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Decoding the Differences Between Coily & Curly Hair

Decoding the Differences Between Coily & Curly Hair

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Even if you’re a texture expert, it can be tricky to figure out whether you have coily or curly hair. But when you’re ready to rock your natural texture, understanding your curl pattern makes it easier to provide your strands with the moisture, protein & protection they need.

This means that identifying your hair type is the first step in creating a go-to washing & styling routine. So, what’s the difference between coily & curly hair? Read on to take a deep dive into the world of hair texture, exploring hair structure variations, key characteristics of each hair type & key differences in caring for these kinds of tresses.


Understanding Coily Hair Texture

With undeniable volume & endless versatility, it’s no wonder that coily hair is the envy of many. Naturally denser than other types of curls, coils have a tight pattern that allows you to easily style them into braids, ornate twists or a classic afro. 

Like all types of curls, coily hair deserves careful love & attention, especially because its delicate nature may be more prone to dryness & breakage than other hair types. Fortunately, with the right arsenal of coily hair products, you can give your tresses everything they need to lock in moisture & take their volume to new heights. 


Exploring the Nature of Curly Hair

If you were lucky enough to be born with sultry, fun & flirtatious curls, understanding your mane & what it needs to thrive is key to maximizing volume & definition. So, what’s the science behind your luscious locks? 

Like coils, curly hair begins at the follicle, with the shape of the follicles on your scalp being a determining factor in the pattern of your curls. 

You can typically identify curly hair by looking for “S” shaped strands & corkscrew-like spiraling ringlets. This isn’t to say that all curls look alike—you may even have several curl patterns throughout your tresses, only adding to their unique & eye-catching nature. 


Identifying Coily & Curly Hair Patterns

As you identify whether you have curly hair vs coily hair, you may want to learn more about the specificities of your curl type. The beauty of your natural hair is that it may come with curls of all shapes & sizes. Understanding the different nuances of your strands can make it easier to decode the type of care it craves.

Here’s a breakdown of the three primary types of coily hair:

  • 4A coils – Boasting volume & dense texture, 4A coils have more of an “S” shape than other types of coily hair, & the individual curls are typically the width of a pen or a crochet needle. They’re usually considered medium-sized compared to other natural curls & aren’t quite as interlocked as tighter 4B & 4C coils. 
  • 4B coils – With a tighter texture than their 4A sisters, 4B coils typically have a “Z” shaped or zig-zag pattern. The tighter the coils, the more important it is to prioritize moisture, so 4B tresses may require products rich in oils & other hydrating ingredients.
  • 4C coils – 4C coils have the densest coil pattern & experience more shrinkage because of their unique “Z” shaped curls & unstoppable volume. To nourish 4C coils, it’s crucial to prioritize deep conditioners & protective styling methods. This can also help prevent breakage & maintain length.

If you think you have curly rather than coily hair, here’s a look at the three categories your tresses may fall into:

  • 3A curls – Characterized by lightly defined ringlets, 3A curls have a looser look than other curl patterns. Featuring loopy, wide curls, you’ll notice volume around the roots & “S” shaped strands rather than corkscrew-style ringlets. 
  • 3B curls – If you have a head full of well-defined ringlet curls, you probably have 3B curls. These luscious locks have plenty of body & a tighter texture than their 3A counterparts.
  • 3C curls – When you notice your tresses feature a defined, corkscrew shape, you can assume you have 3C curls. These curls are thinner than wider 3A or 3B curls & have no shortage of volume & bounce.

No matter the texture of your tresses, understanding how to spot coily or curly hair can save you time & effort when crafting the perfect styling & care routine.


Caring for Your Coils

So, you’ve figured out you have abundant coils, now how do you care for them? Here are some tips to help you give your coils the treatment they need for maximum volume & minimal breakage, all while experimenting with a variety of coily hairstyles.


Prioritize Moisture

Not all conditioners are created equal, so when it comes to caring for your coils, make sure to use a hydrating product that will seal in moisture & amp up the shine. 

The shape of your bountiful coils creates a zig-zag pattern that can make it trickier for your scalp’s natural oil (called sebum) to distribute throughout your strands. Fortunately, it’s easy to add in extra moisture with the proper hair care products when you wash & style.

Keep in mind that you should avoid washing your hair more than once a week. When you do, prioritize products specifically designed for your coils’ unique needs, like our Intensive Conditioner


Consider Cowashing 

Cowashing (another name for only using conditioner during a wash day) allows your hair to receive the hydration & nourishment it needs without experiencing the potentially drying effects of shampoo. 

