What the Heck do Thinning Shears do, Anyway?


In this edition of “Step Into the Chair,” Cleve McMillan, stylist and DSC’s resident hair expert, weighs in on your burning questions about the mysterious adventure that is getting a haircut.

My hair isn’t crazy thick, so I’m always a little wary when my barber pulls out the thinning shears. What’s he using them for?

While thinning out hair that’s too thick and therefore unmanageable is the main reason a stylist would be using thinning shears, it’s certainly not the only reason. When I’m styling someone’s hair, I sometimes use thinning shears to soften the edges of the haircut, especially around the ears. That way, your cut looks like it’s a few weeks old right when you step out of the barbershop rather than having an ultra tight, G.I. Joe-style hairstyle—you know, with hard, angled lines around the ears and on the back of the neck. Thinning shears are also great for fading short, clippered sides into a longer top, so don’t be alarmed if your barber whips them out towards the end of the haircut.

I can never seem to figure out which product is right for my hair type. What’s the best way to find out without buying everything off the shelf?

I recommend searching YouTube for a hair product vlogger with similar hair to yours and checking out the products they use. If that doesn’t prove helpful, it never hurts to ask your stylist. Of course, they’re going to try to sell you whatever’s in their shop, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: The reason they have those products is because they’ve done their due diligence and truly believe they’re the bomb.

It’s also important to remember that it’s more about the hairstyle you’re going for than it is about your hair type, so it’s a good idea to keep that hairstyle in mind while looking for products. Do you want hold throughout the entire day? Go for a strong gel or pomade. Do you want to be able to re-style your hair every few hours? Then maybe you’re looking for more of a light cream.

How do I know when it’s time to get a haircut before things start looking shaggy? Also, is there such a thing as going in for a trim too often?

It’s important to keep in mind that hair grows quicker in the summertime because heat promotes blood flow in the scalp. That means if you have a haircut routine—say, you go in every four weeks on the dot—you might need to come in a bit sooner over the summer, or go an extra week without seeing your barber during the winter. That said, knowing when to go in for a cut is really just a case of paying attention to when your hair doesn’t quite fall into place. If you’re spending a ton of time trying to get your hair just right in the morning, it’s time to pay your stylist a visit.

As for the second question, there’s really no such thing as going in for a trim too often. I used to have clients that worked as weathermen or anchormen who would come in literally every seven to 12 days. In those cases, it’s extra important that you’re going to a talented stylist who is capable of making your hair look consistently the same without people knowing it’s been cut.

If you have a question for your barber but are too afraid to ask, email us at editors@dollarshaveclub.com or comment below and we’ll have Cleve answer it in an upcoming post.