Here's What Happened When I Let a Complete Stranger Chop Off All My Hair
I can explain.
Leaving behind Devachan Salon, the NYC-based hair salon that welcomed me into a galaxy of cuts and color treatments designed specifically for curly hair, was one of the most traumatic parts about my relocation to Chicago six months ago. Because in addition to waving goodbye to friends and family, saying hello to a new city often times means cutting ties with the trusted glam squad that's become more like extended family over the years. And that can be especially traumatic if you've got curly hair as big as mine.
Luckily, the Windy City, home to O.G. natural hair bloggers Afrobella and Black Girl with Long Hair, has a hair scene that's crawling with stylists who specialize in dry cuts and natural styling methods that curly hair craves. And after asking around for weeks, my sources unanimously led me to one person: Coral Gable, stylist and owner of Penny Lane Studios in Chicago's Logan Square area.
As a certified DevaCurl educator, Gable is not only familiar with the products and cut and color techniques that my curls had been spoiled by at Devachan, they're all she offers her curly-haired clients at Penny Lane. And just like that, she qualified to take on the biggest transformation my hair has ever seen. Shortly after our very first handshake and a brief consultation, I entrusted Gable to take my hair from curly 'fro to curly pixie.
New city, new style, right? After months of letting my hair grow into a ball of frizzy, unruly, parched coils with brassy ombré tips out of fear for letting a stranger come near my strands, I found myself pining for short cuts that would take the guesswork out of my daily styling routine, and I morphed into a double-tapper of all #shorthair photos that came across my Instagram feed. But, naturally, as someone who hid behind my 'fro my entire life, I had some concerns about going for the big chop. And like the pro that she is, Gable had solutions for all my woes, giving me the nudge I needed to commit to my cut crush. If you're mulling over a snip of your own, here are Gable's top 5 tips that coaxed me into taking the plunge.
1. Will my hair texture be able to pull it off? Because I was inherently drawn to cuts on women with finer hair textures than my own, Gable took the time to research photos of women with similar styles and textures to give me a realistic perspective of what the cut would look like with my curl pattern. "It's less about fighting your texture and more about working with it to benefit you," she said.
2. What if I find that we've gone too short? It's happened far too many times in my lifetime as a curly girl. You request a trim only to come home, wash your hair, and watch your curls shrink into a curly bob. So, I had to confirm that my pixie wouldn't transform into a Napoleon Dynamite-esque 'fro once I was left to my own devices. "That's the reason I like doing two cuts. First, we'll start with a cut that will leave your hair longer than what we're actually going for. Then, we'll wash, style, and do a bigger cut so that the both of us can truly get a sense of the shape in relation to the curl and see what the real length is going to look like," she explained.
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3. Is this the right season to go short? Apparently so! "This is the perfect time to get a cut like this because you have a little bit of time to get a feel for it before the real humidity hits this summer," says Gable, though she admits that Chicago's proximity to Lake Michigan keeps it pretty humid year-round. To avoid falling victim to the city's humidity, Gable recommends using moisture-rich products like my fave DevaCurl SuperCream Coconut Curl Styler ($28, devacurl.com).
4. How can I ensure that it grows back healthy and shiny? "Try to re-style every three days to maintain the shine and definition. Getting it soaking wet and conditioning it more often will promote healthier hair growth. And if you want to maintain the cut, get a trim every eight to 10 weeks." Gable's conditioning prescription for me is the DevaCurl One Condition Decadence ($22, devacurl.com), but if you've got wavy hair, the brand is launching One Condition Delight, a conditioner formulated especially for looser curls, this month!
5. What happens when I hit the awkward phase? Luckily, we went with a style that Gable didn't think would cause too much strife in the new growth phase. "Your hair is going to grow outward before it grows downward, and we want it to all grow as a unit so that you can maintain the shape. I would just cut the hair at the nape of your neck to avoid it from looking like a mullet."
I left Penny Lane feeling as though I was showing my face for the first time. My cheekbones felt a little higher and my eyes a bit wider, and I've found a whole new appreciation for my curl pattern. I'd say that was a successful cut, for sure.