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Curly Nikki

The Curl Whisperer on Hair Cuts

By January 27th, 202116 Comments

The Curl Whisperer on Hair Cuts
Some curly hair advocates, myself included, are fairly adamant about not cutting curly hair when it is wet. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can give you my own philosophy on why I believe curly hair should always be cut dry.

Curly hair is three-dimensional; therefore, it only makes sense to cut it in its natural, three-dimensional state. When curly hair is wet, the curl flattens out and appears much longer than it actually is, making it easy to cut off way too much—and what girl with curls has never had that happen? Also, when curly hair is wet, it is impossible to see each curl as what it truly is: an independent entity that has a unique relationship to the other curls that surround it.

A stylist who understands curly hair knows each curl needs be approached and handled one at a time, so your entire mass of curls will flow with a beautifully fluid motion while allowing each curl to retain its individual and special characteristics.

Unfortunately, I think few stylists nowadays recognize this important principle. Curly hair is so dynamic, however, how can anyone possibly understand how to shape your beautiful, one-of-a-kind curls unless they can see them and work with them in all their natural, individual glory?

When it comes to actual cutting technique, I am a supporter of the curly cutting methodology in which entire curls are removed in an appropriate pattern to remove bulk and create shape depending on the client’s hair texture and wave pattern. I have a fundamental issue with other methodologies that only slice or notch into a curl part of the way to remove bulk rather than take the curl off in its entirety.

I believe when curly hair is cut this way, it looks good initially, but as it grows out, little “twigs” begin to sprout as the two different lengths of the curl begin to separate. The more the curl separates, the more product is required to keep it “glued” together. Additionally, the ends of the hair eventually become thin and appear stringy as subsequent cuts continue to notch into the curls, removing even more bulk and making the curls thinner and stringier as they grow out.

I know this style of cut has its supporters who think this is an appropriate way to cut curly hair, but I am not one of them. I’ve corrected too many haircuts that were done this way on unhappy clients to believe otherwise.

Different hair texture types also respond differently to the kind of cutting they receive. Fine hair needs to have a cut with more weight because it tends to lie flat no matter how short it is. Short cuts can be problematic for coarse hair that is very thick because hair with a coarse texture expands naturally in an east-west direction. Even with a curly dry cut, the methodology remains the same, but the stylist has to take all kinds of other factors, including your hair texture, into consideration.

And it goes without saying that any stylist who uses thinning shears or a razor on your curly locks should be tarred, feathered and run out of town!


  • Anonymous says:

    Wow. To the poster immediately above: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I had not even thought about that! I am so sorry about your experience. Lesson learned.

  • Dr C says:

    Yes, I tried the Ouidad method in Scottsdale with one of their "best" stylist. I will NEVER do that again. Don't get me wrong, the guy was wonderful BUT they do not allow you to see what they are doing. I had no idea that he was going to strategically cut curls out all the way down to my scalp.

    I looked like a chicken head when he was done. I keep telling myself that once I got home and rewashed it, it would be fine. But it wasn't. On a good note, my hair was thinner and felt lighter. I saw all of the hair on the floor but had no idea of where it had come from since I was not allowed to watch the process. It wasn't until a week later when I went to part my hair that I noticed stubble in various spots. I could not wear twist, braids, or many other styles without the new growth sticking up.

    I was furious because I had told the stylist that I liked to wear my hair in different styles (most women of color do)and that on occasion I wore it straight. He had assured me that it would be fine and look even better after the "carve and slice". NOT so! I was scheduled to go back in 3 months for another appointment and I didn't. As a result of my ignorance, I have had to gradually have my hair trimmed to correct the Ouidad situation. So far I have had about 5-6 inches cut off so that my new growth would blend with the older hair. the only other option was to have some 6" hair and some 12" hair. NOT CUTE! I could see if it were layers, but we are talking about RANDOM spots, ALL over your head. When I went to my usually stylist, she originally told me that my hair was damaged. Once she looked at it closer she realized that it was not damaged, it just looked that way due to the the "carve and slice" growing out. She was furious with Ouidad too.

    For me going to Ouidiad is like getting a relaxer, once you start you are stuck getting a touchup ever 2-3 months. Should you decide to stop getting touchups, you will need to get the older hair cut in order to make it blend with your new growth.

    Picture this: You have thick 8" hair. You go to Ouidad for a "carve and slice". They strategically cut curls all over your head and it looks a lot thinner and more manageable. Two months later, you part you hair differently and notice that you have RANDOM spots where you have 1" hair and other spots where you have 9" hair. Like I said before NOT CUTE, plus you paid a fortune. You could have messed it up yourself for FREE!

