Women of all ages – with short kinky hair and long waves, loopy ringlets and tight curls – gathered on a Saturday night in Austin to learn from one of the world's top authorities on curly hair.
Jonathan Torch brought his talents to the Wet Salon in Austin’s funky SoCo district for a NaturallyCurly.com Curl Clinic. Nobody was disappointed. After four hours of snipping and scrunching, he had transformed the hair of a dozen women. And he provided invaluable advice on how to best cut and style curly hair once they left the salon.
Check out Jonathan Torch's Curly Hair Solutions products in CurlMart.
“I had an idea,” he said. “What would happen if I cut shorter pieces out? Then I created a system.”
Over the years, he has studied curly hair – the way it looks when it is wet and dry, the way it shrinks and frizzes. He learned to play with the hair to determine what it would and would not do. He learned that in order to make a ringlet, the hair has to go around itself 2 1/2 times — a key factor in cutting curls. He discovered that everybody has a different growth pattern, like a fingerprint, that affects the way the hair falls.
“When I cut curly hair, I play with it and let the curls decide where they want to be cut,” he said. “I never do the same haircut for every person. I try to determine what my end goal is.”
What he discovered was that he needn’t cut every strand of hair. By cutting strategic pieces, he could reduce bulk and enhance the curls. Jonathan's fascination with curly hair led him to create a 'tunnel cutting' technique that successfully controls the excess bulk associated with curly hair. But that’s only one tool in his arsenal.
He developed his Curly Hair Solutions line of products to meet the needs of curlyheads, and his Curl Keeper has become a “holy grail” product for many. Jonathan said the inspiration for Curl Keeper was the way curly hair looks when it’s wet.
“I wanted to duplicate what it does when it’s wet, but I didn’t want to worry about grease, buildup or stickiness,” he said.
Jonathan started the Curl Clinic with 15-year-old Katie Bolliger from the Austin suburb of Round Rock whose once-straight hair had turned into tight ringlets when she hit her teens – a common phenomenon for many women and men. After playing with her thick head of blonde hair, he determined that the cut wouldn’t be as important as the way he styled the hair.
“It’s not a bulk issue; it’s a style issue,” he said.
She needed height on the top. But while conventional wisdom might tell you to cut layers, he said that method isn’t very effective. It’s more important to learn how to lift the hair at the root to create height and volume.
Another important factor in cutting the hair of a curlyhead is to give them options. In Katie’s case, she often pulls it away from her face with a barrette. He wanted her to have the option — after the cut — of using this “Plan B.”
After washing her hair, he began randomly cutting pieces of hair to take the bulk away from her face. He stressed that one must never be accurate when cutting curly hair. Accuracy, he said, creates ledges.
Preparation is key before styling the hair, he said. After he broke up the layers, he began liberally pouring Curl Keeper into her hair. 'The hair must be wet before applying the Curl Keeper,' he said. You know you’ve used enough, he said, when you can hear it “squishing.” He added a little gel to give the hair a little more hold. Then he used his “skip curl” technique of twisting the hair around his finger and giving it a little flick to create well-defined ringlets. “If you spin to the right, skip to the right; If you spin to the left, skip to the left.” He let her hair air dry for quite a while, then used a diffuser, grabbing the hair at the roots to add volume.
He demonstrated his Tunnel Cut with Lisa Goddard, who wanted to know how to create looser ringlets with her 4a hair. He has developed the technique over the past 12 years to reduce bulk on certain kinds of curly hair. There were gasps of disbelief as he lifted underneath sections of her hair and snipped chunks off close to her scalp. Then he doused her hair with Curl Keeper. Using his skip curl technique, Lisa soon had a head of shiny, springy ringlets. She pulled one, happily exclaiming “It bounces back!”
Susan Schommer wanted some tips on how to make her wavy 'do look curlier. Jonathan stressed that it’s hard for people to have it both ways. Cuts that look good with straight hair tend to be very exact, which doesn’t look best with curly hair. Because curly hair shrinks, a cut that’s good for curls may be too long when straightened. To give her more curl, he suggested she take some bulk away from her cheekbone area and grow out the layers to let the curls do their thing.
“Open it up so you can see through the hair,” he said.
Mother and daughter Hillary and Eryn Gerhart drove in from Houston to get the Jonathan Torch treatment. Hillary was a bit cynical when he began playing with her 3b hair, and 15-year-old Eryn was apprehensive about any major changes to her mid-back 3a curls.
But using the same technique – cutting selective pieces – he was able to keep Hillary’s length. And he showed her how to use the Curl Keeper and the skip curl technique to get frizz-free ringlets, without losing any fullness.
With Eryn’s hair, he cut off some length and and snipped a few shorter pieces around her face. The result was a face-framing head of ringlets that are long enough for her to pull back into a ponytail – her Plan B. Eryn had a big smile on her face as she looked at her new 'do in the mirror.
* Make sure you get the shampoo on the scalp to get rid of flakiness and buildup. And always rinse out shampoo well.
* If you swim a lot, don’t use shampoo. Stand under the water to dilute the chlorine.
* Avoid bleach on curly hair.
* To get out excess moisture, use a damp rather than a dry towel – “Just hold it; don’t move it” - he let the hair dry on its own for a while before diffusing.
* Don’t play with your hair.
* When using heat appliances, you have to cool your hair down to get it to set. To get some volume or curl formation quickly, push up sections of hair into a ball and blast them with a dryer. Then let it cool down before letting the hair go loose.
* When interviewing a hairdresser, it’s like finding an attorney or an accountant. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, you should leave. Consultations should be free. If they’re not, get up and go.
* Even if you’ve had the same hairdresser for years, make sure they consult with you before every haircut. Hair changes over time.
* Buy Jonathan's magic potion, Curl Keeper, here.