People often wonder if you should cut your curly hair when it’s dry or wet. Well, even though I don’t have the credentials of a professionally trained hairstylist, when it comes to knowing how to cut and manage my own kinky, curly hair, I might as well have a Ph.D. on the subject. After all, I’ve been living with curly hair and the associated traumas all my life. For me, the answer is definitely: cut it dry.
I’m not referring to trauma caused by having curly hair (although I have a few stories that could make a grown man weep). I’m talking about the trauma caused by a few trained hairstylists and a couple of stylist wannabe’s (aka mom and sis) who decided to cut my already-short curly hair while it was wet. Sure, it always looked fantastic in the moment of snipping, but as soon as it dried, I looked like a little boy because the hair was way too short. (Not a look I appreciated in my pre-teen years!)
In all fairness, I can’t blame my childhood haircut disasters on the kind-hearted cutters who were trying to help. Back when I was growing up, the only place to find information about managing and cutting curly hair was in the hairstyle magazines in the salon waiting area. The Internet was barely on the scene, and the word ‘google’ described a lovey-dovey expression in the eyes.
Curly Hair Shrinkage is a Thing!
I’ve learned a lot since then. In my hometown of New York City, the humidity levels are not usually too high, and during most of the year, my curly hair dries exactly at shoulder length. But when I visit my friend Torri in New Orleans every summer, the southern humidity makes my hair shrink up to my earlobes! That’s a 50% shrink factor caused by weather conditions alone. Cutting curly hair while it’s wet exacerbates the shrinkage problem even more because wet hair is stretchy.
A Stretch in the Wrong Direction
Indeed, cutting hair while it’s wet allows for more precision, because wet hair stretches and bends in a way that allows the stylist to have more control when manipulating the comb and scissors. But this same stretchy quality distorts the shape and length of the final hairstyle on curly hair like mine, and the effects are only noticed once it’s completely dry.
Cutting curly hair when it’s wet is unpredictable and risky, but it doesn’t damage the hair in any way. For certain types of hair textures and desired hairstyle outcomes, it might be the best way to go. But for people with curly hair like mine that shortens up to half the length when dry, cutting it wet is a big no-no!
Why I Will Always Cut My Curly Hair When It’s Dry
In contrast, cutting my curly hair when it’s dry allows my stylist to better assess the shape of my hair’s coils because the ringlets are in their true, permanent form. She can see how my curls fall naturally, instead of having to imagine how they’ll look when they’re dry. It’s also easier to envision the shape and the springiness of each individual curl.
Don’t Take No for An Answer – Cut Curly Hair Dry
If you have super-curly 3C hair like me, I highly recommend that you cut your hair when it’s dry. But before you get to your salon appointment, wash, style, and dry it the way you always do so your hairstylist can see its actual length and texture. If he tells you that he only cuts hair when it’s wet, then walk your bouncy curls out of there and find another salon!