Spiral Notebook

Curl power! We reached out to a plethora of experts for their best curly-hair tips on cutting, coloring, styling and more. Read on to see what they had to say.

ditioner (a shampoo designed for curly hair is always a good choice), shampooing no more than every other day. Shampooing every day can dry out hair and scalp. —Beatriz Juarez, Symbols Salon, Miami, Florida


Fear is one of the biggest issues plaguing curly hair clients, possibly from past experiences, or just not knowing how or what to do with their hair because no one has ever taught them. In my consultations with curly-haired clients, I relate hair to fabric—the way you can form the shape as you work with it, making sure it’s balanced. Once the client understands the fabric that is her hair, we can decide on a shape best suited for her. Remember that yes, it is important to be technical in what you do, but you also have to be very visual with curly hair because the texture varies. —Christine Zilinski, Owner of Salon Concrete, Red Bank, New Jersey

Curly hair is a beautiful world all its own. It has its own shape and geometry. If it is cut with a straight shear, the ends will take an actual geometrical shape: round, square, triangular, etc. When cutting curly hair, I prefer to use thinning shears as it gives a much softer, playful silhouette all around while you can play with diverse shapes. —Giannandrea, Celebrity and Editorial Hairstylist, International Creative Director for Macadamia Professional

Curly hair cutting needs to be designed to bring out the curl and create space for the curls to form, as opposed to fighting each other for space. Thinning shears and razor cutting fray a naturally curly hair shaft and can create extra frizz and split ends—no one’s friend. Give her a soft perimeter that can be worn curly or straight, with light gap cutting to bring out the shape of the cut, remove weight and define curls. This will give your curls room to move without creating heavy, chunky layers that only look good in one style. A multifunctional style that can be worn naturally or blowdried and something that will grow out well are key when it comes to curly hair. —Lauren McCowan, Evo International Creative Director

Curly hair especially needs to be treated and trimmed regularly by a salon professional who specializes in working with curls. This type of hair fiber is naturally dry and just tends to require more maintenance to stay healthy and hydrated, so regular visits to the salon—about every 6–8 weeks—are needed too keep curly hairstyles looking fresh and well-groomed. —Manolo Colmenero, Lakmé USA Creative Artist and Owner of Manolo Salons in Dallas, Texas


When coloring curly hair, as with any other hair texture, we should be aware of the condition of the fabric that we are working with. I love to use a low ammonia or ammonia-free color, taking into consideration that curly textures tend to be on the dry side and I want to use a color that can add moisture back into the hair. When highlighting the hair, I love the Speed Blonde line from Inoar—it’s infused with argan oil and vitamin E for a silky finish. —Sharon Medina, Posh Beauty Lounge, Melbourne, Florida

Curly-textured hair is naturally more dehydrated. Keeping in mind the porosity and how the color will absorb is key to working with texture. Clients must be educated about how to properly treat and condition hair prior to and in between services—this is a huge factor in achieving even tonality and maximum results. —Morgan Willhite, Creative Director and Lead Hair Stylist for Ouidad

When coloring curly hair, remember that the cuticle is naturally more open so hair is prone to dryness and frizz. Use products that seal and add shine to the hair. When highlighting, opt for high lift colors to keep curls soft and healthy. Rich demi-permanent colors are gentle on the cuticle layer and will increase dimension and high shine. Always be sure to use a good post-color treatment that balances the pH, which seals the cuticle down and locks in color. —Cassie Stradling, UNITE Senior Artistic Director


The easiest way to dry curly hair is to let it air dry; however, if a curly girl is in a hurry and doesn’t want to leave with a wet head, blow dry with a diffuser so it does not disturb the hair’s natural wave pattern. Using a diffuser to muffle the force of the air during the drying process is also a great way to control frizz without sacrificing the curl. —Darico Jackson, ORS HAIRepair Celebrity Brand Ambassador

Less is more when drying. After shampooing, scrunch the hair to push the curl pattern back in place, and avoid playing with the hair as it dries. There are two good ways to dry curly hair: one is using a diffuser, and the second is to grab the hair loosely in big sections and clip with butterfly clips. By clipping the hair up, you prevent the weight of the water pulling out the curl as it dries, resulting in a more uniform curl with lift at the scalp. —Lisa Lobosco, Creative Director for ECRU New York

When drying curly hair, it is best to touch it as little as possible. Towel-dry hair by squeezing moisture out; roughing up the hair and scrunching with a towel only leads to frizz. When you’re ready to dry, have your guest tip their head over, and use a blowdryer with a diffuser attachment on high heat and low airflow. Allow the fingers of the diffuser to minimally manipulate the hair. Halfway through, have your guest sit upright and continue drying until hair is about 90 percent dry. Finish with a product to help hold the shape of your client’s curls. —Katie Nielsen, Scruples Design Team Member

