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How to Cut Layers in Short Hair | Step-by-Step Guide

People with short hair don’t have the luxury of letting their layers grow out a bit with them still looking good. But don’t worry — we’ll teach you how to cut layers in short hair in our complete guide below. Read on to learn more.

How to Cut Layers in Short Hair: A Summary

Cutting layers in short hair involves a plan and using a pair of shears instead of scissors. The steps below will help you rock beautiful layers in no time.

  1. Plan out your layers
  2. Buy cutting shears
  3. Section your hair
  4. Layer the top box
  5. Layer the sides
  6. Touch up with point cutting

As intimidating as learning how to cut layers in short hair may feel, we have faith that you’ll be able to cut an impressive set of layers by the time you finish this article.

How to Cut Layers in Short Hair in 6 Steps

Layers look great in short hair, so follow the steps below to start showing off your new hairdo. 

1. Plan Out Your Layers

Cutting layers in short hair requires a detailed plan to maximize your success. There’s little room for error, given that you’re already working with a short head of hair. Therefore, we recommend taking a photo of yourself with your hair down and combed.

Then, either print out the image and grab a marker or upload the photo to an editing platform on your computer. From there, mark where you want each of your layers to fall. 

Here’s a tip: Use photos you find online or pictures of your previous haircuts to give you a guide of where you should cut your layers. 

And before you get carried away by mapping out tons of layers, consider this: You should never layer your hair between your optical bone (the bone by your eyebrow that protects the cerebellum) and your hair line.

Otherwise, the layers will be too short, and you’ll fight with runaway wispy hair strands. Finally, when you’re mentally preparing to cut layers in your short hair, always err on the side of cutting longer layers.

That way, if you’re unhappy with the length, you can go back in and trim them shorter. But if you cut your layers too short, there’s no remedy but to wait for them to grow. Needless to say, that can be a pain point for a person with short hair, causing issues when you try to style it.

2. Buy Cutting Shears

You can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars over the course of your life by learning to cut layers in your short hair. However, You’ll first need to invest in some materials. Most notably, cutting shears.

Shears are the hairdresser version of scissors. They’re essential for cutting layers, as they’ll help you avoid dead ends—something that people with short hair have a higher chance of suffering from.

Using shears also makes for a more pleasant cutting experience since they won’t tug at your hair as regular scissors would. When searching for a pair of shears, you should look for the following qualities:

  • Steel material with grades V10 – 440A
  • Convex edge
  • Appropriate size

Choosing an appropriate size shear depends on a combination of your hand size and personal preference. As a general rule, you should aim to buy shears with a blade that’s approximately the size of your middle finger. The handle of the shears should then fit comfortably in your palm.

Gather Other Materials

In addition to cutting shears, you’ll also need the following materials:

  • Comb
  • Towel
  • Spray bottle
  • Front and back mirror

With these items in hand, you’re ready to start cutting layers in your short hair.

Read Next: How to Use Thinning Shears

3. Section Your Hair

Although you can layer your short hair when it’s dry, it’s best to do so when it’s damp, as it’ll offer greater precision. We also recommend showering and washing your hair with shampoo.

That way, you don’t have to worry about debris and grease affecting your ability to cut smooth layers. So, with your hair damp, wrap a towel around your shoulders and begin parting your hair using a comb.

Parting short hair for layering will feel counterintuitive, as you’ll need to gather hair on both sides of the crown of your head to create a “top box” appearance. 

Once you gather hair in the center of your head where the crown starts to round, comb the hair forward. Then spiral the front-most portion of your hair into a twist and hold it in place with a clip. Meanwhile, comb the loose hair on either side of the top box.

You can then use this same twisting and clipping method to secure the other two top box sections of your hair—the part from the crown of your head to your forehead and from your crown to the nape of your neck.

4. Layer the Top Box

The time has come to pull out your shears. Take the front portion of your top box section and pull it taught in front of your face. You should keep your hair at a 90-degree angle from your forehead, with your index and middle fingers holding it.

Determine the length that you want your shortest layer and trim the tips to that point. Then, repeat this process with the other two sections of your top box (the middle and back sections). Do your best to keep the same layer length as the front box.

