What Activates Curly Hair?

Curly hair is a fascinating aspect of human genetics, but have you ever wondered what actually activates it? It turns out that the answer lies in the genes we inherit from our parents. Yes, genetics play a major role in determining whether our hair will be straight, wavy, or curly. But it’s not just about the genes themselves; there are certain proteins involved in the hair follicles that dictate the shape and texture of our hair. So, if you’re looking for the secret behind those gorgeous curls, it all comes down to your DNA and the intricate workings of your hair follicles.

What is curly hair?

Curly hair is a hair type characterized by natural waves, curls, or coils. It is often considered a unique and beautiful texture that adds volume and dimension to one’s overall look. Curly hair can range from loose waves to tight spirals, and it can vary in thickness and density. People with curly hair often have to follow specific hair care routines and use specialized products to enhance and maintain their natural curls.


Genetics play a significant role in determining whether someone has curly hair. If your parents or other family members have curly hair, there is a higher chance that you will also have curly hair. The shape of your hair follicles, which are small sacs from which each strand of hair grows, is inherited, and it affects the shape and texture of your hair. So, if your genetics dictate curly hair, you are more likely to have curly hair yourself.

Hair follicle shape

The shape of the hair follicle is a crucial factor in determining whether someone has curly hair. People with curly hair typically have oval or asymmetrical follicles, while those with straight hair have round follicles. The asymmetrical shape of the hair follicle causes the hair to grow in a curved or spiral pattern, resulting in curls. This shaping of the hair follicle happens during the embryonic stage and remains permanent throughout a person’s life.

Hair texture

The texture of your hair also contributes to its curliness. Curly hair tends to have a coarser texture compared to straight hair. The protein structure of curly hair is different, with more disulfide bonds present. These bonds create twists and turns in the hair strands, adding to the overall curliness. Additionally, the diameter of each individual hair strand can also influence the curl pattern. Thinner strands are more likely to create looser curls, while thicker strands can produce tighter curls.

Hair care routine

Maintaining curly hair requires a specific hair care routine to keep it healthy and defined. This routine often involves using sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners that provide moisture and nourishment to the hair. Curly hair tends to be drier due to its structure, making it prone to frizz and breakage. Deep conditioning treatments, leave-in conditioners, and hair oils are commonly used to keep the curls hydrated and manageable. It is advisable to avoid excessive brushing or combing, as it can disrupt the natural curl pattern and lead to frizz.


Humidity plays a significant role in activating curly hair. When there is moisture in the air, curly hair tends to absorb it, causing the strands to swell. This increased moisture absorption leads to the expansion and definition of the curls. On the other hand, in dry conditions, curly hair may appear less defined and more prone to frizz. To combat the effects of humidity, many individuals with curly hair use anti-humidity hair products and techniques, such as diffusing or air-drying, to maintain their desired curl pattern.

Heat and styling tools

Applying heat to curly hair can alter its natural curl pattern. Excessive use of heat styling tools, such as flat irons or curling irons, can cause temporary or permanent damage to the hair cuticle, resulting in looser or straighter curls. It is important to use heat protectant sprays and limit the use of hot tools to protect the integrity of curly hair. Embracing heat-free styling methods, like twist-outs or braid-outs, can help enhance natural curls without compromising their shape.

Chemical treatments

Chemical treatments, such as relaxing, perming, or straightening, can permanently alter the natural curl pattern of the hair. Relaxers break down the protein structure in curly hair to straighten it, while perms introduce chemicals to straight hair to create curls. It is crucial to be cautious when considering chemical treatments, as they can result in damage and changes to the hair texture. It is recommended to consult with a professional hairstylist who specializes in curly hair before undergoing any chemical process.

Hair products

Using suitable hair products tailored for curly hair is essential in activating and maintaining curls. Curl-enhancing shampoos, conditioners, and styling products can provide hydration and definition to the curls. Ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, and aloe vera can help moisturize and control frizz in curly hair. It is important to choose products that are free from sulfates, parabens, and alcohol, as these can strip moisture from the hair and cause dryness. Experimenting with different products and techniques can help individuals find the best combination to enhance their specific curl pattern.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors, such as the climate and weather conditions, can impact the appearance and behavior of curly hair. As mentioned earlier, humidity can activate curly hair and enhance its curliness. On the other hand, exposure to excessive heat, cold, wind, or dry air can affect the moisture balance in curly hair, resulting in frizz or lack of definition. Protection from harsh weather conditions, whether through protective hairstyles, hats, or scarves, can help preserve the health and appearance of curly hair.

In conclusion, curly hair is influenced by genetics, hair follicle shape, hair texture, and environmental factors. While genetics largely determine whether someone has curly hair, proper hair care routines, the use of suitable products, and attention to environmental conditions can activate and enhance the natural curls. Embracing and celebrating the uniqueness of curly hair is key, and understanding the factors that activate it can help individuals take better care of their curls and enjoy the beauty of their natural texture.

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