We turn to the experts for the best clues to finding the right match for your curly mane.
Curl Clue #6: Ask the right questions
Once you’re in a salon sitting down with the stylist, curl experts say this is your cue to speak up. Like any relationship, it’s a two-way street, so make your consultation a quizzical quest.
Christo suggests these questions: “How can I manage my curls? How can I get my hair to feel or look healthier? How can I cut my hair without looking like it has too much volume? I would like to take some bulkiness from the bottom layer of my hair without thinning the hair out. How can I do that? Well, that can be done with the correct frame around the face.”
Really poke around to find out out just how much a stylist knows about the curly scene.
“You can say something like, ‘I’ve read "Curly Girl" by Lorraine Massey and I like the ideas in there.’ Then, see what they say,” Shaw says. “The book is basic essential reading for modern ideas about curly hair.”
And if the salon offers a continuing education program for its stylists, that’s a good sign.
Most important, you should never feel bullied into radical changes, says Jonathan Torch of Toronto’s Curly Hair Institute.
“No matter how great the style, if you are not ready for the change it will not be successful,” Torch says. “Our experience has shown that some clients don’t know exactly what they want, but they do know what they don’t want in a style.”
If you have pictures of a look you do want, bring them in.
“Pictures can help bridge the gap in communication during the consultation,” Torch says.
Curl Clue #7: Pay attention
You can also bridge that communication gap with stylists (or any potential significant other) by listening, really listening, to what they’re telling you.
“If you hear the word ‘layers’ in the first sentence, then I suggest you walk out of the salon politely,” Christo says, “Or if the stylist says, ‘I think we should thin your hair out because you have a lot of hair,’ those words will probably cause a terrible haircut at the end of the day.”
And beware of the stylists who sound off with sophisticated jargon that only winds up confusing you.
“If you don’t understand, ask them,” Christo explains. "They may say, ‘Let’s de-volumize’ the hair.’ Then, you say, ‘It sounds very attractive. But can you explain to me how you’re going to do that?’ It’s very important for you to know what you’re getting done.”
Curl Clue #8: One step at a time
If you’ve done your homework, and you’re still hesitant about a haircut, Massey suggests taking it one step at a time.
“You can say ‘I just want to get my hair cleansed today and I just want to show you what I do. Would you be willing to work with me?’” Massey explains.
If you find a stylist that says yes, but you think they’ll drown your hair in detergent-drenched shampoo, don’t hesitate to bring in your own product.
“Put it in a plain bottle and just say your doctor gave it to you because you have a scalp condition. This is the only way I’ve been able to get my clients to preserve their hair,” Massey explains. “Do not mention another hairdresser. Do not say another hairdresser told you to do this because then the hairdresser will say ‘Oh, really?’And if they bring the blow-fryer out, don’t be a shrinking violet.
“You can say, ‘Excuse me, I’m naturally curly and would you mind me leaving with my hair natural today? This is how I wear it,” Massey suggests.
Curl Clue #9: The haircut
The most important clue, according to Massey, is to cut your curls when they’re dry. Although stylists have been trained to cut flat surfaces on wet hair, Massey says this can spell disaster for curly girls.
“It’s really important that you look at the hair at its resting point when the hairdresser sees you,” Massey says. “When it’s wet, you would never see the different formations of each curl and they’re all completely unique — some are tiny, some are looser. If you pull them down together when they’re wet, they may look the same length. But when they dry, curls recede at different lengths.”
So how do you approach a stylist with your curl-cutting concerns?
“You can say, ‘Let me just point some things out. Please listen. I’m going to pull this curl right now, and see how much it springs? And these curls are looser on this side also,’" Massey suggests. “Show them the different personalities of your hair.”
Then, ask the hairdresser to cut at least a portion of your hair before she leads you to the sink.
“Cut the length dry. Cut the area around the face dry. Cut the top layer dry. You can see exactly where you’re pinpointing the length,” Massey says. “Then, if you must, cleanse the hair and use those points of references as your landmarks. You don’t go past those points.”
Curl Clue #10: Use your curl power!
Salons will only become more spiral-savvy if curlies show them that the need is there, and this is their ideal opportunity. Unfortunately, many salons still just don’t have a clue. Many clients who travel from all over the globe to Massey’s Devachan Salon tell her they just can’t find a curl-savvy stylist.
“It breaks my heart,” Massey says. “A lot of people are truly ignoring the needs of the curly girl. We’re a totally misunderstood, misinterpreted hair type — still! And here we are in 2006.”
Massey encourages curlies to nudge salons about educating their stylists on curly hair. The more demanding curly girls become, the more salons will be forced to act.
“Even if you just say, ‘Okay, maybe I won't get a cut from you today. But if you ever do get someone who is educated in curly hair, please call me because I would love to come to her,’” Massey says. “Then the salon will think, ‘Oh, we better start getting savvy here with these curly girls because they’re becoming very demanding.’ We should be demanding. It’s time, and we can only do it as a curl-lective!