Best way to cut hair: Wet or Dry?

I am often asked which is the best way to cut hair, wet or dry?   Well, my answer is, “ it depends”.
To cut hair successfully, wet or dry, depends on many factors, lets list a few:

1  Amount to be cut off
2  Time constraints
3  Clients personal choice
4  Your own personal preference
5  Hair type and quality
6  Texture
7  Very curly
8  Straight
9  Your salon philosophy,
10 Clean hair, or hair requiring a good shampoo

We could go on but that’s quite enough for now.

So lets go through these factors with a bit more detail.  A clients personal  wishes of course take priority and she may, for reasons known to herself  wish to have a dry haircut . Could be she does not want to spend much money, or spend longer than she has to in the salon. First thing you have to find out is what exactly she wants.  She tells you  and at that moment all your reasons whether to cut wet or dry come into play.

Here are some fundamentals. It’s easier to cut a mid length or short length haircut on a man or women if the hair is wet, and even easier if it’s freshly washed , and this applies to most textures.  When hair is wet, all the little kinks caused by bands, bobbles, curls from irons etc, movement caused by sleeping in a certain way, all these things can be combed away and the hair will tend to fall naturally this hair can now be cut into a new style or simply a repeat of the last haircut, with ease.   Lets assume you decided to cut the hair dry and unwashed .Depending how greasy this hair is, how the client has slept on it, (producing a flat crown area) or been using hair rollers and now looks like a shaggy dog!, you will have  real problems sectioning the hair  and producing a first class job.  Technically you might get away with a half decent cut, but because you are not styling the hair afterwards “Madam” will leave your salon wearing a pretty poor advert on her head for all the world to see, and that’s not very good for business.

My advice is to explain to the client just how much better her or his cut will be if the hair is wet or preferably shampooed before it’s cut.  When wetting down a head without washing I prefer to use the backwash to give the hair a real soaking ( remember to pat off the excess water) rather than using a spray bottle,  which leaves some of the hair still dry, and makes detangling a problem, is messy and the hair becomes more difficult to section.

Long one length hair may be cut wet or dry, depending on the texture and style, but remember, conditioned ,  clean wet hair can be layered much more easily than dry.

Wet hair being sectioned for a cut

Properly wet hair will comb through, be sectioned off, picked up by the comb and cut much more easily than dry unwashed hair.

Long curly hair, well, its not easy to cut at any time wet or dry,  if you are wetting it, remember the hair will shrink up when it’s dry, so be careful not to cut too much off.

There are some haircutters, and some very well known ones at, that who prefer to cut all their heads dry,  but not before the hair has been properly conditioned shampooed and finished ( blow dried into the natural fall of the hair) This type of cutting  is not so easy and requires very sharp scissors, as clean dry hair tends to  slide away from the cutting blades As they squeeze down onto the hair.

Watching a haircutter work on a dry head to create a stylish chic precision look is a joy to behold.
I recall many many years ago watching Vidal Sassoon cut a superb short bob on a model using this technique. ( Vidal always cut wet hair in the salon, but for a demonstration, models were blow dried carefully first)
Personally, I  prefer to work on clean wet hair. I cut in the basic shape, then dry the hair, perhaps use the straighteners where necessary  and finish the cut on the dried hair, to personalize the haircut.

Combing through partially wet hair

See the Problem?

Personal choice and salon philosophy ? well they go hand in hand. If it’s your salon, you do what you like, you can’t fire yourself! The best salons usually have a policy on haircutting. Take time and do the best job possible  and charge for it ! seems to me to be the best way for all concerned, but every  now and then I get myself tangled up in a head that’s full of knots and tangles,  greasy, flattened  from lying in bed for weeks with a broken whatever and I say “quick trim Madam?, and as they walk out the door, a bus goes by and everybody looks out of the windows and thinks to themselves, “well I won’t be getting my hair cut in that salon” ! Such is Life.


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