Wave, or Curl Pattern vs. Hair Texture


There's so many debates about curl patterns and coarse hair, fine hair--3b this and 4c that.  But did you know that you should not base your hair care regimen based solely on the shape of your curls? Did you also know that the shape of your curl is different from its texture? Let me explain.

Wave (Curl) Pattern

When we talk wave pattern (or curl pattern), most people think of the hair typing system (i.e. type 3, type 4, etc.).  However, in cosmetology, the wave pattern simply refers to the amount of movement in a hair strand.  This movement is described as straight, wavy, curly, and overly curly.  So, for reference, overly curly would be your "type 4" wave patterns.  As I am sure you know, it is possible to have more than one wave pattern on your head--I know I do lol!  If the typing system helps you understand the shape of your hair strands better, then that's fine.  But there's more to hair care than wave pattern. 

Now, many people tend to use their hair type and hair texture interchangeably, but this is incorrect.

Hair Texture

Hair texture is a totally different marker from wave pattern.  Hair texture refers to the thickness or diameter of each individual strand (not how many strands you have--more on that in another post).  Strand thickness is classified as fine, medium, or coarse.  Here's an extreme example, but think about a piece of sewing thread, a piece of yarn, and a piece of rope to represent fine, medium, and coarse hair strands respectively.  Coarse hair has the largest diameter and is the most resilient.  Here's a visual:

Like wave pattern, hair texture can also vary from strand to strand on one person's head.

Here's the takeaway:  A person can have fine, overly curly (type 4) hair or coarse wavy hair. Just because your hair is overly curly, or coily doesn't automatically mean it's coarse.  Fine hair responds very quickly to mechanical and chemical changes to the hair, while coarse hair is more resistant.  This is why certain products (especially chemical) are formulated according to texture. Choosing a product designed for coarse hair when your hair is actually fine can cause major damage!

Watch this short video of my daughter's hair for the perfect visual!


So you see, texture is more important to us cosmetologists, especially when choosing chemical services. Actually the most important hair care markers for us are texture, density, elasticity, and porosity.  In fact, if you really want to choose the right products for your hair, understanding porosity--the hair's ability to hold moisture-- is essential!  You can learn more about that here.

Regardless of pattern or texture, everyone needs a healthy scalp!  Be sure to use shampoo and deep condition regularly to keep your scalp clean and strands hydrated and strong.  Use penetrating oils and butters that do not clog pores so as not to rob your hair follicles of the oxygen rich blood they crave for nourishment.

I really hope this cleared up the difference between wave pattern (type) and texture.  Feel free to ask questions, and happy growing!





Reference:  Alpert, et al.(2004).  Milady's Standard Cosmetology. Thompson Delmar Learning.

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