Men with curly hair who aren’t sure how to take care of it fall into three major camps: those who keep their as short as possible so that it doesn’t curl in the first place, those who let their hair grow out just enough to cover it with a hat or tie it back day after day, and those who go back and forth between trying everything and nothing at all to take care of their curls.
Do any of these sound like you?
There’s no shame if they do! We’re here today to help you understand how hair length affects your curls and how to take care of male curly hair depending on its length.
You’ll be proud to show off your dashing curls in no time!
The Science of Curly Hair Length
Naturally, the key to understanding how the length of your hair affects your curls is all in the science. We’re not going to go full-on research paper here (thankfully), but we do think understanding why curly hair behaves the way it does will save you time and stress to take care of it in the long run.
So, how does hair length affect curls, scientifically?
The biggest influence on curls from hair length is gravity. If you’re thinking “obviously,” you might still be surprised to learn a thing or two!
Gravity itself doesn’t change, at least for our daily life here on Earth. It’s a constant force in our lives. Because it’s relatively constant, the Earth’s gravity pulls on your hair with the same force regardless of length.
So when we say gravity is the most significant influence on curls, it really has to do with how your hair adapts to gravity as it grows or is cut shorter. The reaction of your curls to gravity would more accurately be described as Hooke’s Law (F=kx), otherwise known as the inspiration for our name, Formula F=kx!
How Long Hair Affects Curls
Long hair naturally has more mass because there is simply more hair attached to your head.
The longer curly hair grows, the more your curls may become looser or less tight and springy. Curls tend to get looser when hair is long because the weight of the extra hair is pulling the curls downward.
If you’ve ever grown your curls out for a long period of time, you might have noticed how they went from very tight and springy to more relaxed as they grew.
Then, if you’ve ever kept your long curly hair for a while, you might have also noticed that the curls began to relax further. This is because the extra weight of longer hair will keep your curls stretched and pulled from the force of gravity. Just think about how a spring looks when pulled down by a heavy object!
Of course, no two men’s curly hair will be the same, so this may be either entirely or only partially true for you. The critical thing to remember is that as curly hair grows, the curls loosen up a bit due to weight and get even more relaxed if you maintain a long hairstyle.
How Short Hair Affects Curls
So, that means short curly hair is quite the opposite! Because less force from gravity and mass is pulling your curls due to having less hair on your head, curls will naturally be tighter or more springy with short hair.
However, this isn’t absolute. The springiness of your curls depends on your curl type, hair thickness, and density (which we cover in the next section).
Some men’s hair is not immediately curly for the first inch or so when it first starts to grow from the scalp. It might take an extra inch or two for hair to go from slightly wavy to full-on curly.
On the other hand, others have tight curls from the moment hair starts to sprout. Regardless, the general principle of shorter hair correlating to tighter curls (relative to each male’s unique curls) remains the same.
An important thing to note, which you may have experienced before, is that cutting long curly hair to a short hairstyle will make curls even tighter and springier at first.
As your hair grows longer and the curls stretch out, they store up all that energy from being pulled down by their own weight. That stored energy then makes the curls contract to be even tighter before eventually relaxing over time as your hair grows back.
In other words, if your goal is to keep a consistent hairstyle, it’s best to maintain an average preferred length for your curly hair and minimally trim it on a regular schedule.
Curl Type, Thickness, and Density Effects
Length alone isn’t enough to give your curls their unique look. Your curl type, hair thickness, and overall hair density affect curly hair differently, both when long and short. If you read the previous section and felt like your curly hair doesn’t behave the same way when it’s long or short, then these other factors might be the reason.
Let’s get a brief overview of each:
If you didn’t already know, there are multiple curly hair types. The general curl type categories are wavy, curly, and coily, but each group has even further classifications. The tightness or width of curls can generally be broken down into three more categories A (wider curls), B (medium curls), and C (coily/tighter curls). Wavy hair can be broken down into similar sub-categories.
Wavy or curly hair in the A category (known as 3A) is the most likely to have curls that stretch out and become less tight-looking as hair grows longer.
However, you might also notice with these hair types that hair isn’t immediately curly or wavy when it first starts growing from your scalp. It might take a few inches to begin showing curls, and you might have a mid-length sweet spot for getting the springiest curls before they grow long and relax again.
