Nothing is more intimidating than giving your baby their first hair cut (except maybe giving them their first nail trim!). There are cute little rolls and ear folds, as well as vital parts like eyes that your kid is going to need for years to come.
With the right preparation, mindset, and tools, you can safely accomplish your child’s first haircut on your own. However, if you just aren’t feeling that level of responsibility, it’s also perfectly acceptable to opt out and bring your baby to a trusted children’s hairdresser.
Cutting your baby’s hair can even be a fun experience (after a bit of practice) and something you can do together to bond throughout the upcoming years.
As parents we’re sometimes eager for babies to hit the next milestone, and firsts can be exciting (first time crawling, walking, eating “real” food, etc.).
But haircuts are a first you don’t have to rush, as most babies are going to lose some or most of their baby hair anyway in their first few months of life. This is due to a mix of post-birth hormones that cause your thick haired-baby to go bald.
Don’t fret, their hair will grow back, but it also means you don’t have to rush to cut your baby’s hair in their first few months of life, even up to age 1 for most kids.
Yet, there are exceptions, such as a baby with hair that’s blocking their eyesight, as well as haircuts done for medical conditions or religious and cultural traditions. Or sometimes babies have such long curly hair that it becomes tangled and hard to manage without a cut.
These are all situations in which a haircut before age 1 might be the right choice. However, for most parents, holding off will be fine.
Shaving or trimming hair doesn’t make it grow back faster or thicker, despite some popular myths. Some cultures and religions have strict traditions surrounding the first haircut, so consult your religious or cultural leader if you are unsure of how to proceed within your culture or faith.
Step 1: Gather your supplies
Having everything prepared is essential to a successful baby haircut. As we all know, forgetting something upstairs is a big deal when you have a baby; most just aren’t going to patiently await you finding something.
- a towel
- some sort of cape or cloth covering
- salon-style scissors (or those used to cut baby nails will also work well)
- a comb
- a spray bottle
- a high chair or another seat that contains your baby
- a small bag or envelope will also come in handy if you want to save a lock of hair for the baby book
You will also want your baby’s favorite toys to distract them, a pacifier, and maybe even a distracting video set up (you know the one — cue “Baby Shark”).
Now you’re ready to be as successful as possible for baby’s first haircut.
Step 2: Choose a time of day when baby is happy
This is not the time to fit one more thing in before nap time, or to do a “quick haircut” before lunch.
Your baby should be fed, changed, well rested, and ready to do something fun. This will minimize movement due to crying and fussiness from other causes.
Step 3: Make it a BIG, fun deal
Babies respond to your social cues, so if you’re happy, they’re more likely to be happy. You can sing songs, explain in an extremely cheerful voice what’s happening, and show baby the fun tools (minus the scissors) by letting them hold them and explain what you’ll be doing.
For decades, baby hairdressers have been entertaining little ones with a second comb, as it makes a fun sound when you scratch it. Hand that to your baby, and you’ll gain yourself a few minutes of uninterrupted focus. You can also give the baby their favorite special snack in their high chair while you cut their hair.
Step 4: Prepare for their reaction
Some babies are mesmerized by the new experience, whether it’s the sound of the scissors (or clippers) or watching you act hilarious trying to get them excited for this.
Others are downright terrified, and flail and wail despite your best efforts. Be prepared to get either reaction and let go of any expectation that they’ll sit perfectly still like you do in a salon.
Even a content baby will move their head around trying to see what you’re doing, which can be a recipe for a snipped ear if you aren’t expecting it.
Step 5: Spray and snip, carefully
Five steps in and we’re getting down to business!
- Use your spray bottle to lightly dampen baby’s hair.
- Use your comb to brush up a small section of hair.
- Hold the section away from their head, between two fingers.
- Snip above this point, using your fingers as a buffer between their head and the scissors.
- Drop the section you’ve cut and move on to the next section.
- Small, slightly angled cuts are easier to blend than long, straight cuts.
This can take some practice, so don’t expect it to seem as fast and easy as your own hairdresser does it. Consider that hair will seem longer when wet, so be conservative with how much you’re snipping off the first time (start small since you can always cut more later, but can’t put any back).
