How to Cut Hair in Layers

Layered haircuts are fashionable, versatile, and easy to maintain! Trim your hair in layers at home in between regular visits to the salon. Use your expertise to cut your friends’ hair. Experiment with different layering techniques to achieve bold, new styles!

Wet The Hair

Fill a spray bottle with warm water. Saturated the hair with the warm mist—your hair should be damp, not dripping. Use a fine tooth comb to detangle your wet hair—carefully remove snarls and knots from the locks.[1]

  • Keep the spray bottle nearby. As the hair dries, re-wet the locks.

Part the hair. Start down the center of the head—from the top of the forehead to the base of the skull. Part horizontally twice—once at the top of the ears and once at the base of the ears. This will create a section on the top of the head, known as the top box, 2 side sections, and 1 section at the base of your skull. Twist each section and secure it with a large hair clip.[2]

  • Make sure the right sections are even with the left sections.
  • If the hair you are cutting is thicker, consider dividing it into 7 sections: top, right side, left side, right crown, left crown, right nape, left nape, and a ½ inch band of loose hair at the hairline.
    • Begin by parting the hair in a straight line from just behind one ear to the just behind the other ear.[3]
    • Create a part on each side of the head along the parietal ridge—approximately 4 finger widths above the tops of your ears. This will allow you to section off the hair on the top of the head. Comb the hair towards the top of the head, twist, and secure it with a clip. Comb, twist, and clip the hair on the left and right sides of the head.[4]
    • Part the hair down the center of the crown. To isolate the left and right crown sections, part the hair horizontally from just behind the ear to the center part. Comb, twist, and clip the two sections.[5]
    • Divide, comb, and clip the remaining hair at the nape of the neck into a left and a right section.[6]
    • Unclip each section 1 at a time. Remove a ½ inch section of hair along the perimeter of the hair line.[7]

Create the first traveling guide

Unclip the bottom section. Gather a small segment of hair at the center of your bottom section. This segment will become the first traveling guide. A traveling guide moves with the area being cut.The most recently cut segment of hair in a section assumes the role of the traveling guide. It is held up to the next segment of hair and used as a ruler.[8]

  • Determine the length of the bottom layer. When you are deciding the length of the 3 layers, remember that the shorter the hair, the smaller the difference in the layers should be. The 3 layers may differ in 2 to 4 inches on long hair and 1/2 an inch to 1 inch on shorter hair.
  • Insert the segment between the forefinger and middle finger of your non-dominant hand. Slide the fingers towards the ends—pulling the segment at a 90° angle—until your fingers have arrived at your desired hair length. Trim the excess hair with a pair of sharp shears.[9]
  • Consider cutting between ½ inch to 2 inches off—you can always go shorter![10]
Cut Hair in Layers
How to Cut Hair in Layers – Middle Section

Cut the remainder of the section

Use the travelling guide, the most recently cut segment of hair, to measure the length of the next segment. Insert the traveling guide and the next segment of hair between your forefinger and middle finger. Move the fingers towards the ends—pulling the hair at a 90° angle—until you reach the end of the traveling guide. Cut the new segment of hair so that it is the same length as the traveling guide.[11]

  • The freshly cut segment is now the travelling guide. Then, repeat the process until the entire section is cut.
  • Check the evenness of your trim periodically. Meanwhile, pull the hair in multiple directions and at varying angles to check the evenness of the cut. Then, trim any uneven pieces before moving onto the next section of hair[12]

Determine the length of the second layer

Unclip the left section and let and hang over the bottom layer. Use the bottom layer as a guide to determine how much hair to trim off the second layer.[13] The bottom and middle layers may differ 2 to 4 inches in long hair and ½ inch to 1 inch in shorter hair.

Cut the left segment. Gather a small segment of hair at the front left side to use as your first guide. At the same time, pull the segment of hair straight at a 90° angle. First, slide your fingers towards the ends of the hair until you reach the point you would like to cut off. Then, trim the excess hair. Lastly, cut the remainder of the section with the aid of the travelling guide.[14]

Cut the right section. Unclip the right section. Gather a small segment of hair at the front left side (your travelling guide) and the front right side. Insert the two segments between your middle and forefinger and pull them forward at a 90° angle. Stop your fingers at the end of the left segment. Then, trim the excess hair from the right segment. Similarly, cut the remainder of the section with the aid of the travelling guide.[15]

Determine the length of the top layer

Firstly, unclip the top section and let it hang over the middle layer. Then, use the layers below to help you determine the length of your top layer. To clarify, The middle and top layers may differ 2 to 4 inches in long hair and ½ inch to 1 inch in shorter hair.

Cut the top section. Gather a small segment of hair at the top of the forehead. Pull the segment of hair straight at a 90° angle. Slide your fingers towards the ends of the hair until you reach the point you would like to cut off. In addition, you want to trim the excess hair. Cut the remainder of the section with the aid of the traveling guide.[16]

At this point, you should have everything to get started. However, you may still feel under-confident, remember that you can ask for professional help. Remember, many stylists are offering online services and video guidance for your own haircuts, or those of your kids and family.


Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world’s largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Cut You Hair in Layers. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

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