Wet Vs. Dry Haircuts: Are You Getting The Right One? 


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Ever go to wash and style your hair a few days after a salon appointment and have it turn out nothing like when you left? The devastation is real. Is it the cut?? Am I incapable of styling my own hair – and good hair days?? These thoughts make us want to immediately return to a safe place (the salon) and empty our wallets (again) for pro-level locks. And while that’s not actually a solution, a dry hair cut might be.  

According to celebrity hairstylist and master of the dry cut, Kristan Serafino, cutting hair dry is the only way to tell what it will look like when your stylist is finished. Dry hair cuts are also ideal for anyone with curly, kinky, and coily hair in particular. 

“When hair is wet the follicle is filled with moisture making it abnormally plump, and wet hair gradually shrinks in length,” she says. “Therefore when cutting wet hair, you’re guessing the accuracy of the finished cut. Cutting hair dry is the only way to see how the hair will look and fall in its natural state.” 

Still trying to decide whether to go under the scissors wet or dry? Consider these cases to be made for both sides. 

What Is a Wet Haircut? 

“It’s no secret why stylists have chosen to cut wet hair for so long –  it allows us to cut the most precise lines,” explains Julien Farel, creative director and owner of the Julien Farel Restore Salon and Spa at NYC’s Regency Hotel. “Because wet hair condenses, cutting it wet is ideal if you’re looking for a cut with sharp lines, like an A-line or very blunt bob. Another reason Farel likes cutting wet hair is that it has greater elasticity than dry hair. “The wet haircut gives you much more efficient freedom and variety of style and volume versus the dry cut.” 

What Is a Dry Haircut?  

Now when it comes to dry cuts, Farel points out that you can see the movement of the hair better; especially where most of the volume and weight are, and how much needs to be cut off. “This is an ideal choice for fine or thin hair,” he adds. “You can also see split ends more clearly when the hair is dry! You can see it all –  everything from density to damage, which is all-important to take into account to get the best cut.  

Why is Cutting Hair Dry Better for Curly, Coily & Kinky Hair? 

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“Curly hair that is really textured tends to shrink when dry and is stretched out when it is wet, explains Bumble and bumble. stylist Alex Milard. “Cutting textured hair dry helps maintain length when cutting so you’re able to see the texture truly in its natural state when the hair is dry.” 

Cutting hair dry also relies heavily on the face and features. “In any hair cut, paying attention to face shape is a must,” swears Millard. “Cutting curly/kinky hair where it naturally lays on the head will give you a visual shape for the cut, making sure yet has an even shape,” she adds. Cutting curly hair dry also prevents cutting too much length off. Dry hair won’t shrink as you cut it, so it’s also easier to avoid going in for a trim and coming out with inches missing. 

What’s the Best Way to Style Curls After a Dry Cut? 

“Rewetting the hair is always great for curly hair,” advises Millard. “It allows you to thoroughly saturate the hair with products, will reduce frizz, and allow the curls to be released and bounce up after a cut.” 

What Hair Types Don’t Work with Dry Cuts? 

Any hair type can be cut dry, as long as it is prepped well,” says Gia Wendt, hairstylist at SPACE by Alex Brown in Chicago, IL. “For example, if someone has very frizzy hair, it should be smoothed out before cutting dry. Also very thick, dense hair is usually best cut wet.”  

Can You Cut your Own Hair Dry?  

The best way to ensure that your at-home haircut comes out the way you want it to is to start with dry hair,” suggests Farel. Here are his best tips to DIY the dry cut: 

Start with clean hair: Make sure hair is clean and blow-dried straight so you have a realistic vision of the cut. Keep in mind how much the hair will shrink up when it’s dry.  

Trim your bangs: Cutting bangs is never easy, but trimming existing ones is far easier. Section your hair in a triangle (which can be referenced in any YouTube video) and part using the arches of your eyebrows as a guide to determine the outermost edges of the section. Place the hair in a comb with no tension. Use the comb as a guide for a straight line, and cut upwards with scissors. Be patient –  otherwise, you might end up cutting your bangs way shorter than you anticipated. Slow is pro. 

Always shampoo your locks: Whether you cut your hair while it’s dry or wet, always begin by shampooing with a product like Julien Farel RESTORE, $39, our non-foaming shampoo, conditioner, and scalp treatment. Using it before your cut is a necessity because if the hair is oily or dirty before you cut, it will cling together and create an uneven finish.  

For more hair tips, check out 21 hair hacks you should know.