Cutting and styling natural curls can be a challenge if you’re not used to working with this particular type of hair. We asked top names in the industry to share their best tips, tricks and home care recommendations
Marilyn Rose, International Redken artist and curly hair specialist for Redken, co-owner of Vibe Salon and Medi-Spa, Bedford, N.S.
Tippi Shorter, Celebrity hairstylist and textured hair expert
Shari Harbinger, Vice-president of education for DevaCurl
What’s your type?
When it comes to curls, each category ranges from subtle to strong. We asked Tippi Shorter, a celebrity hairstylist who has worked with Alicia Keys, Rihanna and dozens of others, for the breakdown on curls.
#1 Curly Hair Mistake?
“Cutting wet and focusing on length more than shape.”–Shari Harbinger, vice-president of education for DevaCurl
Q: What techniques are best used for cutting curly hair?
Marilyn Rose: The approach is more visual than technical. Think of it as sculpting hair. You need to step away to see the overall shape as you are moving along in the haircutting process. To achieve that, the hair has to be dry and you should avoid applying any tension on the strands. You are cutting curl by curl. You also need to work with negative space.
Q: What is negative space?
Marilyn Rose: Let me give you an example: When you pick up a spoon, you can’t see through it, right? But with a fork, you can. The idea here is to create “openings” throughout the hair, or what we call “negative space,” so that it doesn’t end up looking like a wig. This technique is particularly well suited to thick, coarse hair.
Q: What determines the shape of the cut?
Tippi Shorter: The density of the hair and the circumference of the strands. When each strand is well defined, a very light layering and a mid-back or shorter length works. Shoulder length is great when the density is lower, beucase you can create a nice rounded look.
#1 Styling Mistake
“They use sulfate-derived products that further dehydrate curls. Instead, stylists should opt for products that add moisture, like a conditioning cleanser.”– Shari Harbinger, vice-president of education for DevaCurl
Q: How do you dry curly hair?
Marilyn Rose: In the salon, you’ll want to use a diffuser to create those beautiful, bouncy curls. But remember, a diffuser will also create more volume. Airdrying is great for coarse, thick hair. But don’t forget that curly hair needs to be quite wet before you apply any styling product. A lot of people take out too much water, so it’s already frizzy by the time they start styling it. To minimize frizz, lightly scrunch hair in an upward movement to squeeze out the water. Never, ever use a terry cloth towel! Use a T-shirt or a microfibre towel instead.
Tippi Shorter: For different hair textures, the curl around the temples might be looser and tighter at the centre of the head. When you’re drying, you may have to diffuse certain areas and scrunch other areas. For people with fine but curly hair, you might want to braid the hair, then dry it to create more volume.
Q: How often should curly hair be washed?
Marilyn Rose: Curls need moisture, and the best way to achieve this is by not overstripping the natural oils from the scalp. Ideally, curly hair should not be washed more than three times a week, and always with a non-sulfate formula. If your client is very active, recommend applying shampoo only to the roots and condition hair from the mid-shaft to the ends to ensure that the curls are well hydrated and keep their bounce.
Q: What styling products do you recommend?
Tippi Shorter: Products that have a lightweight, liquid consistency, such as spray-on gels, liquid gels and foams, work well with wavy hair. With coily hair, ultra-hydrating oils are super-essential. Also, the thicker consistency of hydrating styling creams add more weight to the hair, making cutting easier while reducing shrinkage.
Q: How do you determine which type of product to use?
Shari Harbinger: Texture craves moisture, definition, control and volume, but the products used depend on what the client’s ideal look is. For example, choose products that bring hydration and control to dehydrated curls for clients with dry hair or choose products that add life for clients who want more volume.
Q: How do you determine the right amount of product?
Shari Harbinger: The thickness of the hair determines the amount of product used. With denser hair, we recommend that stylists use more product to make sure it’s evenly distributed throughout the hair, ensuring thorough saturation for best results.
Q: What types of products should stylists recommend fo home care?
Marilyn Rose: A texturizing mousse is great for loose, lazy curls and a reactivating spray helps eliminate frizz on all curl types.
Q: Essential home care tool?
Tippi Shorter: Blow-drying with a diffuser attachment – the universal ones blow too much wind. And a conditioning treatment will rehydrate and soften the hair.