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How to Cut Curly Hair: 5 Rules

October 7, 2020

8 Min read

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Curly hair can be complicated. With so much bounce, volume, and liveliness, it’s bound to come with its own unique set of styling rules and requirements. Having curly hair can even feel like a whole new language that you have to learn, decode, and follow. And these special rules don’t just apply to styling; curly hair has its own special needs for sleeping and cutting too.

The way curly hair gets cut affects its health, bounciness, and definition. Those are like, the most important things, which is exactly why we thought we’d write this and tell you everything you need to know about cutting curly hair.

1. How Often Should You Cut Curly Hair?

Curly hair should be trimmed often. More often than other hair types require, actually.

All the beautiful bends and twists of curly hair actually make it more vulnerable to breakage and split ends. Breakage in the hair’s outer layer allows moisture to escape, making it even more susceptible to becoming dehydrated. Dehydrated hair is more likely to become frail, brittle, and break off. Because curly hair is more prone to being dry, trimming it frequently will help prevent any split ends at the bottom from creeping up the hair shaft and drying out the rest of your hair too.

If curls are beginning to knot easily, it’s another sign that you’re due for a trim. A good rule of thumb is that curly hair should be trimmed every 6-8 weeks. Setting up recurring appointments at your favorite salon is good practice to help ensure you get a fresh trim regularly. If you cut your own hair (bravo— we salute you), you can even set recurring reminders on your phone for every few weeks.

2. Should Hair Be Wet or Dry While It’s Being Cut?

This can depend on individual preference but generally, curly hair should be cut while it’s dry.

Each curl has its own individual pattern and one head of hair can even have multiple different curl patterns. When hair is dry, it’s easier to section it off into its different curl patterns and treat each pattern accordingly. Curly hair shouldn’t be cut uniformly in the same way straight hair is; each curl needs to be cut individually.

When hair is dry it’s also easier to recognize the curls’ spring factor (how much each curl will spring back into shape after it’s been pulled down). Type 2 curls will have a smaller spring factor, perhaps even only half an inch. On the other end of the scale, type 4 curls will have a much larger spring factor that could bounce back anywhere between 6 and 10 inches, depending on length. If hair is wet, it needs to be pulled down to be cut, which will make it very difficult to estimate how much it will bounce back when it’s dry; this is a recipe for disaster that could result in hair being cut way too much.

The difference in appearance when hair is wet vs. dry is much more pronounced for curly hair than other hair types. We wear our hair dry for the majority of the time, not wet. It’s important to be able to see their resting-state style in order to get a better visual of the final look.

Density is another element. Wet hair clumps together and is difficult to judge thickness. This will play a big role in the amount of hair that will potentially be thinned. Curly hair girls all know that density basically means “puff factor.” Curls may need to be tamed and taken down a notch sometimes, but it would be tragic to remove too much density and lose precious volume.

We’ve been telling you all along that curly hair is special— and cutting it dry instead of wet is just another one of its unique needs.

3. Going to a Salon?

Do you go to a salon to get your haircut? If so, do you see the same stylist each time?

You don’t have to become best friends with your stylist, but it will be beneficial to work with the same person each time you go. By seeing the same stylist each time, they’ll be able to really get to know your curls and understand their characteristics. There will be lots of stylists who “specialize in curly hair,” but no two people have the same curls. The way a stylist treats someone else’s curly hair may not be the best way to treat your curly hair.

It’s not being “high-maintenance,” it’s being smart. Both you and your stylist will save time and you’ll get a better cut that’s done especially for you and your needs. Don’t be shy— ask around and find a stylist that understands your curls and what you’re looking for in a hairstyle.

4. Cutting Curly Hair Yourself?

Maybe you’ve always cut your own hair or maybe it was quarantine that pushed you to explore your inner stylist. Either way, we salute you – cutting curly hair is no simple task.

If you’re cutting your own hair, here are some things to keep in mind to ensure you’re doing it safely and effectively.

You’ll want to make sure you’re using the right tools. Especially if you’re regularly giving yourself trims, investing in a good quality set of scissors is definitely worth it. Your kitchen or office scissors won’t cut it, sorry. You should also make sure you have an area to cut your hair in that has good lighting and is close to a mirror. A plain background will help you see the shape and silhouette of your hair and how it will frame your face when it’s done.

We already talked about how curly hair is best cut when it’s dry. Trimming hair 2 or 3 days after a wash is optimal because by then it’s settled into its most natural state. If you’ve recently styled your hair with any heat, it’s best to wait until your hair is natural again so you can see how it will rest in its most organic state.

Before picking up the scissors, give your head a good shake and let your hair fall into its natural positioning. This is how your hair will look most of the time, so it makes sense to start out with this base. If your hair goes beyond your shoulders, you’ll want to pull it in front so you can see the entirety of its length.

It’s trim time! As you grab different sections of curls to begin cutting, stretch them outwards as though they’re reaching for different times on an imaginary clock. (If you’re starting with the top of your head, pull the section upwards to the imaginary 12 o’clock position). Place the hair in between your index and middle fingers and begin snipping the ends. This clock method will help ensure that every section of hair gets cut evenly.

Remember that you can always go back to sections and remove more, but if you can’t go back if you start out by trimming too much. Better safe than sorry – take it slow and be conservative. While you make your way cutting “around the clock,” give your hair a shake every now again and see how it’s turning out. Just like with everything else in life, practice makes perfect. Cutting your own hair can be fun and lets you be in charge of the final outcome. If you try cutting your own hair for the first time and aren’t happy with the result, it’s not the end of the world.

5. Are You Using the Right Products?

You should be catering your entire hair care routine to your unique curls. Curly hair isn’t like other hair; it really is special and should be treated accordingly.

Using products that are specifically designed for curly hair will help not only with maintenance, but with the cutting process as well. Using the right nourishing shampoo and a hydrating conditioner will help prevent split ends from stretching up the hair shaft, which means you won’t need to be cutting off as much.

And for after your haircut? Pamper your curls with a curl cream that’s specially designed for them and their unique characteristics. Prose curl cream is a styler for touch-ups that helps define natural texture and keeps strands hydrated and frizz-free. It will also be custom created with natural ingredients that will serve you best given your environment, maintenance routine, and hair goals.

Cut Your Curly Hair the Correct Way

There is a correct way of doing it. Your best hair starts with custom hair care, and that includes everything down to the way it’s cut.

That’s it— everything you need to know about cutting curly hair. Long live the curls!


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The Prose Staff is here to share the best hair tips and tricks to help you achieve all your hair goals with custom hair care, breakthrough innovation and more

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