You want to grow your hair to long beautiful lengths, so the last thing you want coming close to your mane is a pair of scissors, right? Not necessarily.
Surprisingly, trimming is a controversial subject in the natural hair community. Some advocate for sticking to a strict trimming schedule of every 8 weeks, while others recommend never trimming.
Who's right? Well, it depends on your goals, but if you want to grow your hair long and retain as many inches as possible, you need to trim your ends on a regular basis.
We want long, beautiful, healthy hair. Not long hair with three inches of damaged, see through ends. Holding on to length just for the sake of length is not helping, and could be allowing the damage to spread.
Why Do You Need to Trim?
It may seem counterintuitive to cut your hair when your goal is to grow it as long as possible, but trims are necessary to keep our hair healthy. Our hair is damaged on a daily basis, from many sources. As we discussed in the section on protective styling, your ends can be damaged simply from rubbing against your clothes or furniture.
Excessive heat, chemicals, or rough detangling can also wreak havoc on our ends, causing them to split. Once split ends develop, they cannot be repaired. Some products claim to repair split ends, but what they actually do is seal the ends together temporarily (like glue).
A better way to approach split ends is to minimize them by wearing silk or satin scarves and bonnets, using hydrating hair products, and coating your ends lightly with an oil, like our Organic Pre-Shampoo Oil when needed.
Even with these measures, it is virtually impossible to prevent all split ends. Once your ends split, the best remedy is a pair of sharp scissors.
Additionally, certain curly styles like wash and go's, twists, or puffs can cause the hair to curl onto itself, forming tiny knots known as single strand knots or fairy knots. These small knots then snag neighboring hairs to form larger knots.
If left unchecked, these knots will cause your ends to feel rough, and will make detangling a nightmare.
Again, it's best to minimize single strand knots, but once they form, they need to be cut. You can minimize knots by using an oil or butter on your ends to discourage the knots from forming. Stretching the ends of your twists or braids with rollers is also a great way to keep those knots from forming.
When do You need to trim?
The more often you trim your ends, the less you will need to cut each time. Your trimming schedule can be anywhere from every 8 weeks to every 6 months.
Keep in mind that if you are trimming every 8-12 weeks, you will only need to trim a tiny amount (about 1/8 of an inch).
If you are only trimming every 6 months you will probably need to trim 1-2 inches.
I do not recommend trimming only once a year (unless you don’t care about retaining length).
If you straighten your hair you can easily see what part of your ends are thin or damaged. If you don’t straighten your hair, it's time to trim when you notice split ends, knots on the ends of your hair, your ends feel rough, or it’s harder to detangle.
Types of Trims
Even Trimming/Blunt Cuts
There are four main types of trims. First is "evening" the hair. This seems to be the method most loved by hair stylists, and is the worst for retaining length.
Making the hair even normally involves cutting a lot of healthy hair.
If your goal is to grow longer hair, this method will kill your progress. If you like blunt ends or your goal is to maintain your current length, this method may be for you. The next type of trim we'll call "infrequent trimming". This is for those who like to wear long term protective styles, or just don't like to get their hair trimmed.
Infrequent trimming would be once or twice a year. The upside to this method is that if you are careful about protecting your ends, you may see some extra length retention.
The downside, and the more likely outcome, is that you will need to cut a lot more hair when you finally do go for a trim.
If you are planning to trim your hair only once or twice a year, I recommend that you assess your ends often to ensure that you don't need to trim sooner. You should also be using high quality hair products that keep your hair moisturized and healthy between trims.
Infrequent trimming can also work well if used in conjunction with the "search and destroy" method, which is discussed a little later.
The third trimming method is "dusting" or "micro trimming". Dusting involves trimming a very small amount of hair (less than 1/4 inch) every 8-12 weeks.
Trimming a very small amount more frequently allows you to retain length throughout the year while still keeping splits and knots at bay. This is the method that I found worked best for me while growing my hair to hip length.
Search and Destroy
The last method is the "search and destroy". This method is the most time consuming, but works well alone or in conjunction with the other three methods.
The search and destroy method involves looking at each strand of hair and clipping any splits or knots that you find. In order to do this, your hair would need to be long enough for you to hold it out in front of you. It also is much easier to do on straight hair.
Although it sounds tedious, it doesn't take that long to do, you can finish in 20-30 minutes. You don't literally have to look at every single strand of your hair.
Just take a section, hold the ends up to some light, and clip any splits or knots that you can see.
If you look at a section and it's full of splits and knots, you should use one of the other trimming methods instead.
A search and destroy is also useful after using one of the methods discussed above because it allows you to go through your hair and remove any splits or knots that your trim may have missed, since knots and splits do not always occur at the very end of the hair shaft.
It is not necessary to perform this type of trim very frequently. You can do it every 3-6 months, after a trim, or between trims if you are using the infrequent trimming method.
When used together with the infrequent trimming method, a search and destroy can help minimize the amount of hair that needs to be cut during your trim.
How to Trim Your Own Hair
Have the right tools
First of all, make sure you are using proper, sharp, hair cutting scissors. Not kitchen scissors, not your baby's kindergarten scissors. Using the wrong kind of scissors will cause split ends.
Don't cut too much
If you are trimming on a more frequent schedule (every 8-12 weeks), you don't have to cut very much hair each time. This means it's pretty easy to do it yourself. We're talking about less than half an inch of hair, so you really don't need to worry about messing it up.
Try small two strand twists or braids
The easiest way to trim your own hair is to put your hair in small two strand twists and snip a little bit off the end of each one.
Stretch the hair with your fingers and clip only the very ends of your twists. This method may not capture every split or knot, but you'll find that your ends will feel a lot softer after trimming and you should have less issues with tangling. If your ends still feel rough, you can go back and cut a little more.
Trimming on Straight Hair
If you prefer to straighten before trimming, I recommend trimming in very small sections. Go through your hair and trim a small amount, then go back and cut more if needed.
When your hair is straight, you'll be able to see if your ends are thin or see-through. Don't feel like you need to cut it all at once. It is perfectly fine to trim an inch or two now, and another inch later on until you are satisfied with the health of your hair.
Use a guiding device for more accuracy
If you are trimming less often and need to cut more hair, there are plastic guides that you can purchase to help you cut evenly. The search and destroy method is also easy to do at home between salon trims.
I do not recommend a curly cut if length is your focus. These cuts are mostly intended to give the hair shape, which means healthy hair will be cut along with your damaged ends. If you prefer to have your curly hair trimmed by a professional stylist, I recommend having a clear conversation about your expectations and how much hair you are willing to part with before they get started.
Use the right scissors
I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating. Invest in a pair of hair cutting shears for your trims if you are doing them yourself. These don't have to be expensive, you can find a good pair for $15-30, but don't use your household scissors to trim your hair.
Don’t worry about being perfect
Don't stress over getting your hair perfectly even if you are trimming your own hair. If you mainly wear your hair curly, you won't be able to tell that your hair is not perfectly even. If you wear your hair mostly straight, trimming a small amount at a time and using smaller sections will help keep you from making your hair noticeably uneven.
Let go of damaged hair
Don't hold on to damaged ends. They don't look good, they don't feel good, and they lead to more damage. It's best to just get rid of them.
Remember the best way to get to the length that you want is by maintaining healthy hair. That way you can keep the hair that you are able to grow, instead of losing it to breakage or damage.
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