For curly hair in the B category (3B) or coily hair (type 4), the length of your hair may not impact the look of your curls as much in comparison to the rest.
This is because tighter curls are naturally springy and more resistant to the heaviness of hair as it grows longer. These are the types of curls that are curly from the moment they start growing from the scalp.
You can read more about curly hair types here!
Hair Thickness and Density
Regarding length and curly hair, hair thickness, and hair density work quite similarly to each other.
Hair thickness refers to how thick the individual strands of your hair are, while hair density refers to how many individual strands of hair are on your head.
People of all hair types can have different hair thicknesses and densities. You could have curly hair with thick hair and high density, thick hair and low density, thin hair and high density, or thin hair and low density.
Regardless, the general principle of each remains the same. Thick hair and high density of hair both contribute to weight-resistant curls as they grow out, while thin hair and low density contribute to curls that change more as your hair grows.
Caring for Curls at Different Lengths
Now that you have a little bit of an understanding of how curly hair acts at different lengths, it’s time to dig in just a bit more. Caring for long curly hair and short curly hair both have their unique challenges, and this is true regardless of your hair type, thickness, or density.
Let’s talk about what you need to do to care for both long and short curly hair.
Long Curly Hair Care
No matter your hair type, long hair requires more effort to stay healthy. This is only more true when it comes to curly hair. Thankfully, caring for men’s long curly hair doesn’t have to be complicated!
There are only a few most important things to remember when caring for long hair:
- Don’t over-wash your hair. Curly hair is naturally drier, and washing it too frequently or with too much shampoo will strip away the natural oils your curly hair desperately needs to stay smooth, healthy, and frizz resistant. Wash long hair with shampoo only a few times per week.
- Don’t skip conditioner! After shampooing your hair, it will need to replenish moisture fast. Conditioner gives your long curls extra moisture and the strength to resist frizz and damage between washes.
- After and between your showers, make sure you’re using the right products to hydrate further, style your long curls(such as styling cream or defining gel), and never blow-dry or roughly towel-dry. Air drying and gently combing long curly hair after showering will keep long curly hair soft and well-formed.
- Trim regularly. Yes, this might seem counterintuitive at first, but hear us out. Long hair gets more exposed to damage, frizz, and environmental stressors as it grows over time. Regular trims will keep your long hair healthy & prevent frizzy split ends. (See our guide for finding a men’s curly hair stylist if you need help!)
Expect to go through products more quickly (shampoo, conditioner, etc.) with longer hair, but be careful not to overdo it. Too much product can weigh down your hair further, which will only diminish the springiness of your curls. It might take some trial and error, but you’ll find the right amount to use for your long curls in no time.
Short Curly Hair Care
Many of the care steps to caring for long hair also apply to short curly hair, such as shampoo frequency, conditioner use, and air drying.
The first noticeable difference is that you won’t go through shampoo, conditioner, and styling products quite as fast! Because curls tend to be less tame when short, however, you might find yourself reaching more often styling products like hair gel to keep it all under control during the day.
Just be sure to only use as much as you need and never more, and make sure the ingredients in your styling products are not harmful to curly hair (more on that next).
Short curly hair can also go longer in between trims, depending on your style preference. And if you’re committed to the short curly hair life, we recommend finding a hair stylist who will help give you confidence with your curls and make them look their best.
Short or Long Curly Hair — Some Things Are the Same!
Whether you have short or long curly hair, most hair care tips really are similar. We’ve saved one of the most important things for last because it’s something all curly hair types and lengths need to know — how to pick the right ingredients.
Even if you do all the right steps to take care of your curls, the ingredients in your products will ultimately have the final say in how your curls look and feel.
Choose products that are hydrating and not drying and products that won’t excessively weigh down your curls. The best curly hair product ingredients should help your hair look effortlessly healthy.
To keep it simple: avoid ingredients like sulfates and silicones that will dry out your hair, and instead choose ingredients like coconut oil, keratin, and green tea extract that will keep your curls.
Thankfully, Formula F=kx has men’s curly hair products designed to be as no-frills as possible while still packing a punch to keep curls healthy!
From our classic system to our extra moisturizing system to our defining gel and styling cream, we’ve expertly formulated the easiest male curly hair system on the market. Long hair, short hair, curly hair, coily hair — it works for all!