How To Give Yourself A Buzz Cut During Self-Isolation

As Hilary Duff once said: “Why not?”

“Should I really give myself a buzz cut?”

At every step of the process, the question crossed my mind — from the first time I considered it four days after my hair salon closed its doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, to 11 p.m. last Thursday night when I plugged in the clippers.

Here’s the thing — once you start to think about giving yourself a buzz cut, at some point you’ll probably give yourself a buzz cut. Maybe it’s that day you first think about it, maybe it’s years later, but eventually, you’ll want to take the plunge. For many people, it’s one of those intrusive thoughts that just keeps coming back every time we look in the mirror and wonder, “What if?”

And during social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a thought that’s come up a lot more often for people.

WATCH: Pandemic bangs are at-home chic. Story continues below.

Google searches for “how to shave my head” and “should I shave my head” started to spike in Canada around March 15 — the same week most barbershops and hair-dressers closed indefinitely across the country.

And everyone has an opinion of whether or not the “quarantine haircut” is a good idea or bad.

For the first few weeks of the crisis, I denied there was any problem. But with every day, my roots grew out and the back of my head started to look like a mullet. My uneasiness about attempting a home bleach job (seriously, don’t do that) grew just as fast, and those buzz cut thoughts started to resurface.

Shaving your head establishes a blank canvas so you can grow your hair throughout quarantine on your own terms. It’s also a great way to take control of one thing in this increasingly uncontrollable world. And of the things you can do at home, it’s actually one of the easiest.

And so, one night after binge-watching “Succession” with my roommates, I did it.

The author pre- and post-buzz cut.
The author pre- and post-buzz cut.

And you can too — if you’re ready to take the plunge.

A step-by-step guide to buzzing off all your hair

Step one: Look at a bunch of photos of celebrities who rocked perfectly shorn hair at some point in time — I’m talking Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Sinead O’Connor, Robert Pattinson, Danai Gurira, Zac Efron . Run your hands repeatedly over your scalp, considering what it might feel like cropped.

Step two: Repeat step one for, well, years sometimes, without actually doing anything.

Kristen Stewart, patron saint of the queer buzz cut. 
Kristen Stewart, patron saint of the queer buzz cut. 

Step three: Global pandemic hits. Hair options become limited. Watch your roots grow in at a dramatic pace.

Step four: Go to the drugstore for your panic-purchase of toilet paper. See only one set of clippers left on the shelf. Think, “Well, if in future weeks I want to cut my hair, I’ll need those, so better safe than sorry.” Purchase the clippers.

Step five: Spend five days staring at them, taking them out of the box, Googling techniques for home haircuts, but not actually doing anything.

Step six: Put out a Twitter poll asking your friends what you should do, because you can’t make decisions for yourself.

Step seven: Finally look at yourself and your nasty roots during a work Google Hangout and realize something must be done.

“Step five: Spend five days staring at them, taking them out of the box, Googling techniques for home haircuts, but not actually doing anything.”

Step eight: Put on some soothing indie music. Pour a glass of wine (if you so choose). Softly sing to yourself as you get one last look at the bleach job you paid a lot of money for.

Step nine: Turn on the clippers. Have at ’er. Marvel at your surprisingly sharp hairline that starts to emerge from the depths of your no-longer-there hair.

Step 10: Emerge covered in little bits of hair, but with the satisfaction that at least things will grow out on your terms from here on out. Assess the new do’ and all the weird lumps you probably forgot were there on your head all this time but are now out for all the world — or at least your housemates — to see.

I mean, that’s what worked for me. You’ll likely go through your own progression. Everyone’s journey is different.

OK, but how do I actually do it?

Fine, you want real advice? Here’s what experts say about buzzing your hair at home.

First of all, it’s usually best to get someone to help you out. If you’re alone (like I was), make sure to invest in a hand mirror in addition to the clippers set, so you can see the back while you’re working.

It’s also good to prep your area. If you’re doing it alone, don’t be afraid to do it in the nude — if a roommate or family member is helping out, use the barbers’ cape that comes with many clipper sets, or an old towel you don’t care about. I did not heed this advice, and wore an old t-shirt to do the job. I doubt I’ll ever get all of the tiny hairs out of it now.

Also be sure to set up somewhere you can easily clean up — a bathroom or the backyard. No one wants your stray hairs to end up in the kitchen and the fresh sourdough your roommate is making.

WATCH: 3 easy ways to cut your own hair at home. Story continues below.

If you have a lot of length, start by taking that off with scissors. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just cleans up space for buzzing.

Ideally, your clippers will have multiple different sized guards you can use. Before you even plug your clippers in, practise running them across your head turned off to get used to the feeling. It feels weird, that’s OK. But it’s good to familiarize yourself or whoever’s doing the shaving with the unique trenches and valleys of your head.

Starting with a large guard (remember, you can always take more hair off, you can’t add it back on), start to run the clippers over your head. Clipper guards usually have a number that denotes the size going up in increments of one-eighth of an inch— thus, a #1 guard is an eighth of an inch long, a #2 guard is a quarter of an inch long, etc. The unguarded clippers will produce a nearly bald look.

Hair clippers, scissors and assorted guards. 
Hair clippers, scissors and assorted guards. 

Start with a #3 — three-eighths of an inch — and see how it feels/looks. Just like when shaving other parts of your body, it’s best to go against the grain of the hair.

Start on the sides where it’s easy to see, working your way up from the bottom in a straight motion. Then start at the base of your neck, and similarly work up, being sure to move the clippers around that little whorl most people have on the back of their head. Use the hand mirror to double-check you aren’t missing any spots. Get behind your ears, and run it straight back from your forehead back, covering all of the top.

Repeat all over until everything’s even — it’ll probably take longer than you expect.

And if you want to go shorter, repeat the process with shorter guards until the desired length is achieved. Take your time, enjoy the thrill of it all. Experts suggest keeping a shorter buzz on the sides compared to the top, so try using one size larger guard for the part on top to maintain a bit of shape.

After the deed is done, take a shower to get all of those little hair bits off of you. Then, give your space a thorough sweep (and probably vacuum). Discarded hair can just go in the trash or compost (check your area’s services).

But wait, I’m not supposed to do dramatic hair changes during the pandemic ...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I too have read the thinkpieces imploring people to just let their hair grow instead of potentially messing up things for the future. But here’s the fact of it — this pandemic isn’t ending this week or next week or the weeks after that.

If you want to try something new, with only the people in your household absolutely having to see you sans hat, do it! Live your best life.

We all need a little excitement right now. And if bread baking doesn’t fly as a hobby for you, you can buzz your hair, and you’ll have the fun new hobby of trying to grow it out without looking like a tennis ball.

“This pandemic isn’t ending this week or next week or the weeks after that. If you want to try something new, with only the people in your household absolutely having to see you sans hat, do it!”

A week removed from my “big buzz,” I’m still getting used to how itchy my head is and I miss running my hands through it. Who knows, I may keep this hairstyle for a while and finally live up to the queer punk rock destiny I know I have inside me. But, I did put on my leather jacket and marvel at how powerful I felt — and how no one outside my roommate and the grocery store clerk would get to appreciate that power for now.

If I don’t keep it, it’ll grow back into something resembling a normal hairstyle within a few weeks. In a few months, with careful tending, it’ll be back to my beloved old style (minus the bleach, because, again, don’t do that at home!).

So if it makes you feel good, buzz your hair or cut your bangs! If it turns out badly, remember the golden rule: it’s hair, it will grow back. It just might take a bit of time, which, to be fair, most of us have a lot of right now.

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