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8 Things to Know Before Getting a Curly Haircut

Whether you're going for the chop or just getting a trim, here's how to get perfectly cut curls every time
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Prep yourself
So, you've decided you're due for a haircut. Your first step, according to Morgan Willhite, creative director at Ouidad, is to make sure your curls are well-hydrated. This is key to achieving a great haircut that'll last until your next visit.

"Proper hydration is huge," says Willhite. "Using a deep conditioning treatment like Ouidad 12 Minute Deep Treatment, $52, will moisturize and help restore the curl formation. This will help the stylist to get a clear visual reading of the natural curl pattern, giving you the optimum results in your desired hairstyle."

If your hair has been color- or chemically treated, or has any form of damage or breakage, don't even think about setting foot in a salon until you've conditioned it. "Damaged curls need to be treated with a lot of care when cutting," says Devachan Salon senior stylist Carolyn Long. "Focus on at-home intensive conditioning prior to getting your cut."

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Know your best hair-cutting state
While many straight-hair stylists prefer to cut hair while it's wet after a fresh wash, Jacqueline Walent, senior stylist at Devachan Salon, and most other curly-hair specialists recommend cutting curls when they're dry.

"Curls should be in their natural state -- meaning dry and curly, free of any sticky, greasy or gooey product [residue]," says Walent. "It's hard to see the true nature of the hair if it's [saturated with product]. If it's wet, you can't see where or how that individual curl lives. When the hair is dry you can see the big picture -- how the shape works with the face shape and features."

According to Long, a dry cut will also help preserve length. "Wet curls distort the true length of a curl when dry. And when the hair is wet you have absolutely no idea how those curls will react and respond dry. So, in order to maintain length, you should always get a dry cut."

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Look for a standard toolkit
Just as you wouldn't hit up a nail salon that doesn't have nail files, you shouldn't visit a hair salon that's lacking the proper curly-girl tools. To be sure you're in the right place, Willhite suggests scoping for the following tools:

• A double-sided comb with varied spaces between the teeth will give your stylist the ability to detangle and properly section the hair. This kind of comb helps control different textures and densities.

• Sturdy clips to help hold curly textures and give your stylist the ability to have full control while staying organized.

• Sharp shears -- no matter what the curl type or texture -- will give your stylist proper control for an efficient, seamless haircut.

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Keep your specific curl type in mind
Not all curly hair is the same. Curly hair types and textures run the gamut of shapes and sizes, from loose waves to kinky curls. Hair that's on the wavier end of the spectrum has a tendency to fall flat around the crown, says Long, so that is where the majority of the shaping and cutting will occur.

If your curls are on the kinkier side, Long recommends stylists use zero tension (i.e. no tugging or pulling). "The slightest bit of tension while dry cutting tighter curls and zigzags will greatly affect the finished shape and length."

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Be clear about working your angles
Curly hair is unpredictable -- your curls don't all cascade nicely in one direction. For that reason, it's important to carve curls in small batches. According to Willhite, mapping the head prior to a haircut will allow your stylist find her starting point. First, she will analyze your hair's growth pattern at the nape of the neck and the hairline. Secondly, she will look for different curl types and patterns as they can vary throughout the head. Third, your stylist should pay attention to the hair's health condition, which can impact how your curls may fall.

There are a million reasons why styling curly hair is more difficult than styling straight hair -- the products, the curl manipulation, and ensuring they all look the same for (at least) most of the day. Not to mention the whole length issue (shrinkage, anyone?). Which is why finding someone who can cut curly hair without butchering it requires more than a neighborhood Yelp search. It requires research -- knowing exactly how to get the perfect haircut with hair so full of personality.
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