Continue over baby’s head in a line, either from front to back or back to front, so you aren’t missing sections.
Trim around the ears and neckline, protecting baby’s ear with your hand as much as possible.
Don’t worry about comparing sections of hair to each other with every cut, just trim a similar amount off each time, using the comb and your fingers to judge.
Step 6: Save a lock of hair
If you’re the sentimental type, snag a few pieces of trimmed hair and put them in your small bag or envelope. It can be helpful to do this first before you use the spray bottle. That way, you won’t have damp hair sitting in your baby book or box for who knows how long.
Don’t feel pressured to save a piece of hair if this isn’t your style or seems strange to you. Most hairdressers will offer this to you during your child’s first haircut, especially at children’s salons.
Follow the same process for steps 1 to 4 above if you plan on using clippers to cut your baby’s hair, but instead of step five, follow these directions:
- Choose a high-level guard until you get a preview of how short baby’s hair will look. While you or your partner may use a 1 or 2, a 1 on a baby may look shorter than you wanted. You can always take more off.
- Pay attention to the lever on the guard that allows you to adjust the length of that number (basically you could have a “short 2” or a “longer 2” when you have the 2 guard on the clippers).
- Go over baby’s head in both directions multiple times to ensure you’ve created an even haircut. If you’d like the top to be longer than the sides, use a higher guard on the top, then blend the transition hairline with a number between the two. Also, consider using a combination of scissors and clippers if you want a longer look on the top.
Shaving a baby’s head with an actual razor can be dangerous, as babies rarely stay still during a haircut and are wiggly little clients (that also always seem to forget to tip!).
They have softer heads, as their skulls are not fully formed, so using a razor, or pressing too hard with clippers, is not the best idea. Be gentle during their first few haircuts.
If everything you’ve read above feels daunting or just plain not something you feel like dealing with, take your baby to a professional hairstylist who specializes in baby and children’s cuts. They’ll be very used to going through the above steps and often have a “baby’s first haircut” package that includes taking some locks home with you.
Feel free to be specific with what you want your baby’s hair to look like, or let them do what they please if you aren’t picky. If you aren’t satisfied with the final result, speak up and ask for a change.
If your baby has never been in this environment, they may have some additional uncertainty and fear surrounding sitting on a big children’s seat, interacting with a stranger, and getting their first haircut.
If it doesn’t seem to be working that day, don’t force it, and simply ask the stylist to reschedule. On the other hand, don’t feel you need to remove your fussy baby right away, as these stylists are very used to dealing with children who aren’t too excited about a haircut.
If you find your baby is scared or stressed out, take a break, calm them down with a favorite toy, song, or snack, and try again in a little bit — or consider waiting a little longer for their first haircut.
Just like adults, babies do not need their hair washed daily. A few times per week is sufficient. Use mild shampoos with minimal added chemicals, scents, and additives. You don’t have to buy special baby shampoo. In fact, many unscented “adult” brands will work fine as well.
Many parents are worried about their baby getting “cradle cap,” which involves brown or yellow flakes on the scalp and sometimes redness that can spread to the face, neck, and even diaper area.
Also called seborrheic dermatitis, the condition is treatable by using a daily mild shampoo, or sometimes even a prescription-strength shampoo. You can follow up by brushing your baby’s hair with a soft brush to remove scales.
That said, cradle cap usually resolves on its own without treatment within weeks to a few months. It’s almost always gone by the time your baby is age 1.
Shaving a baby’s hair to treat cradle cap is not recommended, and doing so can further irritate skin and the condition. Babies with this condition can still get regular haircuts, either at home or in the salon.
Babies may even start to practice brushing their own hair around age 1, as they begin to use objects for their intended purposes.
Unless there’s a pressing reason to cut your baby’s hair, you don’t have to worry about doing so until they’re around 1 year old.
You have options for your baby’s first haircut: doing it yourself with scissors or clippers or going to a salon that specializes in children’s haircuts. A little prep work can ensure they have a pleasant experience either way.
After the haircut, you can keep your baby’s hair and scalp healthy by brushing and washing their hair a few times a week with a mild shampoo, and treating cradle cap as your doctor recommends. In the end, a baby’s first haircut can be memorable and even enjoyable.