Curly hair care aside, one of the most frustrating problems for any curly girl is finding a hair stylist who knows how to deal properly with curly hair. Of all the complaints I hear from clients who sit in my chair, finding a good stylist who loves, appreciates and knows the world of curls is probably at the top of the list. Why, they ask, do so few stylists understand what it takes to cut curly hair correctly?
In my opinion, there are a couple of reasons. First, you need to understand that most beauty schools focus solely on the basics and teach little about curly hair and its special needs. When I was studying to be a cosmetologist (at a top beauty school where I received a fine education and a place I unhesitatingly recommend to anyone interested in a career as a cosmetologist), the advice I received about curly hair was this: cut the hair damp instead of wet and don’t put as much tension on the section.
Not exactly the most comprehensive curly hair education in the world, is it? 95% of what I know about cutting, styling and maintaining curly hair was learned elsewhere or are skills I taught myself. It’s just not a priority in the American beauty education system right now. It’s no wonder brand-new stylists are launched into the world without much of a clue.
In addition to that, you also need to recognize that it takes twice as long to handle a curly girl as it does a straight-haired girl. This industry is almost always commission-based on services, so the more clients you see and the more services you perform, the more money you make.
That means some stylists (not all, but some) are going to treat you just like they do a straight-haired girl because they don’t want you in their chair any longer than you need to be. If their commission is $15-$25 on a cut/blow-dry and they can do two straight-haired clients in the time it takes them to do one curly girl, some of them are going to go for the money and treat you just like a straight-haired girl. It’s sad, but true.
To further complicate matters for curly girls, some of the hair salon “chains” actually have metrics they use to measure stylist performance. In one popular chain, you have exactly 13 minutes to do a haircut. That means you stick the client’s head in a shampoo sink for two minutes, use your shears to do a standard 45- or 90-degree layered “wet cut” in 11 minutes, then get them the heck out of your chair.
You miss your metrics often enough, you can get fired. Even if a stylist working at one of these places wanted to take their time and do a proper curly cut, they couldn’t. Moral of this particular story: if you have any hope of getting a halfway decent curly cut, think about staying away from the chains. You might be lucky and find someone who can give you an acceptable wet cut in that amount of time, but you’d be pushing it.
So, what can we do?
First of all, one of the best ways to find a curly-savvy stylist is to walk right up to someone whose hair you love and ask who does it. Tell her you are looking for a new stylist and you think her hair rocks. She will usually be totally flattered and will be more than happy to share info about her stylist. Then get a list together of a few who really seem to appeal to you and call for a consultation.
Whatever you do, please don’t just call a salon and ask if they have any stylists who know how to cut curly hair. Of course they are going to tell you ‘yes.’ Instead, arm yourself with knowledge. It is up to you to advocate for yourself and ask questions. You need to know the right questions to ask to make sure the stylist you choose really is familiar with handling curls.
Your list of questions at the consultation should include:
- Where did you learn to cut curly hair? (It most likely wasn’t in beauty school, so ask them what kind of continuing education classes they took).
- What product lines do you carry/use in your salon that are specific/friendly to curly hair?
- How many curly clients do you have?
- Do you have naturally curly hair yourself?
- Do you wear your own hair curly?
If you find one who sounds good to you, schedule a styling session with him/her to see if you like how they do your hair (believe me, many hairdressers don’t know how to finish curly hair, so this can be a good indication of how well they handle it). If you like their work and you feel comfortable, then move on to bigger and better things like haircut and color.
The most important thing to remember, however, is that you always have the power to get
up from any stylist’s chair and walk out the door. There is no excuse to ever let yourself get talked into anything you don’t want, whether it be a cut, color or a style—especially if your only reason is that you are worried about what a stylist or the people in a salon will say about you if you do. Give me (and yourself) a break, please. It is never worth dealing with bad hair for the next three, six, twelve months just because you didn’t want to say anything or hurt anyone’s feelings.
Trust your gut instinct and roll with it—it will never let you down.
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