Cutting Curls – New Techniques
When it comes to working with curls, the options seem endless. In no area is that more apparent than cutting techniques, where a growing number of philosophies that are evolving as curl empowerment has taken hold – both in the chair as well as behind it.
We talked to some pioneering texture experts who have developed their own approaches to working with waves, curls and kinks. Their varied approaches illustrate the challenges and rewards of working with texture. When it comes to texture, there is no place for a one-size-fits-all approach.
Cutting Technique: Carve-and-Slice method
Depending on the density of the hair, she slices – takes a little – or carves – takes a lot. You go to the depth of the curl, following the curvature of the curl and allowing the curls to puzzle into each.
You cut the hair in sections, shaking it to see the tightness and start of the wave pattern to see how it stacks. You either slice or carve so that the curls sit inside each other. You never cut closer than 3 inches to the scalp to prevent the hair from puffing out.
Ouidad always cuts curly hair when it’s wet.
“Curly hair doesn’t dry the same, so it’s very difficult to cut it dry. You need to know the curvature of the curl in its natural state,” Ouidad says.
Curl Expert: Shari Harbinger of Devachan Salon, trains and inspires both new and seasoned hairdressers interested in working with texture
Cutting Technique: Dry Cutting
When stylists at Devachan Salon prep for a curly cut, they know to trust their intuitive eye and their visual eye.
“You can’t really understand that if the hair is wet because you’re not seeing the hair as you wear it, in its natural form, which is dry,” says Shari Harbinger, who emphasizes that curls should be cut only when the hair is dry.
Before an appointment at Devachan, clients are asked to stop shampooing their curly locks one to two weeks before their cut, although daily conditioning is recommended. When they step into the stylist’s chair, clients are required to arrive with their hair dry and in its natural state, uncombed and without any products in it at all.
“We look at the face shape, the hair, the curl type, the hydration level, and all those factors will determine where we cut, and how much we cut,” Harbinger adds.
The only tools in a Devachan curly cut are scissors and the stylist’s hands — no combs or brushes.
“Combs aren’t necessary because you’re then stretching the curl out of its natural form, which defeats the whole purpose of cutting curly hair in its natural order,” she says.
Curl Expert: Jonathan Torch founder of the Toronto’s Curly Hair Institute
Cutting Technique: Jonathan Torch studies curly hair when it’s dry to look at the direction the hair grows, but he always cuts hair when it’s wet.
“That way I can see the grouping of the curls and the way the curls bounce,” Torch says. “We look at the individual curls and choose the size of the curl. In order to make a ringlet, the hair has to rotate 2.5 times, otherwise you get wings.”
Since every curly head has more than one curl pattern, Torch recommends against traditional layers for curly hair.
“Even layers do not work in curly hair,” Torch says. “We have developed a technique called curly layers, and it’s all about creating unevenness, breaking it up.”
If you’re looking for height, volume or bounce, Torch suggests telling your stylist exactly that.
“You have to change your terminology. If you want volume, say you want volume. Don’t say you want layers because you’re going to be upset with the result,” Torch warns.
Curl Expert: Christo Artistic Director of New York’s Christo Fifth Avenue Salon
Curl Technique: Christo has always believed curly hair should be cut wet.
“Curly hair, when you cut it dry, won’t have the freedom of style,” Christo says. “You may wear your hair curly 90 percent of the time, but maybe the other 10 percent, you want to wear your hair in glamorous waves or you want to blow it straight. I think you should have that option.”
Your textured mane should only be combed (wide-tooth comb only!) when it’s wet and then allowed to bounce back, according to Christo. “That way you can see how the curl is going to bounce, and then you cut accordingly,” he explains. “If the hair is dry, how is it going to bounce? It doesn’t.”
Since there may be many textures on one curly head, Christo may choose to texturize tresses using regular scissors, channel scissors or a double-blade razor on wavy, coarse hair.
“Some people have wavy hair on the bottom, while it’s curly on the top, so you can texturize the bottom in long angle layers, but you have to know to know what you’re doing,” Christo says. “You want the waves to lock into each other — not become bushy and frizzy.”
After the hair is cut and then dried with a diffuser, Christo may make a few touch-up snips on a dry mane, but without combing the hair or disturbing the curl.
Curl Expert: Kevin Murphy the “Texture Master,” editorial and session stylist
Cutting Technique: Lacing
Lacing involves cutting into a wave formation free hand. This loosens up the top of the hair without layering it.
You section the hair on top of the head either side of the part. The section should be about 2 inches on each side of the part. Because it is a freehand technique, no tension is applied to the hair as you cut in freehand to form a wave. Begin cutting from the ends of the hair toward the roots. Treat each section separately, and only blend visually. “This slight layering of the top of the head allows you to keep the weight in the hair and gives it the touch of poofiness on the crown area,” Murphy says. “The trick is not to go too deep as this is a subtle look.”
Curl Expert: Diane Da Costa textured hair expert, Mizani multi-textured expert / creative consultant and author of “Textured Tresses”
Cutting Technique: Free-Hand Slice
Da Costa uses this technique to add more texture to hair, slicing into the hair toward the ends and point cutting straight down into the hair from ends to hand placement. She holds the hair out at a 45-degree angle, letting it fall freely, slicing directly into the hair up to one to two inches form the ends.