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Styling Curly Hair: 5 Common Mistakes

by CurlStylist on Thursday, September 1, 2011


Ouidad, Queen of Curls.

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 figure it out, if you’re willing to learn from the wisdom of those who spent decades creating a brave (and curly) new world.

Here, we turn to leading curl experts, and asked: If they knew then what they know now, what nostalgic advice would they share about styling curly hair? Read on for the top 5 lessons of curl-centric veterans — lessons they learned the hard way, so you don’t have to.

1: Set Realistic Expectations

When Ouidad, the “Queen of Curls,” first started styling curly hair, she acknowledges that her idealism took over.

“I wanted to change the world with the haircut that I gave them. I wanted to fix it all and change it all,” Ouidad says. “But it’s impossible to take a head of hair and change it all completely at once. What I learned is to really look at the hair, study all the curl patterns, and learn exactly how much curls shrink, each section, 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, instead of having an image of what you think you’re going to do with the client, like change their life, Ouidad encourages up-and-coming stylists to examine the different hair textures, really study them and understand them first.

2: 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. “You win over people when you agree with them. 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 Christo. “You’re going to have to analyze their hair, so you can give them options and ideas.”

3: Don’t Treat Curly Clients Like 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 that 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 that person is going to stay with us because we know we have all the solutions for them,” he says.

He suggests stylists ask themselves if they’re really comfortable styling curly hair. “Anyone can say they do curly hair, but can they really? Or, are they making disasters out there for us to fix?” Christo asks.

4: Don’t Let 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 ten 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 ten 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 that 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 doing 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.

5: Communicate

Curl experts say your words matter a lot when styling curly hair 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 the hair. You want to be able to verbalize and explain how it’s going to fit and how 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 that you’re not going to give them ledges, a pyramid or some other shape they dread — and that you understand their texture.

“Make your client as comfortable and be trusting as possible by saying things that resonate with them,” Ouidad says.

Read all of this bi-annual issue of Texture!

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