Having inconsistent hair textures where your hair is curly underneath but straight on top can be frustrating. As I flip my hair around in the mirror, I often wonder – why is my hair curly underneath but pin straight at the crown?
If this is something you deal with, you’re not alone. Many people have combinations of curl patterns in different sections of their head. In my case, tight ringlets start sprouting below my crown, while the hair on top falls flat and straight.
After tons of experimenting over the years, I’ve learned the two main reasons for these uneven hair textures: genetics and hair damage. While we can’t alter our genetic makeup, understanding the causes behind texture variations can help us care for our unique hair more thoughtfully.
Genetics Is To Blame for My Inconsistent Hair Textures
For many of us, the DNA we inherited from our parents determines our natural hair type. Curly-haired parents tend to have curly-haired children. Straight-haired parents tend to have straight-haired children.
But genetics isn’t always so straightforward. Numerous genes influence our hair texture, so combinations of straight-haired and curly-haired genes can lead to varying curl patterns on different parts of the head.
For example, my mom has pin-straight hair while my dad has tight coils. I ended up with a blend of textures – straight pieces up top from my mom and bouncy ringlets underneath from my dad.
The blend of genes I inherited from both sides of my family leads to natural variations in the tightness of my curls. The back and sides of my hair that nobody sees are super curly, while the top layers are wavy and straight.
While genetics determines curl pattern, other factors like weather, hair care, and styling can also impact texture over time. But for many of us, the differences in our hair originated long before we were even born.
Your Hair Could Be Damaged, Causing Inconsistent Textures
Besides genetics, uneven hair textures often stem from damage to the hair structure. The many strands that make up our hair can weaken and change shape over time.
When the hair cuticle – the protective outer layer of each strand – gets compromised, the inner structures become vulnerable. As the cortex and medulla get damaged, strands lose their natural curl pattern and turn straighter.
Certain activities and exposures are more likely to damage the top layer of your hair. Over time, the cumulative damage to the top sections causes it to grow out noticeably straighter than the protected underside.
Let’s explore some of the common causes of uneven hair texture due to damage.
Overusing Hot Styling Tools Can Damage Hair Cuticles
Frequently using hot styling tools is a prime cause of inconsistent hair textures. The extreme heat from blow dryers, flat irons, and curling wands can damage hair over time.
These tools expose our strands to high temperatures ranging from 200 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Such intense heat applied directly to the hair fibers causes changes to the protein structure.
When hot styling tools are used excessively without temperature protection, the cuticles can’t withstand the punishment. The protective outer layer weakens and peels back.
This type of damage usually concentrates on the visible top layer of hair. Since this hair is styled the most frequently, the cuticles erode and the curls straighten out. Meanwhile, the protected underside retains its natural curl pattern.
To prevent hot tool damage, invest in a good heat protectant spray or serum. I also avoid cranking tools above 300 degrees. Following healthy styling habits can help maintain consistently curly hair textures.
Weather Damage Can Lead to Inconsistent Hair Textures
Extensive exposure to harsh weather conditions can also damage hair over time. Things like strong sun, heavy wind, and very cold temperatures can break down the hair cuticle.
The top layer of our hair bears the brunt of weather damage. Think about it – when you’re out in the elements, your crown is the most exposed section. The underside remains somewhat protected and insulated against your head.
Over many years, repeated exposure to sun and wind wears down the structural integrity of the top layer. The loss of cuticle protection makes the hair shaft more porous. This causes the crown to lose its curly pattern, while the underside maintains its natural texture.
To protect hair from uneven weather damage, be diligent about wearing hats, scarves or protective styles. Seek shade when possible, and use leave-in products with UV filters.
Chemical Services Can Cause Uneven Hair Textures
Frequent use of chemical services like hair dye, bleach, perms, and relaxers can also damage the hair cuticle over time. The active ingredients interact with the protein structure of each strand to create chemical changes.
Most chemical treatments are directly applied to the top and frontal sections of the hair. This section gets repeatedly exposed to the chemical process during each salon session.
Over many sessions, the harsh ingredients wear down the protective cuticle layer of the treated hair. With the cuticle compromised, the underlying cortex loses its original structure. This causes the chemically treated hair to grow out straighter than the virgin hair.
To prevent chemical damage, I space out treatments by at least 2 months and do conditioning treatments in between. I also avoid overlap when applying chemicals to maintain the health of my lengths.
Excessive Brushing and Combing Can Cause Damage
Overmanipulating the hair by brushing or combing too aggressively can also damage the cuticle. Our strands are weakest when wet, so overly rough brushing of wet tangled hair can be detrimental.
The teeth of brushes and combs can snag onto hair strands, breaking them or scraping up the cuticle. This leads to frayed, rough strands that lose their ability to curl up.
