Something I have been wondering about, re: wavy hair

loremipsumloremipsum Registered Users Posts: 162 Curl Novice
I have often wondered how and why my hair begins to wave and wind once it gets longer. Hair is basically dead, right? So what happens once it reaches my chin/shoulders that causes it to change texture? I know a lot of curlies have straighter roots but for me it's not just the roots and the difference is more than just the curl pattern (or lack thereof). I can easily run my fingers through the top part, but once they gets past my chin, there is some resistance. It's softer, shinier, straighter, and not as frizzy on top. Around my neck, it gets a bit duller, poofier, stringier, dryer, and wavier...almost like I'm growing out a perm. To a causal observer, it's not a really dramatic difference since I have very weak waves, but it's definitely noticeable to me.

It's not the length or weight of my hair that's causing it to lie straight. I thought it was, so I had some short layers put in, but it didn't bounce up at all. All I succeeded in doing was cutting off the wavy part, resulting in an overall straighter look. I have tried all kinds of techniques, but even if I can get it to wave, it will soon fall out.

To be honest, I am wondering if my wavy hair is just unhealthy hair because that's what it feels and looks like compared to my top hair. I stopped blowdrying and using silicones around June 2010, but I didn't go full on CG until a few months ago. I was still using a sulfate shampoo every day, and didn't do any kind of treatments or use any product to protect my hair.

Since last June I have gotten my hair cut a number of times, about 4-6 months apart, and never very dramatically, so some of the ends could theoretically be from my blowdrying days, and a good amount of my hair is from my sulfate-using days. I know new hair is obviously going to be healthier, but I didn't know if that could create a different texture or not.

If I'm wrong, I'd love to hear any theories as to how this happens. Hair grows from the root, not the ends, so I just don't get it.


  • ninja dogninja dog Registered Users Posts: 23,780 Curl Neophyte
    Wavy (and curly) hair bends in an "S" pattern. Your hair isn't waving until it's a certain length because it needs weight to begin to twirl. Curlies have a tighter "S" pattern, often beginning at the root. That's why there's so much variety in curl/wave type: the pattern of the "S" determines all.

    As to texture, I don't know. My own type 2 hair is finer on top, coarsening as it lengthens. The right and left sides near the back are the roughest textured parts of my hair. If I condition heavily in those spots, it softens a bit, but not much.

    If anyone else has this issue, and/or can explain this to l. and me, I'd be glad.
  • Robin-in-FLRobin-in-FL Registered Users Posts: 1,731 Curl Neophyte
    This isn't actually a universal phenomenon. My hair has different textures but each individual hair is the same root to tip; when it was superlong, it was actually a little tighter waves at the roots and looser at the ends, I'd assume due to slight damage? There is a picture somewhere in the Growing Out forum.

    And my oldest daughter, who swore her hair didn't curl at the root, found out different when she got the shorter haircut, so for her it really was just weight.

    But I do have one daughter whose hair is curlier when long, and straighter when shorter, and it doesn't make sense to me either - as you said, hair is dead, it grows from the root whatever shape it is, so how can it get curlier when it's older? My only guess with her is that it ISN'T curlier, it's just that the layers when it's long give it more 'ends' and they wave at different heights and so it looks curlier.
    2c / C / iii (FIA)
    Med-Coarse, LowPorosity, NormalElast (LCLF)

    Shoulder-Length now.

    Wash: DevaCare Low Poo
    Detangle & Rinseout: Walgreens or Sally's Conditioning Balm (always)
    Leave-in: DevaCare OneC (budget choice is GFTN)
    Style: ReCoil & DevaCare Arc Angel (budget choices are HESMU or Got2BSpikedUp)

  • IAgirlIAgirl Registered Users Posts: 2,540 Curl Neophyte
    Sounds a little like you're comparing slightly damaged (sun, wind, washing) hair to less-damaged/weathered hair closer to the root?

