Round or Flat? The Age Old Question Rages On

scissors_hairI have mentioned the importance of a proper hair cut on a curly head many times, but I don’t think that the subject can ever be given enough justice. There have been times that I’ve looked like a worn out hag or a wet rat because of my hair, and times that I’ve resembled a movie star strutting down the red carpet of my overactive imagination (major creative liberties being taken here, but you get the jist). Make-up and general face-issues not-withstanding, hair can really make or break a look. It’s based on the curl pattern and frizz factor of the day, but mainly, it’s the cut.

Until now, I have faithfully returned to my beloved Devachan Salon in Soho, NYC. They just get it. They cut curls dry without question, and use my favorite conditioners and gels. For years I’ve tried to cultivate this sort of “Mick Jagger” curly/wavy shag that fits my face shape, and sometimes it’s great, but it grows out really quickly and needs more maintenance than I can afford. Plus, I like the shag because it feels carefree and fun, and you can’t be those things when you’re always worried about your hair.

I have the types of curls that can be really glorious and well-defined, but also tend to either frizz or lie flat. I hate flat. Frizz I can work with, since you can use good hair oils and lots of conditioner and the right gel to keep it in check. But flat, blah!

I saw a great curly hair cut on a woman at the gym, and it was short and super layered. Think Meg Ryan in City of Angels. I had to ask her who does her hair, and it was a woman named Amy at Arté Salon, also in Soho. I was displeased with my last cut from Devachan, where one of the stylists I used to love seemed to rush me and not really listen to what I was saying. They also charge a s&^%load, as anyone who’s been there will know. I decided to go to Amy for my first consultation ever, since it was free and why not. I am in the tricky stage between wanting a hair cut I can love on the daily, but that isn’t too short or sparse to be used in a romantic ‘do for my wedding this August.

Course, thick curls cut in the traditional accordion style.

Course, thick curls cut in the traditional accordion style.

I loved Amy at first sight! She was so perky and knew exactly what I was talking about. She truly listened, and even more, she explained something that I hadn’t understood before. She has gone to many curly hair cutting classes, and the traditional way to cut curly hair has been to cut curls in a pattern that falls down your head in an accordion style, meaning that each strand is slightly shorter than the ones just below it. The reason for this is that it allows curls to fall on top of each other in a less upward-direction, diminishing the dreaded triangle, but also squelching voluminous roundness. Since curls have only recently become socially acceptable (hissss), there isn’t as much request for afro styles in the majority demographic. But take my word, they’re a-comin,’ and they’re fantastic.

Curls scooped out from underneath, with the shortest layers toward the bottom. This can be done with longer hair cuts, too.

Curls scooped out from underneath, with the shortest layers toward the bottom. This can be done with longer hair cuts, too.

This accordion cutting style works perfectly for people with thick or course textures, since they have enough hair to support some serious shape. But for ladies like me who don’t have as much thick beautiful hair, and top layers that tend to be more wavy than curly when long, Amy says that you have to do the exact opposite. You want to cut hair as if you’re scooping it out from underneath, so that each hair is slightly longer than the ones below it. That way the shorter strands underneath are pushing the top layers up. She even showed me how to do it myself between cuts so that I’m not constantly coming back for a re-shaping. It’ll take some practice, but when I have it figured out I will post a video.

The moral of the story: If you’re not happy with your hair, you deserve to be for all that money you’re spending! Ask anyone whose hair style you like where they get it done and book a consultation. If you immediately click with the stylist, great! If not, try to find a way to connect so that he or she understands what you’re asking for. Pictures always help! And remember to be vocal: I had to speak up so that she’d cut my curls dry instead of wet, and told her not to use shampoo on me, with which she was happy to comply. My requests solicited an irritated side glance from a male patron to my right, but then again, his hair was super boring.

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Winter Shminter: Curls in the Cooler Months

Image courtesy of Etsy.

Image courtesy of Etsy.

Now that the cooler temps and dry air are upon us, at least those of us who live in 4-season climates and are currently experiencing fall’s entree to winter, you will start to notice a few small changes in your hair. Here’s how to deal.