Since we brush the top visual layer the most to smooth it out, this section suffers the most wear and tear. The protected underside stays relatively intact.
To prevent brushing damage, I stick to wide tooth combs and very gentle brushing when wet. I also avoid yanking or ripping through severe tangles. Regular trims help me get rid of any frayed ends.
Leaving Hair Uncovered During Sleep Can Cause Texture Changes
Neglecting to protect your hair while you sleep can also impact curl pattern over time. Rubbing against pillowcases, tossing and turning, and indentation from sleeping positions can disrupt the hair cuticle.
This friction and compression can flatten out the natural curl structure, especially on the crown where contact is maximal. The hair protected underneath your head remains relatively untouched.
To prevent sleeping damage, I always secure my hair in a loose braid or high bun at night. I also sleep on a silk or satin pillowcase that slides easily against my hair.
A bonnet provides even more protection. Following a regular silk pillowcase and bonnet routine has really helped maintain consistency in my curl pattern.
Uneven Hair Lengths Can Lead to Different Textures
In some cases, the top layer of your hair might simply be longer than the layers underneath. Gravity causes the additional weight of long hair strands to pull the curls straighter over time.
Meanwhile, the shorter layers near your neck don’t have as much length weighing the curls down. So they maintain their tight coil structure.
Try trimming your hair into even, shoulder length layers all around your head. Avoid drastic lengths between the top layer and underside. This distributes the weight evenly and encourages your curls to pop consistently.
How to Even Out Your Hair Textures
Once you understand what’s causing your uneven hair textures, you can take steps to get your curl pattern back on track. While you can’t change your genetics, you can alter your hair care and styling to prevent further damage.
Let’s go through some solutions to help you achieve more consistent curls from top to bottom.
Trim the Straight Sections to Refresh Curls
If you have heat or chemical damage isolated to a specific section, get a trim to refresh your curl pattern.
Ask your stylist to trim off 1 to 2 inches from the straight, damaged area. Cutting away the frazzled ends helps revitalize your curl pattern. New, healthy hair can grow in with a tighter coil.
To maintain your length while correcting damage, get gradual trims every 8 to 12 weeks. This allows you to slowly trim away damage without excessive length loss. Remaining patient through the process will give you the best results.
Try Curl-Enhancing Styles Like Twists or Bantu Knots
Implementing curl friendly styles can help train your hair into a more uniform texture. Protective styles like twists, Bantu knots, braids, and roller sets encourage your natural curl pattern to pop.
These styles keep your hair from heat damage while allowing the natural coils to shine. Over time, they can help coax texture back into heat straightened sections.
The key is giving your hair a prolonged break from hot tools and tight styles. Keep the regimen simple and give your curls time to rebound. Be patient through the transition period.
Follow a Strict Natural Hair Care Routine
Following a healthy natural hair care regimen is crucial for maintaining your curl pattern. The right products and techniques can optimize your hair’s texture.
Cleansing your hair regularly with a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo will eliminate buildup without stripping moisture. Conditioning your lengths and ends after each wash is vital for hydration and slip.
Deep conditioning weekly under heat replenishes protein to strengthen your strands. Moisturizing frequently with water-based creams and gels boosts shine and elasticity.
Protective hairstyling, silk pillowcases, minimal heat, and regular trims all help retain moisture and curl definition. Finding the right products and techniques tailored to your hair texture makes a big difference.
Chemical and Thermal Treatments Can Help
In some cases, chemical or thermal treatments may help get your textures more uniform. However, these options involve permanently altering your natural curl pattern.
Chemical relaxers can permanently straighten out wavy or curly sections of hair. The harsh process leaves hair straight and prone to breakage, so frequent deep conditioning is a must.
Perms can add permanent wave to straight sections, making them match your naturally curly hair. However, perms damage the hair significantly so be cautious.
Occasionally straightening your curly hair with a flat iron is less harsh than chemicals. But to maintain health, minimize the heat and always use a protectant.
Consider both the pros and cons before deciding if chemical or thermal treatments make sense for your hair goals. Your natural texture may surprise you if cared for properly!
If the hair at your crown is stick straight while the underside is curly, rest assured – you’re not alone! Many factors from genetics to styling damage can cause uneven textures.
While we can’t change our genes, we can modify our hair care to retain the best curl pattern possible. Limiting damage, keeping hair moisturized, and getting occasional trims helps hair stay healthy and defined.
With time and patience, your efforts will help coax your natural texture into alignment. And if not, embracing your unique combination of curls is always an option. No matter what, your hair is beautiful!
Sophia Rodriguez is the creative force behind IGXO Cosmetics, a popular beauty blog and brand. As a long-time makeup artist and beauty industry insider, Sophia realized there was a lack of authentic, relatable content for the everyday woman. This inspired her to launch IGXO Cosmetics in 2018 as a platform to share her passion for beauty.