    I remember a girl I used to know who complained about how her hair (it was waist-long or longer) curled at the ends. Combed together/ponytail-ed, it made one huge curl, almost as big around as 3 fingers (think, cardboard toilet paper roll-size). But only at the ends. She said it did that when it was slightly shorter, but her hair was "straight" if closer to her shoulder-length. I suspect it may have been a little wavier than she allowed (she wanted it to be straight), but this is not totally uncommon - hair that curls on the ends and needs a good bit of length to do so. That may be an extreme example, but I had a friend whose hair would only "flip" under or out when it was APL, not above. Shorter than that and it looked very straight.

    It takes a long time for your hair to settle in to it's "new" care routine. Even if it was healthy before, the extra TLC changes it. Your ends and the hair nearer your roots will probably need different care. Give it time.
  • loremipsumloremipsum Registered Users Posts: 162 Curl Novice
    It's a combination of weathered from the elements and maybe some leftover bits from my blowdrying days. I'm not sure how much my hair grew in the course of a year and a half (since I gave up the blowdryer and 'cones). A quick Google search puts it at ~9 inches, which would actually probably be somewhere around my neck...I think (I don't have a tape measure ATM).

    Robin, I think layering definitely does help give a wavier look, but mine would still wave even if it was all one length. I think it must be wear and tear. Sometimes when I see those really long-haired gals on the Long Hair Community, the very ends of their hair are the only parts that curl or wave, while the rest of the hair is very straight. You know how you can curl ribbon by shredding it a bit with a pair of open scissors? I wonder if that's what happens. The ends get weathered and beaten up by the elements and get thinner and therefore wavier.

    Of course, I could totally be overthinking this. I do that a lot :)
  • NocurlB4babiesNocurlB4babies Registered Users Posts: 179
    I think your hair is lovely!! I also tend to have a flat/wavy crown, and as it's growing longer, I have more of a curl formation. The longer I stay with a CG (modified) routine, the more consistent curl I am discovering. I find it hard to be patient, but overall my hair is happier these days. I know I had some damage from daily washing and also flatiron
    2b/3a fine/med-hi density/high porosity (I think)/ highlight-no silicones/sulfates
    Lo-poo - ABBA Gentle Shampoo/ Shea Moisture Curl & Shine
    Conditioner: GVCB (love it!)/ Regis OO
    Leave in
    : As I Am
    Co-Wash: Tresemme or DevaCurl NoPoo
    Stylers: As I Am Curling Jelly/GF Pure Clean/ LALCurl gel - all with BRHG added
    Style: scrunch/ diffuse, then air dry. I don't Have much frizz at all
  • IAgirlIAgirl Registered Users Posts: 2,540 Curl Neophyte
    Hair has to grow with some wave/curl in it. Damage doesn't warp it in such a way that it bends like you can warp metal with sudden heating and cooling. Damage to hair is usually at the outermost portions. Curl comes from the types of protein in your hair (orthocortical protein in varying amounts and arrangements = waves or curls) and how/where this protein is situated. As the hair grows, these proteins direct the curvature. I'm not sure anybody can agree how or why that happens.
    I digress. You can't cause waves or curls via damage. But you can flatten them with damage.
  • loremipsumloremipsum Registered Users Posts: 162 Curl Novice
    Your last sentence cleared things up, IAgirl. Interesting about the orthocortical proteins. I have read that curly hair is determined by the follicle shape. If the follicle is hooked at the end, the hair will be more oval-shaped and curl. The more curved the hook, the curlier the hair. Still doesn't explain why it would start waving/curling only after a certain point though, especially since the hair is dead. I guess there is no real consensus on that.

    Thank you Nocurl :) If I cut my hair to the length you have in your avatar, it would basically be dead straight. Might flip a tiny bit at the ends, but that's it. Your curls/waves are lovely, btw.

