January 16, 2023
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Last Updated on April 6, 2023 by Verna Meachum
If you find yourself looking in the mirror and wondering why your hair looks so stringy and curly, you’re not alone.
Stringy curly hair can leave you feeling frustrated and overwhelmed because you can’t seem to get your hair looking the way you want it to. You know something is off but you can’t quite figure out what it is.
So why does your hair turn stringy? It could be due to a variety of things, including some bad habits in your hair care routine.
But don’t give up hope! Stringy curly hair can be fixed with the right knowledge and products.
In this blog post, we will elaborate on the science behind stringy curls so that you can identify what’s causing it in your own life and start taking actionable steps to restore your lovely locks back to their former glory.
Curly hairs have special structural features that differentiate them from other types of hair, thus necessitating customized hair care routines.
Human hairs possess a variety of curl patterns – they could either be straight, slightly wavy, curly, or extremely coily kinky.
This varying curl pattern is genetically decided and contingent upon the structural features of both the cortex and medulla (internal structural portions of hair fiber).
Ask anyone with curly hair and they will tell you that they just want well-defined healthy curls consistently, but achieving this is no easy task. To gain this natural look – a special daily hair care regimen is necessary to maintain manageable locks.
One common vexing issue that curly heads experience is having dull stringy curls which are hard, dry, and rigid.
Furthermore, the dryness and stiffness of this type of hair make it difficult to achieve a well-defined curl pattern.
Without further adieu, let’s dive into the science behind stringy curly hair.
There’s nothing worse than when your hair starts to get unruly, especially when its texture suddenly changes mid-day from bouncy curls to a lifeless mess of stringy strands.
It seems like no matter how many products you put in it or what tricks you try, the struggle with stringy curls never ends!
I once suffered from stringy curly hair and it was not an enjoyable experience. If you look closely at the photo below, you’ll see the stringy ends that just wouldn’t clump together with the rest of my curls. On top of that, my curls were loose, dull-looking, and had lost its curl pattern.
There is a multitude of factors that can contribute to stringy curly hair. It can be defined as locks looking limp, without their usual body, bounce, and shine. But have no fear – while frustrating at times, there are solutions to the problem!
Hair needs water to stay healthy, shiny, and beautiful. Keratin protein primarily makes up the composition of our hair, and it is incredibly adept at absorbing moisture from its environment.
Scientific studies has revealed the damaging effects of harsh chemical treatments such as perms, relaxers, and bleaching on hair; leaving it dry, brittle, and inflexible.
Utilizing chemical treatments can lead to protein loss in the hair, which then becomes highly porous and has significantly large-sized pores. Highly porous hair fiber loses water more easily and thus becomes drier.
The same mechanism applies to high-temperature thermal processing in which heat applied lowers the moisture level of hair. Consequently, your hair becomes brittle and fragile making it difficult to manage; in addition, the strands become stringy and unruly with frizz.
Hairstylists recognize that hair dryness is the most significant cause of stringy curly hair and must be urgently dealt with.
1) Keep your hair healthy; minimize excessive and repeated applications of harsh chemical treatments.
2) Wash your hair with sulfate-free shampoo as sulfates are known to make hair even drier.
3) Always use rinse-off conditioners blended with cationic conditioning agents and emollients.
Important cationics are:
These are vital to align cuticles, reduce fiber-to-fiber friction and provide ease of combing.
4) Oils are essential for hair health; they provide the required lubricity and emollience. Natural oils and butter are in high demand and are known to improve hair quality. Some oils have been proven to even reduce protein loss from hair.
5) To maintain and improve the health of dry hair, a nourishing deep conditioning treatment should be done at least once per week for 20-30 minutes. To maximize the effects of this treatment, you can use either a hooded dryer or a heat cap to enable faster absorption and deposition of conditioning agents into your hair strands.
Daily, our hair faces various kinds of physical and chemical damage. From combing it too often to exposing it to extreme temperatures or performing multiple treatments with chemicals, these damaging factors can wreak havoc on your hair. Even harsher weather conditions can be especially harmful.
These factors lead to frizz, split ends, cuticle abrasion, and the challenge to manage hair. One remarkable aspect of curly hair is that it does not possess a consistent or uniform diameter along its shaft. This irregularity makes curly hair weaker at the curved strands, thus making it more prone to breakage.
Furthermore, high humidity levels can greatly exacerbate already damaged hair strands.
We all rely on some form of styling or hair product to keep our curls looking their best. Whether you’re aiming for a smooth and well-defined look, beachy waves, or something else entirely, the right products can make achieving your desired hairstyle easy.
