Hot Scissor Hair Cuts: A Cure For Split Ends?

Allure magazine (online) was boasting the success of the "Hot Scissors" Haircut. A stylist takes specially heated scissors and uses them to trim your hair. The benefit, I deduce, is that the hot scissors seal the cuticle of the hair, making it prone to avoid splitting. This is similar to how one can use cauterization to close a wound (except when you cut hair, you are already removing the split part, so I'm not sure how to judge this). I have so many questions!

People are swearing by how amazing this is AND were willing to pay a serious premium for the treatment. Up to $125 more per haircut! I had to dig in a bit to determine if there is any science to this method of madness. The shears are over $1000 to purchase, so I guess you have to make up that cost somewhere...

Initially, a few of my stylist friends weighed in with their own opinion:

Natalie, Laboratorie:  "If your stylist sharpens and maintains their shears you shouldn't have any issue with your cuticle or split ends. I feel like this is a total gimmick!"

Janet, Studio 921: "The comparison pictures: The hairs cut with "regular" scissors and straight razor show characteristic signs that the blades were extremely dull. 

The pictures of hairs cut with the hot scissors: The ends show signs of heat shaping at the ends, and a clean cut with sharp blades. HOWEVER the touted "sealing effect" is temporary until the hair is washed. This is because heat at these low temperatures affects only the hydrogen and salt bonds of the hair, bonds that readily change or revert with heat, water and humidity. Hot scissors are a riff on the ancient and discredited singeing technique, where the splits are burned off with open flame. Singeing does not seal the tips of the hair, it makes them more susceptible to splitting by damaging the protein."

Let's think about this rationally. When scissors cut your hair, assuming the scissors are sharp, they slice the strand from one end to another. In order to "close" the hair, the end of the hair would end up being pointed or skewed in one direction. In order for the hair to "close", there would need to be a tiny bit of extra that could seal the bottom, like closing a flap.


If you've used a flat iron or curling iron, you've experienced this type of phenomenon already. Heat can help smooth the hair. When the hair is washed, it needs to be smoothed again. How is the use of a hot scissor any different than the use of a flat iron? If the ends of hair could be sealed with heat, why doesn't the use of a flat or curling iron automatically seal the ends of the hair?

The answer is simple: because it doesn't work. You can't seal the ends of hair permanently with heat. If you could, every time you flat ironed a split end, it would melt back together, magically. Or your hair would stick together. There is no real way for this to be a thing that works.

However, because I'm a firm believer in science, I decided to do a little experiment. Since I was using my own hair, which is coarse and thick, I opted to use the higher temperature setting as suggested in the article. I sharpened a pair of scissors to the best of my ability and stuck them in the oven for an hour, to heat them to 310 degrees.

I then took two strands of hair (which had been pre-trimmed with the same scissors, unheated) and trimmed one hair with the heated scissors to see if it would look any different under a magnifying glass. I'd love to say I was surprised by my very scientific results. Alas, I was not. Both hairs still looked identical. The ends were still shaped exactly the same and there appeared to be no difference between the two strands. Of course I took photos of this and they looked like tubular blobs, which are not helpful. You'll have to take my word for it.

Is my experiment completely sound? No. Is this treatment a slick way to steal your money? I'm going to have to say yes. While your hair may feel better after the cut (or a blow out), it will go back to being its normal self after the first wash, just like every time you've heat-styled, washed and air dried your hair.

Don't get snookered. Save the $125 for something that works.

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