Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Cutting Curly Hair Short

Q: I have naturally curly, very thick hair and have always kept it long. It starts out growing straight, but then curls right about my temple area of my head. I would love to have it short, but I'm worried it will curl up and leave me looking like Shirley Temple, which I don't want! So if I cut it just above the ears, would it be possible that it would be smooth and somewhat straight, or would it just curl right away? Thank you.
A: I'm afraid the odds are good that by cutting your hair short, your hair is going to simply curl right up and give you the Shirley Temple effect you so dread. You see, the wave pattern of the hair is caused by the shape of the follicle openings on the scalp. The reason your hair looks as though it ‘grows straight’ as it exits the scalp is that it has been weighed down by the length of the strands. As the length progresses there is less weight below the particular segment of the strand and the hair is able to follow it’s natural pattern, growing curlier as it gets longer.
Imagine a garden hose that is coiled on a spool. When you take it off the spool, if you lift one end of the hose and hold it up, it begins to straighten out, but as you follow it down to the point where the weight of the hose becomes supported by the ground and isn’t pulling on the hose, it stays coiled.
Of course, you could always opt for the shorter cut and use a straightening iron (or flat iron) to smooth out the curl. With shorter hair this is a faster procedure and you can get as much or as little straightness as you want depending on the amount of heat applied, the products you use, and the length of time you spend “pressing out” the curl.
Aside from this method, you could also try a “thio-relaxer”, which is basically a permanent wave without rollers. The waving lotion is applied to the hair, combed through carefully, allowed to process until the hair hangs straighter (but no longer than the directions listed for the perm formula on the packaging) and the rinsed and neutralized just like a regular perm (except that the neutralizer is combed through the hair as well). Many women with extremely curly hair find this to be a useful method for minimizing the amount of natural curl they have. You can even use a straightening iron on hair treated in this manner for an extra smooth finish.
Related posts:
Hair straightening
Building a better curl
How to maintain curly hair
The different wave patterns of hair
Naturally curly hair advantages and problems