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Understanding Hair Type: The Great Debate, Curly vs Straight

Updated: Mar 31

5 stages of curly hair

Today we will be diving into the fascinating world of curly versus straight hair! During my career I've had the pleasure of working with countless clients of all hair types and textures. And as unique as each guest's personality is, so is their hair. In this blog series, we'll explore the differences amongst all hair types starting with these two... Straight vs Curly. Read on to learn more about each hair type as well as learning some tips and tricks to help you style your locks like a pro.

Understanding The Curl Spectrum

There's something truly special about the unique properties of curly hair... Its texture, shape, and structure. Unlike straight hair, curly hair has a distinct pattern of waves or coils that can vary from loose to tight. This texture is caused by the shape of the hair follicle, which is more oval than round, and results in a more porous hair shaft. Notice how the images below shows the hair structure with the shingle like cuticle, and the growth directions out of the follicles of each type. Because of this, curly hair tends to be drier, more prone to frizz, and more difficult to manage than straight hair.

Types of Wavy or Curly Hair

image of various hair follicle shapes

Understanding the different types of curly hair or wavy hair is key to embracing and enhancing your natural texture with the right products and techniques. Curly and wavy hair come in a wide range of types, each with its own distinctive characteristics. From loose waves to tight coils, there's a beautiful variety within the realm of curly hair.

  • Type 2 hair falls under the wavy category, ranging from gentle S-shaped waves to more defined and bouncy curls.

  • Type 3 hair is known for its spiral-shaped curls, with subtypes A, B, and C denoting different curl patterns, from loose to tight.

  • Type 4 hair encompasses coily and kinky textures, showcasing a range of densely packed and tightly coiled curls.

Now, when it comes to hair types, we can categorize them into three main categories: wavy, curly, and kinky.

illustration of various hair follicles

  • Wavy hair falls between straight and curly, with a gentle S-shaped pattern that gives it a beautiful beachy look. It tends to be more on the fine side and can range from loose, subtle waves to more defined, bouncy curls.

  • Curly hair, on the other hand, boasts a distinct spiral shape. It forms well-defined curls that can vary in size and tightness, giving it a playful and voluminous appearance.

  • Kinky hair, which showcases densely packed coils that tightly hug the scalp. This type of hair is often characterized by its unique texture and can range from tight coils to zigzag patterns.

Wavy hair tends to have a more relaxed and carefree vibe, perfect for achieving that effortless, beachy look. Curly hair, with its defined curls, offers versatility and bounce, allowing for a variety of hairstyles and looks. Kinky hair, with its tightly coiled texture, exudes a bold and distinctive presence, celebrating the natural beauty and unique patterns. Each hair type requires specific care and styling techniques to enhance its natural beauty.

The Challenges of Styling Curly Hair

Styling curly hair can be a challenge, particularly if you're not familiar with the unique properties of curly hair. Curly hair tends to be more delicate than straight hair, and is prone to breakage and damage from heat styling tools. Because curly hair is more porous, it can also be more difficult to style, as it may absorb products unevenly or become weighed down by heavy styling products. Finding that balance is key to really showing off your natural curls. 

Tips for Styling Curly Hair

moroccan oil shampoo and conditioner

  • If you have curly hair, there are a few things you can do to help manage and style your locks. First, use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner that are specifically formulated for curly hair, such as Moroccanoil's Curl Shampoo and Conditioner. It is lightweight enough as to not weigh down hair. This will help keep your hair hydrated and healthy.

  • Second, avoid using heat styling tools as much as possible, as they can damage your hair and cause breakage. The dryer the hair, the more likely to "break". If you must use a heat styling tool, be sure to use a heat protectant spray or serum to help minimize damage.

  • Finally, consider using lightweight styling products, such as mousse or gel, that are designed for curly hair. A great product that nourishes and tightens in Moroccanoil's Curl Cream.

moroccan oil curl cream

These products can help define your curls and keep them looking their best.

Below are some great examples of some beautiful natural curly hair:

  • Nicole Kidman

  • Sarah J Parker

  • Shakira

  • Andie MacDowell

  • Salonge Knowles

Glowing Straight Hair

illustration of damaged versus healthy hair

Straight hair, on the other hand, is characterized by its smooth and silky texture. Straight hair has a round hair follicle, which allows the sebum (natural oil produced by the scalp) to travel down the hair shaft more easily, resulting in hair that is naturally hydrated. The more closed the hair cuticle, the more solid the hair is.

Straight hair is also more reflective, which gives it a shiny appearance and can make it appear thicker than it actually is. That natural shine that you get with straight hair can be really eye catching, like a glow.

The Benefits of Straight Hair

While straight hair may not be as unique or eye-catching as curly hair, it does have its own benefits. Straight hair tends to be more manageable than curly hair, as it requires less maintenance and can be styled more easily. Straight hair is also less prone to breakage and damage from heat styling tools, as it is less porous than curly hair.

Tips for Styling Straight Hair

If you have straight hair, there are a few things you can do to keep your locks looking their best. First, use a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to help keep your hair healthy and hydrated. Second, avoid using heavy styling products, as they can also weigh down your hair and make it appear greasy or oily. Instead, opt for lightweight products, such as amika's brooklyn bombshell blowout spray or morrocanoil's dry shampoos, that can help add body and texture to your hair. Finally, if you do use heat styling tools, be sure to use a heat protectant spray or serum to help minimize damage.

Some more great celebrity examples of that beautiful shine

  • Heidi Klum

  • Jessica Biel

  • Alia Bahtt

  • Sandra Bullock

  • Mila Kunis

  • Gwenyth Paltrow

At Fringe Hair Studio, we love all hair types. Whether you have curly or straight hair, it's important to understand the unique properties of your hair type in order to keep it looking its best. With the right products and styling techniques, you can achieve beautiful, healthy hair that makes you feel confident and stylish. As a master hair stylist, I am dedicated to helping my clients achieve their hair goals, no matter what their hair type may be. Nourish your hair as you would nourish your body. If you ever have any questions, feel free to drop us a note, whether it be a comment below, or on our socials!

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