Image courtesy of DevaCurl
Image courtesy of DevaCurl

Every service on a curly haired client should start with a thorough analysis. Each curl has its own identity and will react differently.

Michelle Breyer of TextureMedia says failure to account for shrinkage is one of the most irksome curly community issues. When stretched, a tight curl might be one and a half to two times longer. Remember — the smaller the diameter of the curl, the more it will shrink. Due to the amount of shrinkage and frizz that is naturally associated with curly hair, cutting hair wet or pre-straightened can be deceiving and often creates inaccurate results.

Wet vs. dry

“Always cut hair the way it will be worn — blown-out or natural — and cut within the curl, where it twists, never straight across,” says Mizani’s Evie Johnson. “For instance, if you blowdry curly hair, cut it dry and then wet it, the hair will end up shorter, and the client won’t like it for three or four months. Cut it wet for versatility. For coily hair, blow it out and cut it dry. You can wet-cut it, but when the various curl patterns are blown out, it won’t look good. It’s also difficult to maintain even moisture when cutting coily hair.”

Image courtesy of DevaCurl

Textures vary and so should your cutting approach. When hair is curly, there are many advantages to cutting it dry. Nevertheless, wet hair also gives stylists lots of information about the hair’s shape, elasticity, texture and behavior. For those reasons, educators and master stylists such as Arrojo Studio Educator and Master Stylist Lina Arrojo, tend to judge each head individually.

“We shampoo and condition the hair, let it dry or almost dry while observing its behavior, and then do the cut,” Arrojo says. “Once done, we will rewash the hair and observe its behavior again before refining the cut as appropriate.”

Selecting your tool

A razor is a precision tool, and when used correctly, it offers natural-looking results for wash-and-wear hair styles. Using a razor helps to enable more movement, redefines the texture of the hair and thins out thicker textures.

“What many stylists seem to forget is that a razor can also be used to cut length, add weight and even create blunt lines,” Arrojo says. “A razor can do many things that shears can do, and the single blade allows for more versatility and detailed work on curly hair. If the blade is sharp and glides through the hair, it can be used to define, enhance and create beautiful, soft, fluid movement in nearly all types of curly hair.” Dull blades can cause frizz on all hair types, which is exacerbated on curls and coils.

When razor cutting, be careful not to remove too much weight or add too much texture. According to Arrojo, density helps the structural integrity of the curls and thinning out the hair too much will cause curls to fall flat. Due to the coarseness of coily hair strands, avoid razor-cutting on highly texturized hair. This curly type is prone to shred when met with the blade, which makes it difficult to create a consistent cut.

Similar to a strand test for chemically treating the hair, Arrojo recommends cutting a few strands with a razor to test how the hair will react. If the ends do not shred, it’s OK to proceed. However, if shredding occurs, switch to shears.

Curl-specific methods

Ouidad recognizes and identifies four specific curl types — loose, classic, tight and kinky — and offers the only trademarked proprietary carving-and-slicing cutting methodology for the four curl types.

Image courtesy of Surface

Ouidad's technique is designed to remove the bulk that causes pyramids and enhances the natural curl pattern to achieve well-defined ringlets that interlock into each other like puzzle pieces. Carving and slicing allows the stylist to lighten the client’s hair without reducing the volume. The result is hair that will hug the head more instead of expanding outward to the sides. For clients who are concerned with elongation, this is a great method to achieve the illusion of length.

“At Ouidad, we firmly believe in mastering our certified carving and slicing method when the hair is freshly cleansed and treated and in its natural wet state,” says Melanie Fahey, assistant vice president of creative/education for Ouidad. “A Ouidad-certified stylist analyzes each client’s unique curl pattern and texture, listens to their history and defines their goals—then formulates a tailored plan to optimize their curls.”

According to DevaCurl Vice President Shari Harbinger, “For coily hair, dry-cutting allows the true curl behavior to be seen.” The Deva Cutting technique is a trademarked method by Lorraine Massey for cutting curly hair. Hair is sculpted curl-by-curl in its natural state according to the client’s lifestyle, personality and preferences. This method of cutting combines technical and visually artistic techniques to offer a customizable design tailored to the needs of every curly client.

What makes this cutting technique unique is that the hair is cut curly and dry. According to DevaCurl, cutting curls wet does not allow the true nature of the curl pattern to be seen and therefore does not translate visually once hair is dry.

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