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How to cut your hair and do your nails at home

Beauty pros tell us how to deal with unruly hair, nails and skin when you're stuck at home and salons are closed.

Mercey Livingston CNET Contributor
Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She's written about fitness and wellness for Well+Good, Women's Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading and trying out workout classes all over New York City.
Mercey Livingston
10 min read

Salons are closed for the foreseeable future, but you can still maintain your personal care at home.

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Social distancing and government mandates require virtually all Americans to stay home and close business. And as countless businesses and newly unemployed workers face the unknown, the beauty industry is taking a hit. But just because your favorite salons are closed at the moment, that doesn't mean you have to let your own personal care fall by the wayside. 

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Giving yourself some time to focus on you and relax may be exactly what you need the most. That said, if you're used to having a pro help you do your hair, nails, waxing and other grooming needs, you have options to get similar results at home. You don't have to be a pro in most cases, although the quality may not be the same (so set realistic expectations). But at-home grooming is enough to get you by until social distancing and shutdowns end. 

Doing your own hair, nails and even facials isn't as intimidating as it may seem and you can replicate the experience of your favorite salon at home. Below, beauty experts weigh in on how to maintain your personal care between appointments with affordable and easy options. 


Cutting your own hair can be tricky -- try to avoid doing it by yourself.

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Cutting your hair at home

If you're in need of a haircut it's best to save that for the pros. In the meantime, you can focus on taking care of your hair at home so it'll be healthy when it's time to go to the salon again. If you are worried about split ends, a Well+Good writer says these products helped her go an entire year without a haircut. 

Amy Abramite, salon educator and stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago says to focus on moisture and conditioning your hair in between appointments. "While waiting to have your ends trimmed with a stylist, focus on keeping the general health of your hair in prime condition by adding a leave-in conditioner to your beauty routine. It will nourish and moisturize your hair, as well as prevent split ends from heat styling before your next snip. Add your leave-in conditioner to towel-dried hair and blow dry to style," Abramite says.

Tips for short hair

If you have a short haircut and are used to more frequent trims, you can clean up your cut at home -- but err on the side of caution. Shelly Aguirre, Stylist at Maxine Salon, says if you want to try to trim or cut your hair at home, "Small shears will help you control the hair coming off. Put the shears on an angle and lightly 'chip' at the ends. Less is more. You can always go back and trim a little more," Aguirre says. 

"If you have bangs, use caution. They are in the front and the most visible, so mistakes are easily seen. I would recommend chipping into the bangs while they are dry as hair shrinks from wet to dry. Let your stylist shape and cut your hair," she says. You can groom or touch up your current shape, but don't attempt an entire new cut or style. 


At-home trimmers can be fairly easy and inexpensive for maintaining short hair.

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When it comes to the back of your hair, you need someone else to help you -- or at the very least, a good mirror so you can see what you're doing. "If you have a mirror so you can see the back of your head, that would be helpful, but you really need someone else to help. It's far too difficult to do on your own," she says. 

Use hair products like wax or pomade to play around with your style in the meantime. "Products can help. Make your hair more loose or messy with a light wax or pomade," Aguirre says.

Consider getting a trimmer, which is relatively easy to use on your own. "Trimmers can aid in grooming as well. You don't need to spend a lot of money here as it's just meant for light grooming in between salon services," Aguirres says. If you have never tried to trim your hair at home, watch a few video tutorials like this one that give you step-by-step instructions. 

If your bangs are too long

"Accessories will extend the appearance of your style while having salon withdrawal when you cannot get a blowout, haircut, or bang trim. To look polished and professional, a headband will push overgrown bangs out of your way for a fresh look," says Abramite. 

She continues, "If you have longer hair and want to conceal your dehydrated ends, try a bun for a polished look with a scrunchie. For ponytail lovers, slick back the front of the hair for a clean look and decorate the back with a large printed scarf."

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At-home hair coloring

If you haven't been dyeing your own hair at home, now isn't the time to try it. Most stylists agree that dyeing your own hair can lead to not only unsightly results, but could damage the hair since at-home and salon dyes are so different. 

"Box dyes tend to have fewer conditioning agents than professional color which leaves the hair feeling damaged. Correcting these home dyes usually takes more than one appointment and can be very costly," Karissa Schaudt, colorist at Maxine Salon in Chicago says. Here's what stylists suggest you can do if you need a color touch up and can't go to the salon.

Wash less

The more you wash your hair, the more your color will fade. "Minimize your washes, ideally shampooing two to three times per week and always using a color safe shampoo. Wear a scarf or hat when you're in direct sunlight to keep fading to a minimum," Schaudt says.

Deep condition

"Take advantage of time and use deep conditioners or hair masks. If you only have your regular conditioner available use that. Apply on damp hair and let sit a minimum of 20 minutes. Regular use will prevent color fade-age, reduce breakage and improve the elasticity of your hair," Schaudt says.

Try a root touch up product

Root touch up products that are temporary and do not actually dye your hair are great options for hiding fading hair color or roots. "My favorite brands are Oribe and L'Oreal concealer spray; they rinse out and won't cause issues with future coverage. They have a variety of shades and work on all textures. If you're really desperate, find your similar hair color in eyeshadow or crayons to help diffuse harsh regrowth," Schaudt says.

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Purple shampoos can minimize brassiness between professional hair dyeing treatments.


Blondes and highlighted hair

Blondes and people who highlight their hair not only have overgrowth and roots to worry about, but the overall tone of your hair can look brassy and dull over time. Enter purple shampoo, or a special shampoo that helps beat brassiness and orange tones in hair.

"Clients who highlight or are blonde should have a bottle of 'purple' shampoo along with a moisture shampoo and conditioner (preferably sulfate, silicone and Paraben-free). This will keep your highlights vibrant and hair moisturized until your next salon visit," Tonya Fairley, a stylist at Strandz Hair Studio in Pasadena, CA says. 

