Should Natural Hair be Trimmed Wet or Dry?

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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 Amazon.com & Barnes&Noble.com).

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

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Black Girl With Long Hair

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila, founding editor of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008), social media and black beauty enthusiast. When I'm not here, I'm moderating a Facebook group for black mothers called Black Moms Connect.

 

24 thoughts on “Should Natural Hair be Trimmed Wet or Dry?

  1. 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 it was new. Maybe the popularity for dry-trimming among Blacks developed in part because of myths and fears regarding water and hair that some of us grew up with along with knowledge of the reasons above.

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    • 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 right hand (assuming one is not left-handed) the poem is not worthy to proceed.

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  2. 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 ;)

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    • 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. :)

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      • 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

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  3. 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.

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      • 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.

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  4. Pingback: Should Natural Hair be Trimmed Wet or Dry? | Nawlins Natural

  5. 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.

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  6. 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.

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  7. 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!

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  8. 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.

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  9. 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 long time? Did your hair suffer or not as a result?

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  10. 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?

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  11. 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

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  12. 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.

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  13. 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!

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  14. 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 to say, I’m a little upset right now.

    Dry trim forever!

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  15. 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.

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  16. 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!

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