Do you need hair shears to cut hair?

Blog reader Charese has given me another reason to use my microscope, yay! She asks,

‘I’ve heard many people say that hair shears are superior to paper scissors and the hair trimmed with anything other than hair shears will soon split again. Is this true? Are hair shears so sharp that cutting paper or fabric with them with ruin them? Finally, is there any difference between a cut made with $5 shears vs. say $90 ones?’

The Experiment
The natural thing to do was to experiment! I used my own shed hair for this experiment and I:
-snapped it with my hands
-cut it with blunt scissors
-cut it with a sharp pair of paper scissors
-cut it with hair shears (which cost about $25).

I then looked at each cut end under the microscope.

The Results
1. If you didn’t think snapping your hair is bad, well here is the proof! It is terrible for your hair, creating a fibrillated end that is just ripe for splitting.
2. Cutting hair with blunt scissors creates a slightly jagged cut and there are signs of damage to the cuticle where the scissor repeatedly rubbed against the fibre before cutting (highlighted within the white circles).
3. Hair cut with a sharp pair of paper scissors and hair cut with shears both produced a nice clean end. I would say though that this was just a single hair strand and I would subjectively prefer the hair shears when cutting more hair as the blades are slimmer which would prevent hair getting caught. Paper scissors have thicker blades so when handling a small fistful of hair, may not work so well.

The Conclusion
Do you need to purchase an expensive pair of shears? Perhaps not, unless you are a hairdresser. They are often more expensive because the blades are thinner and they may be lighter but sturdy and therefore can be used more times before becoming blunt. They can also often be professionally sharpened. Cheaper shears will still do the job, they will just blunt faster (I had a $10 pair that lasted about 2 years, my $25 pair is going on 4 years, probably will be replaced soon).

The Bottom Line
A sharp pair of scissors is acceptable provided they do not trap hair between the blades and make a single first clean cut. Hair shears which are sharp may be even more useful as they are unlikely to trap larger amounts of hair. It is definitely worth having scissors or hair shears dedicated solely to cutting hair – no opening boxes or mail with them!


  1. Yesterday my roommate was going to trim her hair with just a regular blunt pair of fabric scissors! I stopped her and let her use my hair shears. My hair shears were almost 20 dollars. And I bought them in January or December and I already want to throw them out. They're still sharp, but I get paranoid from hearing all the things that can go wrong with trimming with cheap scissors. My last pair were 7 dollars. I used them once and threw them out lol.

  2. I always thought any pair were OK as long as they're sharp and used only for your hair. This test kinda agrees with that.

  3. Wow. I didn't realize that snapping the hair could be so bad! That image will motivate me to be gentler during my detangling sessions. Also, it's nice to know that any pair of sharp scissors will do in a pinch even though hair shears the way to go. This question has been on my mind for a while. Thanks! -Charese

  4. I was just thinking about this earlier. I bought hair shears and I thought people were exaggerating when they said it wasn't best to use for other things besides hair. wow.

  5. Please recommend a brand of hair shears to try. I have tried some from the BSS and Sally's but I don't feel like I get a good trim and it causes hair breakage. Thx.

  6. I feel your microscope is not powerful enough to show the real damage caused by the scissors. If you google QUICKSHARPNZ you will find a video of a test you can perform on a scissor to determine the type of cut you will achieve. QUICKSHARPNZ also makes incredibly sharp scissors and you cant also find links to SCEM images of cut hair.

  7. Your the first person I have come across that has actually showed what type of damage is happening to your hair. I appreciate that and my hair ripping days are over!!


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