Dry Cutting Is the Method of Choice for Stylists—Here's Why

Model with a shaggy haircut.

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I love a dry cut, both as a hairstylist and as a client. When I'm behind the chair, a dry haircut gives me the opportunity to witness and work with someone's hair as-is: The way it's worn on a regular basis, how it's styled (or not styled), how long a client will go between washing their hair. I receive so much information about the way my client lives through their tresses when I'm dry cutting their hair.

As a client myself, wet cuts have always tended to deceive me a bit. My hair shrinks up after it's blowdried and I almost always walk away with something shorter than I'd hoped for. Plus, I end up with either a voluminous head of blown-out curls in a shape I would never feel comfortable wearing myself, or I opt out by passing on the blow-dry and experience a rough air dry that needs tending to when I get home. My natural waves and I have had a hard time with our loyalties over the years, but what I have learned is that dry cuts have always served me best.

Now, there are plenty of perks to getting a dry cut. And as my dear friend and fellow hairstylist Neil Grupp says, "we can save the water and the environment one dry haircut at a time." But of course, we at Byrdie understand the hesitations if dry-cutting is new territory for you.  So naturally, we tapped Grupp and New York-based hairstylist Teddi Cranford to get their expert advice on dry cutting. Read on for the main takeaways you need to know.

Meet the Expert

What Is a Dry Cut?

Cutting the hair while dry is pretty straightforward—no water at all gets put on the hair, and all cutting techniques are done on hair that's 100 percent dry, explains Grupp. "Dry cutting allows the natural texture of your hair to thrive," says Cranford. She continues: "This specific cutting method carves out individual strands of your hair, and in doing so creates air and space in each strand of hair, which will allow the natural movement in the hair to come to life."

Many hair salons won't ask you to do much to your hair before you step in the door, but when visiting a salon or stylist that specializes in dry cutting, you may be asked to arrive with freshly washed, air-dried hair. Don't be alarmed by the ask: This service is in your favor. "Through a detailed client consultation, our stylists will evaluate the hair based on density, texture, and shape in conjunction with our client's most prominent facial features to provide individual, well-tailored haircuts," Cranford says. All to say, there's no shortage of the classic "salon experience," but things may take a different order of approach.

What Are the Benefits of a Dry Cut?

"The benefits of a dry cut are bottomless," Grupp tells us, explaining that dry cuts offer a great visual for the stylist, allowing them to actually see the client's hair texture in all its glory. "People don't wear their hair wet," he points out, making a dry cut more authentic to a client's individual beauty, but also their lifestyle. Plus, if you aren't looking for that massage and shampoo fix, "your appointments can be done in half the time."

"The technique of dry cutting is something that I have spent years perfecting," says Cranford, who explains that the dry cutting technique enables a stylist to carve out the hair's weight and density, section by section. According to Cranford, this detailed carving produces a dynamic, one-of-a-kind haircut for every client. So instead of following a more technical, automatic approach to requests like long layers or an a-line bob, "a dry cut allows the stylist to take a step back and evaluate from all angles, communicating with the client throughout the entire haircut, not just in the initial consultation."

Who Should Avoid a Dry Cut?

While it isn't a matter of avoidance, per se, Cranford notes the only haircuts done wet in her salon are short tapered cuts, which she and her stylists approach with a razor to allow for the most dynamic shape, texture, and movement. But even despite the one-off approach, she still believes that all hair types from thick, super tight, curly hair to finer hair that doesn't take to shape well can benefit from a dry haircut.

With thicker, curlier tresses, dry-cutting techniques can be extremely beneficial to avoid that shrinking effect that can come after a wet cut. "The more textured or higher density the hair type, the more crucial your cutting method needs to be," says Grupp. Even when it comes to dry cutting for finer strands, seeing how a cowlick sits while the hair is dry before adding any layers can make a world of difference in creating a cut that helps enhance the desired volume and movement. So no matter what it is you're trying to address in a cut for your specific hair type, Grupp advises that none of us avoid the dry cut approach: "It's for all hair."

Can Wet and Dry Cut Techniques Be Combined?

Getting a dry cut doesn't mean you always have to forego the relaxing head massage at your salon's shampoo bowl. You could rinse and style after your dry cut if you're in the mood to splurge on that blown-out and curled style that you struggle to recreate at home. "Often, if I am doing a short tapered haircut I will start with wet hair and try to catch a vibe by using the client's facial points and some of my favorite short hair references," says Cranford. "As the hair begins to take shape, I’ll often trade my razor for a blow dryer and brush to begin styling the hair with some healthy movement."

Seeing the hair in different postures and shapes can be beneficial for the stylist in making those fine-tuning details before you walk out the door. "Once I can see the hair dried and styled I will go in with my shears as a final step on dry hair to tweak parts of the haircut that I couldn’t previously see when the hair was wet." Wet and dry methods can certainly be combined, and jointly may offer an extremely thoughtful cut. If you regularly switch up the way you wear your hair (naturally wavy, blown out straight, etc), a combo cut is definitely worthy of your consideration.

The Final Takeaway

Alas, there is truly no shortcoming to dry haircuts. They can do wonders for all hair types and textures, and incorporating this method into your cut and style can only offer a well-rounded, thoughtful approach to your 'do. At Cranford's salon, the dry-cutting approach goes beyond a desire to please: "We aim to give each client a haircut they can live in, with minimal product and styling required on a day to day basis." If dry cutting equates to one-of-a-kind shapes and minimal daily styling, we can't think of a reason not to give this method a whirl.

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