Haircuts for thick curly hair

Written by nina makofsky
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Haircuts for thick curly hair
Good haircuts for curly hair emphasise the curls' bounce. (looking image by Petro Feketa from

In the "Dark Ages" of curly hair, there were no curly-haired models, and the only cuts and styling products were those that eliminated curls so that curly tops could pretend to have straight hair. These days, people with thick, curly hair have more options for their natural assets. Haircuts and styles can emphasise the bounce and spirit of curls.


Stylist Andre Walker established a curly hair classification system that should be the first step in determining how to cut and style curly hair. First, there is wavy hair which, if cut in layers, does not lose its gravity and bunch up. Then there are the loose curls of Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts, which respond well to styling tools and products and can be kept long without becoming unruly. The last type is for hair that has thick curls, be they corkscrew or kinky. Here is where hairstylists can get creative and celebrate the spring of curls, but they should also take care not to damage this type of hair, which can be surprisingly fragile and susceptible to breakage.


There are some key features to giving an excellent haircut for thick curly hair. Many stylists recommend cutting curly hair dry rather than wet, because it allows you to see how the hair flows and does not allow for errors caused by shrinkage as hair dries. A good haircut addresses both the bulk and width of the curls and does not strip the hair follicle by using a razor to thin the hair. The worst mistake many hairdressers make when cutting thick curls is to layer it as if it were straight. Instead, do small amounts of trimming, following the way the curls fall. Layering can be another big mistake, due to the thickness of curls. Blunt cuts also fail to deliver for most curly tops. Instead, trim the curls right before the crest of the curl, allowing the curl to bounce but not frizz. Trim the hair framing the forehead last, because these curls tend to be finer and more fragile.


Read the bible on curly hair care. Lorraine Massey and Deborah Chiel wrote "Curly Girl--The Handbook A Celebration of Curls: How to cut them, care for them, love them, and set them free," which covers everything from how to find a stylist who understands your needs and how to let go of the shampooing habit.


Thick curls do not respond well to brushing. Comb it out, typically only when wet. Super-thick styles will respond better to the top layer of curls being put up in clips to allow the underlying layer to achieve its own bounce. Many curly tops also recommend laying off the shampoo, which can act like a washing powder for curly hair, sapping it of all moisture and leaving it to frizz. Instead, massage the scalp while wetting your hair, squeeze out your curls and apply product.

Expert Insight

The curly-haired experts at recommend certain products for the thickest, densest curls. Light conditioners hardly affect this hair type, so it is best to go with conditioning and styling products that come as creams and butters. Hot Buttered Curls and Curlaccino are possibilities, as are Blended Beauty Happy Nappy Styles, Curl Junkie Guava Curl Creme, Mixed Chicks Leave-in Conditioner, Long Lovely Locks Coco Light and Oyin Handmade Whipped Pudding.

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