Curl-centric stylists share their strategies for finding that perfect curly cut and color that sets you apart, but still suits your lifestyle.
Bored with the same old curly ‘do? Maybe you haven’t cut or colored your curls in months, even years. If so, you’re likely champing at the bit for a change. After all, we’re told change is good.
Figuring out exactly how much to manipulate your mane requires expert advice. Here, curl-centric stylists share their strategies for finding that perfect curly cut and color that sets you apart, but still suits your lifestyle.
Conservative & Controlled
For conservative curlies who are cautious when it comes to change, experts say you can still try something new without stepping out too far.
“People who are conservative need more control, so when it comes to a cut you’ll want to avoid bangs because that can make it difficult to frame the face,” says Jonathan Torch of Toronto’s Curly Hair Institute.
“Go with more of a bob for hassle-free hair. You need a lot of curls grouped together to make curls look more reformed.”
Diane Da Costa, curl expert and author of "Textured Tresses," agrees that bobs and blunt cuts are best suited for a conservative lifestyle.
“Stay away from too much layering, angling or elevation,” DaCosta says. “You want to be able to keep your hair shoulder length or a bit longer so you can pull it back for more conservative looks.”
Rosie Da Silva, master stylist at New York’s Devachan Salon, suggests “rounded layers, heavy fringe with a veil of length.” Again, think shoulder length, sexy bob.
For conservatives with tighter coils and kinks, Torch suggests keeping your length (or letting it grow) because you’ll need the weight to pull down your ringlets.
“If it’s too short, it’s hard to keep the shrinkage under control.”
At the same time, experts say you can control your curly style by controlling the excess bulk. For example, framing the face with a few strategic snips will help reveal the richness of your ringlets, according to Torch.
When it comes to color, Da Silva recommends conservatives start with thin highlights using Devachan’s Pintura method, a hair-painting system that is considered more strategic than conventional highlighting, offering a “very clean, natural effect.”
Meanwhile, DaCosta suggests dabbling in demi-permanent color.
“It lifts your color two to three shades, but it’s not too much of a drastic change,” she says. “It’s a great alternative to permanent color, and you can highlight in different tones with a demi-permanent color.”
“Go for the deepest, richest tones,” adds Torch, “because those will make your style look like it's more under control.”
Creative & Funky
For the curly whose lifestyle is anything goes, you can get away with going drastic, says Da Costa.
“You can have straight bangs, and then have your curly hair very long or mid-length,” says DaCosta, who also urges curlies to experiment with products to create a more spiky or sculptured look.
“With all creative cuts, it’s about elevation and disconnection, so you may start at the ear and have an elongated angle at the front.”
If you have wavy hair or “lazy curls,” you can get away with an even funkier style, according to Torch.
“You can try an inverted bob, which is shorter from the back to the front,” Torch says.
With tighter coils and kinks, creative types can turn up the volume with big hair, but Torch cautions against stepping too far over the top. You’re looking for fashionable flair, not a faux pas!
“You want to make sure the volume suits your face shape, so the face doesn’t look round or flat,” Torch says.
When it comes to creative color, Torch reminds curlies that brightness creates dimension.
“If you want volume on top, use colors that are brighter,” Torch says. “You want to break the solidness of curls with dimension by adding colors that reflect light. Deeper colors on the bottom make the hair look richer and thicker.”
Brunettes can add dimension with golden or reddish browns. For golden blondes, Torch suggests auburn-gold with a red undertone for depth, a real gold for richness, and a yellow gold for brightness, using all three in harmony. For redheads, plum-red can create depth, while bright red adds richness, and perhaps an auburn-red for brightness.
DaCosta also reminds curlies to consider skin tone when experimenting with all-over color or highlights. For creative types, she suggests skipping traditional highlights and instead consider “sectional streaking.”
“For example, you might color your bangs or panels of side-swept bangs going around half of your head,” DaCosta says. “It’s more of a paneled look and may not be evenly distributed. If you have brown hair, you might do a red panel streak. If you’re blonde, you could add a platinum streak.”
Devachan’s Da Silva recommends multi-dimensional Pintura highlights with “three different colors following the curls in the hair.” Adding dark and light streaks at the tips of each curl provides “sparkle and the illusions of length,” she says.
Athletic & Functional
If staying fit is less of a chore and simply a way of life, you likely spend most of the week in the gym or outside for your daily run. If you think your active lifestyle limits your options, Da Costa says not so fast.
“Two options are a short haircut or a longer hairstyle, so you can pull your curls back,” she says. “At the same time, it’s not about restricting the haircut, it’s about what will you do extra to maintain your look. You can have any cut that compliments the shape of your face, remembering that accessories will help you. If you have a more angular or blunt cut, you have to use accessories like headbands to keep hair out of the way.”
Torch says a ponytail will also do the trick: “The question is how do you look hot in a ponytail? Wear a looser ponytail instead of flat against your head. Scrunch your curls and then very loosely pull them back. You can tuck some curls behind the ear, and still be on trend.”
If you have lazy curls, Torch cautions curlies not to cut your tresses too short or you’ll be cutting out your curls and creating those dreaded wings. “Hair has to have some length before the curl starts to form,” Torch says.
Short curly hair also requires more maintenance than you might think. “It has to be cut more often, styled every time and you can’t rely on throwing it into a ponytail,” Torch explains.
When it comes to color, athletic curlies have to be especially strategic in the placement of highlights.
“When you pull hair back off the scalp, you’re exposing a lot of the hairline and it’s a measuring stick on when your color was done last,” Torch says.
Curly or straight, there’s nothing worse then seeing bright streaks at the hairline!
“Just make sure to avoid brighter colors at the hair line,” Torch says. “The more different colors you use when you highlight the hair, the more natural it looks.”
Curlies with an active lifestyle are also likely to wash their hair more. If that’s you, remember to moisturize your mane consistently -- especially if you love to experiment with color.
“Use color-enhancing shampoos and conditioners and have your hair glossed monthly to protect the hair shaft and add extra moisture and conditioning,” Da Costa says. “You can use a semi-permanent clear gloss or find a tone that matches your color to bring back the depth that is stripped by shampoo or chlorine.”
Leave-in conditioners and deep conditioning treatments are also a must, she says.
“If you work out every day and you color your hair, you just have to remember that it will be high maintenance,” DaCosta says. “You have to set your mind, and your pocketbook, to know that this will not be a light venture.”