Curly hairstyles are very much a matter of personal preference, but the way your cut takes form has a lot to do with your hair length, the tightness of your curls, how prone your hair is to shrinkage, and the kinds of natural hair care products you use. If you’re considering a curly haircut but are unsure of the best curly haircut for you, here’s everything that you need to know about how to get the best haircut for curly hair.
Is there a special way to cut curly hair?
Even though many people have become their own stylists in recent months, the intricacies of curly hair make it a bit more difficult to DIY—so it’s best to leave curly cuts to the pros. There’s a science to cutting hair. Depending on how dense your curls are, the smallest changes can completely throw off the symmetry of the entire haircut. A trained professional will be able to spot the subtle differences.
There are varying opinions on how curly hair should be cut. Some stylists say that you should cut curls when hair is dry, while others insist on doing it while hair is wet. The truth is, both methods work. What it really comes down to, is how comfortable the person on the other end of the scissors is with cutting curls. Not every curly style needs the same type of haircut—so one blanket swoop with the scissors could be disastrous.
If you like to straighten your curls, be sure to ask the stylist to focus on getting rid of any heat-damaged pieces of hair. You can tell if a strand is damaged once your hair is wet. The areas that have a harder time curling back are often the spots where damage was done. This is where curl-by-curl cutting is most helpful. A good stylist will be able to (hopefully) get rid of the compromised pieces without having to take huge chunks off. However, keep in mind that this is relative to how much damage has been done. Sometimes a deeper cut is necessary.
You also need to keep hair shrinkage in mind. Your style may look one way right after washing and drying, but totally different a few hours later, or after humidity or dry air sets in. If you don't have a lot of damage at the ends, or if you’re prone to shrinkage, consider leaving a little more length to make up for what will recede with shrinkage.
You should also consider finding a stylist who specializes in “hot scissors” cutting. It's a technique where, prior to snipping, the scissors are heated. With the blades reaching as high as 310 degrees Fahrenheit, they help seal the hair cuticle at the point where it’s snipped, while simultaneously getting rid of split ends.
No matter which method you opt for, the best curly haircuts are achieved when hair is clean, conditioned, and primed beforehand. Your stylist will prep you before your next cut by starting with a hydrating, curly hair shampoo like the Sacred Tiare Sulfate-Free Shampoo. Then, they will follow with a curly hair conditioner to make sure your hair is thoroughly hydrated. Next, a moisturizing detangler like the Hair Milk 4-in-1 Combing Creme will ensure your curls are smoothed out and knot-free prior to cutting. (Tangles might land you an uneven cut.)
If your stylist cuts your hair while it’s wet, take a leave-in conditioner like the Monoi (Repair + Protect) Multi-Styling Milk with you. Ask them to use it to keep hair hydrated as they cut. It’s a great replacement for the plain ‘ol spray bottle with water that many stylists tend to use as they cut. And if you’re noticing a lot of split ends at the tips of your curls, you most likely need a good deep-conditioning treatment like the Coco Creme Curl Quenching Deep Moisture Mask. If needed, try the mask prior to shampooing.
How do you ask for a curly haircut?
For starters, make sure you’re working with a stylist who is familiar with cutting and styling your specific curl pattern. There are plenty of stylists who specialize in curly hair, but not all curly hair is created equal. The last thing you want is for someone who is only versed in wavy and looser textured cuts to take a pair of scissors to your super tight, 4C coils. These textures should be handled differently.
Scout out some potential stylists on social media. Check their feeds for looks and cuts they’ve specifically created that resemble both your hair texture and the cut you’re going for. It’s also helpful to ask for recommendations. Hit up other curly-haired friends, particularly those with the same curl pattern as you, and see if they’ve visited any stylists recently whom they love. Once you’ve narrowed down your choice, book a consultation so that the stylist can get a better understanding of what you’re looking for, how your desired cut fits into your lifestyle (do you work out often? This could play into what’s ideal), and share your inspiration photos.
Kick-off your consultation by asking whether or not the stylist has cut curly hair before. From there, you can get even more specific by asking if they’ve cut hair as curly or wavy as yours. What’s most helpful is asking your stylist to see photos of curly looks they’ve done. It’s probably the easiest and most direct indicator of how they’d handle your desired style. Then, show your stylist a few pictures of hairstyles for curly hair that inspire you and ask if they think the look is realistic for your hair type and goals. If you like what you see, then go for it.
What haircut is best for curly hair?
Just like any other texture, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all curly haircut. There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding which style to get. Things like hair length, curl pattern, face shape, and how fast your hair grows can help you decide the best curly haircut for you.
Generally speaking, the best curly haircut is one where the overall shape looks symmetrical, it complements your face shape, and the ends look clean and healthy. How long or short you go is totally up to you. You may also be interested in bangs and layers, but keep in mind that, just like the overall cut itself, there are plenty of ways to cut and style bangs for curly hair, so bring this up during your consultation. Another rule of thumb is to keep an open mind and trust your stylist. A curly haircut may look amazing on someone else and not be right for you. Let your stylist help you decide.
How often should you cut curly hair?
There are many great things about curls. One of them is that the natural twists and turns of a curl make it easier to camouflage split ends. But for the health of your hair, stick to getting trims every six to eight weeks. This doesn’t necessarily mean a full-on cut within that window (unless you want to). Once you’re on track with no split ends in sight and an overall shape that you love, you can get a light dusting to keep the ends clean.
Everyone’s hair grows at varying intervals, so you may find that during certain seasons your hair grows faster than others. When it does, expect to see your stylist right around the six-week mark.
Once you’ve landed the right curly haircut, keep curls damage-free with The Ultimate Guide To Detangling Natural Hair.