It’s not uncommon for stylists to come across clients who have never been taught how to correctly take care of their naturally curly hair texture. In fact, many stylists have built their careers on it. Clients who are at a loss on how to properly maintain healthy, beautiful curls often feel self-conscious, causing them to avoid their texture altogether with constant use of damaging hot tools. Fortunately, the beauty industry is quickly gaining curl experts who fill in the gaps, both by reviving the magic of their clients’ curls and educating them on best practices and products for at-home maintenance.
Special occasion styles, though, can introduce another point of anxiety for the curly-haired bride. Will they find a good stylist who knows how to work with their texture? Will their curls look decent on their wedding day, or will they be unpredictable? Should they not take that chance and just straighten it?
As a bridal stylist, you have the power to quell your clients’ fears about showing off their texture on their wedding day and make them feel incredible. From choosing the right products to incorporating the perfect accessories, you have lots of ways to do this, but it could take a bit of convincing sometimes.
Bridal hair expert and MODERN SALON Artist Connective Member Sara Ortega (@hairspray_studio) discovered this power to instill confidence when she started working with curly brides about three years ago.
She once worked with a bride who came to her trial appointment with frizzy, straightened hair in a messy bun. Ortega couldn’t figure out what the client’s natural texture was at first, and styling the updo didn’t help it look any better. So, the bride promised that on her wedding day, she’d wash and dry her hair first thing in the morning to make it easier to manage.
“Usually, brides wash their hair the day before the wedding,” Ortega clarifies, “but she knew her hair better than I did. I told her that as long as it was dry when I got there, it would be fine.”
However, the bride didn’t dry her hair right away that morning. When she greeted Ortega at her hotel room door, the stylist’s eyes popped at the head full of long, beautiful, curly hair in front of her.
“I asked her, ‘Is this your hair? Is this your natural curl pattern?’ and she was like, ‘Yes!’ And I said, ‘Why would you want to do an updo? You have all this gorgeous hair!'”
The client was afraid of her hair frizzing up, as her wedding was taking place outside by the water, but Ortega was determined to convince her that it would look more beautiful than straightening her hair for an updo. She convinced her bride to let her prep one small section of curls to see how it looked, and the client was blown away by the result. You can guess that she wore a full head of curls to her wedding ceremony, and it looked so exquisite that her hair ended up being the talk of the wedding.
Ortega certainly enjoys making her brides feel not only comfortable, but confident in their own skin. “It’s nice when I’m able to help the brides keep their natural texture, because that’s who they are.”
Where To Start
If you haven’t worked on a bride with natural curls yet, everyone starts somewhere, Ortega included. She knows how people feel when they’re trying to straighten their curls or manipulate them into different patterns because up until recently, she would do the same thing to her own curly hair. It took a friend telling her that she looked “fun, young and interesting” for her to really embrace wearing her curls as they were. Sometimes, that encouragement from others is all it takes, and now Ortega herself is a wonderful representation to her clients of what she’s capable of doing with hair.
To start to build your own confidence in your curly bridal work, “Start by studying the different curl patterns,” says Ortega. “Match a pattern to each client. You can’t just do any curl on anyone because something’s gonna feel wrong. You have to go with their natural curl pattern and have the tools necessary to create that curl.”
Building this confidence and credibility in your work is very important, because your clients need to have confidence in you as well. Not everyone knows how to work with curly hair or make it look the best that it can be, and you want to be the stylist that brides trust to do it right.
“Sometimes, before they get to me, they’ve been to three or four other stylists that couldn’t give them what they wanted,” explains Ortega. “These other stylists have been destroying their curls, trying to manipulate their hair into something else, and within an hour or two, it’s not what they want. Our hair gets pissed off when you try to make it straight. It’s just not gonna happen.”
But other times, it’s the client who doesn’t understand what their hair will and won’t do.
“We have to let them know what’s best for their hair and the longevity of their style,” she says.
If Ortega finds her clients in need of any encouragement to feel confident in their curls, she likes to remind them that their hair will be happiest in its natural state, and it will be less likely to frizz up due to humidity and more likely to last all day and night. Not only that, but they’ll look unlike anyone else, making them beautifully unique on such a special day.
If you’re wanting to delve more into the world of styling curly brides, but don’t know what tools or products to start with, Ortega has some recommendations depending on the individual client’s hair texture. Tools she can’t be without include her Paul Mitchell Express Ion Unclipped 3-in-1 Curling Iron, which includes tapered barrel options to really customize and enhance curls of any size. She also loves the thinner-barreled Mint Tools Curling Wands for tighter curls.
She doesn’t recommend using hairspray when styling natural curls, but she loves using light waxes, taffies, pastes, and creams to keep those coils perfectly defined all day. Some of her favorites are Kenra Whipped Taffy 20, OSiS+ Thrill, and OSiS+ Flexwax. She also always carries anti-humidity and shine sprays—she likes to be covered for every environment.
The most important thing for a bride on her wedding day is to feel confident. Feeling good about herself can make the whole day extra-special and less stressful for her, and a lot of that feeling can come from you, the stylist. And, even with many stylists opting to become curly experts these days, it’s still a largely underserved market. Working with curly brides could be a fun way to elevate your career. So if you’re interested, dive right in!
Follow Sara Ortega's work on Instagram @hairspray_studio.
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