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Cutting Curly Hair


Some curly hair advocates, ourselves included, are fairly adamant about not cutting curly hair when it is wet. We can’t speak for anyone else, but we can give you our own philosophy on why we believe curly hair should always be cut dry.

Curly hair is three-dimensional; therefore, it only makes sense to cut it in its natural, three-dimensional state. When curly hair is wet, the curl flattens out and appears much longer than it actually is, making it easy to cut off way too much—and what girl with curls has never had THAT happen? Also, when curly hair is wet, it is impossible to see each curl as what it is: an independent entity that has a unique relationship to the other curls that surround it.

A stylist who understands curly hair knows each curl needs be approached and handled one at a time, so your entire mass of curls will flow with a beautifully fluid motion while allowing each curl to retain its individual personally.

When it comes to actual cutting technique, we are supporters of the curly cutting methodology in which entire curls are removed in a pattern that makes sense for the haircut, and removes bulk and creates shape depending on the client’s hair texture and wave pattern.. Unfortunately, we think few stylists nowadays recognize this important principle. Curly hair is so dynamic, however, how can anyone possibly understand how to shape your beautiful, one-of-a-kind curls unless they can see them and work with them in all their natural, individual glory?  We have a fundamental issue with other methodologies that only slice or notch into a curl part of the way to remove bulk rather than take the curl off in its entirety. We believe when curly hair is cut this way, it looks good initially, but as it grows out, little “twigs” begin to sprout as the two different lengths of the curl begin to separate. Additionally, the ends of the hair eventually become thin and appear stringy as subsequent cuts continue to notch into the curls, removing even more bulk and making the curls thinner and thinner as they grow out.


We know this style of cut has its supporters who think this is an appropriate way to cut curly hair, but we aren't those stylists. We've corrected too many haircuts that were done this way on unhappy clients to believe otherwise. And it goes without saying that any stylist who uses thinning shears or a razor on your curly locks should be tarred, feathered and run out of town!


Finding a Stylist

Of all the complaints we hear from clients who sit in our chair, finding a good hair stylist who loves, appreciates and knows curly hair is probably at the top of the list. Why, they ask, do so few stylists understand what it takes to cut curly hair correctly?


In our opinion, there are a couple of reasons. First, you need to understand that beauty schools do not really teach anything about curly hair. You can’t blame them—their job is to teach their students what they need to know in order to pass their state board license examinations. And guess how many state boards require specific curly hair knowledge on their examinations? It is expensive for a beauty school to teach information that is not on the state board, so until the state licensing boards step up and require this information, beauty schools will not spend money putting a subject on their curriculum that isn’t required by the state.


Additionally, beauty school instructors themselves often don’t know how to handle curly hair, so how in the world can they teach the students how to do it? When Tiffany was in beauty school, the sum total of the advice she got about curly hair was this: cut the hair damp instead of wet and don’t put as much tension on the section. Not exactly the best curly hair education in the world, is it? It’s no wonder brand-new stylists are launched into the world without much of a clue.


You also need to recognize that it sometimes takes twice as long to handle a girl with curls as it does a straight-haired girl. And in this industry, the more clients you see, the more $$$ you make. Some stylists are going to treat you just like they do a straight-haired girl because they don’t want you in their chair any longer than you need to be. If their commission is $15-$25 on a cut/blow-dry and they can do two straight-haired clients in the time it takes them to do one girl with curls, some of them are going to go for the money and treat you just like a straight-haired girl. It’s sad, but true.


The best advice we can give you, then, is this: When looking for a stylist who knows how to cut curly hair, please don’t just call a salon and ask if they have any stylists who know how to cut curly hair. Of course they are going to tell you ‘Yes.’ Instead, ARM YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE. It is up to YOU to advocate for yourself and ask questions. If a stylist tells you they know how to cut curly hair, ask them where they learned. You can be sure it wasn’t in beauty school, so ask them what kind of continuing education classes they took.


Ask them about their product knowledge and what lines they carry/use in their salon. Ask them how many curly clients they have. Ask if they have naturally curly hair themselves and, most importantly, do they wear their own hair curly? Ask, ask, ask. Not all hair stylists are curly hair clueless—some of us out there know exactly what we’re doing, but we can be hard to find. You need to learn how to ask the right questions to hunt us down.


And, for the love of whatever Divine you believe in, don’t ever let yourself get talked into anything you don’t want, whether it be a cut, color or a style. Remember you always have the power to get up from that chair and walk out the door. If you are that worried about what a stylist or the people in a salon will say about you if you do, ask yourself if it’s worth dealing with bad hair for the next three, six, twelve months just because you didn’t want to say anything or hurt anyone’s feelings.


Trust your gut instinct and roll with it—it will never let you down.



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