    I'm getting a haircut soon and taking about 2 inches off the ends. I guess I'll get a better idea as new hair grows and old hair gets chopped.
  • IAgirlIAgirl Registered Users Posts: 2,540 Curl Neophyte
    I wrote about this here: science-y hair blog: Wavy Pride
    But let's say you have a piece of yarn. You know how yarns are made of many fibers "plied" together (you can pull it apart and it will separate)? Let's say you have yarn like this (only it's representing hair).2ply%2B2tone%2Bjacob.jpg
    Say you pulled the black fibers just a little bit tighter than the white fibers. Just barely tighter. I've done this when I was a very novice knitter. At some point, you would notice this would force the white fiber component to start spiraling around the black fibers. Just like it's farther to run around the outside lane of a track than the inside lane, the white fibers are now longer, but still attached, so they must begin to pucker or spiral. A slight pull would result in a slight twist, a strong pull would be a strong twist. I read an article which supposed that pressure in this way caused hair to curl, just like curling ribbon; the protein hypothesis explains why there might be differential pressure or tension (if this is indeed the case - that's why it's hypothetical). I read a couple studies finding that hair shafts can vary shape on the same head. And the hair-shaft-shape hypothesis doesn't explain how chemotherapy or menopause or having babies can cause straight or wavy hair to become curly - because hormonal changes can dictate changes in genotype and phenotype (yep, going into full geek-mode).
    So your big, loose waves and whirls represent one portion of the wavy spectrum, one arrangement of proteins which produces a soft, gentle twist that is hidden until revealed by length and gentle care.

    Actually, a better visual example is the crocheted ruffle. You make the first layer tight, then loosen up and add extra stitches and it waves and ruffles and curls back on itself: haekeln-korkenzieher-spiralen.jpg

    The tighter you pull the one part and the looser you make the other parts, the bigger or smaller the wave/ruffle turns out. This is what your hair is doing according to your own genetic recipe.cro-frills-scarf-0611.jpg
    P.S. Does this look more like a scarf or a pet snake?
  • pedahehpedaheh Registered Users Posts: 4,812 Curl Neophyte
    That is awesome IAgirl. I get it now.:santa: (a blog to help new wavies, go to the how do I get started page)
    2a ( 2bFi (Fia), very fine, thin, low/normal elasticity, porous, CG, doesn't get weighed down
    Cowash: Tresemme naturals
    Rinse out/leave in: Renpure Organics (red)
    Curl enhancer: FSG
    Gel: BRHG, Salon care aloe, Ecostyler Krystal (normal dews)
    PT: ION effective care, IAgirl's gelatin PT
    Low Poo: renpure (red), Ion swimmers
  • oh.hi.its.stephoh.hi.its.steph Registered Users Posts: 640
    IAgirl knows all! I swear your posts are so fascinating. This topic in general is really interesting. I've become a hair nerd to the max. :P No real input here, though! I have no idea!
    whurly girly (2C/3A).
    thick; medium/coarse; low porosity.
    hair that is drier than the sahara desert.

    LOW-POO: Renpure Organics
    CO: L'Oreal EverCreme Cleansing Conditioner
    RO: Renpure Keratin Conditioner. New HG!
    LI: L'Oreal EverSleek Humidity-Defying LI Creme
    Styling: SM Curl Milk, Argan Oil for sealing, sometimes GFPC Gel, some honey for hold, TIGI Control Freak Serum!!
  • loremipsumloremipsum Registered Users Posts: 162 Curl Novice
    Ok! Crocheting is a language I can understand. So it's a matter of tension, then.

    That was very enlightening, IAgirl. Thanks for once again sharing your bounty of wisdom :)
  • IAgirlIAgirl Registered Users Posts: 2,540 Curl Neophyte
    loremipsum wrote: »
    Ok! Crocheting is a language I can understand. So it's a matter of tension, then.

    That was very enlightening, IAgirl. Thanks for once again sharing your bounty of wisdom :)

    I figured somebody had to get knitting/crocheting. Yes, tension or something like that. Differential materials, almost. Here are a couple pictures which help explain (and confuse) but are really enlightening. Remember, orthocortical = waves and curls, the more Orthocortical cells, the more curls or kinks.
    The source for these is here: The Structure of Hair

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