If you’re unaccustomed to working with textured hair, and you’ve attempted to cut a curly client, you probably realized your approach has to be different from the way you cut your non-curly customers. As the Technical Training Manager at the DevaCurl Academy in New York City, Cal Ellis, @curlmastercal, is a pro at guiding curl newbies through the best techniques for cutting textured hair. Here are his takes on the questions he receives most often.

DevaCurl classifies texture as wavy, curly and super curly. What are the characteristics of each?
Cal: In the DevaCurl texture spectrum, we believe wavy hair is generally flatter on top. As we move toward curly hair, the crown texture expands, and the waves become curls. The curl diameter steadily decreases, and by the time we get to super curly, we are left with more of a silhouette in terms of curl definition.

What are the best tools to use when cutting each curly category?
Cal: All you need are shears and clips! Where’s the comb? You comb with your fingers! When cutting curls,  we section and gather the curls into groupings of three, choose our elevation and hand position depending on curl type and cut. At the DevaCurl Academy, we teach a cutting method that is technical and intuitive. It’s visual but it comes with a roadmap using sections and a guide that give you a strong foundation. Using loose-to-no tension is essential and will make the difference between a not-so-good and a fabulous cut!

Is it better to cut each of these textures wet or dry and why?
Cal: We always cut dry where the curls naturally live, even wavy hair. Because multiple curl patterns often exist on the same head, wetting and stretching--which works well for straight hair—is not advised for curly hair, because it dries in different lengths.

What’s the best approach when sectioning each of these textures?
Cal: Create clean sections by gently pushing the hair so as not to stretch it out. We start in the back then frame the face and finish with the top.

What’s the best way to prep curly hair before cutting?
Cal: It’s important that the client wears their hair as they would when styling in everyday life. This way we get a sense of their individual style and can speak to them in real time about their likes and dislikes. It’s also important they come in with their hair clean and detangled with no ponytail or headbands, so we can see where the curls live naturally. And the hair should contain as little product as possible.

What is the most common misconception about cutting curly hair?
Cal: Thinking you can treat it like straight hair. That’s why we have changed a lot of our verbiage to make it more palatable for curlies. For example: ‘layers’ to a curly often translates to shelves or ledges. Many will sit in your chair and say, “I want to keep my length, I want shape, I don’t want layers.” I will lift the hair on the side and say, “So you want it to cascade like a waterfall?” They love the sound of that. So instead of layers we call it elevation. Problem solved.

What are some dos and don’ts for layering or elevating each of these hair types?
Cal: Elevation will change depending on the curl type. Spring factor and head shape play huge roles in our head and hair analysis. To put it simply, the tighter the curl the lower the elevation.

What are some some dos and don’ts for cutting bangs on each of these hair types?
Cal: With wavy textures, you have more freedom to get creative because there is very-little-to-no spring factor. For curlier textures, avoid cutting straight across. Go for more of an angle to soften the outer edges of the bangs.

Just like straight hair, curly hair needs to be trimmed and reshaped every few months. What does that look like for a curly client?
Cal: We recommend clients come back every three to six months for their cuts. What’s wonderful about the new DevaCut Express service is they can come in at that midway point for a clean-up and shaping to keep the curls looking fresh. Clients are asked to come in with their hair natural and not pulled back so we can see where the curls live. After the trim, we freshen the hair with our new DevaFresh.

DevaFresh combines the best benefits of dry shampoo, scalp tonic and refreshers in a single, style-extending spray. The main ingredients are kombucha--which helps balance pH, promotes a healthy scalp environment and adds shine—and prickly pear to help relieve dryness and soothe itching.


Want to raise your game on all things texture? Check out training from DevaCurl at the DevaCurl Academy.