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Wavy Hair Vs. Curly Hair: What Are the Differences?

The difference between wavy hair and curly hair may be difficult for most people to determine. Most times, these two different attributes get used interchangeably.

Despite having many things in common, there are some characteristics of curly hair and wavy hair that you should know in the instances that you could add something beneficial to your hair care regimen.

So, what’s the difference between curly hair and wavy hair, and what do you do to care for these hair types?


Wavy Hair Vs. Curly Hair

wavy and curly hair type

Curly hair has a complete 360-degree spiral making a complete circle. On the other hand, wavy hair has more of an S shape, which goes from side to side. You can have tighter waves that create loose curls, but they will not complete a circle at the same height.

These are the visual differences between curly and wavy hair. However, there is more to investigate since there are many traits that get confused in the discussion.

Nonetheless, the rule of thumb will come back to whether or not the curl pattern does a full spin or only goes from side to side to determine whether the hair is curly or wavy.

Although many people think that wavy and curly hair are the same thing, wavy hair happens to be a form of curly hair.

Furthermore, there are three main categories in the curly hair spectrum: wavy, kinky, and curly. Curly hair is thought to be coarse in texture, but in actuality, it’s soft. What’s more, it gets regarded as thick, and even though that can be true, curly hair can be fine as well.



Curly hair will take on the shape of a corkscrew or a ringlet.

Wavy hair can appear to be ringlets, but ultimately they will settle into an “S” shape instead of tight curls. Wavy hair can also take on a zig-zag pattern.



Identifying curly and wavy hair type

Curly hair is thick in appearance. Moreover, curls will typically begin at the scalp and hold this shape all the way down to the tips. Curls also have a range of thickness that people can fall into.

On the flip side, wavy hair is usually wavy near the bottom and flat as you get closer to the scalp. Kinky curls are smaller in width and yet are the densest as it pertains to thickness. Lastly, kinky curls are curly from the scalp to the ends of the hair and can be layered easily.



If you have waves or curls, you should use a curly hair diffuser when you blow-dry your hair. A diffuser is a hairdryer attachment that diffuses the air.

Thanks to this, curls are not transformed to frizz or blown straight when they are dried. If you wish to keep your curls tight, having your curly hair dryer set on low is best as you scrunch your hair between your fingers as you oscillate the dryer.

If you wish to give your waves and curls body after drying your hair, you can add pomade or mousse to them. Kinky hair is the most difficult to maintain, but you can use specialized creams and shampoos to tame your hair better.


Precautions for Those with Curls

You should never brush or comb your curls when they are dry. If you were to do this, your curls will become frizzy or come undone. If you need to freshen your curls up, adding hairspray or mousse to some flatter sections may work for you.

For on-the-go maintenance, you can wet your hair and use your fingers to twist your curls into ringlets until your hair is damp.


What is the Curly Girl Method?

Curly Girl Method

Lorraine Massey is the inventor of the Curly Girl Method for curly hair care. This works on not only curls but waves and coils as well. One important stipulation for this method is that your hair should be natural, as in not chemically relaxed. This hair care regimen encourages co-washing, meaning you use a conditioner that gently cleanses the hair instead of a shampoo.

The argument is that curly hair is already fragile enough and doesn’t need the help of a drying agent such as shampoo, which further strips the hair of essential oils. So, no brushes, combs, or towels made from terry cloth. She also encourages women with textured hair to use a diffuser when they blow-dry their hair.

These are all tips that help care for and maintain both wavy and curly hair types.


Is Wavy Hair The Same As Curly Hair?

While some people do consider wavy hair to be a type of curly hair, these two textures are not exactly the same. You’ll often notice that wavy hair has a looser texture; this is in comparison to even the loosest curl patterns. There are a few obvious differences that both parties acknowledge.

Aside from that, both textures share many similarities as well, especially concerning how their hair behaves with certain styles and products.


Main Differences in Managing Wavy and Curly Hair

Main Differences in Managing Wavy and Curly Hair

  • Wavy hair may need to get clarified more often than curly hair.
  • Wavy hair usually has a lower porosity.
  • Want hair seemingly gets weighed down easier.
  • The wave pattern usually starts toward the jaw or bottom of the hair, and the hair at the scalp is a little more flattened. Curly hair typically starts at the scalp.
  • Wavy hair seems to lose its definition easier.
  • Wavy hair doesn’t seem to get dry as easily as curly hair does.
  • Wavy hair doesn’t seem to respond as well to specific techniques like wet n go styling, finger coils, or the use of a Denman brush, which aims to clump curls together for a more defined look.
  • Wavy hair doesn’t seem to require deep conditioning as often as curly hair due to the moisture retention being more difficult with curly hair.
  • Wavy hair tends to need to use extra hold products to maintain definition.

Of course, these characterizations aren’t set in stone. These are just the experiences of many that have both hair types, that have shared their experiences online and via forums, and so on. Each person’s hair type is different and may not correspond to the generalizations above.


Can Wavy Hair Start Becoming Curly?

Someone with wavy hair may begin developing curls. This is especially true if your hair has waves but has gotten damaged from chemical treatments. Learn the process of making your curly hair wavy.


Does Wavy Hair Pattern Start At The Ears?

Some stylist’s rule for determining if the hair is wavy or curly is where the pattern starts. Many think that the wavy pattern starts around the wars and moves downward while curly hair develops right from the root.

However, these rules can get confusing when you see someone with wavy hair straight from the root and a curly-haired person with curls starting near the bottom.

Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, folks!


Final Thoughts

There’s no one way of haircare to ascribe to because you can’t just fit everything neatly into a box when it comes to hair. Everyone is different and has different experiences, and that’s one of the beautiful things about hair!

You kind of get to just figure it out as you go, see what your hair responds to, and you do your best to take care of your precious locks- whether they’re wavy or curly.