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How to Cut Curly Hair

by Kateri Johnson on Thursday, August 18, 2011

Before You Begin

When cutting curly hair, my first suggestion is to gauge the actual curl pattern in its natural state. During the initial contact, whether it be in person or over the phone, it is important that you request the client come in with dry hair, in the style that they would like to, or usually, wear their hair.

Many times, curlies come in with wet, pulled back hair. This creates a few problems. Curly hair should be cut dry in most cases. As we all know, having the hair wet changes the elasticity of the hair and is the primary culprit for shrinkage after the cut, the one thing all curlies are afraid of.

If the hair is pulled back into a pony, the hair on the surface is not only dry but it is molded into the straight position it was drawn back into. In addition, the center of the hair is damp, creating two different areas of elasticity.

With the hair in the preferred position for the client, you are able to see the heavy areas, areas of multiple texture, mistakes from previous services and the general overall shape of the previous cut or outgrowth.

During the initial meeting with your client, determine the products being used and past chemical services performed, professional or self-administered. Because you will be doing a dry cut, knowledge of any potential product build up, previous coloring or past damage should be taken into account when determining actual hair texture.

All of these factors will alter texture, creating a false image of curl pattern, hydration and elasticity. A clarifier is often needed after a cut to ensure that the curl product you use to highlight the finished cut is allowed to properly perform.

Now is the time to explain to your client what the proper products needed to maintain curl formation are, and how to hydrate the hair. With so many wonderful product lines on the market today, assess who your current curl clientele is and try out different companies to find the right fit.

Newsflash: Drastic Cut Not Needed

Curly hair does not always need a full cut! My favorite saying is, “We get bigger before we get longer,” meaning our hair gains volume before we gain length. Initially, the first cut may include shortening or dusting the length and trimming or correcting the layers.

Once you have established your first cut, another full haircut may not be necessary. When a client wants to grow their hair out, alternating between trimming length and layers should be done.

The area of the hair that receives the most damage is the outside surface and layers of the hair. The area of length, which is the nape area from below the occipital to the base hairline, does not receive as much of a beating. What is always perceived as damaged or dry is the outer surface.

During the cut, the hair will become very big and very frizzy, which is great! While cutting, the hair is forming its silhouette. This makes it easy to see any heavy areas, ledges or blending points. You can see smooth lines forming, perfect curves and roundness. All of this is invisible during a cut when the hair is wet. Dry, the hair’s elasticity is balanced and there is no room for error due to shrinkage.

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