Curl Tips & Tricks: Z-Pattern Curls

Lupita Nyong’o, Solange Knowles, Janelle Monáe and Jill Scott—more and more women with z-pattern curls are going natural. The reason why? “It’s a beautiful hair texture,” says Bronwen Robinson, Executive Director of Global Brand Artistry for Bumble and bumble. “Z-pattern curls are special because they’re a flatter curl. They can be soft, fine or coarse. And, clients with zigzag curls tend to have an interesting combination of curl patterns. That’s the magic of this curl type, its uniqueness—especially now with so many different blended backgrounds in the population.” Here, Robinson explains the best ways to serve your z-pattern curl clients.

Q: How should hairdressers handle z-pattern curls at the shampoo bowl?

A: First, identify the porosity of the hair. Does the curl need extra moisture? If z-pattern curls are coarser or extra dry, you might want to consider co-washing the hair with a conditioner, like Bb.Curl Custom Conditioner, instead of shampooing. This allows the hair to hold onto its natural oils. If the hair is softer, and not so porous, you can use a regular shampoo and conditioner. 

Q: How should hairdressers style z-pattern curls?

A: Anticipate shrinkage when styling z-pattern curls. There are different techniques you can try to set the hair and stretch out the curl. Sometimes I like to use a knitting needle or a tail comb and apply Bb.Curl Anti-Humidity Gel-Oil to set the hair and alter the shape of the curl. Many clients with z-pattern curls love our Bb.Curl Anti-Humidity Gel-Oil because it gives them control and shine, as well as humidity protection. It’s important to use the gel-oil when the hair is really wet. I prefer to take small sections and press the gel-oil into the hair using a technique we call ribboning. Once you’ve smoothed the curl, let the hair air-dry or use a diffuser. After it’s dry, you can shake out the curls for lots of volume. 

Q: What tips do you have for hairdressers when they’re cutting z-pattern curls? 

A: Always consider how much z-pattern curls shrink. Most of the time, clients with z-pattern curls don’t want to cut off that much of their hair. So quite often we cut z-pattern curls dry, and cut only the minimum amount. This curl pattern shrinks so much more than you’d think—up to 75 percent curl shrinkage.


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