When the subject is curly hair care that is simple and effective, there is no better advice than the one from a respected curl professional who has understanding and experience. I've had the opportunity of chatting with stylist Evan Joseph, the founder of Evan Joseph Salon in Columbus, Ohio. We talked about his story, cutting curls and helpful tips to make our lives simpler, plus things NOT to do before your appointment.
Evan, tell us what motivated you to start working with curls and how it all came together. . .
I cut my first head of curls around age 12 or 13 on my friend with a pair of kitchen shears in the bathroom. I cut it dry and in its naturally curly state. What I didn't know is that about 20 years later, that small moment in my life would be the thing with which I would become absolutely obsessed. I grew up in my mom's small one-woman shop, which was attached to my childhood home via a separate entrance. I sat in that salon almost every day after school, starting at kindergarten age. I went to college and here I was: cutting hair with a pair of kitchen shears in my dorm (again), so I decided that I should make it official. I quit college and enrolled in a small cosmetology school on the west side of Cincinnati, called Western Hills School of Beauty. I obtained great knowledge in traditional hairdressing, which is a great place to start. A couple years into my very first salon job, I discovered Lorraine Massey's book Curly Girl: The Handbook (this was over 10 years ago!). Once I was enlightened to the wants, needs and true beauty of naturally curly hair and how traditional hairstylists had it all wrong, I just couldn't turn a blind eye to a change that needed to happen in our industry. We needed to start giving curly haired people a safe place to feel beautiful. So, I left the big salon and went back to my hometown, working alongside my mother at her salon. Back then, unless you were in NY or LA, there weren't really many options for people wanting to wear their hair curly. This move really gave me the freedom to concentrate on naturally curly hair. That's when I started to experiment with different products and textures. I started saying no to "blow-outs" and yes to "wash and go".
How did you start working with different types of texture, including coily hair?
When women with textures, unlike mine, curiously wandered into my salon, I'd sit and talk with them, asking questions about their wants and needs. I've never turned a client away because I didn't know how to do "their hair". Then I'd come up with a plan and set realistic expectations. Listening is more important than knowing. If I was ever in a critical situation, I'd text Lorraine Massey and she would send me some guidance, which I'm very grateful for. It worked well because I believed in what I was doing.
Who created the Curl by Curl method for cutting curly hair?
Lorraine Massey was the creator of this method. There are many people out there who want to own and trademark everything. Lorraine created Curl by Curl to end her own dissatisfaction with getting her own haircuts. She's a genius! If you ever have the chance to watch her or get your haircut done by her, you'll see that it's incredible! Lorraine shared her skills with us long before curly hair "blew up", as I like to say. No one was insta-famous and there were no bloggers, Facebook groups, and conferences to go to. There were just people with curly hair who were desperate for a good haircut. Curl by Curl came from her heart. She shared it with all of us because she really cares about people with curly hair. She didn't want it to belong to anyone. The things we do are supposed to belong to all of us. It's a shared experience and it's forever changing, just like our hair. When people try to "own" things related to curly hair, they're missing the point and stealing the joy from it all.
Why is this hair cutting method so important for curls?
If you're going to wear your hair curly, it must be cut in the way you wear it for optimal results. You wear your hair curly, so we cut your hair curly. It's simple. Each curl on the head expands and contracts from wet to dry. Each curl needs to be treated as an individual. You cannot connect all the different curl patterns when they are stretched, straightened or wet. It's physically impossible.With traditional haircuts, you end up with a mixture of different lengths all over the head, or the dreaded "Jellyfish Cut": the tighter curls on the top are stretched and cut beyond their natural length to connect to the loser curls around the bottom, so you're left with a disconnection from the top to the bottom. The curls at the top create a mushroom shape and the loser curls hang down like the tendrils of a Jellyfish. Cutting curls dry in their naturally curly state is simple. It makes sense and I'd never do it in any other way.
Tips on Preparing for a Salon Appointment
What are your DO's and DON'Ts when it comes to preparing for a salon appointment with a curly hair specialist?
I can't stress enough the importance of following the recommendations of the salon you are going to. Any reputable Curly Salon should send you a confirmation or welcome email prior to your appointment. You cannot get optimal results if you don't follow these recommendations.
Here is what we ask of our customers before visiting our salon:
- DO cleanse, condition and style your hair curly (with product) on the day of your appointment. It's important that you present your best curls when coming for an appointment.
