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Curly Hair - Cut It Dry Or Cut It Wet?

Curly Haired Actress Sophina Brown (CBS - Numbers)
Courtesy CBS - All Rights Reserved

Curly Hair - Cut It Dry Or Cut It Wet?

Talk to ten different curly hair experts and they will likely differ in their opinions about curly hair - cut it dry or cut it wet.

Although there are many other curl experts around the world, most curl vigilantes would agree that two of the best known curl divas in the curly hair industry are Ouidad and Lorraine Massey, both of New York.

Ouidad & Lorraine Similarities

Curly Haired Actress Sophina Brown (CBS - Numbers)
Courtesy CBS - All Rights Reserved

Both of the Curly Hair Divas have written books, have developed naturally curly hair care and treatment lines and offer a variety of hot tools designed specifically for natural curls.

Note:  Ouidad wrote {{asin=0609808370, Curl Talk: Everything You Need to Know to Love and Care for Your Curly, Kinky, Wavy, or Frizzy Hair}}

They also walk the naturally curly hair walk with their own mass of gorgeous curls and showcase the beauty of wearing hair curly.

Meeting Ouidad And Lorraine

I've had the pleasure to meet and chat with both curl superstars. was the very first hair site on the web to ever chat with Ouidad in a phone interview back in 1997.

I met Lorraine personally in Dallas when she was giving a "love your curls" style class at 17 Spa in Plano, many years ago.  I have photos of Lorraine from that Dallas visit.

In a sense, I am a natural curl reject, although Lorraine swore up and down when she met me that my hair really is a lot curlier than I think it is (I have natural waves with loose curls along the nape of my neck).

Curly Haired Actress Sophina Brown With Loose Waves (CBS - Numbers)
Courtesy CBS - All Rights Reserved

Although both women are dedicated to helping curly hair consumers and have similar curl philosophies, in some ways they go about natural curl care in very different ways.

Cutting Curls Wet Or Dry?

One key difference is their individual belief in whether curly hair should be cut dry or wet.  It should be noted while Ouidad and Lorraine have their own philosophies, talk to ten other curl experts and they will vary wildly on their own opinions and approaches.

In “Curly Girl,”  Lorraine explains why she believes curls should always be cut dry.  She writes “you’ve been blessed with hair that has a mind of its own.”

The beautiful blonde originally from across the pond  explains “every strand is a separate entity that reacts differently to the scissors. The stylist has to approach each curl individually, considering its texture, its degree of curliness, and how it relates to the curls around it.”

Curly Haired Actress Sophina Brown (CBS - Numbers)
Courtesy CBS - All Rights Reserved

Lorraine wants you to visualize cutting curls bone dry and carefully shaping each family of curls to allow them to emerge from a tangled mass into their true form.  Like ice sculpting, Lorraine believes there's no absolute 'style' for people with curls.

She also tells her curl followers “I can’t hand you a picture and say that’s how you’re going to look.”   All stylists at Lorraine's Devachan Salon cut curls dry.

Advantages Of Cutting Curly Hair Dry?

What are some of the advantages of having curly hair cut dry?

Curly Haired Actress Sophina Brown (CBS - Numbers)
Courtesy CBS - All Rights Reserved

1.  When hair is cut dry is prevents the dreaded post-cut shrinking which may occur with a wet curly cut.

2.  It allows the curls to assume their ideal natural shape.   Finding the proper curl shape is key for creating amazing texture which will fall easily into place in-between haircuts.

3.  Wet hair does not allow for natural curl and texture inconsistencies to be discovered and cut.

4.  With the majority of curl types, when the hair is wet, it loses its shapes completely.

5.  When cutting dry, you have the option of cutting down to the actual curl level.  Even one curl section at a time when desired.

6.  Cutting hair dry allows curls to be sculpted and chiseled to create shapes with dimension and balance.

Curly Hair Is Worn Dry

Why not cut hair dry? As Lorraine and other dry cutting experts points out, you do, after all, wear your hair dry.  Cutting the head of natural curly hair dry lets a curl expert see exactly how the hair will fall as the customer is wearing it.

Cutting dry allows a so-inclined curl expert to create perfect angles that not only accentuate a clients best features, but that suit your personality as well.

John Sahag - Dry Hair Cutting Pioneer

So is cutting dry hair the best approach for hair consumers with a headful of curls?  Several years ago I had the great privilege of chatting with  the late, great,  hairstyle John Sahag on the phone.

To this day John is considered the pioneer of the dry-hair-cut technique which he first introduced in the late 1970s.

The reason John was passionate about cutting hair dry was because it followed the natural shape according to the way the tresses grow.   John also believed cutting hair dry, whether straight, wavy or curly, removed unnecessary bulk and weight to create movement and dimension.

Curly Haired Actress Sophina Brown (CBS - Numbers)
Courtesy CBS - All Rights Reserved

Many of John's students and stylists at his namesake salon in New York still cut hair dry.