Whenever your hair starts to dry, spray it with some water and run a comb through it. By the time you finish cutting your top box, you’ll be proudly looking at your first set of short hair layers.

While we’re on the subject of the top of your head, studies show that UVB radiation causes hair protein loss, causing brittle hair. Meanwhile, UVA radiation can change hair color.

Therefore, consider using hair products with UV filters to protect your layers from damage. By doing so, it’ll make it easier for you to cut layers in your hair in the future since you’ll have fewer dead ends to fight with.

5. Layer the Sides

It’s now time to tackle layering the sides of your hair, which is often the trickiest part for newbies. Begin by parting your hair down the middle. Then, starting at the front side of your hair, work to make layers from the front to the backside of your hair.

We recommend starting on your dominant side so that you get some practice before moving to the opposite side. You’ll want to gather hair beneath the top box layer you just made, which will be the shortest layer.

Keep your fingers perpendicular to your forehead as you slide your shears through your hair. You should also ensure that you’re pulling your hair straight out before cutting your side layers. Comb this section well. That way, you’ll avoid cutting some pieces too short and others too long.

It’s up to you and your planning regarding how many layers you want to incorporate into your hair. But however many you end up doing, try your best to keep those layers even.

6. Touch Up With Point Cutting

Point cutting is the concept of directing the tip of your shears directly at your layers and making small cuts. The “point” of point cutting is to help your layers blend together. Therefore, once you finish your side layers, re-dampen your hair and comb your hair.

Then, look for choppy areas and touch them up with the point cutting technique. Don’t beat yourself up for finding choppy sections of layers you made—they happen to the best of us, hairdressers included. 

It’s also helpful to blow dry your hair and style it according to your preference. At this point, it’s perfectly acceptable to make final touches by using your shears to cut any runaway hairs. Keep in mind that short hair has a higher chance than longer hair of suffering from split ends that can ruin your hairstyle.

Split ends happen when hair becomes brittle, dry, and frayed. You can prevent split ends, in part, by using cutting shears instead of standard scissors when making layers.

However, you should also take care with the methods you use to style your layers. A study on the impact of curling irons on hair fibers noted significant hair damage when the user didn’t follow the product’s instructions.

The good news? The study showed that even when you’re using heating items correctly, such as blow dryers, flat irons, and curling irons, you can decrease the chances of damage by using a conditioner.

Frequently Asked Questions

Woman who learned how to cut layers in short hair shows them off


If you still have doubts about how to cut layers in short hair, don’t worry — we’ll answer some of the most common questions below:

How do you cut short hair in layers with scissors?

You can cut short hair in layers with a pair of shears, which are the hairdresser’s version of scissors. To do so, section your hair in a top box, working from the top of your head. Then, cut layers into the side of your hair and use the point cutting technique for blending.

How do you cut the short layers on top of your head?

To cut short layers on top of your head, gather the hair along the centermost portion of your crown and clip it into three sections. Then, determine the length you want your shortest layers to be, and cut these accordingly in each of the three sections.

What tools do you need to layer short hair at home?

To layer short hair at home, you need a high-quality pair of cutting shears, a comb, a front and back mirror, and a towel to catch cut hair. You should also ensure that your hair remains damp (but not dripping wet) with the help of a spray bottle.

What angle should I cut my hair for layers?

You should angle the short layers at the top of your head at a 135 – 180-degree angle. As you move down to the longer layers at the sides, it’s okay to cut them at 90 degrees. However, you should use point cutting to blend these sharper layers into your hair.

How do I cut my own shaggy layers?

To cut your own shaggy layers, map out how many layers you want on a photo of yourself. The more layers you incorporate, the shaggier and fuller-body look you’ll achieve. Then, use cutting shears to make these layers.

So, How Do You Cut Layers in Short Hair?

So there you have it — how to cut layers in short hair. Making layers in short hair requires planning, practice, and patience. But, with the help of a good pair of shears and the sectioning of your hair, you’ll be able to create a salon-like layered style in no time.

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