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Dry Cuts vs Wet Cuts: What’s the Difference?

While traditional wet cutting is probably more common, there’s been a bit of a cultural shift towards a less structured, more intuitive tress-trimming technique: dry cutting. But just what distinguishes these two techniques? Linguistically, it seems clear. Wet cutting involves an initial wash and a cut while the strands are still wet. Dry cutting essentially inverts the process—washing, drying, then cutting (or, occasionally, cutting, washing, drying, then cutting again). Artistically, though, there’s much more to it.

To get a richer picture of this technical dichotomy, we consulted celebrated hairstylist Garrett Markenson. Besides being the artistic genius behind Valley Hair Culture and cult-favorite beauty brand Reverie, Garrett also happens to know a thing or two about dry cutting. There’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to this modern technique.

Dry Cutting for Textured Hair Types

When it comes to wavy, curly, and kinky hair types, a dry cut is the way to go. Wet cuts often result in harsh lines and and sharp edges that don’t account for how those beautiful curls and coils actually lie when dry. For those with wavy and curly hair, wet cuts are just limiting. “That wet to dry approach may be better suited for straight, caucasian hair,” Garrett explains. In the modern world of hairdressing, understanding and mastering inclusive techniques like dry cutting is absolutely essential. Not only in growing as a stylist but also to better serve your clientele. 


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It’s Less About the Technique and More About the Stylist

Ultimately, the choice between dry and wet cutting is often more of a personal artistic decision that reflects the stylist’s aesthetic preferences, sensibilities, and education. “It’s not about the scissors or the comb, it’s more about the hairdresser’s point of view,” Garrett explains. More fundamental hairdressers may choose to work wet to dry because that discipline, that sort of architectural process, works well for them. Dry cutting is more sculptural, Garrett says, more intuitive and post-modern. “With dry cuts I don’t even use the comb,” he explains. “You really want to have your free hand feeling the density and layers.” 

But is one technique better than the other? Not at all. “It doesn’t have to do with experience or talent. It’s not about one being wrong and one being right,” Garrett says. “One is very British, and the other is way more European and Japanese. [The] origins of how we learn the technique influence the cut.”

 All that to say that, when selecting a stylist, clients should look for someone whose work resonates with them, not just someone who does a dry or a wet cut.


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Haircutting Is Always Evolving

Looking to dive into the dry cutting deep end? The best way to hone your hair cutting craft is to expand the range of your repertoire, to challenge yourself and continue to learn. “One of the greatest teachers is photography, taking pictures of your work,” Garrett says. Stylists can learn a great deal from looking back at pasts cuts. And with Instagram being so accessible, starting conversations and threads with other stylists can also help expand your artistic horizons. Stylists can really learn from one another, Garrett explains, and that collaborative community is so important now more than ever.

Formal education, classes, and expositions can also help stylists expand their knowledge of trimming techniques. “I’m represented by the Left Brain Group, and so if people want education from me, they manage that,” Garrett says. They have other artists and several stylists on that platform that specialize in razor cuts, curly dry cuts, and other innovative techniques, he continues. Taking a page from the book of a stylist you admire can open doors to new avenues in your own practice to dry cutting and beyond.


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Check out our interview with Garrett on the future of clean beauty HERE!

2 minutes

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