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Difference Between Wavy Hair and Curly Hair

Understanding The Difference Between Wavy Hair and Curly Hair

William Brown

William Brown

Hairstylist

William is a professional hair stylist with over 10 years of experience. He is passionate about creating personalized, trendy looks for his clients and specializes in hair treatments and updos. He is now a certified hair adviser for Mic Hair Company. His articles are always filled with advice, pro tips, and latest hair research results.

Fashion Blog

Wed Apr 24 2024

In many countries, the terms 'wavy hair' and 'curly hair' are often confused or used interchangeably. However, these two have some significant differences in shape, volume and maintenance. Understanding your hair type is really important to have an effective personal hair care routine. So, this article is to let you know the difference between wavy hair and curly hair.

Difference Between Wavy Hair and Curly Hair

Shape

When putting wavy hair and curly hair side-by-side, you will see that they are different in shape. 

Wavy Hair: As the name suggests, wavy hair has a texture like a wave. The “S” shaped waves start from the middle to the end of the hair, and they lie relatively flat at the root. Based on the size of the “S” shape you can have different types of wavy hair. 

Curly hair: While wavy hair has an “S” shape, the curly hair has tight, spiral-like curls. These curls start from the root to the end of the hair.

Difference Between Wavy Hair and Curly Hair

Volume

Due to their tight curls, curly extensions often grow more horizontal before they begin to fall vertically. This means the hair expands and takes up more space, adding to the volume. Meanwhile, wavy hair is often less dense because it lies flat at the root.

Maintenance

When comparing wavy hair extensions vs curly hair extensions, wavy hair extensions are much easier to maintain. They tangled and matted less often. Because of the tight curls, the curly hair extensions are easy to tangle. Moreover, they are dry and need moisturized products to maintain their health.

Styling flexibility

Wavy hair extensions might be easier to style in different ways. Because of the looser pattern, you can straighten or curl it very easily. Meanwhile, with curly hair, you have to do more work and face the risk of heat tools.

Different Types of Wavy and Curly Hair

The Andre Walker Hair Typing Systems or Hair Chart is the best way to explain the difference between wavy hair and curly hair. In that system, Hair types are separated into 4 main groups: straight, wavy, curly and coily which are called type 1, 2, 3, and 4 respectively. 

Wavy Hair

2A 

Type 2A texture, also called natural wavy hair, is loose tousled wave. It appears relatively straight with a slight bend from the ears down. While the section from the ears down is a bit wavy, the section near the root is considerably straight and lays flat on your head.

2a wavy hair

2B

This type has more defined waves that start from the mid-length to the ends of the hair strands. The 'S' shape is more visible than in 2a hair. 

2b wavy hair

2C

This type has the most pronounced waves, verging on curls. The waves start at the roots and follow a defined 'S' shape. This hair type is thicker and more susceptible to frizziness compared to 2a and 2b.

2c wavy hair

Curly Hair

3A

This type has looser, bigger, and well-defined curls, like sidewalk chalk in size. The curl pattern can be easily straightened or curled with a curling iron, and the hair is typically shiny with lots of body.

3a curly hair

3B

This type has medium-sized curls, like a sharpie in size, that are springy and voluminous. The curls are tighter than 3a and can be either ringlets or tight corkscrews.

3b curly hair

3C

This type has tight curls or coils, about the size of a pencil or straw, that are densely packed together. It's often referred to as corkscrew curls. The 3c category was added later into the hair typing system as there was a clear pattern that didn’t fit into the 3b category.

3C

Tips to Maintain Wavy Hair

If your hair is wavy, volumizing shampoos will do more for your waves than moisturizing shampoos do. To maintain the eye-catching wavy hair, you should use hold products, some protein treatments, and occasional clarifying. The lack of protein and moisture will lead to limp and less wavy hair.

Before sleeping, I highly recommend high bun your hair and wrap it with a silky scarf. By doing this, you will prevent your hair from frizzing and tangling. 


Tips to Maintain Curly Hair

If your hair is curly, it might be frizzy and tangle more often. You have to use moisturizing hair care products to make it soft and look shiny. To remove knots, use a wide-tooth comb or a detangle brush and start from the root of the hair.

With curly hair, you should apply your curl cream while your hair is still sopping wet. By doing this, the water helps to evenly distribute the product throughout the hair strands. It also allows the hair to absorb the product better, leading to better hydration and less frizz.



Final Thoughts

As I mentioned, wavy hair and curly hair have many differences in shape, volume, maintenance and styling flexibility. Wavy hair, presenting a relaxed 'S' shape from the mid-length to the ends, typically lies flat at the root and has a less voluminous profile. It's relatively easy to maintain and style owing to its looser texture. Conversely, curly hair is characterized by tight, distinctive curls extending from the root to the end, contributing to a more voluminous appearance.

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