“Curly hair” and “wavy hair” are often used interchangeably, but the hair types have several differences. Curly types and wavy types of hair differ in curl tightness, thickness and texture. By identifying the type of hair you have, you will be able to find curly or wavy haircare products best suited for you.


Although curly hair and wavy hair are thought by many people to be the same, wavy hair is actually a type of curly hair. The three main categories of curly hair are curly, wavy and kinky. Curly hair is often thought of as coarse in texture, but it is actually soft. It also has a reputation for being thick; while that is often true, curly hair also can be fine.


Curly hair takes on ringlet or corkscrew shapes. Examples include Shirley Temple’s and Taylor Swift’s hair.

Wavy hair hints at ringlets but settles into an “S” shape rather than tight curls. It also falls into a zigzag pattern. Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson have wavy hair.

Kinky hair is the tightest curl type specific to people of African descent. Kinky hair comes in corkscrew shapes that are often very fine. Both Macy Gray and Alicia Keyes have this kind of hair.


Even if curls are fine in texture, curly hair has a thick appearance. The curls often begin at the scalp and keep their shape down to the hair tips, and curls range in width from that of a pen to a garden hose. Wavy hair is often wavy at the bottom and flat closer to the scalp. Kinky curls are the smallest in width yet densest in thickness. Kinky curls are curly from the scalp to the hair tips and are easily layered.


People with waves or curls should use a diffuser when blow drying their hair. Diffusers are hairdryer attachments that diffuse the air. As a result, curls are not blown straight or turned to frizz in the drying process. To keep curls tight, a low hairdryer setting is preferable while scrunching hair between fingers and oscillating the dryer. After drying, mousse or pomade can be applied, giving curls and waves body rather than weighing them down. If a haircare product causes hair to have a crunchy feeling, one remedy is to scrunch out the crunch. Kinky hair is the most difficult to maintain, but it can be tamed with specialized shampoos and creams.


Curls should never be combed or brushed when dry. Doing so causes curls to come undone and frizz. If curls need to be revitalized, spritzing in some hairspray and scrunching curls in sections, or adding mousse to flat sections, works. Re-wetting hair and using fingers as makeshift curlers by twisting curls into ringlets until hair is damp is effective for on-the-go fixes.