A Stylist’s Guide
to Fixing Frizz
by Teri Evans on Saturday, May 30, 2009
When curly clients sit in your chair, it’s never long before they fire off questions focused on frizz—how to prevent it, tame it, get rid of it! Frizz is the curly girl’s arch nemesis and, as a stylist, it’s up to you to arm her with tools for battle. But first, you have to figure out what’s causing the fight—and that’s not always easy.
“We can confuse frizzy hair as being in bad condition and that’s not necessarily true,” says Kaz Amor, a stylist at Warren Tricomi Salon in West Hollywood, Calif. “It’s usually the way curls are being handled that causes the hair to frizz.”
Clients won’t always tell you how they’re handling their hair at home — whether they’re too embarrassed to reveal bad habits or simply don’t know any better. You have to dig deep for answers.
Here, a stylist’s guide to the undercover causes of frizz — and how you can help your clients fight back.
Undercover Cause #1: Your curly client avoids styling products.
If a client refuses to try any products at all, she must know that it will be nearly impossible to avoid frizz. Oftentimes, this type of client thinks a naturally curly style should be easy. They don’t want to bother with styling products. To them, it seems like too much work.
“A lot of people equate using any product in their hair as it being a high-maintenance hairstyle,” Ethan Shaw, a curl-centric stylist with James Allan Salon in Austin, Texas. “The challenge is to convince them they need to change their attitude about all of that.”
Frizz-Fighting Fix: Shaw suggests asking your curly clients what they ultimately want their hair to look like, and then work with them to establish goals to get there, one step at a time.
“You have to figure out what you can do immediately, what they can do at home and what the long-term goals are,” Shaw explains. “Immediately, you can cut off some of the hair that’s damaged. You can show them a better shampoo and conditioner than what they’re using. You can also show them a product and how to use it.”
Yes, the client will have to agree to work at it, but not any more than they’ll have to work at constantly repairing their hair if they don’t manage it upfront.
Undercover Cause #2:Your curly client is using the wrong products.
Curly clients are often product junkies. They hear about a product that is working for someone else, so they unwittingly buy it without really considering if it’s the right product for their curl type. And if the product is not a perfect fit, the result once again can be annoying frizz. Or frazzled curls can come from curlies who opt for the cheapest (read: wrong) products just to pinch pennies.
“With the economy the way it is, I’m finding out that a lot of my clients have been going to different cheaper shampoos that are more drying,” says Teri Parr, a curly stylist at The Strand at Pinecrest, a salon in Miami, Fla.
Frizz-Fighting Fix: Parr suggests probing your frugal clients about how the challenging economy is affecting them.
“I ask about what they’re cutting back on,” she says. “Everyone is trying to cut back on something and the first thing is the shampoo and conditioner.”
Educate your clients about the curl-crushing effects of cheap products, then offer them alternatives at a variety of price points that won’t bust their budget. And if they’re using their best friend’s latest, greatest find, make sure it’s the greatest for their curl type.
Undercover Cause #3: Your curly client is not applying products correctly.
If your clients are using all the right products, but still find themselves buried in frizz, they may simply not be using them the right way.
“I try to guide my clients step by step through the styling process and simplify it as much as possible,” Shaw says. “So much of the style is about the application.”
Frizz-Fighting Fix: “A visual aid is best,” says Giselle Grant, a curl-centric stylist at Curltopia in New Smyrna, Ga.
Grant suggests asking clients to show you exactly how they style their hair from start to finish, so you can figure out what they’re doing wrong. Then, show them the right way to style it, in easy steps they can replicate at home.
Undercover Cause #4: Your curly client is not using enough product.
When you come across a client who has all the right products and is applying them the right way, the problem could lie in the amount they’re using. Chances are, it’s not enough. This problem is more likely to surface in curlies with a longer, thicker mane, which requires more than the standard dollop of product.
Frizz-Fighting Fix: Again, showing versus telling is the key to solving this stumper.