When drying curly hair, it’s all about making sure the curls look and feel soft and bouncy. Always work with a diffuser when blow drying, and properly prep the hair with the right products to form the curls, eliminate frizz and hold the curl with a flexible memory. When diffusing, start at roots and then work to the ends. An insider trick is to start with higher heat on a lower sped, then when the hair is 75% dry, switch to cool air. You’ll be amazed at how the curls feel when you’re finished. —Danielle Valiente, National Platform Artist and Educator for Paul Mitchell


It is really important to use the right kind of products at the right time, like a gel, mousse and/or anti-frizz product while the hair is wet, and pomade and shine serum for after the hair is dry. Apply styling products in a downward motion to seal the cuticle and control frizz. I don’t like to straighten curls. It’s dehydrating and traumatizing, and takes many days and moisturizing treatments to put the bounce back in the curl. —Melanie Nickels, Founder of Raw Hair Organics

Styling curly hair is the most important thing you can do to keep a client coming back. Show them how beautiful it can be, whether it’s curly or straight. This is done with products. I always follow these specific steps. First, wash and condition with something extremely hydrating. On towel-dried hair, comb a good amount of curl-defining elixir from scalp to ends. Many curly clients are afraid to comb their hair, but curl has memory, so it’s important to comb out all the tangles and disperse the product thoroughly and evenly. Third, scrunch the hair to redefine the curl pattern. Next, diffuse the hair but don’t touch or manipulate it yet. Finally, once hair is completely dry, you can break up the curls with your hands. I like to use a texturizer to break up the curl while maintaining hold, adding shine and preventing the hair from reverting to frizziness. —Michael Albor, Matrix Stylist


Many stylists prefer flat ironing to blow-drying, but the base of a great straightening service is the blow dry. Round brushing curly, frizzy hair with great tension will create a long-lasting smooth result. I always use a heat protectant cream before blow-drying. Take sections you can control and smooth with your brush, holding it over and then under the hair. —Diane Puccio, International Educator for Van Tibolli, Corp

When it comes to straightening curly hair, you’ve got to look first at the texture you’re dealing with and the degree of straightness you’re going for. Straightening curly hair doesn’t always automatically mean we’re reaching for the flat iron. There are times where we straighten with a flat brush or paddle brush. There are also times where a round brush is needed (boar bristle or thermal, small, medium or large, depending on the length of hair, what type of volume you want and how much bend you’re looking for on the ends). When the use of a flat iron is necessary, the hair is first thoroughly dried and smoothed, then section by section we flat iron the hair. Use finer sections for perfectly straightened hair and larger sections for a slightly looser straightening. —Thomas Osborn, TIGI US Creative Director and Vice President of Education

Smoothing frizz without losing the curl: Always use a great leave-in treatment or a little conditioner in the hair to combat frizz. Avoid products with bad alcohols or silicones. The fatty alcohols are OK, such as cetearyl alcohol. Read the labels on any products you use. Know the ingredients and what they are contributing to your hair. Love your locks, and learn to work with the texture you’ve been blessed with! —Janell Stephens, Founder and CEO of Camille Rose Naturals

It is very possible to tame frizzy curls without lessening curl form. Using a leave-in frizz fighter helps to seal the hair cuticle to lock out environmental moisture—which causes frizz—while at the same time helps to shape and define each curl. —Nancy Twine, CEO and Founder of Briogeo Hair Care

A lot of the smoothing products on the market are perfect for curly hair, as they help to reduce frizziness while still giving you a soft, wavy, curly result. They help to tame that overabundant curly hair. By applying the styling product when the hair is still predominantly wet, this allows for better distribution of the product. You can then remove the excess by scrunching with a non-terry towel and either air dry or diffuse lightly. —Christine Howell, NW Regional Sales & Education Manger, Zotos International, Inc.


The consultation is very important to determine how the client wants her hair. Does she want long curls? Smoother waves? Or straight hair? It is important to first establish the way the client wants to wear her hair on a daily basis. From there you can determine the proper preparation of her hair to match the type of hair needed for the extension. For example, a person has curly layered short hair and wants to wear some type of curl or make it straight, depending on the day. Preparation would have to include treating the natural hair with the appropriate keratin smoothing treatment to bring the texture down to match what’s available in the hair extension inventory. —Doreen Guarneri, Creator and Global Artistic Director for American Culture Brands


[Image: Brent Gambrell via Flickr Creative Commons]

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