Sunday, 29 May 2011

Curly vs Kinky : What is the difference?

I finally got my 3d programmer (otherwise known as hubby) to draw out some things for me! The big question is what is the difference between curly and kinky hair? Many people do not seem to distinguish between curly and kinky hair but structurally there is a rather major difference.

Now kinky hair can also be curly but curly hair is not always necessarily kinky!  (Reader question from Ehizele on why some hair is more 'breakable' will follow soon!!)

Curly hair is simply a spiral or wave while kinky hair has a torsion twist (which can be felt as a permanent crimp) where the hair strand turns around itself (see the diagram).



The torsion of kinky hair is basically the strand twisting around itself.  The simplest analogy would be the wringing of a cloth where you turn one side clockwise and the other anticlockwise.

       Torsion

Now kinky hair can be curly and have the same spiral turns in addition to the torsion twist. This creates the dominant type of hair seen among people of African origin - the kinky curly hair.  Going by the first analogy on a large scale think of it like wringing a sheet and then winding it around a large rod to form the curl.


Source:
Images modelled on SEM images in (PhD Thesis by Jutta Maria Quadflieg)

46 comments:

  1. erm I have a question: - does your brother have a single brother or cousin or relative who's unmarried, and looking? Jus' asking.

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  2. I <3 your inclusion of diagrams in your posts. They make me :). That is all.

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  3. Thanks all!

    lol Lady Jaye!! Yep hubby has a twin actually but he is taken lol.

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  4. Great post Jc! I'm so sharing this link with my readers. Luv how you broke it down.

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  5. And there's my hair! Best explanation I've seen on it.

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  6. Thanks for this Jc. I'm glad someone else knows that their is a difference between "kinks" and "curls" and not all kinky hair is curly hair.

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  7. Thank you for that explanation! One thing I haven't been able to figure out is how do you factor curly vs kinky in hair typing? My daughter has tighty curled hair that is mostly smooth and curly, but has a patch in the back that is also just a bit kinky. I have called that hair 4A, and the curly hair 3C. Is that correct? Can you post about hair typing?

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  8. Thanks ladies!

    Sure thing Milan - thanks for sharing!

    Jenny - I don't do hair typing posts because other than describing hair curl size they do not do much else. Kinky and curly do not figure in hair typing (technically neither does 3c or 4c).

    I think rather than hair typing it is more important to understand how your hair responds to whatever you put on it (oil, water, shampoo, conditioner , gel, mousse etc). Understanding how the hair behaves and how you can handle it in that state (i.e wet, dry, oily etc) without causing major damage is the key to having an easy time with hair.

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  9. that's the best explanation-image of my hair.. awesome job by you n hubby!

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  10. Love this and the images make it super easy to understand. Where were you when I was at school doing GCSE science? lol.

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  11. Good examples on the difference of curly vs kinky! Thanks for sharing. (SW)

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  12. Thanks again all!

    C - you know I really want to be a teacher!! One day who knows.

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  13. Good. Glad to see the distinction being made. That was an excellent explanation. Being african, I've seen so many types of kinky-coily,kinky-curly hair that I doubt it's possible to typecast them all. It's as if each individual has their own unique combination so I'm totally with you on hairtyping.

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  14. no younger siblings or cousins?

    (I never have any luck! :( )

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  15. Hi JC....
    This is an awesome post! You and the hubs should make a documentary. I think you have a fresh, new perspective about the science of hair. I would definitely pay to see it :0)

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  16. lol Lady Jaye!

    lol Mikimu, my hubs is definitely best seen without a camera. The moment the camera comes on he becomes mute and starts to look everywhere but at the camera. Turn it off and he goes back to normal lol.

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  17. Oh this is a great post! Thanks so much for sharing!

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  18. Is this why some type 4 hair clumps into ringlets and others just form an afro cloud of individual coils?