- DO have your hair thoroughly dry. We need your hair to be dry and time spent under the dryer will take away from the time we could be cutting and shaping your curls!
- DO come with an open mind, ready to accept and love your hair in its natural glory! This may be a different experience for you. Don't try to enforce traditional salon standards. The reason why you came to a curl specialist is for something different. So, sit back and enjoy this unique experience created just for you.
- DON'T arrive with a ponytail, bun, twist out, roller-set, perm-rod set, curl-former, etc. or any style that stretches or changes your hair's natural curl pattern. The whole point in getting a curly cut is so that your hair may be shaped in its natural state, so that you don't have to spend hours manipulating your hair. If you plan on wearing twist outs or straightening your hair, a salon like ours might not be the right fit for you.
- DON'T brush, pick or comb your hair out on the day of your service. Brushes and combs not only disturb your natural curl pattern, but also rip and tear your delicate curls.
- DON'T style your hair with products that are excessively sticky or greasy/oily. For example, shea butter or coconut oil.
We ask this for two reasons:
1. We need to get water into your hair for optimal styling results and these products block water out. We don't use harsh cleansers, so your style might not turn out as good as it could.
2. We don't work with heavy products like this in the salon and it is quite uncomfortable for us to work with oils all over our hands and shears.
Routine, Products & Simplicity
You often say that not all silicone/sulfate free products are good for curly hair. Why is that?
Not all products are created equally. Just because it says "silicone or sulfate free" doesn't mean it's good. It's about quality. A lot of the products on the market with these labels today aren't up to the standard of ingredients or formulation. Some are creating an epidemic of frizzy, dry, limp and unmanageable curls.
What are your tips for choosing good quality hair products that are suitable for the Curly Girl Method?
If you have salons like mine in your area, start there. We work with curly hair daily and truly know what works from experience. People who use certain products have the same problems. Those who continue to use them, stay the same. Those who follow our recommendations see big results.
- Get the product wet: use a drop on your hand and wet it. If it doesn't dissolve in water easily, it's a no.
- Try to clean it from your skin without detergents. If it doesn't come off, it won't come off easily from your hair.
- Stay away from products that are heavy, oily, greasy, buttery - this doesn't mean that oils and butters can't be mixed into your products. You shouldn't feel them in your hair or on your skin.
- Stay away from Silicones.
- Cleansers should never lather - this is an important one. Many companies are using natural detergents that aren't technically Sulfates.
- Do not use RAW oils and butters directly on your hair. If you must, mix a few drops into your favorite conditioner or styler.
What is the best way to maintain color treated curls?
The Curly Girl Method is great for color treated hair because it's very gentle. Harsh detergents strip color away. It's amazing how much longer color lasts when shampoo is out of the equation.
Any tips for volume?
Just leave conditioner in as your styling product. When a conditioner isn't too heavy and melts easily into the hair, it adds incredible volume. You can also layer a foam or mousse if you need a little more control.
There is a lot of talk from curly girls saying that they're "protein sensitive." What's your experience with your clients on this subject and what do you have to say to curly girls who are confused about "protein"?
I've never had a problem with protein sensitivity, either with myself or my curly clients. I don't like to make blanket statements because obviously, this is a case by case situation. A lot of these things are being said without any scientific evidence. For example- you disliked your results. Is that because you're protein sensitive or maybe you just didn't like the product? There is no real way to know. Your hair is a fabric, it's not alive. It doesn't react to things in the way living things do. If you use things that move freely in and out of the fabric of your hair, these "terms and conditions" won't be a problem. A lot of the time, terms like "protein sensitivity" are excuses for a bigger problem (heat damage, low-quality products, etc). It's easier to declare that I'm "protein sensitive" than deal with the bigger issue.
Do you have any tips for a routine that you would like to share?
- Never use a cleanser that lathers. It will just make your curls dry and brittle over time.
- One to two styling products with a good cleanser and conditioner is all that you need.
- If you're using raw oil or butter in your hair, I recommend that you stop. I promise that you'll see a difference. Our hair needs to be able to absorb water (moisture). Raw oils and butters seal the water out and you can't remove them without a foaming cleanser.
- Try leaving conditioner only in your hair as a styler. It will create both volume and definition.
- Don't overcomplicate the process. Simple is always better.
Evan always shares openly about his work behind the chair on Instagram with live videos and very informative posts. Make sure you follow him at @evanjosephcurls so that you don't miss them!