Four curl experts share their curl mistakes, so you can avoid making the same ones.
The life of a stylist is fraught with trials, triumphs and many tribulations, especially if you choose to specialize in textured tresses. Yes, some mistakes are inevitable no matter how savvy you are as a stylist—but you may be surprised how many common faux pas are avoidable. And you don’t need years of experience to gure it out, if you’re willing to learn from the wisdom of those who spent decades creating a brave (and curly) new world.
Texture! turned to leading curl experts, and asked: “If you knew then what you know now, what nostalgic texture advice would you share with up-and-coming stylists?” Read on for the top six lessons of curl-centric veterans— lessons they learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.
Experimentation in Place of Education
Becoming a curl pro means adopting a whole new language, new services, and new skills, and the best way to do that is through professional education. Seek out the best possible knowledge before practicing your skills. Take it from Philip Pelusi, founder of Philip Pelusi Salons and Tela Beauty Organics. “When I first wanted to learn how to relax hair, I decided to try it on myself,” he says. “The biggest mistake I made was leaving the relaxer in my hair overnight! The good news is I did it to myself and not a client, and it was a miracle my hair didn’t fall out. But I had to take Excedrine for the pain, and it took two weeks for my scalp to clear.” The moral of his story: “Be responsible with a chemical!”
Setting Unrealistic Expectations
When Ouidad, the “Queen of Curls,” first started cutting curly hair, she acknowledges that her idealism took over. “I wanted to change the world with the hair cut I gave them. I wanted to fix it all and change it all,” says Ouidad, who is a stylist, salon owner, author, curl educator and manufacturer. “What I learned is to really look at the hair, study all the curl patterns, and learn exactly how much curls shrink, and how they fit within each other when you cut. It’s not like cutting straight hair, you can’t just change it all at once.” So, before conjuring an image of what you think you’re going to do with the client, Ouidad encourages up-and-coming stylists to examine the different hair textures—really study them and understand them— first.
Not Listening to Your Client.
“Let the client talk, don’t talk over them. Just observe them,” says Denis DaSilva, co-owner of New York’s Devachan Salon. “If you try to disagree, you’ll never win. Agree with them and then change them a little to the right or left according to what needs to be done, but never say ‘no.’” “No” is not a word your clients are going to accept easily. So, experts say, be certain you understand what they want before you react. “You’re going to have to really listen,” adds curl expert Christo, of Christo Fifth Avenue. “You’re going to have to analyze their hair, so you can give them options and ideas.”
Not Communicating Well
Curl experts say your words matter—a lot—when working with curly clients. “If you say, ‘I know exactly what I need to do,’ it just blows up in your face. Even if you do know, it just puts [the curly client] on the defense,” Ouidad says. “It’s essential to talk about how you’re going to work with the hair, what kind of movement you want to put in. You want to be able to verbalize and explain how it’s going to t and what it’s going to look like when the hair is dry.” Ouidad says you can ease a curly’s fear by saying things like, “I know layers would be too rough for your hair or it would shrink too much.” You really want to make sure curly clients know you’re not going to give them ledges, a pyramid or some other shape they dread. You need to reassure them you do understand their texture. “Make your client as comfortable and trusting as possible by saying things that resonate with them,” Ouidad advises.
Letting your Curl-Phobia Get the Best of You
Although you may feel fear when first approaching curly clients, don’t give in to it. “The first 10 years as a stylist, you’re so afraid of clients. When they want what they want, they make you concerned about that. The second 10 years, you learn how to present what is better for them, but the end result is they will push you, even though you gave them whatever they wanted,” DaSilva says. “The third 10 years, now you’re smarter. You listen, but learn how strategically to put them in a spot where you can always give them more.” Especially when it comes to color—DaSilva warns if you give the client too much control, it will be hard to get it back. “I don’t have confrontations with any clients, but if they say I want a lot of blonde highlights, I’ll put the blonde strategically in places where they will see more blonde, but not necessarily do more blonde,” he explains. “If they say I want a little red, I may know that warm brown for them is red.” DaSilva says it’s all about understanding how to interpret and balance a client’s wants and needs.
Treating Curly Clients Like You Would Straight-Haired clients
Curl experts say you cannot treat curly clients the same way you treat clients with straight hair. “Most of the time, people with straight hair will let you do whatever you want,” Christo says. “But with curly clients, you have to take into consideration she has already tried many things and ended up in your chair because you claim you specialize in curly hair. So you have to live up to those expectations.” And that can mean a much longer consultation for new clients. For example, Christo blocks out an hour for new clients. “We want to make sure the client is going to stay with us because we know we have all the solutions,” he says. He suggests stylists ask themselves if they really know how to deal with curly hair. “Anyone can say they do curly hair, but can they really? Or, are they making disasters for us to x?” Christo asks.