Hairbrained Quick-Tips: Cutting Graduation

Facebook Live is quickly working its way onto the educational scene – and over the last calendar year – Hairbrained has done our part in creating relevant content for craft hairdressers, worldwide. Recently, we caught up with Ricardo Denis, Aveda Global Artistic Director for Haircutting. In HbLive episode #57, we follow Ricardo as he fashions a bob haircut with graduation. Read on to get his quick-tips for perfecting your graduation techniques – plus learn how different types of graduation can create different aesthetics.

When implementing graduation, Ricardo finds that most people implement pivotal graduation, which works off of the occipital bone. Instead, (for this haircut) he’s working off of the outline of the hair. Ricardo enjoys this type of graduation, because he finds that the results are aesthetically “a little more contemporary.” He also finds that this method can be more client-friendly – particularly when implementing a big change.    

Tip 1: Read the hair. “I always think that graduation is an experience-based technique,” says Ricardo. “What I mean by that is that you literally need to do it in order to understand it. There’s a whole series of degrees that you can actually be lifting the hair – anything between 1 and 89 will give you graduation – but that might not necessarily be the right angle. It’s really about reading the hair; looking to see if you’re building the right type of weight, or getting the bevel that you’re looking for. “


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Tip 2: Move seamlessly from the back into the front. “I think that most people understand more or less how they should be lifting,” explains Ricardo. “The really tricky thing is as you move in towards the front – because the minute you start to move towards the sides – you have to understand that the hairline is receding, so it’s not exactly like what’s happening through the back. What’s important about graduation is that you have to sort of think about (as you reach a stationary point with your over direction, as well as with your elevation) the fact that the hair is not really stationary. What’s [actually happening] is that the line is actually starting to extend out. So, in the very beginning – in your first sections – you might notice that the elevation tends to be very close, and down, almost against the skin. Slowly, what starts to happen is that you’re moving out and away from the front part. This really helps to make sure that the graduation gets carried in towards the sides, which sometimes doesn’t happen.”

Tip 3: Horizontal vs. Vertical Graduation: It’s not really about deciding which type of section to take Ricardo explains, rather it’s about understanding “the relationship between the two.” Once you understand that relationship, you can more accurately assess which type of sectioning will give you the aesthetic you’re after. “I think that’s where diagonal sections come into play,” he adds. “You know, vertical sections really act as a ladder for a haircut. They allow you to immediately climb upwards and downwards on the head, much quicker than a horizontal section. Horizontal sections kind of act like a series of steps or stairs. They slowly allow you to work up the head – so the results of each are actually quite different. One is much flatter and one is much rounder. I think it’s really about understanding how you can use diagonal sections to bridge the gaps between the two characteristics of horizontal and vertical graduation,” finishes Ricardo.

Tip 4: Sections. For this particular haircut, Ricardo is taking sections that are constantly on a diagonal. But as he moves upward, and the head starts to protrude (and becomes rounder) he wants to try and remove weight and give the shape a softer feel. So instead of keeping it quite heavy as you move up, the sections almost start to become (not necessarily vertical) but a steep diagonal. “That just allows me to lift the hair a little bit higher, and it also allows me to carry a really nice line in towards the sides,” says Ricardo.

Tip 5: Crosschecking. “To really crosscheck well, you have to understand the space that your haircut occupies,” says Ricardo. “So if I’m working from the back moving forward, I’ve got to imagine that I’ve got a haircut running this way (holds the comb vertically on the back of the head) but I’ve also got a haircut running this way as well (holds the comb horizontally from the back to the front). So seeing it from a birds eye view, I kind of understand that there’s this triangular shape that works all the way from the back towards the front. What I’m looking at doing, is making sure that as I take my sections (working back the opposite way), I’m actually pulling them out in a way that’s going to reveal the shape of the haircut, as well as any minor inconsistencies,” he says. “I’m going to be honest,” reveals Ricardo, “If I see something like that (he points to a section where the ends are a fraction longer than his base line) I’ll actually just go back in – because really – that’s what that technique is there for.”

Cutting graduation can be tricky. In fact, Ricardo likens the technique to working with clay. “You kind of have to understand how sensitive the hair is to any sudden movement, or adjustment in your elevation, or in your over direction,” he explains. “When you’re graduating hair, you really do have a buffer area, which you’re working in, and everything is really focused on that panel.” But with practice – plus education – you can master the technique, and your craft.

To see this live stream, plus many more, visit Hairbrained’s Facebook page – and stay up to date on the latest happenings within the craft hairdressing industry.

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