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How to Give Yourself a Buzzcut

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Bare chested man with hair cut from head on back
John Arsenault/Stone/getty Images
A buzzcut is a simple style that works well for most men and is now generally acceptable for everyone from athletes to executives (and it's a great way to save a little cash on trips to the barber). It's also a fairly easy haircut to give and maintain yourself. As someone who makes a living from cutting men's hair, I don't often give advice on how to cut men's hair at home, but this one makes sense because it's so easy. Reluctantly, I offer these steps on how to give yourself a buzzcut at home.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 15 Minutes

Here's How:

  1. Choose a Length. As far as the length goes, I recommend going with what I call a 3-2-1 buzzcut (e.g. a number 3 guard on top, 2 on the sides, and 1 around the edges). This will leave the hair about 3/8" on top and taper down to 1/2" on the sides and back (with a little tighter finishing at the hairline). The shorter the buzzcut, the harder it will be to mess up or end up with an uneven result.

    If this is the first time you've had a buzz, make sure you feel your head for any lumps, scars or irregularities and inspect your scalp before you buzz. This will help eliminate any surprises after you've started cutting.

  2. Get Ready. To achieve best results, it's helpful to start with a clean, dry head of hair -- hair that has product in it or hair that is flat due to sleeping or wearing a hat will be more difficult to cut evenly. It will also be helpful to have a hand mirror or a swing arm vanity mirror (this will allow you to keep both hands free). If using a swing arm mirror, mount the mirror on a wall that runs perpendicular to the vanity mirror. This will allow you to stand between the two mirrors and see the back of your head. Having both hands free is a big plus.
  3. Buzz the Top. Place the #3 (3/8") attachment on the clipper. Holding the clipper guard flat against your forehead, begin cutting from front to back. Move the clipper slowly back down the middle of the head past the crown. Repeat in strips until the entire top is clipped down (cut everything to just past the point where the head rounds into the sides). You may need to go over it a few times to get it all even -- making a few passes from side-to-side may also help. Pay extra attention to the crown. Since the hair grows in a circular pattern at the crown, you'll need to buzz from all directions to get it all cut.
  4. Buzz the Sides. Replace the attachment on the clipper with a #2 (1/4"). Keeping the clipper guard flat against the head, start at the sideburn and clip up the head to just past the start of buzzed down top section. Run the clipper in a straight line up past the part where the head begins to round at the top (the clipper will leave the head here) to provide a smooth blend between the sides and the top. If you see any lines between the two sections, rocking the clipper outward in a scooping motion will help you get a good blend. Repeat in strips on both sides until complete and go over any missed spots.
  5. Buzz the Back. Stand between the vanity mirror and your hand mirror (or swing arm mirror). For best results, your back should be facing the vanity mirror while you look into the hand mirror). This will allow you to see the entire back. Keeping the #2 on the clipper, with the clipper guard flat against the head, start buzzing from the bottom of the neck all the way up the head until just past the clipped part on top. Like the sides, continue up the head in a straight line allowing the round of the head near the top to provide a natural blend. Repeat in strips until the entire back is cut.
  6. Taper the Edges. Using the #1 (1/8") attachment, taper in the edges. To do this, start at the sideburn and clip up to the top of the ear, rocking the clipper out in a scooping motion. This will blend into the #2 length section. Continue over the ear (it will be helpful to bend the ear over flat with your other hand to make room and allow you to see what you're doing) on each side. Once the sides are complete, turn around and do the same to the back, running the clipper up the back of the head and rocking it out at about ear level. The shortest part of the back will go up to meet the shortest part of the sides.
  7. Detail the Cut. Using your trimmer, you'll now trim your sideburns and shave your neck by creating a line and shaving everything underneath. This will give your cut a polished look. Holding your trimmer with the teeth of the blade pointing at your skin (the blade is parallel to the floor with the bottom of the blade facing up) will allow you to cut a clean line. Holding the trimmer with the bottom of the blade flat against your skin (with the teeth facing up) will allow you to shave everything underneath the line you created. Follow the natural hairline as closely as possible.
  8. Clean Up. Once you've finished the cut, inspect your entire head carefully for any missed spots or uneven places. Go back over anything that looks out of place. Be sure to pay close attention to the back and crown area as these are often the areas most guys miss. Sweep up, shower, and enjoy your new buzz.

Tips:

  1. Before giving yourself a buzzcut, you may want to go to the barber and have him do it the first time and pay close attention to what he's doing. Watch how he moves the clipper up the head.
  2. When cutting, don't rush it. Be careful and proceed slowly to minimize making a mistake. I also recommend being prepared to screw up. If you mess up, you may have to make (an embarrassing) trip to the barber for repairs. The result can often be a VERY short cut -- don't buzz your own hair if you're not prepared to accept the consequences of a botched job.
  3. Make sure your guards are on securely! If the clipper guard pops off, you'll end up with a bald patch (that can only be fixed by shaving your head), so make sure your guards are firmly attached to the clipper before you proceed.
  4. Invest in good tools and keep your clippers well oiled and maintained. Paying a few extra dollars for a good clipper, such as the Wahl Senior will help produce a better result. For a good trimmer, I recommend the Andis T-Outliner. Together, these will set you back around 100 bucks, but they'll give you years of use and you'll recover the cost from saving cash spent at the barber shop.
  5. Cut often. To maintain a fresh look, buzz your head about every two weeks -- this will make it much easier to maintain.

What You Need

  • A good hair clipper
  • Attachment combs for the hair clipper
  • Hair trimmers for detail work
  • Comb (perhaps the last time you'll need one of these)
  • Hand mirror (or swing arm mirror)
  • The location of the nearest barber (just in case)
  • A steady hand and a bit of patience
  • A broom and dustpan

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