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  19. Thanks hybridomatech

    Yes Anon - To some extent the kink in the hair influences whether ringlets can form. Ringlets require each curly strand to fit into each other (i.e find a matching partner). However kinks can cause the hair to change in rotation direction and this is why some curly hair never forms ringlets

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  20. It's exciting to see a name applied to what we've been discussing ad lib for years on the net. The researcher in me needs to take it further. What chemical bonds and DNA basis are involved in this 'torsion' concept verses another hair texture type that reacts with these super turns? For example, the follicle of curly hair is perpendiular to the scalp versus parallel in str8ter textures. Thus the hair comes out at a bend, coiling around itself. Further, the various DNA base bonds are held together in a distinct format, adhering tightly to one another to cause the hair strand to maintain this coiled shape. Then, the neighboring strands follow suit with the various bonds sticking to one another like static shock. So, on a molecular level, what is going on? I would love to discuss further with you. We can't open up such an interesting concept and not go further with it by answering the WHY?! Thanks! Off to research more.....

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  21. Cheleski - Unfortunately there is currently no conclusive scientific explanation as to how/why kinks or for that matter curly hair forms.

    I can say that although DNA has something to do with it, we have to remember that hair itself outside of the follicle has no DNA. DNA in cells only codes for a protein and therefore the protein that forms hair is formed on the basis of each person's DNA (this is why I say DNA is involved).

    However the bonds in a protein are separate from the bonds in DNA. DNA is not a building block of hair per se but it codes for keratin which is. Therefore the DNA base bonds or the alpha helix shape of DNA is separate from the shape of the protein in hair (keratin).

    There are partially proven theories on curved follicles giving rise to curly hair. This is partially proven because there are cases of curved follicles in Caucasians giving rise to straight hair. So the follicle theory is only partly right.

    I think you should definitely click on to the thesis that I referenced as it has an intricate description of the hair formation process that you might appreciate and lists some further references if you are interested :)

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    1. JC,
      I would like to add that the texture of hair is in large part due to its positioning in the dermis. The follicles of straight hair are perpendicular to the surface of the skin, while curly/kinky hair follicles run parallel and spiral out. Kinky hair has been shown to have less elastin (elastic fibers) and can be very fragile.

      For more info on skin and hair check out my book Milady's Aesthetician Series: Treating Diverse Pigmentation. http://www.amazon.com/Miladys-Aesthetician-Series-Treating-Pigmentation/dp/1111318298

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  22. This is so cool and helpful! I wasn't really sure what people meant by "kinky hair" all this time. I kind of thought maybe it just meant hair that tangles and shrinks-- i.e., most black hair, basically. Now I know for sure that I have kinky and curly hair. Thanks, Jc + hubby!

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  23. This makes me feel more sane. Though I am classified as a mix of 3a and 3b, many of my individual hairs do kink, and my curl pattern looks like the kinky curly one. I thought I wasn't "allowed" to have kinky hair since the curl is looser. It's good to see that I'm not nuts.

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  24. Wow, thank you for this post. That torsion twist is exactly what my hair does. I can actually see my strands of hair twisting in all directions and there is definately a permanent crimp of some sort. My hair looks like a continuous string of number fives. It is often rough and fighting with the other strands, causing weak spots, mid strand splits, etc. I have decided that my hair is best with absolutley no products because nothing seems to get through anyway - everything sits on top especially oils. What is the solution for this hair. Is there a solution.

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    1. If you get a response please let me know too!

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  25. Your hubs did a great job on the 3D illustrations & you gave a wonderful explanation! I have kinky curly hair. Some hair is more curly than kinky and some patches more kinky than curly but I have actually felt the crimp in my strands. It's more noticeable when my hair is super dry.

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  26. Though I still tend to refer to my hair as coily rather than curly. This article was a great method of differentiating between kinks and curls. Do send our thanks to the hubby for his efforts and to yourself off course!

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  27. Brilliant explantion,I know understand my curl pattern it is exactly like the Kinky Curly diagram.(the last one) :)
    Depending on the length of my hair it appears different but the pattern is still the same.

