How to Cut Hair Layers Step by Step

Shannon Boyce
Layered haircut
Layered Hair Pictures

While at-home haircuts are rarely recommended, this doesn't stop people from wondering how to score a stunning layered cut. Whether you're a would-be stylist who's tired of your current look, don't want to visit a professional hairdresser, or simply need some technical how-to information, the following techniques can be used to create a well-blended layered haircut on anyone, including yourself.

Instructions for Cutting Layers

You know the old saying, measure twice and cut once? Apply this to your haircut. Before you reach for the closest pair of scissors, come up with a solid plan of action. For the most flattering haircut, factor in hair length, face shape, and of course, personal preferences. When it comes to the length of your hair, remember it is harder to cut layers into shorter styles. So, think about your skill level and overall comfort before you start chopping.

Something else to consider are the type of layers you want. According to The Beauty Department, layered looks include everything from classic layers (for movement), textured layers (to create a softer look), long layers (to bring out your natural texture), to shag layers (to remove weight from the hair). More complicated cuts should be left to the professionals, while simpler layered styles can be achieved at home.

Step-by-Step Guide

The following steps will show you how to cut gorgeous layers at home.

  1. Before you start cutting, take some time to prepare. Wash and condition your hair as usual before thoroughly towel-drying. (In most cases, it is best to cut damp hair rather than wet or dry hair. This makes it easier to see the natural texture.)
    Girl drying hair
  2. Grab a well-sharpened pair of shears. Dull scissors will not cut evenly, and if they do, may lead to unsightly split ends. Most beauty supply stores sell a basic pair that can be used for haircutting.
  3. Comb through the length of your hair and remove tangles as needed. Sit or stand in front of a large mirror in a well-lit room.
    Woman Combing Hair
  4. Now it is time to create the guideline for your cut. Start by scooping up a large section of hair on the very top of the head. Then take the front part of that section, holding your hands at a 90-degree angle. Pull the hair taut and cut across. (The amount of hair you cut may not be significant or it might be a little more dramatic. It depends entirely on how noticeable you want the layers to be. However, it is always better to cut too little than too much!)
    Hairdresser cutting woman's hair
  5. Continue cutting small one-inch sections from that top portion of hair, working your way back. Use what you have cut already as a length guide. Not quite sure how to perfect the technique? The YouTube video below, How to Cut & Layer Long Hair, will give you a better idea of how this process works.
  6. Once you have finished with the top section, divide it in half, and let the hair frame the face.
  7. Next, separate the front sections of hair. Starting on the right side, take a one-inch piece of hair, and comb upwards at a 90-degree angle. Trim that section to match the layer you have already cut. (Those initial layers are important, as they are your length guide throughout this process.)
  8. Continue doing this until the front sections on both the right and left have been layered.
    Woman getting haircut
  9. You can stop here if you want the layers concentrated at the front, or continue along the back for a fully layered style. For even more layers, separate the back section of hair into two halves. Comb the hair upward and make your cuts carefully, letting the previous layers indicate where you should trim. You will be left with a gorgeous graduated style.
  10. Double check everything by examining your hair in the mirror. Pull the hair evenly on both sides. Any uneven sections should be trimmed to the proper length to ensure they are symmetrical.
    Looking in mirror

Layering Different Hair Lengths

Certain lengths are easier to layer than others. Longer hair tends to be simpler to do on your own (take these DIY haircuts as an example. If you are super-skilled, you can achieve long layers by expertly cutting your ponytail). However, it is possible to achieve the cut you crave, whatever your length.

Medium Hair

If you have medium hair, it can be trickier to cut layers yourself, depending on the length and layered style you want. For instance, you may be after a razor haircut for something with more movement. Otherwise, simply follow the steps listed above, or watch this YouTube video for medium hair to create a beautiful layered look.

Short Hair

If you have short hair, the same general steps apply. However, you need to be extra careful when cutting, as there is little room for error. Layers that are too short are difficult to style and have a tendency to look awkward. When cutting short hair in layers, cut the middle section of hair 1/2 an inch shorter than the bottom layer, and the top layer 1/2 an inch shorter than the mid-section.

Weigh the Risk

While at-home haircuts can get the job done - and save money - there is nothing more certain than the expertise of a trained professional. Consider whether your DIY cut is worth the risk. To achieve the best possible results, follow these steps carefully. If you make a mistake, remember that hair grows back. While a bad haircut can really put a damper on your self-image, there are plenty of clever cover ups such as hats, headbands, bandanas and barrettes that can mask nearly any hair faux pas.

How to Cut Hair Layers Step by Step