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Cutting Curly Hair: I Prefer Wet

by Chair to Chair/Shannon McCarthy on Monday, December 20, 2010

shannon mccarthy

Shannon McCarthy is a senior stylist and educator for James Joseph Studio and James Joseph Salon. James Joseph Salon and Studios are the most award-winning salons in Boston with more than 30 local and national awards. James Joseph Salon has been named one of the Top 100 Salons in America by “Elle” magazine, and James Joseph Studio has been named the Best Affordable Salon in Boston. James Joseph has also been one of the Salon Today 200 three times.

When trying to decide the best approach for cutting curly hair, consider these techniques. There seems to be a lot of people who are under the impression that when getting their hair cut, a dry technique is always best. The only time that cutting curls dry is useful is for clients who are wearing their hair one way. If you are working with a client that is always styling straight then doing a dry cut on flat ironed hair would be desirable. If they want to be able to do both, employing this technique will give no insight to the way the hair is in its natural state. For a client who is always wearing their hair curly, start wet. Wet hair is easier to manipulate to see where the curl is falling. You can literally look and see how the weight proportions of the curl are falling.

For shorter hair clients, you can move the hair around with your hands and see which way the curl would like to go. This is a great way to help us decide optimal shape for short hair. Whether working with bob lengths or head-hugging tapering, cutting the hair wet allows you to see how the curl is going to fall as it begins to dry. You can see the hair in its natural state and decide where to cut more or less hair. When working with long-haired clients, try to scrunch and fluff the hair to get a good idea of where the layers are falling. Curly hair also has a tendency to not curl evenly around the head. Unbalanced curl patters can become more apparent in longer lengths. Oftentimes the curls around the perimeter can hang and not be as tightly wound as curls in the crown and front of the head. Look carefully and asses where the curls are tighter and looser. Then you can decide how to approach the cut to enhance each curl pattern within one head. After diffusing you can then chip at the curl to detail and remove weight.

Playing with asymmetry can be a great way to give some edge and interest to a head of curls. There is nothing that should be or is symmetrical about curls. Curls fall in different proportions all around the head. You can use this to your advantage. As stylists we often see curly hair that looks like a bell. This is the result of improper layering and shaping. This looks like all the weight is falling all to one place. Creating different layers in different parts of the head can do wonders for managing curls. Cutting around the face to give different curl proportions can allow the curls to flow in a soft and less structured manner.

When trying to decide the best approach to your cutting technique, listen to your clients. Figure out what their ideal style is and approach your cutting techniques to suit that style. Mix wet and dry cutting. Start with a wet cut, and then detail with dry cutting. With this approach you will be thanked for addressing all of your client’s needs. Once she can trust and see what you are able to create employing many different techniques, we will start to break the assumptions of one technique being the best approach for many different, unruly, and versatile types of hair.

One Comment for “Cutting Curly Hair: I Prefer Wet”
  1. by J. Cordell Slack

    On December 28, 2010 at 6:51 am

    I completely agree with Shannon. She presents a very nuanced intelligent answer as to “why” you should cut hair wet.

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