    Be warned, the longer your hair, the longer it will take to correct the problem. Think long and hard before you go to Ouidad.

  • Anonymous says:

    Has anybody tried the Ouidad method? My old stylist cut my hair wet and it was lopsided for awhile. I have decided NOT to go back to her anymore. Anybody know of good stylists that cut on curly hair in the FTL/MIA area?

    Oh and btw, my hair is loosely curled with droopy S curls. Thanks (I'm not a believer of the hair typing system)

  • b. says:

    Okay, I went to Revive today (thanks again, Anon!). As promised, here’s the summary.

    She actually just TRIMMED my hair. The deep steam was nice and the atmosphere was on point. Every review mentions how timely the stylists are…and they are sooo right. I didn’t feel out of place (a rare occurrence for me in a salon). There were a few things I wish were done differently, but all in all I’m satisfied. It also felt great to see another coily in the chair as I was leaving!

  • Sage Vivant says:

    How timely this post is. For the past month or two, I’ve been wondering why my now-shoulder length hair doesn’t clump like it used to — my curls are thinner now and frequently look kind of messy. My stylist cuts my hair wet. Maybe it’s time for a change….

  • D_luv says:

    Anon @2:12pm — I will be looking into that as well since I’m in DC, but honestly it could have been a salon in NC b/c NOWHERE is too far to go to get treated right… right?! LOL

  • Anonymous says:

    i’ve had my curly hair cut wet and it has looked fine. I think the problem comes when folks don’t take your texture into account and start whipping your hair into all these sections so that they can get a thorough cut. I had my hair cut wet in January by someone who “specialized” in curly hair. I think she did a good job for cutting other folks’ hair. As for me, I had three distinct layers of hair when she was done. I’ve since learned — with the help of henna and serious moisturizing — that I don’t need to cut my hair as much. As a result, that haircut was the first and last for me this year. So far, so good.

  • Anonymous says:

    I’m transitioning and can’t see the difference in textures on dry hair, i was planning on BCing on wet hair, what should i do now?

  • b. says:

    Thanks Anon. @2:12pm…I just took the plunge and booked an appt. I read reviews about them before I saw this post, and I’ll put on my “Big Girl Draws” 😉 (I’m from Down East myself, Nikki!) I’ll keep ya’ll posted…

  • Anonymous says:

    What about folks who blow it straight to cut it?

  • Anonymous says:

    I went to the salon to get my hair cut and I tried to explain to him not to blow dry my hair becuase when I wear it curly (BTW he was so trying to get me to blow out my hair) my hair shrinks at different rates in differnt places. So if you blow dry my hair yes you may have an even cut but when I wear it curly it looks lopsided because one side shrinks up more than the other. I have ahd natural hair since 1999 I know what I am talking about. it did look cute but lopsided so I had to employ certain styling techniques to make it look somewhat even. i am so glad my regular stylist is back from maternity leave. She cuts my hair damp. So shrinkage has already set in,

  • Anonymous says:


    I live in Silver Spring and discovered Revive Salon on U. St. My hairdresser Yodit is fabulous, she does natural hair. Feel free to google their reviews online, they also have a facebook fan page and a website. She cut my hair while it was curly, and in it’s natural wash and go state to see how it would fall. I am very happy with the results, but will need to get a trim soon because it’s been about 5 month!

  • modest-goddess says:

    I guess I’m not understanding what method of hair cutting this article is advocating. When they say cut hair dry do they mean an air dried wash n go or blow dried hair?

  • b. says:

    Oh yeah… a salon cut that does NOT include blowing my hair straight. Hence the lost elasticity…

  • b. says:

    I am so glad you brought this up. Sigh. I have hair that is often classified as 4b. The *largest* curls are penspring size, and my hair (when stretched) is right above my shoulders. I soooo want a hair trim using scissors (not a set of clippers) that will compliment my hair type and face.

    My hair is the type that, even with braiding salons and some natural ones, the stylists are baffled or treat me with derision because of the tightness of my curl. I am SICK TO DEATH of it and yet, like many other women, would like just once in my adult natural-hair-wearing life to have a nice salon cut. I have strands that have lost some of their elasticity and would like a stylist to trim my hair to maximize my curl pattern. Make no mistake, I love my curls — as tight as they are — but I would love to find someone to treat them well. I live in Maryland.

  • curlychronicles says:

    I use to think it was better to cut wet (I guess so that you could have a nice shaped wash n go?) but I’m completely changing my view does make more sense to cut dry 🙂

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