Alison discovers that getting a curly cut is all about communication.

Alison Zwecker

I prepared for my first curly haircut like one might prepare for the SATs or the GRE or a driver’s exam for your first tractor: research, Google image searches and polling of as many curly consumers as I could get a hold of, all while chewing a piece of straw. With all that prep work, I wasn’t as overwhelmed or shocked by my experience as I had assumed.

The stylists analyzed my hair while it was dry, then cut, then washed, dried and did some final touch-ups. I remember the mosquito-netting draped over the sinks, laying flat on my back while I was washed and the detailed description of all the products used. Most of all, I felt like my curls were understood, but not in a personal way, more akin to fitting them into a generalized category in order to determine a plan of attack.

So while I appreciated and was a believer in the curly-specific cut after my first go-around, I chose a different salon and stylist for my second trip. And that was when the real surprise came — the “curly cut” that I had assumed was standard throughout the curly hair industry was not actually a common practice. My second curly cut was as different from my first as compared to a non-curly salon. My hair was cut wet, the products used had water-soluble silicones, and the stylist used a non-microfiber towel (gasp!).

The end result, after my personal routine was applied, was pretty much the same, truth be told. So of course, my next cut was at yet another salon. This, like the others, was a place known for being THE institution in curly cut techniques. You know, "the industry standard." The flagship, mecca, homeland of the curly, if you will. And yet again, the process was different. This time cut wet, I was hushed at my mention of “layers,” and sat quietly while two stylists consulted about what direction to turn the scissors as they approached my head.

Having experienced these three mega-infamous salons in New York City, and three “the only way” curly haircuts, I have to say that I have a new perspective on curly hair care. Did my hair look great after each process? Generally, yes, but the means to that end were not at all the same. So I began to realize that, while I myself hold fast to my own sacred routine, there may not be one answer for everyone.

Curly hair is about communication: listening to the way the client speaks and the way the hair reacts. And curly hair has countless dialects of accents and languages even within the greater scheme of the poof. It’s easy for a salon or a stylist to tote their method as the end-all-be-all in hair care, but the proof is in the curling. Along those lines, there is a great market out there for collaborative work between these salons and stylists; if they work together (despite that not exactly making the most business sense, I have to admit), they can address the needs of more clients, and do so more completely.

That’s what really excites me about the upcoming "Texture on the Runway" event. We will see a range of professionals and products, and experience for ourselves how that may or may not work for our own head of hair. Curly hair is exciting because it’s about experimenting with your own canvas. It’s thrilling to find something that works, even if that method is not one that is recommended by your favorite salon. I’m looking forward to being an individual curly girl on the hunt at the "Texture on the Runway" event — to see how all these diverse methods can approach hair care, and do so in ways that will revolutionize all the things going on on-top of my head and inside it!

Alison Zwecker

A stylist that is both well rained and listens is a must. I went through three other hair stylists before I found Jen. All curly hair shares the same tendency to be dry and not like products that dry out the hair even more, but other than that each set of curls has it's own specifics. What is so frustrating to me is that my hair keeps changing over time. It's those pesky hormones, and the weather! Many curly girls don't like humidity, my hair does better with a moderate amount. If the air is too dry my hair goes flat and limp! Go figure. I am a believer in going natural because I am tired of fighting my hair. For me it is simpler and actually less work. More than anything else using sulfate free products has been the best thing ever for my hair.
That's great to hear! I dream of having one go-to stylist to count on rather than being a curly nomad, always searching for the dream cut. In fact, I may have to steal yours... :) (I kid, I kid)
Hey there! Great article! :) I firmly believe that if a stylist knows what he/she is doing with curly hair, it doesn't matter how it's done. My stylist cuts my hair *damp* and *poofy* and loves to make it even more poofy before I leave the chair. When I wash and style it at home, the curls end up looking great. One time, a month after one of these cuts, I got it straightened for a special occasion. Then, I could see that it was a *perfect* cut. Straight lines everywhere--unbelievable precision. Dude doesn't belong to any special curl school. He just knows what the heck he's doing. And that is why I still go back home for haircuts, no kidding. :)
Hi! I totally agree that is definitely a huge issue with the curly cut- I've heard complaints from people about certain salons giving one cut/style to everyone, no matter what people ask for. It's important to keep communication open before the cut and, when you experience a situation like yours (when you did communicate clearly!), I think using something like the salon finder on this website is also key. Curly girls have each others' backs and maybe this will give other curly consumers the tools to better speak to stylists and to know how to approach situations so they can leave happy (and come back for more). Thanks for your comment! Good luck with your next cut- sorry to hear about the frustrations! I totally understand your pain.
I got my first curly cut a few months ago on dry hair. The cut was amazing and made a huge difference in how my hair looked, the stylist also showed me how to style it so my curls are much more defined and uniform. The only thing I don't get is why she cut off more then half of my length when I specifically asked for a trim and told her I was growing it long. That was very frustrating because everyone knows if you have very curly hair it takes forever for it to show length and growth. I will being getting another curly cut but I'm going to make them show me excatly how much they're cutting during the first few snips because I'm not going through that again.