Straight or Curly: What is the Difference?


Curly hair is different from straight hair, obviously because of its shape, but how else? Curly hair is so drastically different from straight hair, it deserves to be treated completely differently. Find out how it is different and how you can make sure to care for your curly strands to make the most of what you naturally have.

The Shape of the Strand

The main difference between straight and curly or wavy hair is the physical shape of the strand. If you imagine a cross-section of one strand of hair, you probably picture something like a cylinder. Round strands of hair are straight strands of hair, but curly hair has an oval shape instead of a round cylindrical shape. This means the distribution of the keratin between the core of the hair and the surface of the hair is less even than in straight hair.


Because of the difference in the shape of curly hair, it tends to be drier than straight hair under normal circumstances. That means that you need to take extra care with curly hair to keep it properly hydrated. One way to maintain hydration in curly hair is to make sure to use shampoos without surfactants that wash away much of the natural oils that hydrate the hair. The most common surfactant in shampoos is sulfates. Those with straight hair can use shampoos with sulfates without too much trouble, but curly hair girls should avoid sulfates.

Daily Care and Styling Tactics

Many women with curly hair treat their hair as if it is straight in the way they care for it and style it. Straight hair can withstand more frequent washing, washing with sulfate-based shampoos, and frequent heat styling. Treating curly hair like straight hair can cause damage and will lead to frizzy, dry hair, and split ends. Curly hair experts recommend treating it like its own entity because that is exactly what it is. Here are some of the most basic ways to change up your routine and better care for your curly hair.

• Wash less frequently and only use sulfate-free shampoos. Use products, especially for curly hair like those from Deva and Ouidad.

• Dry hair with a t-shirt or other similar fabric instead of a terry cloth towel, this will minimize frizz.

• Avoid heat styling if possible and if you need to blow dry your hair, use a diffuser.

• Only use hair styling products without silicones or other products ending in “cone” because these will weigh the hair down.

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