  1. It will look a bit more flat and lackluster. Air – Humidity = less frizz, which takes away the added volume in most curly hair. I say most, because the porous quality of our hair is unique. Typically, the tighter the curls, the more porous the hair. Though, if you’re one of those who are blessed with lots of hair strands, it probably won’t look all that much different. Hair is also a bit shinier without added frizz, so that’s nice.
  2. Artificial heat is also drying, and damaging. Now that it will be too cool to breeze out of the house in the morning with still-wet air-drying hair, you will be tempted to use your blow dryer. May I caution you to use this as little a10favorite-jack-o-lanterns possible? The drying effects will mean that you need to do more deep conditioning and oil treatments, which we all know by now is expensive. A better solution, if you can stand it, is to wash hair at night, let it air dry for about an hour, and then sleep with your hair fanned out above your head and over your pillow. It sounds counter-intuitive to sleep on wet hair, but try it. The hair being lifted at the roots and drying horizontally gives added volume and the hair dries disruption-free in its gel caste, leading to smooth, shiny, defined curls.
  3. You will need less product. Now that we’re not fighting frizz on a daily basis, use less product than you do in the summer. This does not apply to conditioner — your hair always needs conditioner. In the fall and winter months, my styling routine is basically this: Condition heavily, wash out most of it, turn head upside down and scrunch in a dime-sized amount of Deva Curl Angell, get out of the shower, dry it gently with a hair towel, and rake a small dab of a finishing product through hair for added protection against the elements. This can be a creme or another type of gel. I like to mix products, it tends to work better than using a lot of one product.
  4. If you’re growing your hair out — it will look weird. This is just what I am currently experiencing, so I’m sharing it with you. I decided last spring to grow out my bangs, so I’m just letting the whole mess grow out on its own to see how long it can get before I hate it. Right now it’s lying pretty limp and lifeless, but when I use dry shampoo at the roots, it looks pretty magnificent. The main thing that annoys me is the long ringlets that have grown to about 12+ inches (in ringlet form) and make it look like I just have a few rat tails hanging down rather than a full bounty of locks. If you’re comfortable with cutting it yourself, you can take one of these longer curls, split it in half or in three sections, and snip off an inch from one of the sections. Making them slightly different lengths can separate the curls and add volume. Remember: Less is more when self-cutting (bad joke). Take off an inch or less at a time. There’s nothing worse than lopping off 5 inches without having realized; and you can always go back for more.
  5. Condition, Condition, Condition!!! I can not stress this enough. Curly hair needs a lot of conditioning. Try to work in one mask or oil treatment a week, especially in these cooler temps. If hair feels dry, leave some conditioner on your ends. *You do not need to buy leave-in conditioner!* Use the stuff you use in the shower. This applies especially to longer-haired peeps. If hair is shorter, scalp oils have less traveling to do to make it to your ends. If your hair is long, it needs some help in that department. Always wash out deep conditioning masks and oils with equal parts lemon juice and conditioner. It’s the best cleanser out there.

Now bundle up and get ready for scarves, sweaters, and hot cocoa! It’s right around the corner…

Curly Q&A on Facebook

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There are so many things that I want to say on a regular basis, and not everything is worthy of a full blog post. In light of that, Curly Q&A has entered the 21st century and joined Facebook! Please like my page and keep up on everything new that I and my curly friends have tried, seen, smelled, used, learned, visited; all in relation to wonderful curly hair. I’m a busy bee living in the greatest city in the world and I travel a lot and get to meet all kinds of people, so there’s always something new to share. Go ahead, give us a like, you won’t be disappointed!

Why I Love My Bangs

Aside

My first experience with bangs was in early elementary school. My mother must have thought it would be a nice change, or maybe I did, who knows. All I know is that I remembered throughout the remainder of my childhood and teen years that curly hair + bangs = horror and ridicule squared. They twisted this way and that, making me look like a sad dorky kid from some 70’s sitcom. Not cute.

So when I was in my 27th year and about to take on a new job that would initiate a very positive shift in my career, it surprised me that I wanted to try bangs again. I took out my shears, and in front of my mirror only minutes before my boyfriend was due to pick me up for dinner, I cut some bangs.

Now to preface this, I’d already been trimming and adding some layers to my hair myself, but this was still a really big deal. I cut them while my hair was straight (oops) so they were way too short when they curled up. Still, I was living in hipster haven Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the time, and half-way down your forehead bangs were actually in at the time. Who knows, maybe they still are. I went out and wore them with pride, sneaking glances in the mirror at the restaurant from time to time. It was terrifying, but so exhillerating!

Since then, I’ve had some variation of bangs at all times. Sometimes side swept, sometimes in the middle, sometimes short, sometimes almost covering my eyes. I just have to say I love them so much. They add incredible versatility to my ‘do, especially now that I have such short layers and a shag-like haircut.

Sorry to hate on you, Minnie, I loved you in “Good Will Hunting,” but you really should use a wide-toothed comb on those bang curls to loosen them up.

When I have my hair in the “pile” or “fountain,” or even a plain braid, they add some cool fringe to frame my face. When I want to hide, I can pull them forward, and when I want to see the world a bit more clearly I can put them to the side or clip them back. The top layer of my hair isn’t as ringlet-y as the bottom layers, but I can loosen my curls a bit further by pulling gel through them in a downward motion while I’m styling. Then when they’re dry, I rake my fingers down again to separate the curls a bit and add some nice coverage over my forehead.

Just saying, don’t be afraid… if your curls don’t have more than a 6-inch spring factor on top when dry, it’s worth a try. Cut them long at first, so if they suck you can always pin them back or sweep them to the side before they grow out in a few months. Or have a hairstylist do it for you, and they’ll do it right the first time. Trust me, ladies!