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What is Coily Hair: Causes, Types, and 10 Best Tips to Manage it

Coily hair man and woman

Coily hair, often characterized by its tight and springy texture, is a unique hair type that requires specific care and attention. Here, we will exploring its causes, effective management strategies, and distinguishing it from other hair types. 

Whether you’re looking to embrace your natural hair or gain insight into caring for someone with it, this article has got you covered.

Table of Contents

What Is Coily Hair?

It is a hair type known for its tightly coiled or spiral-shaped strands. It is often referred to as type 4 hair on the hair type classification scale. This hair type is common among individuals of African descent, but it can be found in people of various ethnic backgrounds.

Understanding the Causes

Genetics Play a Crucial Role

The primary factor behind coily hair is genetics. The shape and structure of your hair follicles are determined by your DNA. If your genes code for tightly coiled follicles, you’re more likely to have it.

Hair Structure

It is characterized by a flattened, oval-shaped hair shaft. This unique structure is what gives it its coiled appearance. The flatter the hair shaft, the curlier the hair tends to be.

Types of Coily Hair

Types of coily hair refer to the various classifications and patterns of tightly curled or coiled hair found in individuals of African descent or those with similar hair textures. 

These hair types are typically categorized into three main categories: Type 3, Type 4A, and Type 4B. We will explore every one of these types in more detail.

Type 3

  • This type is often referred to as “spiral” or “corkscrew” curls.
  • Type 3 coily hair has well-defined, springy curls that can vary in size, ranging from small to large.
  • It tends to have a more visible curl pattern and is generally more manageable compared to Type 4 coily hair.
  • This hair type is more prone to frizz and can benefit from regular moisturizing and styling products designed for curly hair.

Type 4A

  • Type 4A coily hair is characterized by tight, S-shaped coils.
  • The curls are smaller and denser compared to Type 3, but they still have a visible curl pattern.
  • It can be quite fragile and prone to dryness, so proper moisture and gentle handling are essential to maintain its health.
  • This type of hair often has a soft and fine texture.

Type 4B

  • Type 4B coily hair has a more zigzag or “Z” shaped curl pattern.
  • The curls are tightly coiled and may not have a defined curl pattern when in its natural state.
  • This hair type is known for its versatility, as it can be styled in various ways, including twist-outs and braids.
  • It’s also prone to shrinkage, which means that its true length is often not immediately apparent until it’s stretched.

It’s important to note that these categories are not strict, and many people have a combination of these coily hair types on their heads. 

Additionally, proper care and maintenance are crucial for keeping it healthy, which includes regular conditioning, gentle detangling, and the use of products specifically designed for coily and curly hair textures.

Coily Hair vs Curly Hair

Coily hair vs curly hair

The difference between coily hair and curly hair lies primarily in their respective textures and shapes.

1. Texture

Coily Hair

It, often referred to as “kinky” or “type 4 hair” in the natural hair classification system, has a very tight and compacted curl pattern. It appears to be densely packed with small, spiral-shaped curls or coils. The individual strands hair are usually fine in texture but can vary from fine to coarse.

Curly Hair

Curly hair, on the other hand, has a looser curl pattern compared to coily hair. It forms larger and more relaxed curls or waves. Curly hair can range from loose, beach-like waves (type 2 hair) to well-defined curls (type 3 hair). The strands in curly hair are often medium to fine in texture.

2. Shape

Coily Hair

It typically forms tight, springy coils that may resemble the shape of a spring or a corkscrew. These coils can be very small, creating a dense and voluminous appearance.

Curly Hair

Curly hair forms more open and flowing curls or waves. These curls may appear as ringlets or waves and have a less compacted structure compared to coily hair.

3. Maintenance

Coily Hair

It tends to be drier than curly hair due to its tightly coiled structure. It requires regular moisturizing and careful handling to prevent breakage and maintain its shape.

