Since starting this blog I’ve received a couple of emails from people talking about how their hair was wavy and went straight (or noticeably straighter) after a haircut. They were upset and confused about why this happened. I personally haven’t experienced this so far, but it’s something I’ve seen discussed quite a bit in wavy and curly groups that I’m in. I’ve learned enough about it that I thought I’d share a blog post on this topic for those who need help.
Can wavy hair go straight after a haircut?
Sometimes wavy hair does go straight (or straighter) after a haircut. This is commonly referred to as curl shock or scissor shock. The good news is, it’s temporary!
What Causes Curl Shock or Scissor Shock?
I haven’t been able to find any sort of official explanation for this from a definitive, credible source such as a hair school or anything like that. However, I can share the reasoning that I see repeated in wavy and curly hair groups. The belief is that it’s caused by two things.
The first is that longer hair has it’s curl pattern impacted by the weight of the longer hair. If you have long hair, the hair closer to your roots is probably straighter (aka a looser curl pattern) than the ends of your hair, due to the weight of your hair pulling down on your roots. When you cut hair, it’s now lighter, and “shouldn’t” be weighed down as much anymore, but your hair “remembers” being pulled down by longer hair, so it acts straighter fr a while until it “realizes” that it was cut.
The second reasoning I’ve heard is about curl clumps or “curl families”. If you look at what we would call one curl, it’s made up of dozens of individual hairs, that have clumped together in the same curl shape. Curl clumps typically are clusters of hair that are approximately the same length. Typically if you have layers in your hair, shorter layers won’t clump together with hair that are noticeably longer. Part of what can impact curl clumps is the angle at which your hair is cut, too. If it’s blunt across the bottom, or if it’s angled, and if it is angled, what angle it is cut at.
When your hair is cut, it may have new layers, or it may end at a different angle than it ended at prior to your cut, and that can impact the way that your curls clump together. If your curl clumps are changed, then they can’t entirely rely on their old curl clumps or curl families. They have to find a new normal, and that takes time.
People sometimes use the term “curl memory”. They say that your hair “remembers” its regular shape. I don’t really understand what this is supposed to be caused by, or what the logic behind this is…but it seems to be a well-accepted concept. I personally am not sure I fully believe in “curl memory” just because I haven’t seen it well explained so I can’t fathom how hair can have ‘memory’. But I have seen tons of people say their hair goes straighter for a while after getting a haircut, enough to where I definitely do believe that hair temporarily gets straighter after a haircut sometimes. I just don’t know if it’s caused by “curl memory” or what really causes ‘curl shock’ or ‘scissor shock’.
If anyone out there is a hair specialist, curl specialist, or otherwise has expertise in this area I’d LOVE for you to email me if you’re open to educating me. I would even be open to editing this post and crediting the source.
Picture above is my hair washed and air dried without any leave-in products.
Do Dry Curl Cuts Help Avoid Curl Shock?
I’ve seen plenty of posts where people have experienced curl shock from dry cuts and wet cuts. I can’t say if one or the other is more or less likely to cause curl shock, but it’s definitely possible with either type of haircut.
I didn’t experience scissor shock, but I did have a dry curl cut about two months ago. If you’re considering a devacut or other dry curl cut I’d recommend these two posts. 1. My Devacut On Wavy Hair Experience & 2. Dry Curl Cut Advice For People With Wavy Hair.
Is Curl Shock More Likely With A Major Cut?
I have noticed that when people post about curl shock or scissor shock, it often was after cutting off a lot of length. This leads me to suspect that it is more common when you cut off more hair at once. However, I have also seen people post about curl shock after a trim. This leads me to believe that curl shock can happen with any haircut, but is more likely for more dramatic cuts.
How Long Does It Take For Curl Shock To Go Away?
Most of the posts I’ve seen say that their curl shock only lasted a week two. However, in one Swavy Curly Courtney video she said her curl shock typically lasts about a month, but once it lasted 2.5 months!
My hair before my devacut.
Reasons Why Your Wavy Hair Went Straight After A Hair Cut
Curl shock is the most common cause. There are some other possibilities, though! Here are some other reasons why your hair went straight after a haircut.
