Cracking the Curl Code
By: Gigi Anders
Photo Credit: Sierra Santana
I spent many of my younger years looking like an electrified Chia Pet. My pre-pubescent hair was glossy and pencil straight. Once the hormones kicked in, though, that tidy texture and brilliant shine was a distant memory.
Fortunately, with the proper cut and products, I can say adios to the Chia and hola to Cheerful every day. More maintenance? Yes, especially in terms of deep hydration; curly hair is chronically dry. Pricier products? In most cases, yes. Worth it? Absolutely.
I recently caught up with our stylist to the stars, Devin Toth, to discuss All About Curls. What this man doesn’t know about hair nobody needs to know.
Gigi Anders: Devin, in the summer, we curly girls complain about frizz. Now that temperatures have dropped and there’s no humidity, our hair feels flat. It’s always something.
Devin Toth: Curly clients in general, what happens is, in the summertime they let their hair stay long and they keep it controlled. Control the curl, control the frizz, all that jazz. One day, it’s not summer anymore and there’s no humidity and they’re all, like, “Why’s my hair so flat?” Time to cut the layers! Once it’s not humid and the summer’s over, the goal is to release texture. It’s okay to release it ʼcause it wont go crazy.
GA: How do you approach a curly cut?
DT: Cutting straight versus curly hair, the most simplified difference is, with straight hair you cut it to fall Down Here. It’s more two-dimensional. With curly hair, layers are cut to fall Out Here, almost three-dimensional. Some people only cut it wet or dry or use thinning or carving techniques. They all have their own approaches. But for me, 90% of the time I don’t thin, especially in the summer. The reason is, the strands will separate and not fall into the same line and curl. And the worst scenario is internal split ends. How do you cut those? The client’s let three months go by without a trim. So I don’t trim just the outer edges. To give a good haircut you have to cut five inches deep. Certain techniques like carving can help, but in general I find it unhealthy for the grow-out. Not everyone wants Malcolm Gladwell hair. He keeps the texture out there. For some people that’s cool, but you have to know that’s what it’s gonna be.
GA: So let’s say we want the holy grail: tousled curls with definition, femininity and deliberate nonconformity. Because by nature curls are bohemian, not preppy.
DT: A good cut and a not-so-flattering cut is the difference. To be your authentic self is the balance. And to keep it healthy through styling and messy by default because that’s how the cut forces it to be.
GA: Most important products?
DT: It’s all about a conditioning cream to make the hair supple and help it be healthy-bouncy and luscious-crazy. You can’t get enough. Also, curly hair comes off as matte because it reflects light into all directions, not just one. The eye doesn’t see that super shiny finish because it’s more three-dimensional. So we want to get it as shiny as possible.
GA: Does the season make a difference?
DT: In the summer you go all-in: Keratin treatments and control. Gel holds curls. Cream creates a voluptuous smoothness. And the control aspect of a light mousse is to keep definition in longer. You use less in the fall and winter.
GA: So how do you style curls once you’ve cut them?
DT: Essentially, you need a nourishing product and a hold product. They all do the same thing but the brands that cost more generally have better ingredients, making them less drying. After the hair’s shampooed and conditioned, while it’s still drenched and at its most porous, I add cream not just in one section but all the way through so the hair sucks it all in and absorbs. Then I take mousse or gel and twirl it in or scrunch it in to define each curly section. Then we flip upside down, shake it at the roots, and diffuse it. The DevaCurl one-size-fits all is really cool. You dry the hair about 90% and tousle it all a little bit more -- it won’t mess up the curl pattern.
GA: And for a finishing touch?
DT: For a finishing touch, take a curling iron that matches the size of your curl in the front hairline and in the part. The key here is, you take individual arty curls and define those, not a big horizontal section and curl it. We’re redefining certain sections, but never bigger than what they are.
GA: Getting back to products for a moment, what do you think of co-washing?
DT: The whole shampoo-and-conditioner-in-one, no-poo, and co-conditioning have been around forever. It’s a trend curly hair girls started. They’re the originals. The idea is, once a week you shampoo and the rest of the week just use conditioner. A lot of brands do in-one’s and that’s fine. A lot of curly clients love those products for thick, curly hair. But if you have thin hair, it makes it too greasy.
GA: We all want happy, bouncy, piecey, go-go curls.
DT: There’s nothing more fantastic, when a curly client feels a little vulnerable, than having her show off her texture. It’s a little something special that other clients don’t have. Every woman should understand that hers is a a unique, individual curl. Many of my curly clients have spent years not styling the right way and trying to look like someone else. Once you do what resonates with your hair texture, it’s awesome. In other words, you haven’t been doing it the right way if you don’t love it.
GA: Devin, any new trends you’ve seen for us curly gals?
DT: Curly bangs – that’s what’s happening. Look at the magazines and the models. It’s a huge runway trend, the ultimate release of texture. But be careful; you have to know how springy your curl is. It must be long enough when it’s dry to be at your eyebrow. I cut it at the chin when it’s wet and when it’s dry it’s at the eyebrow. So I cut it way longer. It’s a geometric curl that falls like a bang when it’s curly.
This is the way the curls go, not with a whimper, but a bang.
Since no two curls are the same, you can experiment with various products and tools -- air dry or diffuse -- to find the perfect cocktail for you. These are the best money can buy: Crunch-free, delicious, luxurious.
Devin Toth loves the Kérastase Paris Full Discipline Curl Idéal Regimen, ideal for thick, voluminous curls. The scent is soft and lightly floral, and the results are ooo-là-là.
Cleansing Conditioner Curl Idéal ($20.50 - $48)
Masque Curl Idéal ($20.50 - $65)
Mousse Curl Idéal ($42)
Curl Conditioning Wash ($11 - $52)
Curl Detangling Rinse ($11 - $26)
Curl Defining Styling Cream ($15 - $28)
Phyto Specific Paris Moisturizing Styling Cream ($28) and Phyto Specific Paris Nourishing Styling Pomade ($28) are both botanically-based good-for-toi products that hydrate while styling. The former smells creamy and pure; the latter like refined butterscotch.
All curly girls love DevaCurl and it’s no wonder. They’ve recognized Our Special Needs for years. These new products weightlessly fatten the thin, with a delicate lemongrass-orange scent.
B’Leave-In Miracle Curl Plumper ($20 - $40)
The Moroccanoil Hair Care Curl Collection is argan oil-infused, which may be one of the most gorgeous scents in the world. These products are also deeply nourishing and really beautiful. You’ll want to stare at your hair all day.
Curl Enhancing Shampoo ($28)
Curl Defining Cream ($34)
Curl Control Mousse ($23)
Curl Re-Energizing Spray ($26)
DevaCurl Dryer & Diffuser Combo ($159) looks weird to the uninitiated. But that lime green hand and gentle 360-degree air flow turn flat wet curls into an S-shaped mane of crowning glory.
Used after styling, Oribe Shine Light Reflecting Spray($39) adds polish that curly hair needs and deserves. This refined formula – watermelon, lychee, and edelweiss flower extracts are all antioxidants; nourishing argan oil enhances shine and fights frizz; lemongrass extract lends luster and strength; and sunflower extract fights dehydration – is as heavenly as its signature scent: butterfly jasmine, Cuba’s national flower.