Guys with curly or kinky hair know it can be tough to manage at times.
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This is doubly true when that mane starts to get longer and has the propensity to grow into a tangled web if you don’t intervene.
Have you ever wondered why, or what you can do to rock your locks with style and confidence?
That’s exactly what we’ll be taking a look at today, as we guide you through some facts you should know about long curly hair for men and the strategies you should employ to help you keep it looking great.
Basic Facts About Curly Hair
To tame our curly hair, we must begin by understanding it, and the first point to note is that there isn’t just one type of hair we collectively define as “curly.” There are actually several different subcategories of curly hair, determined by the follicles on your scalp (fun fact: you can even have more than one type growing on your head).
For starters, you’ve got your wavy hair, which you can think of as the middle ground between straight hair and what most people think of when mentioning traditionally curly hair. In fact, at shorter lengths, wavy hair is easily mistaken as just straight hair.
While there’s definitely some bend to it as it grows longer, it’s more like a slight “S” shape that lies closer to the head than other curly hair types (think of actor Kit Harrington’s look on Game of Thrones if you need help visualizing).
Interesting to note is the fact that wavy hair can also range from fine to coarse varieties, with the coarser varieties being more likely to frizz and more difficult to straighten out.
Coiled Curly Hair
Next up, let’s look at coiled curly hair. You can recognize it by those corkscrew-style loops, which can range from loose to tight. These coils will generally start to form within two inches of hair growth, making them more readily identifiable than wavy hair.
The tighter those coils, the more difficult this kind of long curly hair can be to manage, and it can look pretty intense at longer lengths (see ex-football star Troy Polamalu as an example).
Kinky or Afro-Textured Hair
Last on the list we’ve got kinky/afro-textured hair. This type of hair is instantly recognizable and most commonly associated with black men (though it can be found in other ethnic groups). It’s naturally dry and starts to curl at a length much shorter than all other hair types.
That extraordinarily tight curling pattern is what gives kinky hair the appearance of being an individual mass (as opposed to separately identifiable strands of curly hair), and you needn’t look further than superstars like Denzel Washington and Jamie Foxx to see exactly how kinky hair can be.
In spite of these differences, there are also similarities between various curly hair textures. While science once thought that the hair shafts themselves determined their type, more recent research has revealed that the type of hair and the angle it grows at is influenced by your hair follicles (that’s the part within your skin that the hair grows from). Curly hair types, as it turns out, “is shaped like an elongated oval and grows at a sharp angle.”
What’s the point in understanding these different curly hair varieties and being able to identify your own, you might wonder? Knowledge, as the saying goes, is power. In this case, the power to adapt to the various advantages and disadvantages your hair type presents, and select hair care and styling strategies that will best complement how your hair grows.
Different Strategies for Different Hair Types
If you have curly hair, you probably already know that it tends to be drier than straight hair, more prone to getting frizzy, and that humid conditions can further complicate these issues. As a counter, there are general hair care steps and products that are applicable to all long curly hair types:
- Shampooing hair to keep it clean is a must. For the best results, though, you’ll want to select a shampoo that doesn’t contain harsh-on-your-hair ingredients like sulfates, parabens, and silicones. Additionally, you’ll want to look for shampoos that are tailored to curly hair and designed for your specific hair thickness (if possible).
- Judicious amounts of conditioner are another necessity to keep curly hair in shape as it grows longer. Recall that curly hair has a tendency to get dry, and shampooing can make that dryness worse. Conditioner will help keep your hair smooth and make it easier to style in the manner you like.
- Pomades are preferable to waxes for styling curly hair. This is because pomades, on average, have better “hold,” than most waxes (meaning they’ll keep that curly hair under control), and they tend not to clump up on curly hair (whereas waxes would).
The Pros and Cons of Your Curly Locks
In spite of these overlaps in grooming steps, though, there are still some hair maintenance specifics that will depend on your individual curly hair type.
So, let’s jump into the pros and cons of the different varieties so you can make yourself aware of these and some of the specific steps you should take to look after your locks.
Ride the Wave
If you’ve got wavy hair, then you’re in luck — its similarity to straight hair means that maintenance will be far easier than other curly hair types. It’s easy to style, and you’ll be able to pull off some pretty impressive long haircuts to boot (which we’ll cover in greater detail in our next section).
Coils and Coils
For those with coiled curly hair, maintenance is going to be slightly more challenging, especially as your hair grows longer.
Coiled hair is often thicker and more voluminous than wavy hair, and combing, in particular, can be a major struggle without the right tools. So, you’ll want to arm yourself with a wide-tooth comb that will make it easier to tease through those coils and style your hair the way you like.
Leave-in conditioners are another product to invest in if you have coiled curly hair (these are great for adding an extra touch of moisture and softness, and can make styling even easier). You might also want to consider using a hairdryer to help get those coils under control as they grow longer.
