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A definitive guide on dusting curly hair

If you have curly hair, regular dusting is an absolute must to remove split ends, enhance definition, and maintain healthy, frizz-free ringlets. While it may sound simple enough, dusting curly hair is an art that requires the right techniques to avoid potential hair disasters. From cutting off too much hard-earned length to attempting overly ambitious DIY dusting sessions, there are plenty of pitfalls to watch out for.

What is Dusting Curly Hair?

There are a lot of misconceptions about dusting so let’s address them first by assigning a clear definition to dusting.

Dusting curly hair means very lightly and strategically trimming only the damaged, split ends to instantly refresh your curl pattern. It involves meticulously inspecting each individual ringlet and snipping off just the frayed, “splitty” tip using specialized texturizing shears. Dusting removes the bare minimum amount of length necessary to reinvigorate the curl’s smooth, coiled shape.

This precision snipping is different from a full trim, which involves cutting off the more significant lengths in one sweeping cut all over the head. When done properly by an experienced curly stylist, dusting gives new life to curls by removing only the very oldest, most tired portions while keeping the integrity and hard-earned length of your hair intact.

Why is dusting so crucial for curly hair?

Those with spiral, coil, or wave patterns are prone to experiencing more frequent split ends and frayed, broken pieces over time. This is due to the twisting, coiling nature of each strand that causes increased friction, dryness, and damage. Left undusted, those persistent Split ends can lead to frizz, severe knotting, disruption of the curl pattern, and increased breakage over time. Dusting acts as a frequent reset to reboot your ringlets.

The Biggest Curly Hair Dusting Mistakes to Avoid

1. Cutting Too Much Length

One of the most devastating dusting mistakes is getting a bit overzealous with the shears and accidentally chopping off far too much length. For many curlies, it can take years to grow out their hair, so cutting off multiple inches is pretty traumatic. During dusting, you should only be removing 1/4 to 1/2 an inch max to focus on the frayed ends. Any more and you’re venturing into trim territory – a risky game with curly hair.

2. Trying DIY Dusting at Home

While I’m generally an advocate of embracing DIY skills, dusting your curly hair is extremely difficult and risks uneven, lopsided results. It’s all too easy to miss sections or cut unevenly when you can’t see the back of your head. Unless you’re an experienced hairstylist yourself, leave the dusting to the professionals. One bad self-trim can wreck your curl pattern for months.

3. Skipping Dusting Altogether

On the flip side, many curlies make the mistake of skipping dusting appointments entirely in an effort to preserve length. However, this ultimately leads to increasing frizz and dryness over time as splits and damage accumulate. Most curlies need dusting every 8-12 weeks to proactively remove damage before it can worsen. I aim for a dusting every 3 months to keep my curls in tip-top shape.

What to look for in a dusting specialist?

Not just any stylist will do when it comes to dusting curly hair. You need to find someone who specializes in curly cuts and can skillfully work with your unique curl pattern. Don’t be afraid to grill potential stylists on their curl expertise before committing. A talented curly stylist will make all the difference in achieving perfect, frizz-free results.

Using the Right Scissors

Regular shears simply won’t cut it (pun intended!) when dusting curly hair. You need specialized scissors with beveled, texturizing blades designed for curly hair. My stylist uses 28-tooth Athean’s cutting shears that effortlessly glide through each curl, removing just the frayed bit at the end.

If they’re Dusting Curl by Curl

The best (and most expensive) stylists like the DEVA Curl stylists dust curly hair literally curl by curl, working meticulously through each ringlet to identify older, damaged sections that need trimming. This labor-intensive technique gets beautiful, tailored results by treating each curl formation as its own entity. It’s the only way to skillfully remove split ends without disrupting the natural curl pattern.

Or Dusting in Sections

A budget-friendly alternative is for your stylist to part and section your hair for even, consistent dusting results on curly hair. For instance, my local stylist starts by establishing a clear parting line down the middle. Then she secures one side away and works meticulously through the other half, sub-sectioning down to thin, workable segments before starting her curl-by-curl dusting. This sectioning approach prevents any sections from being missed or unevenly trimmed.

Pre-Dusting Curly Hair Prep

Start with Clean, Conditioned Hair

You want to dust your curls in their natural, optimal state for the best results. That means starting with freshly washed, fully conditioned hair. Trying to dust second-day hair that has product buildup or wonky curl formation sets you up for uneven cutting and frizzy endings. I like to wash and deep condition thoroughly the night before to ensure my hair is product-free, hydrated, and ready to show off its natural curl pattern.

Allow Hair to Dry Completely

Similarly, ensure your hair is 100% dry before dusting, no exceptions. Cutting curls even a little bit damp can cause the curl pattern to be thrown off as it dries, leading to undesirable results. My pro tip? Wash your hair the night before your cut, then let it air dry completely overnight. That way, it has maximum time to settle into its true, dry curl pattern. Avoid diffusing or anything that could partially disrupt and stretch the curls.

Don’t Disrupt the Natural Curl Pattern

Speaking of curl patterns, you want to be extra careful when handling and sectioning curly hair to avoid raking, roping, or otherwise disrupting those natural formations. Gently lift sections away from the head and secure them without disturbing clumps or breaking up curl families. If needed, have your stylist refresh the pattern by very lightly scrunching in a bit of leave-in conditioner first.

After the Dusting Session

Once your stylist has finished dusting all your lovely ringlets, it’s time to rehydrate, reshape, and refresh your curls for perfect, frizz-free results. Stylists have various techniques like misting with curl refreshers, scrunching in more conditioner, or carefully diffusing. Personally, my stylist uses a combination of reshaping with her hands and scrunching in a lightweight cream before allowing my hair to air dry back into perfect spirals.

When to Return for Your Next Dusting

Most curlies need to return for dusting every 2-4 months, depending on your hair’s texture, porosity, and dryness levels. You’ll know it’s time when you start notting more fuzzy, damaged ends disrupting your pattern. If your curls seem rougher or more prone to tangling, that’s a surefire sign you’re overdue for dusting. I put a recurring calendar reminder to book my dusting appointment every 12 weeks without fail!

By following this guide for proper curly hair dusting, you’ll keep your ringlets healthy, defined, and frizz-free with minimal length loss. It’s the ultimate curly hair rejuvenation routine! Let me know your own curly dusting stories and advice in the comments.

Gwenda Harmon

Gwenda Harmon

Gwenda Harmon, our esteemed hair stylist and resident beauty expert at Power Your Curls, boasts over a decade of experience. Her specialization lies in dispensing invaluable advice on hair care, styling, and beauty techniques. Frequently featured in reputable publications such as Yahoo!, VEGAMOUR, BestLife Online, and more, Gwenda is dedicated to helping individuals attain healthy, beautiful hair by sharing her wealth of knowledge in effective hair care practices.