Q & A with Paula Peralta: Cutting Curly Hair vs. Straight Hair

When asked what’s the difference between cutting curly hair and cutting straight hair, Paula Peralta, Paul Mitchell International Trainer, had an interesting metaphor. “It’s like shaping a cloud instead of creating clean lines,” says Peralta. “You have to work with the hair instead of trying to make it do something it doesn’t naturally want to do. Cutting curly hair is always an adventure.” So let the adventure begin.

Q: Should curly hair be cut wet or dry?

If the client wears their hair both curly and straight, a wet cut works. It gives you the opportunity to create a shape that’s a little more technical. If the client wears their hair curly most of the time, a dry cut is more organic—trimming and shaping according to how the hair lives naturally. 

Q:  How do you account for curl “shrinkage” before a cut?

I’ll spray a section of hair with water and see how much stretch I get in relation to the dry hair next to it. The good thing is, most curly-haired clients are fully aware of their personal curl shrinkage. 

Q: What technique do you use for cutting Z-pattern hair?

can use either traditional scissors or even clippers on this curl type. Both tools allow me to address the hair as it’s living in its most natural state.

Q: What technique do you use for cutting S-pattern hair?

I rely on layers to really celebrate this curl formation. On medium or long lengths, I use scissors to cut balanced layers throughout—creating a softly rounded cascade. On shorter styles, I using a carving comb technique that I learned from Robert Cromeans. It focuses on using tension to make graduation, working with the curls’ natural tendency to shrink upward.

Q: What technique do you use for cutting C-pattern hair?

It depends on what the client wants—to enhance or minimize their wavy texture. To amplify the waves, focus on removing weight. Shorter layers encourage this curl pattern to form. To downplay the waves, leave as much weight as possible with long layering. This allows the weight of the hair to minimize the curl formation.