“I’ll show them in front of the mirror what one side looks like without enough product and what the other side looks like with the adequate amount, which is a completely different look,” Grant says. “Showing them what a balance should look like, generally will eliminate the problem.” That is, unless you have clients who are trying to make their seemingly pricey products last longer.
Sometimes they’ll use less product on purpose — not because they don’t know any better.
For example, one of Parr’s curly clients added water to her styling product so she wouldn’t have to replace it as often. But instead of telling Parr the truth, she complained that the product just wasn’t working the way it used to be. Of course, that didn’t make sense, so Parr peppered her client with questions.
“I asked her, ‘What size bottle did you get? How long is it lasting you?’ Since she was using it every day and the product was lasting three months, obviously she wasn’t using enough,” Parr says. “I said to her, ‘Either you’re not using it or you did something to it.’”
Giggling in embarrassment, her client finally confessed to her water trick.
“It ended up being a funny joke between us,” Parr recalls, “but I had to fight to get that out of her.”
Undercover Cause #5: Your curly client skips over maintenance.
Clients may be doing all the right things during the day, but still miss one of the most important steps while they’re sleeping. Frizzy mornings are common when curlies don’t manage their mane in the overnight hours, especially kinkier textures.
Frizz-Fighting Fix: Grant encourages her clients to sleep with satin or silk, whether that’s a scarf bonnet to protect their spirals or a pillow case to rest their curly head.
“Sleeping with silk or satin helps to maintain the moisture in the hair. Cotton and other materials dry it out, which adds to frizz,” Grant says. “The kinkier the texture, it’s best at night sometimes to twist or braid it, so they can control it while they sleep.”
She also urges curlies to apply a leave-in conditioner at night, and reminds them to do it consistently if they really want to notice a difference.
Undercover Cause #6: Your curly client has a drying dilemma.
Curls and kinks can quickly become frazzled into frizz in the drying phase of the styling process. While using a diffuser can add a much-needed boost to looser curls, a hooded dryer is often the best option for kinkier curl types.
Frizz-Fighting Fix: “If it’s a really tight curl and kinky texture, I suggest a hooded dryer because heat flows down and it doesn’t disturb the curl as much as a blow dryer or diffuser,” Grant says.
If a client doesn’t have a hooded dryer at home, Grant recommends braiding or twisting the textured tresses, and letting them air dry.
“If time is an issue and I have to diffuse in the salon, I only diffuse to a certain point and let them air dry the rest of the way,” says Grant, again referring to Type 4 textures. “But since the client doesn’t know when that point is, I encourage them not to diffuse at home because it will be frizzy eight out of 10 times.”
Undercover Cause #7: Your curly client fibs about the flat iron.
There’s no mistaking the burnt, frayed ends or the wilted, weak curls. They reveal a truth that your client is trying to cover up. Or, maybe she’s simply in denial about the damage the flat iron is doing to her curls. “A lot of times it damages the curl to the point where it’s not going to curl up nicely, and it comes up as frizz,” Shaw says.
Frizz-Fighting Fix: The key here is to be direct about what the sizzling heat of a flat iron does, but in a way that won’t offend the client or make her wrong.
“It’s a lot more effective to explain to them that their hair has seen a lot of damage from heat, and it’s affecting the curl type,” Shaw says.
“I tell them they have to be careful,” adds Parr, who works in Miami, a city blanketed in heat and humidity. “I say, ‘I understand you want to change up your look once in a while, but during summertime in Miami? Not a good idea.’”
Undercover Cause #8: Your curly client overdosed on color.
They may deny going too far too soon with color, but there’s no mistaking clients with a head full of frizz that comes from fragile, over-processed curly locks.
“You have those who say they don’t color their hair, and then I see the root,” Parr says. “If you call them on it, in more of a joking manner, they’ll usually end up opening up to you and telling you more stuff than you really wanted to know.”
Frizz-Fighting Fix: Once you know just how many processes your client’s curls have endured, be honest (yet gentle) in explaining whether her hair can handle any more color-stripping chemicals or if she needs to take a break.
