The typical haircut service consists of a shampoo, cut, and style. That order seems set in stone, but I will let you in on a stylist secret: It's actually quiet interchangeable! The dry cut followed by a wash and style is something everyone should try at least once.
The basics of a haircut service for the most part provide little visual evidence of what’s happening to the client. For people who are nervous about haircuts, the dry cut is practically a godsend. Perhaps you have hair that grows slowly, or you have three metric tons of it. Maybe you have a texture that not every cutter feels comfortable with or you’re starting a new relationship with a stylist. All of these reasons are valid for not wanting someone to take scissors to your wet hair, since you won't really be able to tell what's happening until your appointment is completely over.
Dry cuts demystify the process that isn’t easy for every client. We’ve all seen what happens when you don’t get what you want, and that can make us nervous to get a haircut. One bad experience is enough to scare some people off for life.
I quizzed some top cutters in the game for their own personal reasons why everyone should try a dry cut at least once.
1. It Helps Make Your Style Perfect
My frizzy mop before a recent cut.
Most stylists do some form of dry cutting, treating the wet portion like laying a foundation. You’d be hard pressed to find a stylist that doesn’t at least do finishing touches on dry hair, often called detailing. In fact, you should be wary of one who doesn’t, this process helps soften hard lines in a cut and prevent the look from becoming unruly as it grows out.
Lexi Salkin at Blackstones Salon is very into dry cutting. She likens the process to a balanced exercise. "Dry cutting is the portion of a haircut that follows an initial wet cut where the length and layering is established," she tells me. Dry detailing can add softness, remove weight, impart texture, and bring a desired personality to the finished shape.”
The difference between an OK cut and a great one is often in the details, which absolutely must be done dry. Salkin chooses the amount of dry cutting to execute based on the client’s end goal. She says, “Depending on a client’s hair texture, density, and aesthetic, my ratio of wet to dry cutting varies. Rather than thinking of wet and dry cutting as being separate hair cut options think of each as a part of an accurate and deliberate process. “
2. It Allows A Stylist To Take Less Length
Gab used this super powerful ionic dryer from Bio Ionic 10x Pro UltraLight Speed Dryer to give me a sleek blowout, making my hair a perfect canvas for her magic.
Bio Ionic 10x Pro Ultralight Speed Dryer, $329, Amazon
Gabrielle at Takamichi Hair is my dry cut queen. We roll this way because my hair grows at a glacial pace. By attacking it smooth and dry, Gabrielle is able to fine-detail my entire cut, rather than taking off large swaths of hair that may not need to go. This is crucial for my look, because if we trimmed the customary half inch, we’d be removing the majority of my new growth. That’s how you end up with an accidental signature look, because you’re cutting hair at the same rate it grows.
Gabrielle tells me, “Dry cutting allows me to create shapes that are most suitable for my client’s texture. I can tailor the shape to the density of their hair for a longer lasting and fabulous result.” Split ends always get the boot, but when done dry, Gabby is cutting only what is damaged and nothing extra.
3. It's Amazing For Curly Hair
Wes Sharpton at Hairstory tells me he employs this weapon for optimal curls. "I often like to dry cut curly hair, especially if the person wears their hair curly, as once you wet the hair, it can be difficult to gauge how the hair is actually reacting to the cut," he explains. "Working dry allows you to see where things naturally fall and see how the curls respond to the cut as you work. Sometimes when you cut curls, they can spring up, and sometimes they can do nothing at all. Cutting curls dry gives you an accurate feel for how hair will behave when you snip and release the weight.”
If your hair is curly, a wet cut could take you from a lob to a gibson girl if care isn’t taken. Curl patterns can also vary throughout the head, so cutting as it lays when dry helps the stylist see everything they are working with as a complete picture.
4. You'll Get A Personalized 'Do
Matt Fugate, expert stylist with Kerastase, uses dry cutting for unique clients whose styling needs come first. By pruning edges and softening angles, you don’t walk out with a broom-like finish.
Dry cuts are completely tailored to the wearer, and the rules of cutting are less rigid. Fugate says, “The best thing about a dry cut is it is personalized. Sometimes cutting hair wet is a section by section ‘follow the guide’ moment, but dry cuts are more of like a bonsai tree mentality, you snip a little and step back and assess and continue with your haircut."
Think about it: Have you ever seen someone getting their bangs cut while dry or out of place? Cutting bangs wet is the perfect example, hair would be blunt, get puffy, and leave you few styling options save the flat iron. Chiselling away at the edge of perfectly arranged hairs not only grooms the line of the cut slowly and accurately, but disperses the weight, so you get much more movement to play with.
5. They're Perfect Clients Who Know What They Want
It’s more than OK to be extremely specific about your hairstyle; hell, it’s encouraged! Not only are you spending your money on a service, it’s the stylist’s job to do exactly what you want. This is why going to a stylist who specializes in dry cuts can be just the ticket if you are either bossy or super worried about the result.
Expert stylist and co-founder of Warren Tricomi salons, Edward Tricomi, cuts the majority of his clients dry. He says, “Dry cutting is my absolute favorite way of cutting hair, not only because it is the most accurate but because it is also the most progressive. When you cut hair wet, it is extremely calculated and formulaic. When you cut dry, you are feeling the weight of the hair. You can see how it falls and moves; how it flows and how it sits in its natural state. This automatically allows for a more precise, and elevated cut. I cut all of my clients dry.”
So whether you’re skittish or skeptical, perfect or punk, the boost from good to great is usually in the details. It’s doubtful anyone want to call wet cutting outdated, but it shouldn’t always be the default. For many people who visit the salon, the techniques are a mystery, but it's important to know you have options. Being nervous about haircuts or extremely specific about your request are not things to feel bad about, they are things to communicate. Getting what you want at the salon is paramount, and dry cutting could be the path to that goal!
Photos: (1) Danielle Guercio ; Gabrielle Fishman (6)