Doing your nails at home

You can definitely recreate a nail salon experience at home, although you may not be able to do a gel manicure or a professional dip manicure, you can use the regular polish you have on hand and still get a great result. At-home manicures can also be a fun and relaxing activity. You can get your kids to join in. Or if you live with others, you can take turns doing each other's nails. 

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How fancy and detailed you get is up to you -- if you want to do cuticle treatments and everything, go for it! Or you can stick to a basic polish and moisturize your hands. This guide from Glamour Magazine shares how to get the perfect manicure at home, if you're willing to commit to 10 steps.

The basic steps for an at-home manicure:

  1. Remove old polish.
  2. Trim, file and buff your nails (here's a video showing you how to file your nails in different salon shapes).
  3. Wash your hands and apply lotion.
  4. Apply a base coat of polish.
  5. Let dry, and apply a top coat.
  6. Apply another coat if you wish or go on to the next step.
  7. Apply a top coat and let dry.

At home waxing

If you're used to going to regular waxing appointments, for most people those are nixed for the foreseeable future as salons have closed. You can stick to shaving or trimming at home for the time being, but you can also try a variety of at-home waxing options -- if you're brave enough. 

Beauty pro, Lisa Giudi, founder of Erase Spa in New York City advises novice waxers to avoid the more serious hot wax products. But if you have some experience with them, her recommendation is Sally Hansen Microwave Hard Wax.

"It's so easy to use -- and efficient. You literally pop it into the microwave for 1 minute and your wax is instantly ready for use. I will note though, this is for the more experienced waxers, I would not recommend doing it if it's your first time and have no real experience waxing, wax strips are best for beginners," Guidi says.

At home facials and skincare

One upside to working from home and canceling social outings is that you're probably not wearing any makeup, and giving your skin a much-needed break. "I feel like a majority of my friends are taking this time for their skin to breathe by not applying makeup, which that alone is amazing because you don't want to over-stimulate your face with a lot of products," Guidi says. 

Take your at-home skincare routine to the next level by recreating a facial experience at home. Here, Eugene Kagansky, founder of BodyFactory Skin Care shares how to get a spa-worthy facial at home.

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You can recreate a spa experience at home with a DIY facial.

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Steps for an at-home facial

  1. Begin by creating a spa-like atmosphere so your body and face is completely relaxed by playing relaxing music, using a diffuser with an essential oil of your choice or lighting a candle.
  2. Next, wash your hands and try a double cleanse for your face, first with an oil cleanser and following up with a soap-based cleanser. If you do not have an oil cleanser, just skip it and wash your face with any cleanser you have.
  3. Use witch hazel (if available) to wipe down the face. Witch hazel has been tested and evaluated for various uses: analgesic, antiseptic and antioxidant.
  4. Give yourself a pressure point massage to reduce stress
  5. Exfoliate with a chemical exfoliator. I recommend using an exfoliator with alpha and beta hydroxy acids as they will kill the bacteria and hydrate at the same time.
  6. Wash your face and pat dry.
  7. Apply a facial serum
  8. Use any sheet mask (if you don't have any, refer to homemade ones below).
  9. Hydrate with a light moisturizer.
  10. Apply eye cream.
  11. Protect with facial sunscreen if you're stepping out.

An extra step from Guidi that you can add is an at-home steam before your facial: "First, to help open your pores (if you don't own a mini at-home steamer), simply take a hot shower to create steam for your face. Or another easy method is to take a washcloth and soak it in water, ring it out and place in the microwave for 30 seconds only and voila -- steam. You would just simply open the washcloth up and place over your face for about 30 seconds," Guidi says. 

Face masks

Face masks are having a moment in beauty and wellness -- and for good reason. They're inexpensive, relaxing and simple. Face masks are a great stand-in if you're used to getting regular facials or professional skin care services since they give your skin an extra nourishing boost with whatever ingredients you feel you need at the moment.

If you can, Guidi recommmends using different face masks regularly. "Switching up face masks is also great for catering to different needs of your skin (for example, hydration, collagen, exfoliating). And using an overnight sleep mask, such as SKEN'S Stay the Night, is really great for times like this," Guidi says. 


Sheet masks are an inexpensive way to boost your skin.

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Homemade masks

"If you don't have face masks at home, you can definitely try any of the homemade recipes below for approximately 10 to 15 minutes," Kagansky says.

  • Slices of cucumber over your eyes to reduce puffiness
  • Mashed up avocado
  • Yogurt and berries blended together
  • Cinnamon with honey (good for acne, honey should be raw and unfiltered)
  • 100% colloidal oatmeal mixed with water to form a paste (great for sensitive skin)

How to help beauty professionals who've lost work

Many professionals in service-based industries, like the beauty industry, have been forced to close their businesses for the foreseeable future and lay off employees. Many beauty industry workers only make money when they're working in a salon with clients. In light of this, many are struggling to make ends meet and pay bills while they are out of work for an undetermined amount of time. 

If you'd like to support beauty professionals -- including your hair stylist, manicurist and other professionals -- here are a few ways to do that.

Buy gift cards to use later: Buy a gift card from your salon or directly from your service provider to use at a later date when it's safe to go back to a salon. Ask you favorite aesthetician how to best pay them in advance for services. 

Venmo them for a future service: If your beauty professional isn't currently working, you can Venmo them funds for a future appointment to help them have some income now while we all wait this out at home.

Ask if they will do a Skype or Facetime appointment to help walk you through an at-home treatment: If you're at not sure how to do a hair or skin treatment and want a professional's advice, ask if you can pay them to help you over the phone or via video chat. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.