Guys with kinky hair may well have the most maintenance issues to contend with. While its superior volume can make for some truly impressive hairstyles, it takes a while to grow kinky hair to length.
Beyond that, though, the lack of curl definition (because kinky hair curls at much shorter lengths) and difficulty with combing can, at times, be maddening.
As challenging as this may seem, kinky hair maintenance isn’t impossible. At greater lengths, you’ll want to make sure you have an afro pick to detangle kinks and keep your long curly hair growing smoothly.
Deep and leave-in conditioners will be a must to add softness and moisture to your hair, and for that final touch, try some olive oil and coconut butter to further moisturize and protect the tips of your longer hair.
The Best Haircuts for Long Curly Hair and How To Get Them
As with hair maintenance, the best long curly hairstyles for men will depend upon that specific curly hair subtype. Here are a few examples for you to try if you’re inclined to a bit of experimentation.
Styles For Wavy Hair
Guys with wavy hair, for instance, can rock the messy, medium-to-shoulder length hairstyles with the greatest of ease. Let it grow, and you can easily get that “lion’s mane” effect that’s instantly recognizable among the wavy hair subset.
This is far from the only long hair look that you can adopt with wavy hair, though. Take a trip to your barber, and they can hook you up with any number of cuts that complement wavy hair, for instance…
The Wavy Fade
This is a fairly standard style for wavy hair gents, and for good reason.
Gradation in the length of the hair makes for a great aesthetic, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can experiment with various parts and use pomade and/or your blow dryer to play around with different hair directions (swept forward, slicked back, etc.).
The New Undercut
The crew cut itself is nothing new, but with longer wavy hair, you can put a new spin on this old classic. For this cut, you’ll again want the hair longer on the top, but instead of a fade that has a subtle gradation in length, you’ll want your barber to buzz the sides short all the way around.
Add a part to one side, and you’ll have nailed it. If your hair is on the thicker side, adding some texture to this style with a bit of pomade is a surefire way to jazz it up even further.
Styles For Coiled Curly Hair for Men
For coiled curly hair, you could grow it as long as possible and let it rock like you’re Kenny G, but this kind of epic length might take you a few years to grow to its full potential. In the interim, you could, similar to wavy hair, experiment with a few different styles, such as…
The Surfer Cut
Strongly associated with the “classic” surfer look, this style is all-too-appropriate for those with mid-to-long coiled curly hair. Let it grow, and with some subtle maintenance, achieve that kind of “controlled messiness” that gives the iconic surfer cut its dashing appeal.
You can add volume by using a mousse, and make sure that any products you’re adding to your hair are more matte than shiny, as this will help you maintain a natural appearance (and not look like you’re trying too hard).
The Mop Top
Alternatively, you could in a more adventurous direction. The bowl cut, if you can believe it, is back in style for guys with coiled curly hair, as is the highly-textured lob cut (think The Beatles or old-school classic rocker, if you’re having trouble visualizing).
Follow the same general maintenance rules for coiled curly hair as we detailed above, and find a barber who can cut your hair just right while adding some panache to your overall style.
Styles For Kinky Hair
And for our kinky hair brethren, the epic, soulful afro is an obvious hairstyle go-to. Just maintain your kinky hair and let it grow, and in due time that majestic ‘fro will form.
This is but one of many happening haircuts you might employ, though, as kinky hair also pairs well with all manner of other cuts, for example…
Any Kind Of Fade
Kinky hair pairs so well with a fade you might swear the two were made for one another. You’ve got your temple fade, your afro fade, your skin fade, and even the majestic fro-hawk to choose from, just be sure you’ve got a barber with a deft hand who can sculpt your ‘do into the one you favor most.
What’s more, once the hair gets longer, you can combine this style with waves, twists, or dreadlocks to fine-tune your hair’s appearance to your absolute liking. Speaking of which…
Twists, Dreadlocks, and Braids
Once again, kinky hair seems tailor-made for these types of hairstyles.
The resilient and voluminous nature of this curly hair subtype goes hand-in-hand with all manner of braids, dreads, and twists — so long as it’s well-maintained.
Your biggest challenge here will be growing your hair to the appropriate length, something that will take both time and dedication.
Through it all, remember this: while men with long curly hair might face a few extra challenges when it comes to growth and maintenance, the versatility of curly hair makes those hurdles well worth the effort.
Remember to account for the natural disadvantages curly hair presents (prone to dryness, tangles, etc.), take care of your hair as it grows, and in due time you’ll be able to rock any number of those aforementioned (and magnificent) long curly hairstyles for yourself.
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Dwight Hill is a grooming enthusiast, writer, photographer, designer, and musician. He divides his time between Washington, DC, and Richmond, VA, as a teacher at the Metropolitan School of the Arts and drummer for Gears of the Sun.