These hair styling or fixative formulation contains hair-fixing polymers which are generally synthetic large-sized polymer. As these molecules settle on the strands of your hair, they form a coating that helps set and maintain your desired style once it dries off.
Unfortunately, these polymers attach to the hair fibers and prevent the penetration of vital water molecules. As a result, hair becomes dry, frizzy, and stringy.
Over time, the polymer coating can make curls gummy and distort their natural shape. Excessive applications will make the diameter of the curl smaller and eventually create thin, stringy curls.
Furthermore, these polymers create a considerable build-up along the hair shaft.
To bring back the natural texture of curly hair, we must eliminate these polymeric additives from curls.
1) Wash your hair with a clarifying anti-residue shampoo to get rid of these materials.
2) Afterwards, apply a gentle light leave-in conditioner containing no polymeric ingredient.
3) If you want to find the perfect hair styling formulation for your curly locks, it is crucial that you experiment with different products until you uncover one which suits your precise curl type.
Various hair care formulations contain alcohols used either as a solvent or as moisturizers.
While these substances, known as humectants, help to deliver water molecules to the hair, too much of them can cause an overabundance of moisture, inducing frizzy and stringy curly hair.
Other examples of drying alcohols are ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, and butyl alcohol, which are used as a solvent in various hair care formulations (especially styling mousses and hairsprays). They are termed ‘drying agents’ as they accelerate the drying time for a hair styling product.
Additionally, these drying alcohols improve the polymer stability in a formulation. On the other hand, they can make hair dry, rigid, and brittle. Ethyl alcohol in particular is known to quickly evaporate all of a hair’s moisture content.
1) Minimize exposure to these drying alcohols and regularly use a moisturizer to restore and maintain the hair water level.
2) The right combination of humectants and emollients is vital for this task. Here again, you better choose novel humectants rather than glycerin or propylene glycol. For this purpose, opt for novel humectants, rather than glycerin and propylene glycol, like Alpha hydroxyl acids e.g. lactic acid or its salts.
3) Beet sugar-derived betaines have demonstrated superior efficacy in improving hair moisture levels and combating hair dryness.
Blow drying and flat ironing are commonly used to style hair. Sadly, these processes subject the hair to intense heat, which can damage them over time.
On a microscopic level, it’s been revealed that steam is the cause of chipping on hair shafts. When water molecules inside individual hairs evaporate and extreme conditions are present, localized ruptures can also occur.
Frequent applications can bring about severe dryness which may result in permanent damage to your hair. Unsurprisingly, this leads to a lack of natural shine and texture, as well as changes to the curl pattern.
1) Safeguard your locks against these extreme temperatures – use a thermal protector before any heat styling treatment to guarantee optimal results.
2) Thanks to their remarkable thermal stability, silicones can withstand intense heat; moreover, they have been proven to protect and control hair damage.
3) If you do not wish to use a silicone-based system for protection, natural oils or butter are also an option. Sunflower oil, sesame seed oil, and shea butter have high smoke points so they can withstand higher temperatures. Thermal protector formulations comprising these oils work better due to the nature of the emulsion system. Make sure to apply them evenly, so that no strand of hair is left out.
If you have curly hair, then chances are you’ve experienced the dreaded stringy curls. Thankfully, there is a straightforward yet highly effective solution that can help!
We all want our hair to look its best. The primary challenge lies in dryness, which is the main cause of unruly hair.
Proper conditioning and maintaining well-conditioned and moisturized hair can make it easier to manage and style.
I had to listen to what my hair needed...my curls are finally ready to take in some moisture again!!!
- renee, Stylist Liaison
“I truly couldn't have gotten through this without her knowledge, advice and support...after suffering from Hygral Fatigue and getting tons of advice @themestizamuse.”
“@themestizamuse: for ESSENTIAL information you will NEED TO KNOW in order to see results.”
See how easy the topics are to find on her page (a few posts screenshot)? There is no topic Verna hasn't covered.
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Inspiring hair tutor, grateful for what she offers the Curly Community in authenticity, passion, and knowledge.
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“I was so excited to embrace my curls and take better care of them. As I started to dive in, I immediately became overwhelmed with the information.”
I read books and tried doing things because "that's what I'm supposed to do," but it didn't always work and I didn't understand why. I'm so grateful for Verna and her blog. Her info. actually helped me understand more of the science of why some methods helped and what products or ingredients to use and why. Anyone that compliments my hair and wants to start a curly journey, I tell them to start here. My hair is so much healthier and I'm so happy with it.
- stephanie, Curly hair enthusiast
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