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The five common mistakes made cutting curly hair

What Matt Surplice, owner of Spring – a salon dedicated to curly hair – doesn’t know about curls frankly isn’t worth knowing. Here he takes us through the most common curl-cutting mistakes hairdressers make, and how to ensure you never make them again

“I’ve worked exclusively with curly hair for the last eight years and while it’s currently enjoying a surge in popularity, it’s definitely not a fad. I’ve discovered that, as stylists, if we can offer a curly client a great service, we have a client for life. Someone once told me that if you ask a curly girl about her hair, she’ll tell you her life story – and it’s true. Every curly client will be able to give you at least one horror story about their salon experiences.

“That’s why at our salon, we’re dedicated to cutting curls and have worked hard to make it our specialism. Services are based on dry-cutting curl by curl, then washing, styling and drying the hair under overhead dryers. Most of our clients only come to visit every three months, some only every six. That’s because curly hair doesn’t grow in a straight line, so the shape won’t take as long to grow out.

“Here are some of the most common mistakes I see others make when working with curly hair – and my advice for making sure it never happens again:

1. The number one crime against curly hair is not cutting it dry. Each curl has its own individual pattern, and one head of hair can have many different curl patterns running through it. By sectioning, combing the curl straight, then cutting under tension, you’re stretching out the curl pattern. That results in an uneven haircut and too much length being removed unintentionally. Curly hair isn’t straight hair so don’t try and treat it the same; take each curl individually, work with it and create your overall shape by cutting dry.

2. Trying to get a comb through curly hair is a nightmare for the stylist and a painful experience for the client, so don’t use one. It’s far easier to section using your fingers and this will also help maintain the curl pattern. The same applies to brushes. Brushing dry, curly hair will just make it frizzy and obliterate the curl pattern. At the backwash, avoid combs too – just use patience, and lots of conditioner.

3. The wrong shampoo is often the main cause of frizz – not the hair itself. Frizz comes from hair being dehydrated and curly hair in particular is often starved of moisture. You’ll find that once you replenish that moisture, the frizz will disappear. Sulphate-based shampoos strip the natural oils from the hair, leaving it frizzy. Equally, silicones repel water, so they should be avoided for any curly hair type. Look for a silicone-free, moisture-rich conditioner and comb it through soaking wet hair with your fingers to banish frizz.

4. It’s no good packing the hair with moisture, only to over-dry it and ruin all your good work. To dry curly hair, use a diffuser on a gentle heat and speed. This takes out the excess moisture and allows the styling products to work. Ideally, hair should be about 80 per cent dry, then left to finish naturally. If you have overhead dryers in your salon, they’re a great way to gently finish drying curly hair. Try and avoid messing with it too much, too. Don’t keep scrunching when it’s wet, otherwise all of the products and moisture will be lost and you’ll be left with frizz. The less work you do to the hair, and the more you allow the natural texture and cut to do the work, the more confident your client will feel achieving the look at home.

5. Thinning, using razors, block cutting and twist/channel cutting are not techniques that work well with curls. All you’re doing is creating more problems later down the line. Rather than getting a nice clean finish on the end of the curls, you end up with it wiring out into nothing and the client feeling like they need a really good cut again in a couple of weeks. If someone has thick, curly hair then it’s down to us as stylists to find a style and solution that fits the clients lifestyle instead of thinning it out; all this does is ruin the curl pattern.