Despite the fact that approximately 70 percent of women have wavy or curly hair, many stylists still don't know how to cut and style textured hair. "There's a huge lack of education when it comes to clients with curls," says Ouidad, owner of eponymous curl-focused salons in New York City and Santa Monica, CA, and creator of Ouidad haircare products. "Most beauty schools only talk about curls in regards to relaxers." Now, however, more and more women are embracing their natural texture and allowing their curls to run free. "Women are letting their hair be real and perform on its own," says Ouidad, who just redesigned her Ouidad product line in celebration of her 25 years as a pioneer in the curl industry. "Curls have a body language of their own; they are beautiful, sexy and mysterious."
Women are going natural and embracing their curls and waves.
Because there are so few salons and stylists that cater to curls, those that do are able to attract a very loyal following. "The curly hair community is passionate and hungry for people to take care of them," Ouidad says. Christo, owner of Manhattan's Christo Fifth Avenue Salon and creator of the Curlisto line of haircare products, agrees. "You create a client for life because you can provide what they've spent so long looking for," he says. "Even in this recession, curly-haired clients won't miss appointments like those with straight hair will." Christo and Ouidad both have clients who fly in from around the world just to visit their salons, and Ouidad has seen that stylists in other salons who have been certified in her methods have quadrupled their business due to client referrals.
One reason that curls have often been subjected to straightening products and services in the past is that both clients and their stylists tend to fear textured hair. According to Ouidad, however, the proper education can ease that anxiety. "Curly hair doesn't perform like straight hair. Stylists need direction so they can provide proper services for their clients and bring out the best in their curls," she says. Ouidad, whose training courses in her signature Carving and Slicing technique have a huge waiting list, encourages stylists to think outside of traditional cuts and shapes when it comes to curly hair. "You have to look at the hair and the curl on an individual basis to determine a person's cut," she says. Christo emphasizes that it's important to know that what you're offering clients will work for them. He developed the Curlisto method of cutting the inner layer of curls on a long diagonal to create a puzzle that prevents hair from getting too big. "Judge the curl and see how it bounces, then create the right angle around the face," he says. While some stylists like to cut hair when it's dry, Christo warns against this when dealing with textured hair because curls will usually dry differently every time they are styled.
According to Christo, it's also important for colorists to adapt their techniques to work for their curly haired clients. "Coloring curly hair is very strategic," he says. "You have to weave the color into the curl based on each specific curl for the highlight to be seen." And since curly hair tends to be dry, because pores stay open and allow moisture to escape, Christo also recommends preconditioning the hair before coloring, blending a treatment into the color formula, and applying a corrective masque after coloring.
Once the stylist is confident in cutting and styling curls, it's important to pass that knowledge on to the clients. "People really underestimate the need to educate their clients," says Christo, who offers a free monthly seminar on the basic needs of curly hair for both clients and professionals. "When you can give clients a blueprint for how to do their hair, they accept their curls more." Clients need to be warned, however, that the expression "practice makes perfect" is especially true for curly hair. "Let the client know that it takes time to learn how to replicate the look on their own," Ouidad explains. "That will help take the anxiety out of styling."
Sending your clients home with the right products for daily care, styling and finishing is also extremely important in helping them achieve great results on their own—and can give a huge boost to your retail sales. "Curly hair requires a lot of products for both styling and conditioning," says Christo, who gives each client an individual prescription sheet that tells him or her which Curlisto products to use and how and where to use them. "Clients leave with a full bag of products instead of just one or two."
With its potential to win loyal clients and promote strong retail sales, catering to curly haired clients is a boon to any salon's bottom line. In this difficult economy, where it's more important than ever to stand out among other salons in your area, spending money on your stylists' curl education is a wise and profitable investment. —LORI MORRIS
BRAVE NEW CURL
"Session stylists have gone from not knowing what to do with curls to really going wild with them," Ouidad says, referring to the season's runway looks. "There were all mixes of curls: loose, tight, frizzy, smooth, everything at once." At the fall 2009 Versace show in Milan, Italy, lead stylist for Redken Guido slicked the hair on top and back-combed curls to add even more fullness.