- You cut the curls off. If you dry cut your own wavy hair, it’s normal if your hair looks straighter than usual until your next wash. It’s normal for wavy hair to be the waviest/curliest at the ends, so a dry curl cut will initially cut the curliest portion of your hair off. It will take until your hair is washed and dried again before it will curl up again, as water resets your natural pattern. Anyway, if you haven’t re-washed your hair since your cut, do that before assuming that your hair has quit curling.
- You cut it too short for your curl pattern. Some wavy hair patterns require a few inches (or even 6+ inches) before they begin to really show their texture. Imagine taking a piece of yard and twisting it every 3 inches. Naturally, if you cut that string to just 2 inches, you won’t see the twist, right? Except with wavy hair, it’s typically looser at the roots, and tighter at the ends. So some wavy hair patterns may twist every 2 inches or so once they start twisting, but the first twist my not happen until about the ears, roughly 3-4 inches from the top of the hair. So for some people if their hair is cut shorter than maybe 8 inches or so, it will not look wavy. For others, their hair gets curlier the shorter it gets! It really just depends on your curl pattern.
- Your hair was feathered, thinned or razor cut. Feathering, thinning and razor cutting are techniques that all have certain benefits. If you’re looking to embrace your natural waves, these techniques are ones you’ll want your stylist to avoid. These cutting techniques can disrupt naturally wavy hair from clumping which can make it straighter or “poofy” rather than allowing it to have defined waves.
- Your hair texture changed (in the past). On rare occasion, it is possible to get a haircut and truly lose your waves and for your hair to be permanently straight after. This isn’t caused by the haircut itself. Instead, it happens if your natural hair pattern changes and grows out. On average we grow about half an inch of hair a month or about 6 inches per year. Hair can naturally change texture as we age or go through hormone changes. If your hair used to be wavy but became straight about two years ago, then the 12 inches of hair that are closest to your roots will be your new, straight hair, and the hair longer than 12 inches will be that old hair that was wavy. If you get a haircut that makes your hair 12 inches long, this will cut that old wavy hair off, and your new growth will all be straight now. This doesn’t happen often with adults, but it is fairly common with young children. Babies often have wavy or curly hair until they’re about 2 or 3, and then they get their hair cut around 4-6 years old, and it “cuts their curls off” and is straight after that. It may seem to family members that their hair “became straight” around 5 years old, even though it had started growing out straight at 2 or 3, it took time for hair to grow out (and get cut off) before those curls were cut off. The most common causes of hair texture are age and hormones.If you get a haircut a couple of years after pregnancy or menopause, you may “lose your waves/curls” but the haircut isn’t the true cause. The cause was natural, and the haircut makes the change more visible.
- If your hair stylist didn’t use gel. If your hair needs support from a product with hold (Such as gel) and your stylist doesn’t use gel on you, this may cause your hair to look straight after it’s first styled by them. In this case, once you re-style it yourself it should go back to being wavy.
- Your haircut got rid of damage. In many cases, when people’s hair gets healthier it gets curlier. However, some people experience the opposite, and their hair gets curlier when it’s more damaged. If you’ve been working to take better care of your new growth and then get a haircut, leaving just healthy hair left, it may look straighter. You may find that your hair gets less curly if you cut off the old, damaged hair.
- Your hair is weighed down. Whenever I’ve got my hair cut, I have to re-learn how to style my hair afterwards. I have to figure out how much product to use, and sometimes I even change up my techniques to suit my new length better. It’s easy to accidentally use to much product after a haircut, as you aren’t used to having less hair. This can result in you using too much product and weighing your hair down. If your hair feels producty, if your hair feels sticky, or if your cast is hard to scrunch out, these are signs that you are using too much product. I also have a post how to tell if your hair is weighed down that may help.
Myth busting: What does NOT cause hair to go straight after a haircut.
If your stylist used silicones.
People who follow the curly girl method often worry that if their stylist uses silicones on them after they get their haircut, it will make their hair go straight. It won’t. A single-use of silicones won’t damage your hair. You can do a clarifying wash if you’re worried about build-up, though.