Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Haircutting Tips: Angles and Elevation

I was recently asked by a cosmetology student to help him with a subject that he found very confusing when he talked with others about cutting hair: Elevation and angles. He wasn’t alone. I’d been asked similar questions by lots of different people who were cutting hair either as amateurs cutting family member’s hair, or new students who seemed confused by things that they had read.
So, in an effort to clear things up, I thought I would take the time to explain some of the basic terms of hair cutting and how cosmetologists use these terms to ensure that we can all know precisely what is done in order to duplicate a given hair cut. Elevation and Angle are keystones in the techniques and methods used for cutting hair.
This is what they mean and how they work:
With everything in our world, gravity has its pull. If you hold a piece of string it will hang down, the end pointing in the direction of the ground. Even if you hold the string so that it emerges from between your fingers and starts pointing upward, the length and weight of the string will cause the end to point down. Hair behaves the same way - more or less. Depending on the texture, length and wave pattern of the hair it will ultimately find its way to having the ends point downward. For some hair types, particularly coarse and kinky hair types, this might require a great deal more length than the hair can achieve.
Hair cutting elevation and angles graphic
magnifier Click to enlarge

It is because of this gravitational pull that we use elevation as a facet of cutting hair. The degrees of elevation are constant, regardless of the position of the hair on the head. The Elevation points are simple: Zero degrees of elevation is hanging so that the ends point to the floor; ninety degree of elevation means the hair is held so that ends are pointing to the side, parallel to the floor; and 180-degree elevation means the hair is held straight up pointing toward the ceiling.
So, a hair, whether it is growing on the center of the top of your head or on the side of your head in front of the ear, when allowed to hang down so that its end points to the floor, is considered to be at zero elevation. Subsequently, anytime the hair is combed out and held to point to the sides, parallel to the floor, it is said to be held at ninety degrees of elevation, and any hair that is held so that the ends point straight up overhead, regardless of its point of origin, is said to be held at 180-degree elevation.
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