How to choose hairdressing scissors

When choosing your scissors it is important to understand everything there is to know in order to get the perfect pair for you. We will aim to provide the answers to every question you could possibly think of.

What size hair scissors will suit me?

Some stylists prefer short scissors, others prefer long. To some extent it depends on the type of cutting that you're doing. The length of a scissor is measured from the very tip of the blade to the end of the longest finger hole. It doesn't include the finger rest.

To find your ideal size, place a pair of scissors on the palm of your hand with the finger hole touching the base of your thumb, the tip of the blade should be in the last section of your middle finger.


Quality Workmanship

When it comes to the craft of shear making, it goes hand in hand with the quality of steel. No manufacturer would want to waste expensive steel alloy by allowing inexperienced technicians do the finishing work. The quality of workmanship has a direct effect on the scissor’s performance. Therefore, it is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing your professional tool. Quality scissors are meticulously hand- finished by masters of the trade. Polishing and honing the blades of a shear to a razor-like sharpness is a skill that has become an art form. Less expensive shears are machine made and sharpened

What are hairdressing scissors made of?

The most important factor when deciding on which hairdressing scissors to pick and when trying to figure out how your hairdressing scissors will perform, is the material they are made of. Here is a list of the five most common materials used in professional hairdressing scissors.

 1) Cobalt and Nickel Alloys

This kind of scissor steel is very hard but also very brittle. Lower range scissors like those found in student kits are made in the main (but not always) of these. Although hard and sturdy, cobalt alloys them to chip and nick easily. Scissors made using this usually have a relatively short life span and can no longer be adjusted after sharpening once or twice. Despite all this, scissors made from the above materials are quite suitable for the novice hairdresser as they are usually competitively priced and make great starter scissors.

2) 420 & 440c Stainless Steel

420 & 440c Stainless steel and in particular 440C is like an effective compromise between Cobalt alloy hairdressing scissors and high end professional scissors but have a medium price range. The stainless steel used to make the scissors goes through tempering to make it as tough and durable as is possible. The tempering also gives the scissors a better level of resistance to knocks therefore extending their life.

3) Molybdenum Alloy

This type of steel is usually found only in top of the range scissors and thanks to the unique way this material is processed, scissors become strong and durable. Properly hardened it can be as hard as Cobalt alloys, but will maintain its durability, making it more resistant to chips and nicks. Obviously it goes without saying that hairdressing scissors made of this material are going to cost accordingly.

4) Molybdenum/Cobalt Alloy mix

For the absolute professional and with prices to match. Scissors made from this hybrid material will see the hardness of Cobalt combined with the toughness of Molybdenum hence producing hairdressing scissors with high strength and maximum durability.

What type of blade is best for hair cutting?

Broadly speaking there are two types of hair cutting scissor blade: bevelled edge or convex. Which you choose depends on where you are in your career, personal preference and what you can afford.

  • Bevelled-edge blades are made from a mixture of metals which makes them lightweight. Most European scissors use this design often with micro serrations on one or both blades. Micro-serrated blades are great when you're learning to cut hair as they stop the hair sliding down the blade. They're also good for slow detail cutting or use on dry hair, but they cannot be used for slice cutting as the hair will jam on the blade. Polished bevelled-edge blades, are the ones to use for slicing and can also be used for virtually all other cutting techniques.
  • Often referred to as "Japanese Style", convex blades are the sharpest type of blade with a razor-like edge. All convex-edged scissors are hollow ground on the inside of the blade which gives a very smooth cutting action. They can be used for all cutting techniques but are especially good for slicing because of the ultra-sharp edge. They are best suited to more experienced hairdressers.

Convex blades are made from solid stainless steel which means the blades are a little heavier than bevelled-edge ones. The manufacturing process is similar to that used to make Samurai swords and because it is a long and skilled process, convex-bladed scissors are usually more expensive than bevelled-edge ones. They also require specialist sharpening, but with proper care and regular servicing a pair of convex-bladed scissors will last a lifetime.

Scissors Tempering and Shaping

Another thing that is critically important when deciding which hairdressing scissors will suit you is how they are shaped and forged. This is important when choosing scissors as these processes have a direct impact on the scissors edge and strength. There are three types of shaping and forging:

  1. Scissors Casting - This is the most common and cheapest way to produce scissors. Liquid metal is poured directly into a mould. When properly hardened, the scissors made during this process will be durable but will not hold their edge as long as the other types of shaping and tempering.
  2. Drop Forging - A weighted mould is dropped onto a hot bar of steel. The alloy is then pounded into the desired shape which makes the metal denser. This density then ensures the scissors hold their edge for longer and they become more durable.
  3. Cryogenic Tempering - The ultimate method of scissor shaping and tempering. Here the temperature of the steel is reduced to -300 degrees Fahrenheit This pulls the molecules into a tightly compacted form. After this the steel is then slowly returned to room temperature, whilst this is happening the steel molecules relax and separate into an evenly spaced, uniformed structure which increases in strength and durability.


The last (but also very important) aspect to consider (apart from the look, colour and style) before buying your scissors is the ergonomics in other words how comfortable they are in fitting your hand and therefore to work with; i.e. lightness, shape, size etc. This is important (as is regular sharpening) because of the dangers of repetitive strain injury or Carpal Tunnel syndrome. Although most high-end scissors are designed with that in mind. The scissors should be both light and comfortable in order to minimise the long-term consequences of everyday use.

Having said that, one should always consult a suitably qualified professional for advice on their individual needs as far as repetitive strain injury or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are concerned and not rely on the advice given by hairdressing scissors salespersons or websites. If you have any queries regarding any of the information above or would like further advice, then feel free to leave us a message on the forum page.


What type of scissor handle is best?

There are specific advantages to the different types of handle design, but the most important factor is which design feels comfortable for you. This will vary from stylist to stylist depending on the shape of your hand and your cutting style. The main types of handle design are:

  • Level or Even handle—the basic design, the handles are symmetrical and look quite straight.
  • Offset handle—one handle is longer than the other which allows a more open hand position and for the arm and elbow to be in a lower position when cutting which is generally more comfortable.
  • Crane handle—similar to the offset although the top handle is very straight. Once again this allows a lower elbow position.

More advanced handle designs are also available like the twister or flex styles, where your entire hand can rotate. These can dramatically reduce hand and arm fatigue.

Right or left handed?

Many left-handed stylists start their careers with right-handed scissors and being told "you'll get used to it", which by and large they do. However, the reversed blades in left-handed scissors make the cutting more natural and mean left handers don't have to use extra force which helps prevent hand and wrist pain.

We always recommend using the correct scissor configuration for your dominant hand. However, if you're left handed and have been using a right handed scissor, it can be hard to change.

Looking for more advice?

Our blog offers a growing library of hairdressing advice but if you'd like to talk more about your choice of scissors or anything related to hairdressing then please don't hesitate to contact the Ellipse team or view our range of hairdressing training courses.


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