What are the Different Hair Cutting Techniques?

Hairstylist demonstrating hair cutting techniques on woman in barber's chair

Different people get haircuts for different reasons. Talking to you about what a client doesn’t like about their current cut can help guide you to make any necessary corrections. Likewise, if you have a specific hairstyle in mind you should be upfront and detailed about your expectations so that your client can make the appropriate choices. The reasoning and motivation behind wanting a change in hairstyle can help inform the method and tool choices. That is why it is important to be a hairstylist that can communicate openly with clients. And, the best way to prepare for a career in hair cutting is to attend a hair school near you. Let’s take a more in depth look at the three main reasons people seek out a new haircut.

Hair Cutting Techniques: Corrections

Hairstyle correction refers to fixing something that a client is unhappy with about their current cut or style. This can range from the wildly dramatic to the barely noticeable. It all depends on the kind of correction they are looking for. For example, you could get away with very subtle, minor changes if they are unhappy with the thickness or volume of their hair. However, if you are hoping to correct a previous hair cutting mistake or aiming to create dramatic movement you are probably going to need more dramatic solutions.

Hair Cutting Techniques: Self-Expression

Haircuts are a great way to physically express personality and attitude. They can even be used to celebrate changes and recognize the beginning of a new personal chapter. Knowing how a client wants the haircut to make them feel can help you make the right choices for tools and techniques. Are they looking for an easy, low maintenance look that values function? Are they hoping to soften some edges with something bouncy and fun? These kinds of descriptors can help you create the look they want to see when they look in the mirror.

Fashion or Style Project Haircuts

While these kinds of cuts are rare, and typically apply more to wig work, fashion projects are another reason that a client might be in need of a new hairdo. Photo shoots, music videos, films, and photography projects are just some of the examples of highly stylized projects that could require a dramatic change in cut or hairstyle. These advanced hair cutting techniques can be learned at a hair school near you.

Things to Consider about a Haircut

It can be easy to look at celebrities and want their exact hairstyle. Unfortunately, the vast differences in hair from person to person can really make it hard to pull off the same look as someone else. Before your client falls in love with a haircut that would be unrealistic, take a moment to consider their current hairstyle situation. Here is a quick look at a few of the things you will want to keep in mind when you are style shopping for your client’s haircuts.

Hair Texture

Be realistic about how your client’s hair texture: is it coarse, fine, curly or straight? This will help you be realistic about how a certain haircut might look once it is completed, as well as how it might grow out over time. If they have synthetically texturized their follicles by relaxing or perming them, that should be taken into consideration before making the haircut, as well.

Hair Condition

Your client may want a long, luxurious hairstyle, but if their ends are severely damaged it can prevent them from achieving that goal. At the same time, if they struggle with an exceptionally dry scalp or damaged root system then a short cut may make the problem worse and more visible. If your client really wants a dazzling new hairstyle take the time to talk over their hair’s current condition and timelines.

Current Haircut

There are things that your client’s current haircut may determine about their future one. For instance, if they are currently sporting a look with a lot of choppy or dramatic angles it may take losing quite a bit of length if they want to smooth out their look. Another example would be if they have bangs. The length, thickness, and angle of their bangs, as well as whether or not they want to keep them or phase them out, can play a big role in the new haircut.

Cutting Terms and Techniques

While the idea of changing your client’s look can be exciting, the techniques and terminology of the salon can be confusing. Any certified hairstylist should help clearly explain or define any technique that their client might have a question about. However, let’s take a quick look at some of the more common terms and techniques you might hear when it comes to haircuts.


This term refers to a method of cutting that creates different lengths that lay one on top of the other. Layering helps create movement and make hairstyles lighter and cooler to wear. This is a great option for hairstyles that fall flat and appear stale or stagnant. It is also a great hairstyle option for warm weather months that can often lead to sweating and overheating. Layers can be subtle with very little difference in layer lengths, but they can also be dramatic with a vast difference in length between the bottom and the top layers. They can also be strategically placed to help shape your client’s face. It just depends on the client’s personal preferences.


