American Curl: Loosen Up

“Curl shrinkage”  is just a natural part of every curly client’s life. But that doesn’t stop them from asking their stylist to make their curls “look longer” —a request that takes a skilled hand to accomplish. The stylistic goal: Keep the curl defined, while gently elongating the hair. “The diameter of the curl bend is what dictates the amount of shrinkage,” says Tippi Shorter, Aveda Global Artistic Director for Texture. “The bend is determined by the way the hair follicle is formed underneath the skin’s surface. Straight and wavy hair have straighter follicles, curly hair has an oval follicle and tightly coiled hair has an elliptical follicle, which produces the tightest bend.” Being able to visually “lengthen” curls broadens the style options you can offer your curly clients. Read on for Shorter’s style-savvy, curl-elongating tips.

Q: How do curl-lengthening products work?

A: The weight of a product plays a big role in stretching out curls, as well as what you do to the hair after the product is applied. To elongate curls, use a heavier moisturizing cream or gel. I like to use Aveda Be Curly Curl Controller. Then, after product application, physically stretch out the curls. I opt to use a paddle brush or wide-tooth comb to gently pull the curls downward, training them to hang lower. For maximum elongation, dry the hair with a diffuser while stretching out the curls. 

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Q: How do you elongate each curl type?

A: Waves only have a 5 to 20 percent shrinkage rate. Just using an emollient-rich product, like Aveda Be Curly Curl Controller, should elongate the wave. Spiral curls have a 20 to 50 percent shrinkage rate. For added length, I use a prep product, like Aveda Be Curly Style Prep, and layer hydrating Aveda Be Curly Curl Controller over it. After application, I stretch the hair while drying. Tight, zigzag coils have a 50 to 90 percent shrinkage rate, so you really need that added weight and downward manipulation. I leave a small amount of conditioner in the hair, followed by layers of Aveda Be Curly Style Prep, Aveda Be Curly Curl Controller, and a light gel, like Aveda Confixor Liquid Gel, for added hold. Then I stretch the hair while blow-drying and pull the roots downward after the hair is completely dry. 

Q: What tricks do you suggest to your clients for longer-looking curls at home?

A: The easiest way for a client to elongate their curls at home is a combination of product layering and tension. Make sure they have the right product combination for their specific curl type, and suggest that they utilize bedtime to stretch out their curls. If they place their hair in a large, tight twist before they go to bed, the tension in the twist elongates the curls for maximum length when they wake up.