alone.

Leave it longer than you want

For obvious reasons that may not seem so obvious when you pick up the scissors, trim hair a bit less than what you imagine, says Garrison. It’s always easier to go back and even things out than it is to have to wear a ponytail for the next six weeks.

Try the parting method

Section two sides just behind both ears away from a third back section. Then pull one front section in front of the shoulder, twist it, and while keeping it twisted with finger and thumb securing it at the bottom, trim across the ends. Repeat the process on the other side. Then pull both sections down straight to meet in the middle under your face if the length allows, to see if they’re even. Adjust as needed. Then split the back section in two, comb into the front sections on either side, and then trim across so that the back section lines up with the front.

Soften the edge

If after trimming across you find that you don’t want a blunt edge, go back and “chip” into ends across with the scissor for a feathery look and feel. This should be done while the section is still twisted and you’re holding it.

Split end strategy

To trim splits, twist a 1-inch section of hair around and hold it with one hand. With the index finger and thumb of the other hand, gently pinch the section and slide fingers up towards the scalp. “The split ends will splay away from the strand—pick up your scissors and trim the ends where they’re sticking out,” says Garrison.

Waves and curls forgive

Finally, the wavy and curly-haired among us get a styling break; a little self-trim can look pretty pro on these hair types. “It’s easy to notice a rogue piece—stretch the small section slightly out with fingertips and snip with scissors,” instructs Garrison.

Straight and fine? Beware

Straight and fine hair will show every move you make, so Garrison says this hair type should be wariest of self-trims and keep it only to urgent split end snips.

Use a second pair of eyes

If possible, don’t venture entirely alone. Ask a mate or friend to look at your hair from behind, and make sure it all looks kosher.

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