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Wavy vs. Curly Hair: What's the Difference?


Decoding your curl type can be a game changer when it comes to styling. Do you have wavy hair or is it curly hair? Maybe it’s both. Is there even a difference between wavy vs curly hair? We’re breaking it all down ahead with our guide to different curl types and how to nurture them.

What's the difference between wavy and curly hair?

The shape of the follicle that your hair grows out of from your scalp is what causes wavy vs curly hair. And there's only one defining difference between the two hair types: curly hair makes a full 360 degree spiral around, forming a complete circle where it twists. Wavy hair makes more of an S shape, going from side to side. Ultimately, whether the curl pattern does a full spin around, or just twists from side to side is the difference between wavy and curly hair.


Is wavy hair curly?

When it comes to your hair type, there are different types of curls—from 2A to 4C—and each has its own set of characteristics. Type 2s are considered wavy, but more on that below. The shape of your hair follicles determines your curl type and it’s not unheard of for someone to have a mixture of both wavy and curly hair strands. Can wavy hair become curly? It sure can. Especially if wavy hair is damaged (from things like heat styling or chemically treating) it can become curly.


Types of wavy or curly hair Davines

Types of Wavy and Curly Hair

Your curl type is determined by the shape of the follicle that your hair grows out of from your scalp. The flatter or more oval-shaped the follicle, the curlier your hair; the more circular the cross-section, the straighter your hair. Curls types are broken down into a classification system, ranging from 2A to 4C, that makes it easier to identify your curl pattern. The different curl types are:

Type 2 (Wavy)

Type 2 waves are bendable, can be fine to coarse, and have a definitive S pattern that lays closer to the head.

  • Type 2A: Those with hair type 2A have a fine, barely-there tousled texture that's very easy to straighten.
  • Type 2B: 2B hair lies flatter at the crown with defined S-shaped waves starting from the mid-length. Strands are thicker in diameter than a 2A, and you'll have to put a bit more elbow grease into getting it straight.
  • Type 2C: 2C waves are thick and more susceptible to frizz. The S-bends are well-defined and begin at the roots.


Type 3 (Curly)

Type 3 curly hair can range from loose, buoyant loops to tight, springy corkscrews which have some sheen but are prone to frizz.

  • Type 3A: 3A strands tend to be shiny with large, loose curls that have a diameter about the size of a piece of chalk.
  • Type 3B: 3B types have springy ringlets with a circumference similar to that of a marker.
  • Type 3C: 3C curls are tight corkscrews that range in circumference from a straw to a pencil. Strands are densely packed together, giving way to lots of natural volume.


Type 4 (Coily)

Coily hair is naturally very dry and spongy in texture and can be soft and fine or coarse and wiry. Strands form very tight, small curls of zig-zags right from the scalp.

  • Type 4A: People with hair type 4A have dense springy, S-patterned coils that are about the same circumference as a crochet needle.
  • Type 4B: 4B strands are densely packed and can bend in sharp angles like the letter Z.
  • Type 4C: 4C textures are similar to 4B textures, but the tightly-coiled strands are more fragile and have a very tight zig-zag pattern that is sometimes indiscernible to the eye.


Styling curly hair Davines

How to Style Curly Hair

Styling curly hair comes down to the quality of the products you use and the method you follow to style. Start by washing with a curl shampoo, followed by a curl conditioner or cleansing cream. After washing, use the plopping method instead of towel drying your hair. After applying your go-to moisturizing curly hair products (we recommend a curl cream to lock in moisture and a curl mousse to minimize frizz) you literally “plop” your hair down onto an old t-shirt, and wrap your hair up to dry. For defined, frizz-free curls, see our previous post for more on styling curly hair and the plopping method.

How to Style Wavy Hair

So how do I care for my curls and style wavy hair? If your curls are bendable and have a definitive S pattern that lays closer to your head, you’re a Type 2 curl and that means you’ve got wavy hair. To style your waves, start in the shower with a high-quality, sulfate-free shampoo. Just like with curly hair, anytime you wash you must follow with conditioner. Comb it through with a wide tooth comb before rinsing it out with a blast of cool water. Squeeze the excess water from your hair with a t-shirt or microfiber towel. Then distribute styling products evenly through your freshly washed hair. We recommend a curl mousse to enhance your natural pattern of waves. Allow your hair to dry about 70 percent of the way without touching it. Then twist two sections of hair into pigtails and clip them up together until your hair is almost completely dry. Let it down and run a hair oil through the mid-lengths and ends while gently bouncing strands upwards with the flat palm of your hand. Finish styling with a shine spray to keep your waves in place and looking hydrated and healthy.


Final Thoughts on Wavy vs Curly Hair

Enhancing your natural waves or curls starts with healthy hair. The most important thing to remember about maintaining your strands is that curls crave moisture. It’s impossible to over-hydrate curly hair. Fill your hair care routine with high quality moisturizing products for curly hair and use a hair mask once a week to condition and really lock in moisture. All formulas in the Davines family are free of harmful toxins, use natural ingredients, and are made with renewable energy and packaging that minimizes the environmental impact. Our sustainable hair care isn’t just good for your hair, it’s good for the planet. To find a Davines stylist in your area, see our salon locator. 

by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor


Controlling and nourishing mask for wavy or curly hair.


Elasticizing and revitalizing spray for wavy or curly hair.


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