By Audrey Siva­sothy, author of The Sci­ence of Black Hair: A Com­pre­hen­sive Guide to Tex­tured Hair Care

You’ve seen the styl­ist in your neigh­bor­hood salon approach a head of wet drip­ping hair, with scis­sors in hand, and start to work his or her mag­ic. But have you ever won­dered whether trim­ming the hair while wet is the health­i­est thing to do?

For straighter hair types, wet cut­ting may not be very prob­lem­at­ic. Straighter hair is not very vul­ner­a­ble to “shrink­age” and poros­i­ty issues, all char­ac­ter­is­tics that are found exag­ger­at­ed on wet, tex­tured hair. So, for those of us who are chem­i­cal­ly relaxed, col­or treat­ed, or have curl pat­terns that aren’t exact­ly uni­form– dry trim­ming is actu­al­ly the best method of hair trim­ming . Why?

1.) Imag­ine cut­ting a wet piece of paper, and then cut­ting a dry piece of paper in the same way. You’ll eas­i­ly see that the cut on the wet paper is not a clean one. Your hair is real­ly no dif­fer­ent. Wet trim­ming can actu­al­ly dam­age the (new) ends you cre­ate with the trim, leav­ing them more vul­ner­a­ble to split­ting lat­er on. The dam­age is even more like­ly if your scis­sors are the cheap­er vari­ety (less than $10–15), non-hair spe­cif­ic shears, or good hair shears that need to be sharp­ened.

2.) Hair appears much longer when wet. So, a dry cut or trim will give you a bet­ter feel­ing of the actu­al, final length result. If you trim wet hair, you’ll appear one length while wet and then once the hair has ful­ly dried, you’ll see that your hair is typ­i­cal­ly much short­er than you would have expect­ed due to shrink­age.

3.) Dif­fer­ences with poros­i­ty and tex­ture through­out your hair make dry cut­ting the bet­ter, more pre­cise option. With porous or tex­tured hair, some areas of the strand may length­en more than oth­ers when exposed to water. More porous areas will length­en the most, while less porous areas will resist that extra length­en­ing. Also, tighter coiled areas may not “release their curls” ful­ly, as loos­er curled or coiled areas would. So, if you use your wet hair as a guide, you may end up with uneven hair in some places.

As a final note, if you are chem­i­cal­ly relaxed and are some weeks post relax­er, you must take into con­sid­er­a­tion the dif­fer­ing growth rates in dif­fer­ent areas on your head. Some areas, gen­er­al­ly the crown, will expe­ri­ence faster or more notice­able growth than oth­er areas like the nape. It is always advis­able to relax or straight­en your hair first, then attempt your dry hair trim.

Good luck!

Ladies, do you trim your hair wet or dry?

Audrey Siva­sothy is a Hous­ton-based free­lance writer, health sci­en­tist and author of The Sci­ence of Black Hair: A Com­pre­hen­sive Guide to Tex­tured Hair Care (avail­able on & Barnes&

For more insight from The Sci­ence of Black Hair— relaxed, nat­ur­al or in between, vis­it us on the web and on face­book & twit­ter.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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25 Comments on "Should Natural Hair Be Trimmed Wet or Dry?"

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Trim­ming my hair dry works bet­ter for me. In addi­tion, I also read that doing this 2–3 months works best for my 3c hair:


Thank you so much for the infor­ma­tion. I was secri­hang for how to add cus­tom fields to WP author page and came across an arti­cle you wrote. While it didn’t work out for me, still thanks for post­ing Word­Press tricks.Hay, I noticed you are from Cana­da too! LOL I am from Cal­gary and nice to see more Cana­di­ans on the net!


I just had my hair trimmed for free on vet­er­ans day. And I def­i­nite­ly could tell it was a free hair­cu. But on the plus side the styl­ist did­nt take off too much and she did dry trim, which did give me a length shock.

I would def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend a dry trim. I usu­al­ly dry trim my own hair but this last trim after much pres­sure from fam­i­ly and friends to not trim my own hair I decid­ed to go to a salon. Huge mis­take! The styl­ist cut, not trimmed my hair while wet. Not only was the wash harsh and painful, but once I real­ized she didn’t know what she was doing, she was already more than half way done “trim­ming” my hair. Luck­i­ly, I’m not super con­cerned with length, although I’ve been try­ing to grow my hair for a friend’s wed­ding so, need­less… Read more »
IA Betsy
I trimmed my hair 2 weeks ago and it was damp. I sham­pooed, con­di­tioned, and then made sure my hair was well detan­gled before trim­ming it. While I like the anal­o­gy of cut­ting paper wet vs dry, I didn’t want any­thing in my hair when I cut it, and it is a lot eas­i­er for me to sec­tion and part with my fine tooth comb when wet. My hair feels sig­nif­i­cant­ly short­er, but I real­ly only lost about an inch. It is MUCH health­i­er though and now I hard­ly lose any hair when comb­ing it out in the show­er!

Many years ago when I’d go to whyt salons, I’d allow my hair to be trimmed wet and they’d always take off too much. Now as a nat­ur­al, I put my hair in twists and “dust” the ends a cou­ple of times/year. This seems to be work­ing for me.


lol. I am tran­si­tion­ing and i like to cut my ends every month.Sometimes when wet,that’s because i can see the relaxed ends hang­ing out prop­er­ly and i trim every oth­er month when i just take down my braids. I real­ly don’t see the dif­fer­ence now because i put my hair in pro­tec­tive most of the times for now. This is a nice article,would have that in mind when i final­ly do a BC and han­dling my nat­ur­al.
Thanks for shar­ing


I need some advice. I’d like to get bangs. My ques­tion is how should I go about doing that? I’ve read with curly hair it’s tricky to cut bangs in your hair. I want my bangs long enough to wear when my hair is straight but also long enough to look cute when it’s curly (I have Rihanna/Tyra esque fore­head lol).

