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Known as “The Hair Saint,” curl expert Ona Diaz-Santin Ó is a true force in the curly community. The creative director of 5 Salon & Spa in Fort Lee, N.J. has worked with all types of hair throughout her career, but she is passionate about curls.

“Every single client that sits in her chair gets a completely customized experience,” Johanna Ferreira, deputy editor of HipLatina, wrote about having her curls cut by Diaz-Santin “From the shampoo bowl to the cut and down to the styling, Ona caters to the individual’s texture and hair needs. She doesn’t treat curls with a one-size-fits-all mentality. Because of that you walk out of her salon not just feeling like your best self but having learned a lot about how to style and care for your curls.

NaturallyCurly: What made you decide to become a stylist?

Ona: I grew up in a salon my whole life! My beautiful momma owned four salons so, it’s all I know.

NaturallyCurly: How have your own curls influenced your decision to specialize in texture?

Ona: I used to straighten my hair in high school. After years of wearing my hair straight, my blow dryer died on the day of high school graduation and I was forced to wear my hair curly. I was shocked at the positive feedback.

For me, it’s deeper than just hair. In our (Dominican) culture - and many other cultures - we have similar stories on hair hate, heat damage, relaxers etc. Growing up in the hair salon, I heard the terms like“pelo malo” and for years I thought I had “bad hair. “I wanted to use my own experience to help my clients embrace their natural curls and transition to healthy hair. I just wanted to help as many people as possible because in the end, it boils down to self love and accepting yourself just the way you are.

NaturallyCurly: How would you describe your technique?

Ona: I look at all variables, not just curl pattern. Texture and porosity are big factors when coloring, cutting and styling. These will determine whether to cut the hair dry or wet. Although no one standard haircut works for all curly hair do typically apply versions of what's called the "sliding technique," a way of cutting that layers the hair to add texture and remove bulk.

NaturallyCurly: How have you honed your technique over the years?

Ona:Practice makes progress. Never perfect.

NaturallyCurly: What are some of the things we can do to keep our curls looking their best?

Ona:

  1. How your curls look all starts with the shampoo bowl. Cleansing conditioners and co-washes are great, but they don’t necessarily work for everyone. Depending on your texture ,you shouldn’t always co-wash. I don’t co-wash because I have very fine oily hair. This whole idea that lather is bad for curls isn’t true. It doesn’t necessarily dry out curls. Once again, it all depends on your curls.
  2. When refreshing your curls make sure that you evenly distribute the water or twisted curl reviver spray, Think of misting!
  3. After conditioning, run cold water through your hair for a few seconds. It helps seal the cuticle, which prevents frizz. When detangling, divide your hair into four sections. Start by parting your hair horizontally, separating your hair from earlobe to earlobe to divide it into two big sections. Then, separate each of those halves vertically into two pieces, so you end up with four cross sections. Next, twist and spiral each individual section into a small bun, then clip three of them to your scalp to give yourself room while you detangle the fourth section.
  4. To keep your hair as healthy as possible, curly girls should get a trim at every six to eight weeks.
  5. To add volume, clap your hand! After you’ve completely dried your curls, flip your hair upside down, then clap your hands quickly a few times between your curls.
  6. To prevent shrinking while the hair is drying, put duck clips on the ends of every individual curl.

NaturallyCurly: What are the biggest mistakes that curly girls make when working with their hair?

Ona: Not using enough styling product. Less isn’t more. Make sure to really work the product through every section.

NaturallyCurly:  Who are the stylists that inspire you?

Ona: I would have to say my mother. Although our techniques and views on hair are different, she was my first teacher. Also, Mrs. Goodwin took me under her wings and I will forever be grateful. Others that provide inspiration include Nick Berardi, Stephen Moody, Johnny Othona, to name a few.

NaturallyCurly: Who is your curl crush?

Ona:A mom forced me to watch Brave and Moana, and that hair!