Top Tips for Barbers Cutting and Styling Afro Hair

Published 27th Sep 2023 by PB Admin

It’s likely that a range of hair textures will step through your door each day, including Afro hair. Mastering texture is one of the marks of a good barber so MB asked barbers for their ultimate top tips for cutting and styling Afro hair.

Perfect your Prep

Like with most haircuts, preparation is key. Making sure that Afro hair is moisturised before cutting will help with controlled cutting while adding hydration (which is always a bonus!). “I find that it’s best to cut textured hair when it is slightly damp, so I mist the hair with water and a leave-in conditioner too,” says Simon Townley, Matrix Artist Ambassador. However, don’t dampen the hair too much to the point that it changes the curl pattern and length. Session Stylist Lisa Farrall says: “Make sure you can shape and mould it without altering the true state of the hair.”

You could also add an extra layer of safety with a heat protectant spray to prepare for later styling. Ultimately, something to note is that all clients with Afro hair will have different hair needs, so keeping those two central preparation products, and water, on hand is important. As summarised by Klerissa McDonald, hair and business coach and Director of The Curly by Nature Group, “These essential products make up a versatile toolkit as they can be mixed and blended to cater to your clients’ specific needs every time.”

Trustworthy Tools

When it’s time for to cut Afro hair, the idea that every client’s hair needs are distinct still stands, although there are a few tips that you could stick to. Avoid using tools that can reduce volume or that apply too much tension on the hair. “Afro hair thrives off of its volume and curl, so it’s important to maintain structure at the root,” Jason Biggs for Murdock London explains. “Thinning and blending shears could potentially be used to detail a taper for Afro hair, but I would advise against using them for anything more. This is because those tools can disrupt and damage the hair’s natural curl pattern.”

Mark Maciver, owner of Slidercuts, has a word of warning when it comes to close-shaving tools: "Most people with Afro hair get ingrown hairs when using tools like a cut throat, or even a foil shaver, because the shave is too close."

What’s more, combs are an effective tool to help manage the curls. Director of Crate Cheshire, Charles Rose, comments: “I use combs of various sizes including a wide-tooth comb, a normal cutting comb and a finger comb to separate and work with the curls.”

Successful Skin Fades

With skin fades, Charles Rose assures that the fundamentals are similar to other hair types but you should try and work with the curls by combing them out and shaping the hair with clippers. Charles also lists: “Ensure that the skin is taut to achieve a clean result and eliminate any visible fade lines. The top of the hair can also be done freehand without sectioning.”

Mark Maciver adds: "When you're fading, you generally should be fading directly against the grain, meaning going directly in the opposite direction that the hair is growing in. I talk about this in different videos as understanding the direction that clients' hair grows in ensures a correct and efficient cut."

One Way or Another?

Acknowledging the direction of hair growth is vital with cutting Afro hair; different curl patterns will require different techniques when cutting. You should consider different angles, lengths and hair conditions when using your tools. “Going against the natural pattern of growth cuts the hair to a much lower point, so make sure to consult with your client about length and density,” Simon Townley describes.

Klerissa McDonald summarises how following the natural flow of the hair will result in a more harmonious and polished look, you just need to understand the direction of the hair growth: “The hair grows outwards, often multi-directional, as opposed to lying down with the direction of gravity. A well-tailored haircut not only enhances the appearance, but also simplifies the styling process.”

Prime Products for Styling Afro Hair

Hair Cream 

"This can be used to define curls and maintain bounce." - Jason Biggs

Leave-in Conditioning Treatments 

"These are the foundation of many Afro hair styling routines because they hydrate the hair, make it more manageable and prevent breakage." - Klerissa McDonald

Hair Oil

"This gives great shine to the hair." - Simon Townley

A Durag

"In addition to a holding cream, I would recommend using a durag for creating waves. Waves are basically flattened curls and, because Afro hair is very curly, the hair curls up as it grows up. So, this helps flatten them down." - Mark Maciver

Image credit: Simon Townley

PB Admin

PB Admin

Published 27th Sep 2023

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