Modifed Dry Hair Cutting Techniques

Some of his former disciples have modified John's approach to suit their needs. They may do one of the following types of cuts:

1.  Starting with bone dry hair to study the natural lines and movements before wetting hair (ranging from spritzing with a water bottle to wetting the entire head) to provide a different type of cut.

2.  Starting with bone dry strands for study, cutting specific sections and then wetting the hair (partial or full) before cutting the rest of the hair damp.

Most hair stylists, even if they cut hair wet, want to see the client with dry hair to start so they can examine growth and texture patterns.   It's important to understand no two heads of hair are ever the same - straight, wavy, curly, kinky or a combination.

Advantages Of Cutting Curly Hair Wet?

In a completely opposite philosophy about cutting natural curls, Ouidad advocates cutting curls wet, not dry.  Why?

What are some of the advantages of having curly hair cut wet?

1.  When you comb out wet curls and you try to cut it dry, it just won't fall the same way ever again.  The natural shape is lost.

2.  It's more challenging to remove split ends from the perimeter to the layers. When you cut the hair dry, it doesn't give you that opportunity.

3.  Stylists who cut curly hair wet have their own valid reasons why they prefer to do it that way and may not cut as well on dry tresses, especially if they truly believe wet is the best way to cut curls.

4.  Some curl experts prefer to cut curls wet because it allows them to study the ringlet pattern from a different perspective compared to when the hair is dry.

Dry Hair First Then Wet Or Wet First And Then Dry

Edan With Natural Curls - Courtesy Edan With Natural Curls - Courtesy

Some curl experts may start off their curly cuts on dry hair to get a basic shape. Then they shampoo it and clean it up when it's wet. Then they may dry it and finish up the cut from there since drying the hair may highlights areas that need additional shaping.

For every natural curl "expert" you meet you will find different curly hair cutting philosophies. As a former beauty school student even though the students are taught a formal hair cutting system, in most schools, ultimately to do the best possible job a hairdresser needs to feel comfortable with her tools and her own techniques.

It Depends On The Curl Type & Pattern & How It Will Be Worn

Celebrity hairdresser Robert Hallowell who has cut and styled the tresses of many naturally curly haired celebs including Geena Davis recently gave a haircut to's Edan on a LA road trip.

Edan has beautiful curls which are ultimately a combination of loose and tight curls.  When she wears her hair naturally curly she often has a head full of soft bouncy ringlets.  A fun and sassy girl, Edan likes to change up her hair wearing it naturally curly as well as bone bone straight.

Robert told Edan one of the most important things to consider when cutting her hair was how she wanted to wear it the majority of the time.  When Edan told him she like to wear if both curly and straight, Robert started by examining all of her hair while it was dry.

Isolating individual curl patterns he sculpted sections with his scissors so that Edan's curls would form naturally if she wanted to emphasize her beautiful ringlets.  He also wanted to make sure that the different textures would "play well together" as he explained it.

Avoid The Mass Market Cutting Approach

Celeb Hairstylist Robert Hallowell - Courtesy Robert Hallowell Celeb Hairstylist Robert Hallowell - Courtesy Robert Hallowell

As Robert pointed out, each head of curls is unique and special.   Each haircut he gives is completely customized towards that person and their curl patterns.  No two people have the same head of hair so why should they get the same haircut?

Curly Hair - Cutting It Dry And Wet During The Same Haircut

After cutting her hair dry, he washed her hair and conditioned it. He continued to cut the perimeter and ends of her hair while it was wet explaining he could get to the split ends and also make sure the hair looked amazing both curly and straight.

Robert blew out Edan's hair stick straight and flat ironed it.  At that point he took the scissors again being careful as he nipped and tucked a few small sections.

Edan reported "it was the best haircut she has ever had in her life".  Indeed, her curls were bouncier, shinier and better formed than I I had ever seen them.

Hair Consumers Confused By Dry Or Wet Philosophies

Unfortunately the people confused by these different philosophies are the hair consumers, regardless of their hair texture, type, length and current condition.

It stands to reason that some hairdressers will be more comfortable cutting dry and some wet.  Ultimately the results are what matters most.

Edan_DSC_0171_250h Edan With Natural Curls - - All Rights Reserved

If you get a fabulous haircut that you can recreate at home it should matter if your hairdresser cuts your hair wet, dry or even while dancing to Pink, although that may be a little scary for some.

Curl experts all often very passionate about their techniques, whether they cut the hair wet, dry, wet into dry, dry into wet, or some other variation on the theme.

Summary - Curly Hair - Cut It Dry Or Cut It Wet?

If a hair consumer has a person preference, for whatever reason, then they should find a stylist who cuts their hair the way they prefer.  Just like religion and politics, discussing the best way to cut natural curls could break out into a verbal brawl with some people who believe their way is the only way.

Ultimately as the hair consumer you get to decide what works best for you and your hair.  If you're unsure, try it a variety of ways until you find the hairdresser and their technique that makes you happy with your curls.

Remember, you're the one who has to wear those curls out into the world every day and finding the best cut for your curl type, texture, length and condition is what matters most, regardless of the technique.

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