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  28. wow this is amazing info. And I love how you made it simple enough for everyone, even those with no science background, to understand. Excellent stuff! I had my big chop 2 months ago and I am a curly extremely kinky so my journey has begun on a bumpy road (hence me ending up here as I search the internet for salvation before I quit and go back to relaxers). I have also convinced myself that if I can discover the scientific intricacies of my hair type I will be able to understand better what products will work best in my hair type simple by looking at the ingredients. I think I need to take a course on Hair chemistry ;)

    Cheleski I like where you were taking the discussion.

    Jc thanks so much for this, you and your hubby are awesome!

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  29. Yup... I have kinky curly hair!!! Now I know!!!

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  30. Great post! If you get a chance, I would love to know whether a few kinky strands could be behind the bumpy feeling (and look) of a few hairs (esp on the crown of the head) even if all the rest is curly? I and a few others I've seen online have been wondering why just a few hairs feel different and look different also in that if that strand has fallen straight it still has bumps, even on new growth (so I'm thinking not the kind of bumps caused by damage). I was thinking, gosh have chemicals from highlights actually damaged the follicle shape, but I'd be delighted if it was just kinks! I never thought of that as my hair is only loose curls.

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  31. In fact I just realised if it is, that section of my head would be kinky wavy?!!

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  32. Wow, great diagrams helps alot!

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  33. JC, I just spent about 30 minutes looking for this article as I remembered seeing it on BGLH probably about two years ago. I was in search of the post and diagram as I'd been thinking about Afro-textured hair, shrinkage and thermal straightening. Although I have what is considered "curly" hair with "hang time," I do have about four different textures with varying shrinkage rates. And although my hair shows length, it always amazes me that even with my looser curl pattern, my hair still stretches significantly longer than it is. I started thinking about how the curly hair of many caucasian women doesn't seem to stretch as much when straightened, even when having curls of the same circumference. So, this is when I started thinking of, what I was calling, "hair torque." That's what I kept googling, "afro textured hair diagram torque" and variations of it. I finally found your article and realized you called it torsion. So, my non-scientific but logical mind has been thinking that women of African descent may all have some degree of torsion (some tangible to feel/visible to the eye; others maybe only visible under microscopic inspection?) to their curly hair, which is why our shrinkage is not only related to our curly circumference, but also to the torsion of our strands, which is reduced/eliminated upon thermal straightening. So, in conclusion, I'm thinking that if you put a caucasian woman with curly hair of the same circumference and length as a woman of African descent side by side and straighten their hair, the woman of African descents hair will actually be longer as the straightening not only eliminates the spiral curl of the hair, but also the torsion, resulting in longer hair. Would you agree with this conclusion (sorry, I have no science background, so just explaining this as best I can from a "common sense" analysis and approach). Thanks!!

    Shelli

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    1. Very interesting analysis, that is also why when afro-textured hair is straigtened it does not look as smooth as caucasian hair textures. Due to these torsions. I wonder is there is anything out in the market that help black women grow hair with less of these torsions I suspect that is the major cause of breakage and lack of moisture retention. Also is there any scientific evidence of MSM/Sulfur or other vitamins that can affect and possibly change texture?

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    2. I do think that the stretched out length of hair will be affected by the kinks.

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    3. Larissa, I am not a proponent of reducing kinks, they do occur naturally, there is nothing wrong with them.

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  34. I wonder if there is anything that can be taken t reduce these kinks. I presume that is the major issue that many women of african descent have when it comes to breakage. I finally understand that curl patterm and hair texture are different. I have a mix of kinky and curly hair and i have found by taking MSM my hair strands grew out of my scalp smoother less kinky but the curl pattern remain the same. The curls were now able to clump and smooth out better. Is there any scientific evidence of that.

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  35. Thanks for your explanation and diagrams of AA hair. I have referred to my hair as tightly coiled. Now your explanation seems more accurate. I have always believed that my hair grew fast but would break off at a certain length. I never experienced extremely long hair until I wore the loc hairstyle. Please explain the reason for cutting split ends

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