Any advice or tips?

I used to trim on dry hair only. I actu­al­ly haven’t trimmed my hair in almost a year as I haven’t been doing any­thing it that should cause the ends to split. I’ve also not applied any heat to my hair in almost a year and a half. I stick to a very sim­ple rou­tine that doesn’t involve a lot of manip­u­la­tion of my hair. I have seen no neg­a­tive effects from not trim­ming. My ends aren’t split and, as far as I can tell, my hair doesn’t show any signs of dam­age. Has any­one else not trimmed for a… Read more »
Y. Renee

I wear my hair curly and straight so I pre­fer to have my hair blown dry before my trim. I have had my hair cut while it was damp and I did not like the shape.

K Murray

I have tried to blow dry my nat­ur­al hair before cut­ting it; how­ev­er I get frus­trat­ed with the blow dry ses­sion and nev­er make it to the cut­ting. It is much eas­i­er for me to cut it wet because there is not as much bulk. I just do what keeps my frus­tra­tion lev­el down to a min­i­mum. Wet cuts have been work­ing out so far and my twists come out awe­some!


I have not and will nev­er allow any­one to cut my hair wet regard­less of how a pro­fes­sion­al they claim to be.

a 3c woman

Always I cut my long curly hair when it is dry…


Well I def­i­nite­ly wish I had seen this arti­cle 2 weeks ago when I went in trim­ming my nat­ur­al hair and end­ed up cre­at­ing some lop­sid­ed­ness lol. That’s the last time I’ll try trim­ming my fro myself.


I’ve had my hair cut pro­fes­sion­al­ly both ways, but I pre­fer the Lor­raine Massey method of cutting/trimming on dry hair only, and exam­in­ing every curl indi­vid­u­al­ly as I would wear them nor­mal­ly. I did cut on semi-wet hair when I cut off my relaxed ends, in order to see the sep­a­ra­tion of curls ver­sus straight ends. On wet hair, there’s always the pos­si­bil­i­ty of cut­ting too much and not account­ing for shrink­age that will occur when your hair is dry.


[…] Nat­ur­al Hair be Trimmed Wet or Dry? Post­ed on April 5, 2012 by nawl­ins nat­ur­al from Black Girl with Long […]


If you hair is worn curly mostly:For split ends “dry” trim is best and for styling trim­ming than “wet” trims are best

If your hair is worn straight most­ly: “dry” trim always unless you like a tex­tured look with your straight hair then “wet” trim may be best.

Every black salon I been to doesn’t know how to trim wet hair and as for hav­ing nat­ur­al hair, they assume when they blow dry your hair that all unstraight­en ends are dam­aged ends and tend to cut and not trim.


This recent­ly hap­pened to me & she end­ed up cut­ting two inch­es of my hair!!!


That’s right! *Not* every unstraight­ened end is dam­aged! I wish I would have known that a lit­tle while ago when I had my hair pro­fes­sion­al­ly straight­ened. Would have saved me a cou­ple of inch­es.


I always trim my hair dry while I’m unrav­el­ing twist I look at each the ends of each twist indi­v­d­u­al­ly and if they are dam­aged I cut 1 to 2 cm. So far it seems to work well I don’t mind the uneven lenghts of my hair you can’t real­ly see it ;)


This is what I do as well! My ends always feel nice after­wards and I’ll prob­a­bly be doing that some­time after I take out these (far too)mini-twists. :)


If you step by here again I have few ques­tions to ask you ^-^ :

- How many times do you trim your hair that way ?
— Are you a mini-twist lover (well I am jaja­ja ^^) ?
— Wether you are or aren’t how loong can you wear your mini twists
— Do you make them on stretched hair, if so using which method ? 

Sor­ry for the spel­li­ing mis­takes :D

Annie L.
While I’ve always dry-trimmed permed and nat­ur­al, I pret­ty much half-assed it. I used curved nail scis­sors (strike 1), pulled each sec­tion straight (strike 2) and nev­er heed­ed the dif­fer­ences in pat­tern and curl size as far as length was con­cerned so my cuts were always a dis­as­ter (strike 3). I wish I thought about num­bers 2 and 3 before, because now — I no longer cut my hair :) Side note: dry-trim­ming always seemed some­thing Black peo­ple did while Whites wet-trimmed as far as I knew, Lol! I remem­ber dry-trim­ming becom­ing the rage in ‘non-Black salons’ maybe 10 years ago, like… Read more »
One last note (maybe I should edit mes­lyf, but that’s anoth­er post): my men­tor in col­lege, a won­der­ful human being and poet, Dick Hugo, gave won­der­ful advice about a poem mak­ing it to the final round. Take your best line out of the poem. The one you worked hours to get to, the line for which you cre­at­ed the poem. Throw it away.If the poem could stand on its own, apart from that one won­der­ful line, you had the mak­ings of a good poem. One that need­ed more work, but one with potential.Until we are ready to cut off our… Read more »

I will be BCing soon and would like to know what type of trim­ming scis­sors is pre­ferred?