“It’s hard to tell a woman, ‘You can’t color your hair,’” says Stanley of New York’s Christoper Stanley Salon. “But I will never sacrifice hair texture for a beautiful color.” If a client insists on covering gray hair, Stanley suggests a demi-permanent color. “You won’t get 100 percent gray coverage, but it won’t be as damaging.”
And if his curly clients insist on permanent color, he makes them choose between a single-process or highlights — not both.
“It’s tough for the curly hair client because she might be covering gray with a darker color, but also wants to brighten it up with highlights. I just say no,” Stanley says. “I’m not going to have someone walking around with an amazing color on ratty-looking hair.”
You always want to put the interests of the client first, whether they know what’s best for them or not. Yes, they may be frustrated at the work it takes to fight frizz, but they’ll ultimately thank you for preparing them to battle it.
“If you make it playful and fun, they end up walking out of the salon with a smile,” Parr says. “No one wants to be ridiculed or judged or embarrassed by what they’re doing. Life is too short. Have fun with it.”
Stylists’ Product Recommendations
With the ever-increasing (and often confusing) number of products available to curlies, you’ll want to be prepared when clients turn to you for advice on the best frizz-fighters. We asked some curl-centric stylists to cut through the clutter and share their top picks, ranging from conditioners to stylers to serums.
Teri Parr suggests Bain de Terre products for budget-conscious curlies.
Stanley of New York’s Christopher Stanley Salon encourages his curly clients to opt for a sulfate-free shampoo to cleanse the scalp and hair, without stripping away its natural oils. His favorites are DevaCurl’s Low-Poo and No-Poo, which he says work especially well on thick, coarse curls.
When it comes to Type 3 textures, Giselle Grant, a stylist at Curltopia in New Smyrna, Ga., suggests Carol’s Daughter Tui Leave-in Conditioner or Black Vanilla Leave-In Conditioner. For coarse, kinkier textures, she recommends Miss Jessie’s Baby Buttercreme or Curly Buttercreme.
Teri Parr, a curly stylist at The Strand at Pinecrest, a salon in Miami, Fla., prefers AG Tech One Daily Shampoo. And when frugal clients ask her for cheaper options, she suggests Bain de Terre Jasmine Shampoo and Cucumber Conditioner or Healthy, Sexy Hair Pumpkin Rehydrating Shampoo and Conditioner. “It smells delicious and softens the hair,” Parr says.
Deep treatments also help smooth the hair shaft, which cuts down on frizz. Parr recommends a cocktail of AG’s Deep Reconstruction Treatment or Ultramoist Moisture Treatment, along with a few drops of AG’s Liquid Varnish smoothing polish. Leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes for healthier, shinier curls, according to Parr.
Carol’s Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey
Making sure your client has applied enough styling product, and in the right way, also helps minimize frizz. Stanley recommends DevaCurl Angell or Paul Mitchell’s Modern Elixir styling cream for thick, dense curls.
Ethan Shaw, a stylist with James Allan Salon in Austin, Texas, and Parr of Miami, Fla., suggest AG’s Re:coil curl activator. Parr also cocktails the styler with AG’s Fast Food leave-on conditioner. “It makes the curls soft, not hard and crunchy, and helps a lot with frizz,” Parr says.
For Type 3 curls, Grant recommends Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk. When it comes to finer textures with Type 4 tight coils, she suggests trying a pomade, such as Carol’s Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey.
Whenever using silicone-based serums or oils, remember a little goes a very long way. “Don’t get it anywhere near the scalp, just take a few drops to coat the hair strand,” says Stanley, who recommends Ecru Silk Nectar Serum, KMS Silk Sheen Therapy Plus, Goldwell’s Kerasilk Anti-Frizz Serum or Earthly Body Marrakesh Oil.
A dab of Murray’s Pomade is enough to achieve success for Shaw’s curly clients. “Just take a tiny, tiny little bit and take your palms and glide it over the top of the head,” he says.
And Parr’s favorites for frizz-free shine are BioSilk’s Silk Therapy Serum, AG’s Liquid Varnish smoothing polish or Moroccan Oil.