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Austin, TX – On a recent Sunday in Austin Texas, a group of stylists gathered around a model to watch curl expert Nubia Suarez of Utopia Salon demonstrate the dry cutting technique, the RËZO Cut, she developed for curly hair.
The stylists, all curl specialists themselves traveled from around the world to attend the two-day workshop at the Ron King Salon to learn new techniques for cutting and coloring textured hair. They all have discovered the advantages of being a curl expert, and the importance of continually honing their skills.
Although more than 60 percent of the population has curly, coily or wavy hair, only a fraction of stylists are trained to work with texture. There is only one curl-trainedstylist for every 32,000 curly people, according to DevaCurl, which has trained thousands of stylists at its Academy.
And more curly girls are embracing their curls rather than relaxing and blowing them out.
“It’s not a trend; it’s a lifestyle,” says Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue, a New York salon that specializes in curly hair.
There are a variety of reasons for the shortage of curl experts. Most cosmetology schools provide limited training so stylists need to seek out additional training on their own.
Some stylists don’t want to brand themselves as a curl expert because they think it may impact some of their other profitable services, such as blowouts. But that’s not the case.
“You’re adding an incremental service to your repertoire,” says Kelly Heath, Kelly, VP of Education at Devacurl. “If you don’t learn how to work with curls, you’re missing out on a huge consumer base.”
Many stylists are afraid of working with curls, which are more unpredictable than straight hair.
“With straight hair, you usually find more consistency on a head,” says LaDonna Dryer, a Paul Mitchell Salon owner texture expert. “With curl friends, you could easily have several curl types and textures on the same head.”
Others worry that it takes too much time to cut and style curly hair.
“While it may take more time in some cases, there are so many great benefits,” Dryer says.
Stylists who have taken the time to work with curls say the effort has been worth it.
“"Every day you create a masterpiece,” says Suarez.
According to a NaturallyCurly poll, 72 percent of curly women are willing to travel one two hours to see a curl expert, while 28 percent say they would be willing to fly to a salon to go to a skilled curl expert.
“They come out of the woodwork!,” says Pam Garcia of Salon San Carlos in Pensacola, Fla., whose clients travel from as far away as Switzerland.
Valerie Frazee of The Mirror & I Salon in Round Rock Texas has been a stylist for 20 years. But she began specializing in curly hair for eight years after attending the DevaCurl Academy, and has gotten additional training with Curly Hair Artistry – a network of curl stylists around the world - and the Rezo Academy. She went from being 50 to 60 percent booked to being 100 percent booked overnight.
“My business shifted very quickly,” says Frazee. “The more training I got, the more I was in demand.”
Heath recalls a stylist who came to the Devacurl Academy without any previous training working with curls. After she completed two levels of training, she was booked out six months.
“It’s great to have a niche,” says Jhane Shephard-Howard of the Collective Salon in Birmingham, Ala. “It’s what sets you apart from everyone else.”
More Loyal Clients
When a curly girl gets a great cut and learns how to work with her texture, it can be lifechanging.
“If you do a good job, you will have a client for life and they will send all their friends to you,” says curl expert April Kayganich of Honeycomb Salon in Austin, who is booked out more than six months.
Glenn Charles of Glenn Loves Curls in Dallas, Texas said he asked his long-time straight-haired long-time clients to review him. Only one out of 10 wrote a review. When he asked his curly clients to review him, 90 percent did.
“And they write long reviews!” says Charles, who began specializing in curls four years ago after 24 years of working with hair.
Curl experts all say that they can charge more for a curly cut than a standard cut.
When you’re a curl expert, you give your the client the curly hair an experience – the consultation, the cut and a styling lesson, says Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue, a New York salon that specializes in curls.
Laura McGraw of the Laura Mcgraw Hair Studio in Pearland, Texas, who began specializing in curly hair eight years ago, said she charges new clients $150 and returning cliens $75. She charged $55 for cuts on straight hair.
“I was able to stop working Saturdays altogether and still make the same amount of money,” says McGraw.
Higher product sales
Curly girls are product junkies. When their stylist can show them how to use products to make their curls look their best, they are much more likely to purchase the products than their straight-haired counterparts.
“If you educate your clients and you have the tools and products to help maintain their curls to look their best, the products sell themselves,” said Pam Garcia of Salon San Carlos in Pensacola, Fla. “Ninety percent of my clients purchase products - literally everything you use on them.”
Curl stylists say feel like they’re having a profound impact on their clients’ lives.
“The curly client is completely different,” says Tyciana Ndoma-Ogar of Just Divine Curls in Plano Texas. “They’re recovering from a lot of hair trauma. When you can cut their hair and give them a beautiful shape, you see the the transformation of their spirit. There’s nothing like it.”
Dryer says she it is exciting to change the way a client feels about her hair – from fighting their texture to embracing it.’
“You see this excitement, joy and confidence when you finish their hair,” she says. “I can tell by the smile on their face if I’ve done my job or not. I’m always working for the smile.”
Kinship with other curl experts
Curl stylists have created a community, which includes chat groups, Facebook pages and gatherings.
“We lift each other up and support each other, says Jodi Brinkmeier of Helix Salon in Trophy Club, Texas, “ I know people from all over the country. And when my clients move, I already have somebody to send them to.”
How to become a curl expert
Becoming a curl expert does require training. You need to be committed to learning completely new techniques than you might be used to. Luckily, there are a growing number of texture training programs available. They include:
DevaCurl Academy: The Academy offers a wide range of classes that teach curly hair cutting and highlighting techniques. Over the next year, the Academy is adding new classes, including specialized techniques as well as business-oriented courses that will teach stylists how to brand themselves as a curl expert. the business of
Ouidad: Ouidad's Salon Certificaiton offers training in its proprietary Carving and Slicing℠ and styling methodology to enhance your curls to optimum perfection.Classes ithe Ouidad Experience, Curl Lab I & II, The Art of Curl and The Ouidad Certification.
Curlisto Diametrix: Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue created the Diametrix Cut, Cut is a technique that harnesses the natural volume and curl of curly hair. The stylist divides the hair into 12 equal sections, which helps reduce the pyramid-like shape. Then the hair is cut at a diagonal angle to reduces bulkiness and promote volume and body on the root and crown area. Christo offers free classes to salon professionals For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org).
RËZO Academy: Master Stylist Nubia Suarez of Utopia Salon in Westfield, N.J. offers training in her RËZO Cut dry-cutting technique as well as RËZOLites, a technique for highlighting curls. In addition to offering training at Utopia Salon, she teaches classes at salons around the world.
Curly Hair Artistry: Owned and and operated by curl expert Scott Musgrave, Curly Hair Artistry (CHA) offers in-salon training, online courses and mentoring in how to work with all forms of curly hair as well as courses on such topics as salon management, how to pre-qualify clients and all forms of building your business. Curly Hair Artistry is brand agnostic.
Raw Curls Academy: The Raw Curls Academy is a two-day workshop held both In Naples as well as at host salons nationwide. Curl expert Melanie Nickels leads the class, which includes wet cutting, dry cutting and curl-by-curl cutting techniques and when and how to use them separately and together on the same head of curls She also teaches an advanced class, which includes coloring and other advanced techniques as an ABCH American Board Certified Master Hair colorist and Educator for the organization.
The best curl stylists know that training is an ongoing process. They may take multiple classes from different curl experts to learn new technques. They pair that training with videos and other on-line training. And they practice.
“Without pairing the knowledge and training with an abundance of practice, it does no good,” Dryer says.