7 Things Stylists Need to Know About Curly Hair

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If you have curly hair then you know that the struggle is real.  Having a head full of Puerto Rican curls has created this dilemma of never finding a salon that understands what to do when I walk in and ask for something as basic as a trim.  Highlights?  Color?  Forget it.  That’s another ball of drama.

Many stylists have a flat iron ready to straighten (and kill) my luscious curls, but when it comes to the very basics of styling tools for curly hair (like a detangling brush and a diffuser) they are lost.

After being sick of stylists continuing to treat my curly tresses like straight locks, I’ve decided to make this very informative public service announcement in hopes that us afro-headed beauties can someday walk into any salon knowing our stylist is ready!

Note: If you are a stylist that already knows all of these details for how to handle curly hair, props to you!  Please share this with all of your salon buddies and help spread the word!

1. You can’t just brush it out like straight hair.

You need to use a detangling wet-brush and start from the bottom working your way up while the hair is saturated.  A detangling brush is a specific type of brush with flexible bristles to protect tangled hair while it is wet.  Brushing curly hair while it is dry causes breakage to the strands and damages the natural curl.  So, stylists everywhere: Get out the spray bottle and invest in a detangling wet-brush!

2. Only shampooing is dangerous.

If you are a stylist who has a curly-headed client in your sink and you only shampoo their curls, just stop.  Tell them to run before you destroy every strand of hair on their head and admit that their mane is not your forte.  If you don’t understand the importance of conditioner, you don’t deserve these curls.  Shampooing will turn their curls into a pile of tangled unmanageable frizz setting you up for a harder time than necessary, major breakage (and oftentimes pain), and an unhappy client.

3. More product is not the answer.

Stylists have tried putting gels, mousses, oils, and sprays in my hair to try to combat the frizz during the styling process.  Adding these products weight the hair down or make it thin and crispy, hiding the natural beautiful curls that are dying to make their debut.  When it comes to junking up curly hair with goop, less is more.  Instead of adding extra product — after the hair is washed, use a towel to squeeze the water out of the roots of the hair, leaving the very ends still wet.  Then, run a thin layer of conditioner through the wet curls.  When applying the leave in cream conditioner throughout all of the hair, focus especially on the ends and scrunch the tips together to squeeze the spirals into shape.  Pull all of the hair away from the head and forward.

4. Respect the curl.

It’s all in the layers, baby.  Shaping the hair is the most important aspect of respecting the curl.  The main thing to keep in mind is that cutting the hair while wet will make it harder to know what the hair will look like after it is dry.  So cutting the hair directly after shampooing t is a serious no-no.  Instead, wait until the hair is completely dry and styled so you can know how the hair will fall and move, shaping it like the beautiful sculpture that it is.

5. The bigger the better.

Styling curly hair like straight hair causes the curls to lay flat on the head and will damage the hair and separate the curls if styled with a brush.  While styling, occasionally add thin layers of conditioner to the curls to smooth out the frizz.  To create big shiny spirals, blow dry the hair in sections while the hair is flipped over with a diffuser while the hair is slightly damp.  I can’t emphasize diffuser enough — So, get one!  After the hair is dry a pick comb or your fingers can be used to add an extra burst of volume to the hair as desired.

6. Not all curls are the same.

Although I am half Puerto Rican, I am also half Vietnamese — and it shows in my hair.  Although the majority and top portion of my hair is kinky curls, the hair on the lower back portion of my head is straight.  The density is also a lot thinner than most others.  This creates a challenge for any stylist trying to work with this paradoxical combination.  Some of your client’s hair will only be wavy while others will have extremely tight curls.  There are a lot of useful curl type charts online that you can utilize to understand the difference and how each should be treated.

7. Regular highlights won’t do us justice.

The company Deva Curl, whose team prides themselves on mastering the art of curly hair, designed a highlighting process unique to curly hair called Pintura Highlighting.  In order to achieve natural-looking highlights that accentuate the bouncy motion of each curl, low darker highlights and high lighter highlights of different shades are painted directly onto dry styled hair based on the way the light hits the curls.

When searching online for salons that understood this highlighting process I could only find two total in all of Southern California and the nearest one was an hour away.  If you are a stylist who would like to amp up your curly-headed client count, I highly suggest learning this process.