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Hair > Articles > Dry Cutting Tips and Tricks

By Cailley Hammel

Think about it: how often do you dry cut? Many stylists dry cut only at the end of a haircut–just for the finishing touches and nothing more. If that sounds like you, international hairstylist David Kinigson thinks you should reconsider.

“Haircutting is both a science and an art,” David says. “The science of haircutting reveals the tools, pathways and secrets, which unlocks the door to the spiritual art of revealing true beauty."

While wet cutting certainly is one way to unlock that beauty you as a stylist strive for, David believes dry cutting offers you a world of different benefits as an artist that can yield amazing results.

“In wet cutting, we see the directional patterns of growth and the distinct planes of the head,” David says. “With dry haircutting, we see movement and feel the texture of the hair.”

Ready to take the plunge into dry cutting? Here are David’s 10 pieces of advice for tackling the dry cut. Give it a shot, and you could add a new world of expertise to your haircutting arsenal.

Step 1: Pay Attention During the Consultation
It’s not just stylists who are accustomed to the wet cut–their clients are as well. As a result, it might take a little gentle coaxing to win your client's trust and convince them the dry cut is the right way to go. “Ask simple, yet focused, questions,” David says. “Find out what’s important to them; what concerns they have. By developing powerful listening skills you will ‘get in her world.’”
David says this step involves more than listening–it’s about watching. Every client is a new, totally unique cut waiting to blossom. The dry cut allows for you as the stylist to organically approach the cut, let your client be your muse and “look for what wants to be cut,” as David says.

Step 2: Think Before You Act
As we just said, each client who sits in your chair is a haircut waiting to happen. Yet to reach the best possible outcome, you need to be careful about your choices first. David advises considering the hairline, texture, length and hair condition to see what kind of creation you can cut from it.
Be sure to comb before cutting. David says combing reveals growth patterns, hubs and planes, all of which can help you create the perfect cut. “Make mental post-its,” David says, and then move onto the preparation.

Step 3: Prep Properly
David recommends a three-step process to prepare the hair for dry cutting. First, comb a heat protector through clean and conditioned wet hair. Then use a paddle brush to wrap-blow dry for natural movement and volume at the base. Finally, iron the hair to even out texture and flatten the cuticle layer. Then you’re ready to cut.

Step 4: Think Soft
“The art of dry haircutting is about finesse and creating sophisticated shapes,” David says. That starts with leaving the perimeter soft, which gives you more options. “Don’t commit to a blunt line too soon unless you’re absolutely certain you want a solid blunt line,” David says. “…It’s easier to harden up a soft line than it is to soften a hard line.”
To leave weight and remove length, hold the hair down and out. To create movement and leave length, hold hair up and out. Less tension gives the cut a looser feel.

Step 5: Free the Hair
There are a slew of dry cutting techniques that will enhance your cut with interior and dimensional movement. Try reverse graduation, carving, slide cutting and surface cutting. Or try some of David’s specialized techniques, like “Flirting with Precision,” which involves elevating hair and cutting it just before the density of your guide, “X-Blending,” which involves using a thinning shear to cross concave and take out weight in a finite area, and point cutting, which involves using the tips of your shears to create a diagonal pointed effect that will distress the line or break up the weight.
But as you cut, take time to pause and observe. “Run your fingers through the hair forward, then back,” David says. “Watch how the cut flows and moves or where the flow of energy stops flowing.” Always keeping an eye out for weak spots ensures your client leaves with an energy-packed cut.

Step 6: Think Round
“Some haircuts miss the mark of excellence because the final shape was cut too square,” David says, “Round is generally more flattering than square, adding fresh dimensionality to existing shapes.” Include rounder sections in your cuts (they’re softer), as well as point-to-point triangles (the only self-supporting geometric shape) and corners to add dimension and interest to your cut.

Step 7: Integrate Wet and Dry
Wet and dry cutting are not mutually exclusive. Before you approach a cut, not only must you consider all of the facets of your client's hair, you must consider how you begin—every cut requires a different starting point. That starts with the question: "Wet or dry?"
“Your target, or desired final shape, is a relative function of assimilating many variables and applying many techniques relative to the situation you’re addressing,” David says. He often works from wet to dry with short styles, and a complete dry haircut with longer hairstyles—but it all comes down to personal choice. 

Step 8: When Less is More
When dry cutting, special consideration must be paid to long hair–you as the stylist have the power to create the illusion of length while still taking from it. One way to achieve this is by cutting back and creating steep or subtle angles for movement and dimension. Also try considering angles and dimensions aside from 45/90/180 to give your cut an extra edge.

Step 9: Blend
“Dry cutting allows us to blend through techniques and planes of the head so that the line, the graduation and layers disappear into a flattering dimensional shape that looks perfect no matter how it moves,” David says. David’s approach to blending requires passing over key connecting areas of the head (or hubs), and planes of the head and removing the smallest amount of hair. Look for the seams where planes meet and blend. Look for the hair that falls in more than one plane and blend. It’s a practice that requires patience, but the final outcome is sure to convince you the time was well spent.

Step 10: Bend the Rules
As is true with anything, once you learn the rules, you can break them and make them your own. David recommends playing with asymmetry in dry cutting to take your cut to the next level.

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