While it’s a good idea to treat your scalp with a gentle cleanser (like our Hydration Shampoo), consider skipping this step every few washes to help your strands stay moisturized & vibrant. 

This can be an especially helpful tip during the summer when the sun’s rays & high temperatures can leave your scalp feeling irritated. Quench its thirst by integrating cowashing into your hair care routine for healthy, head-turning coils, no matter the weather. 


Try Out Protective Styling

One major advantage of being born with beautiful coils is the opportunity to rock an array of protective styles for natural hair. Whether you’re a fan of cornrows, twists or locs, there’s no stopping your styling abilities with tightly textured hair. 

Not only can these styles allow you to showcase your creativity & cultural roots, but they can also offer your strands protection against breakage, helping your tresses grow & flourish while you sport a show-stopping look. 

Depending on your styling experience, you may be able to test out some of these methods on your own, while other intricate techniques, like microlocs or sisterlocks, require the keen eye of a trained specialist. 


Nourishing Your Naturally Curly Hair

Are you blessed with natural curls? Here’s a breakdown of what to look for & avoid when it comes to nourishing your buoyant tresses.


Skip the Silicone

Certain hair products contain silicone, an ingredient used to cut back on friction & boost shine. While it may have benefits for other hair types, silicone may actually cause your natural curls to fall flat. 

Rather than protecting your strands, silicone may prevent nutrients from reaching deep into your hair, impacting the effects of other products in your curly hair routine. And, since it can be difficult to remove from your hair & scalp, silicone can also be the root cause of product build-up, which can impact the health of your roots, curl pattern & volume. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of silicone-free products available, like our lightweight Shine Spray, which can help your curls glisten without weighing them down. 


Take Special Care of Your Strands While Drying

Whether you’re a fan of diffusing or you prefer to let your curls air dry, it’s important to use a tool like our Microfiber Towel on your tresses after washing them. Why?

Normal cotton towels can cause friction & breakage. On the other hand, a microfiber towel can help absorb any remaining water while cutting down on friction, leaving your curls with a smoother appearance. If you opt for blow-drying, make sure to cut down on the heat by turning your hair dryer to the lowest setting & using a specially designed tool like the PATTERN Blow Dryer to gently care for your curly hair type.


Quench Your Curls with Hydrating Products

Like coils, the twists & turns of your curls can prevent your scalp's natural oils from distributing throughout the strands. 

This means that your curls crave moisture-packed products like leave-in conditioners & styling custards. When it comes to leave-ins, look for products packed with key ingredients like:

  • Avocado oil
  • Biotin
  • Panthenol
  • Jojoba seed oil

You’ll find all of these scientifically-backed ingredients in PATTERN’s Leave-In Conditioner to ensure your curls maintain their definition & shine. 


Gently Detangle in Reverse

While it may seem natural to detangle your curls from the roots & work your way down, you’ll probably have more luck (& more importantly, you’ll protect your tresses) by beginning at your ends. 

When it comes to how to detangle curly hair, starting at your roots can actually have the opposite effect that you’re looking for, leading to potentially more tangles. Instead, carefully tease out your tangles from the ends of your strands, focusing on gentle separation. 

For added support, consider using a tool like our Wide-Tooth Comb & a product like our Detangling Nectar to make the process (& your curls) even smoother. 


Unleash the Power of Your Natural Texture with PATTERN

Whether you have soft, romantic curls or bouncy, coily hair, it’s crucial to give your locks the care they deserve—& PATTERN is here to help. At PATTERN, we love all curls equally, which is why you’ll find nothing but natural, high-quality ingredients in all of our curl care products.

Unleash the power of your hair’s volume & bounce with a uniquely customized curl routine from PATTERN. 


Healthline. Biotin for Hair Growth: Does It Work? https://www.healthline.com/health/biotin-hair-growth 

Healthline. Is Silicone Really That Bad for Your Hair? https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/why-is-silicone-bad-for-hair 

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Reviewed by Ashley Ludgood

With over 12 years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Ashley Ludgood brings a wealth of expertise to her current role at PATTERN. Her insights have been featured in reputable publications like American Salon Magazine, American Spa Magazine, and Skin, Inc. Ashley has also shared her knowledge at conferences, including Face & Body, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to contributing to the industry. Having been an integral part of the team at PATTERN for nearly 4 years, Ashley continues to make significant contributions. Holding a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she remains passionate about her field. Among her favorite products, Ashley turns to the PATTERN Styling Cream, Moisture Milk, and the Cleansing Shampoo as her go-to essentials.

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