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Curls vs. Straight Hair: How to Care For (and Style) Each Hair Type

BY Jana Russick

Fact: There are lots of different hair textures. But curly and straight seem to be the defining ends of the hair spectrum. The hair texture scale is classified into type 1 (straight), type 2 (wavy), type 3 (curly), and type 4 (coily). Because straight hair behaves so differently than curly hair, it needs to be cared for (and styled) in a totally different way. Here’s a rundown of the science behind curls vs. straight hair and how to care for these respective types of hair.

Breaking Down the Structure of Curls vs. Straight Hair

Before diving into curls vs. straight hair care, let’s discuss the why’s of these unique hair types. Why does some hair grow curly while other hair grows straight? To explain this we have to review the dynamics of hair structure.

There are two elements that make up our hair’s structure: the hair follicle (the section of hair that is within our scalps) and the hair shaft (the part of the strand that we can see and feel.) Shafts and strands behave differently depending on whether you have straight or curly hair

The hair follicle (which you can think of as a pore) is actually what determines whether you have straight or curly locks. And the shape of your follicles are determined by your DNA. The follicles of curly hair look like an oval whereas the follicles of straight hair look like a circle. Essentially, it’s the way the hair emerges from the scalp that decides what shape it will take. So how does this affect the way your hair behaves when you try to style it in a different way than how it naturally grows? Let’s get into it.

The Ins and Outs of Styling Curly Hair

Have you ever tried to flat iron your natural curls and a big puff of steam followed by an abrupt spouting noise occurred? This happened because you were forcing your hair to go against the grain of its natural hair pattern. If you don’t use the right products and tools, the results can be a frizzy, fried, dry mane with split ends.

The longer you live with curly locks, the more you learn the do’s and don’t of curly hair maintenance. Still, it’s always helpful to pick up more tips for caring for your coils and ringlets. Here are some helpful tips for styling curly hair

Diffuse and Dry

We know that you know heating your hair— whether that be with a flat iron or blow dryer— is inevitably going to cause damage. That said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about heat styling your curly locks. And the right way is using a diffuser. 

ICYMI, diffusers are claw-like attachments you can put on the head of your blow dryer to more safely and gradually dry your tresses. The real hair damage from blow-dryers comes from how hot and for how long you use them. When you use a diffuser, the heat hits your head indirectly so it’s less impacted by the high temperature. If you limit the amount of time you use it, diffusers are one of the safest ways to style your hair with heat while reducing frizz and damage. 

With a diffuser, it’s best to use styling products that’ll protect your hair from heat damage. Before you turn on the heat, apply a leave-in hair treatment to your shower-fresh curls. This can help protect your mane and even enhance curl definition and shine. It’s a win-win.

Brush Without Breakage

What’s a surefire way to disrupt your curls? Using a brush on them. Taking a paddle brush or comb to dry coils can cause uncontrollable volume and frizz — probably not the look you’re going for. Unfortunately, the tighter your curls are, the more susceptible they are to breakage, especially when combed.

Yes, curly-haired folks can brush their hair without causing a frizzy mess. Just not when it’s dry. And not with any old brush. Avoid tangled, undefined curls by prepping them while they’re still wet. To weed out tangles, use a wide-tooth comb with a healthy dose of conditioner from the mid-shaft to the ends of your hair. This will help you carefully remove knots from your curls without losing your hair curl definition. 

Pro Tip: Choose the right hair brush for your curls

Maintain Moisture

The thicker the curls, the more hair product they can take. This is especially true for those with curls that tend towards dryness — after all, curls have a harder time spreading natural oils from the roots to the ends. This might explain why your ringlets are dry at the tips. Luckily, there are lots of hydrating products made with curls in mind.

One of the best ways to maintain hydrated curls is co-washing. A co-wash is a type of shampoo replacement that cleanses hair without stripping away natural oils. It’s intended to be a mild yet moisturizing product for clean, strong, and breakage-resistant hair.

While most co-washes come as-is, Function of Beauty’s custom co-wash allows you to customize it for your specific hair type, structure, and moisture level. You’ll find a moisturizing mix of ingredients like shea butter, Jamaican black castor seed oil, avocado oil, and aloe juice to refresh and soften curly hair between shampoos.

The Ins and Outs of Styling Straight Hair

Now that we’ve covered the curly part of the great curls vs. straight hair debate, let’s venture to the straighter side. Some people might assume that managing straight hair (aka type 1 hair) is easy. But it’s all relative to how you want your locks to look. While some people enjoy waking up with consistently bend-less tresses, others may grow tired of such pin-straight locks. 

If you’ve been blessed with type 1 hair, you may have had your fair share of straight hair struggles think of all the attempts to achieve volume, curls, and texture only to end up with flat hair. But all hope is not lost. Here are some styling tips for maximizing the look of straight hair.

Bring On the Body

One of the biggest complaints about straight hair is that it’s hard to maintain body and texture. Sometimes those attempts to volumize straight hair using a curling iron can fall flat within a matter of hours — or even minutes! So what’s a healthy and heat-free way to add movement to your straight locks? Give them a chop.

Adding layers imparts natural texture and dimension to straight hair. Varying lengths make it easier for your tresses to get a little messy, which can help enhance the look of volume and waviness. Scrunch it up with a little bit of mousse and you’ve got yourself a much more dynamic hairstyle.

Pro Tip: Follow these easy hacks for adding texture to your tresses

Shock ‘Em With Shine

Straight hair is known for its satin-like texture, so amp up the silkiness by adding hair serum to the ends of your hair. Function of Beauty’s custom hair serum smoothes flyaways, increases shine, improves detangling, and thermally protects hair up to 400 degrees. Made with a trifecta of argan, jojoba, and sunflower oils, this formula provides a glossy finish to both wet and dry locks.

Customize Your Conditioner

If you’re serious about adding a bit of curl and volume to your straight hair game, change up your shampoo and conditioner. You can customize your hair washing products to not only match your hair type and texture but to achieve your wildest hair dreams.

With Function of Beauty’s custom shampoo and conditioner, you can choose between 18 hair goals geared toward enhancing and adding dimension to your naturally straight texture. If you’re looking to add more body to your straight locks, we recommend choosing goals like curl definition and volumize. 

Pro Tip: Figure out the best hair goals for your hair type

Curly vs. Straight Hair: What Your Type, It’s Easy to Customize Your Routine

When it comes to curls vs. straight hair, each of these brilliant hair types come with their strengths and challenges. And both can be handled and styled with care by using the right hair tips, tools, and products. 

With curly hair, it’s important to maintain hydration and avoid tangles and frizz. This can be achieved by using a diffuser on your blow-dryer, using a wide-tooth comb in the shower, and using moisture-enhancing products like co-wash. For straight hair, it’s all about adding dimension with a layered haircut, enhancing your already silky locks with hair serum, and achieving your hair goals with a custom shampoo and conditioner

When it comes to curls vs. straight hair, we could all use a little bit of the TLC that custom hair products provide. To find the perfect formula for your locks, take our hair quiz.