Thinning refers to a technique that makes thick styles easier to wear. The thought behind thinning and layering are the same, but the overall effects are very different. Hairstylist will often use a specialized cutting tool called thinning shears to help lighten thick, heavy hairstyles. Thinning shears look like scissors with small sections cut out. It essentially looks like one of the scissor blades has the teeth of a comb. They are used to cut small, subtle sections out of the edge of a hairstyle to remove volume and weight. This can also be done with straight scissors through a technique called “slithering” where the hairstylist uses the straight scissors to make vertical cuts into the edge of the hairstyle.


Blunting is a term that refers to creating blocky or straight edges. It is a great way to add drama to a look. This might require a client to sacrifice length if they already have layers. Blunting a layered hairstyle would take the shortest layer and cut everything else to that length. The client can also choose to blunt a certain section or area of their hairstyle.

Graduated or Stacked Cut

The layers in a stacked or graduated haircut are very close together. They are often chosen to create bulk and weight in a haircut, while traditional layering often leads to a thinning or lightening result in the hairstyle. The angles of this kind of cut have to be precise. The weight line, or where the weight falls in a particular hairstyle, has to be deeply considered when making the decision toward a graduated or stacked cut. It is particularly helpful for those with thin or fine follicles.

Extension Terminology

Extensions don’t exactly refer to haircut, but they do affect style volume and length. Their popularity is on the rise among all colors, styles, and textures. So, it is worth taking a brief look at some of the terms that are used like set, weft, disconnect, and stitched.


A set of extensions refers to the entirety of the extensions. These sets come in a variety of length and thickness options so that that client is sure to get the additions to their hairstyle they are looking for.


The term “weft” refers to a single extension in a set. A set of extensions is made up of several wefts. The number of individual extensions depends on the style the client is going for. There can also be several different lengths and densities of wefts within the same set to create dimension in the hairstyle.


This term refers to the point where the client’s natural hair end and their synthetic extensions begin. The disconnect is typically more visible in styles that have blunt or boxy edges. That is why it is important that the client find a hairstylist who can help them learn how to properly and thoroughly blend these extensions into seamless style on a daily basis.


This refers to extensions that are sewn in rather than using adhesive or clips to secure the wefts. This process is typically time consuming and takes a skilled and focused hairstylist to complete. If a client is someone who likes to switch up their style fairly frequently, one of the more temporary options of securing extensions might be the right call. If they want absolute security in their new length and volume, this method is a far more permanent solution.

Barber and Close Cuts

Salons are not the only places haircuts happen. Too often we neglect to talk about barber shops and their contribution to hairstyle and design. If a client is someone who prefers a barber to a hairdresser, here are a couple of terms they might want to familiarize themselves with.


Fading is a method of hairstyling that uses a combination of clippers and scissors to taper the hairstyle from the base of the neck to the top of the head. A barber or stylist will use clippers to get an extremely close cut around the base of the neck and then very gradually increase the length tapering upward. Once they reach the top of the head, the length of hairstyle can vary widely. The term “fade” refers to the tapering cut leading upward.

Design Cuts

There are plenty of barbers and stylists that are sought out for their design cuts. A hairstyle needs to be short before a design can be cut into it. These haircuts are typically found in the upper parts of fades or on people with other closely shaved hairstyles. This specialization uses a variety of clipper types and attachments to create pictures and designs in hair that range from simple to exceptionally elaborate.

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of different ways that you can switch up your client’s hairstyle no matter what you happen to be working with naturally. It is important to know what to ask for regardless of the direction a client wants to take their personal style in. Knowing the proper terms and techniques can really help you clarify the hairstyle goals and the clients concerns when discussing their decisions and options. It can also help you feel more confident when taking charge of their brand new, exciting look. If you are creative and enjoy helping others express themselves, then a career in hair cutting and styling may be right for you. Look for a hair school near you and your career might be just around the next corner.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about what the different hair cutting techniques are interest you? Need to get your undergraduate certificate in cosmetology? At Minnesota School of Cosmetology, we are dedicated to helping our Cosmetology program students develop a solid foundation and a flair for style through hands-on training in basic and advanced industry techniques. You will learn how to cut, color and style hair, give manicures and pedicures, provide spa treatments and perform various skin care techniques from industry-experienced instructors in a professional salon setting. At the Minnesota School of Cosmetology, we keep our class sizes small to make sure you get the individualized instruction you need and attention you deserve. You will graduate with everything you need to be a versatile artist in an exciting industry, including a cosmetology diploma from a respected college.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a hairstylist and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

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