Curly Hair

Curly hair is generally less prone to dryness compared to coily hair, but it still benefits from moisture and specific hair care products designed for curly hair types.

4. Styling

Coily Hair

It can be styled in various ways, including twist-outs, braid-outs, and wash-and-gos. These styles help define and elongate the coils.

Curly Hair

Curly hair can be styled into loose waves, defined curls, or even straightened with heat styling tools. It offers more versatility in terms of styling options.

5. Products

Coily Hair

It often requires thicker and more moisturizing products, such as heavy creams and butter, to keep it well-moisturized and defined.

Curly Hair

Curly hair may benefit from lighter styling products like mousse or curl-enhancing creams to maintain the bounce and definition of curls.

In summary, while both coily and curly hair share similarities in that they both have a natural curl pattern, the key differences lie in the tightness of the curls, the shape of the curls, maintenance needs, styling options, and the type of products that work best for each hair type. 

Understanding these differences can help individuals choose the right hair care routine and products for their specific hair texture.

Coily Hair vs Wavy Hair

Wavy vs coily hair women

The difference between coily hair and wavy hair lies primarily in their natural texture and curl patterns.

Coily Hair

1. Curl Pattern

It has a tight and well-defined curl pattern. The curls are usually in the form of tight coils or spirals.

1. Texture

It tends to have a coarse and thick texture, which can make it prone to dryness and frizz.

3. Maintenance

It requires a lot of moisture and specialized care to maintain its shape and prevent breakage.

4. Styling

It can be styled in various ways, including twists, braids, and natural afros.

Wavy Hair

1. Curl Pattern

Wavy hair has a softer curl pattern compared to coily hair. The curls are more relaxed and tend to form gentle waves.

2. Texture

It is typically finer and smoother in texture compared to coily hair.

3. Maintenance

Wavy hair is easier to maintain and often requires less moisture and product to keep it looking healthy.

4. Styling

It can be styled in loose waves, beachy curls, or straightened easily with less effort compared to coily hair.

In summary, the main difference between coily and wavy hair is the tightness of the curl pattern and the texture. Coily hair has tight coils and is coarser, while wavy hair has softer, more relaxed waves and is typically finer. Each hair type has its unique care and styling requirements to keep it looking its best.

The Beauty of Coily Hair

Beauty of coily hair woman

It offers a host of advantages and unique qualities that make it a true beauty to behold:


It is incredibly versatile. It can be styled in a myriad of ways, from afros and braids to twists and coils, allowing for endless creative expression.

Natural Volume

It naturally appears voluminous and full, making a bold and captivating statement.

Strength and Resilience

Despite its delicate appearance, it is strong and resilient when properly cared for.


It is a reflection of one’s authentic self. It celebrates individuality and heritage, and it stands as a testament to embracing one’s natural beauty.

Celebrating Coily Hair as a Cultural Statement

It carries deep cultural significance for many communities. It is a symbol of resilience, heritage, and pride. Wearing coily hair in its natural state can be a powerful cultural statement, reminding the world of the beauty that lies in diversity.

Difference Between Male and Female Coily Hair

Coily hair, a beautiful and unique hair texture, can vary between men and women in terms of structure, care, and styling. Here are some key differences between male and female hair.

Hair Structure


Typically, male coily hair tends to be thicker and coarser compared to female coily hair. The individual strands are often wider in diameter, which can make them appear denser.


Female coily hair, on the other hand, may have a finer texture. The strands are sometimes thinner in comparison, which can result in a more delicate appearance.

Growth Patterns

Man and woman

In some cases, men’s hair may grow at a faster rate compared to women’s coily hair. This can lead to quicker length gains and the need for more frequent haircuts or maintenance.

Hair Care


It may require less maintenance in terms of styling, but it can be more prone to dryness and breakage due to its coarser texture. Proper moisturizing and conditioning are crucial for maintaining healthy men coily hair.


It may involve more elaborate styling routines, including protective styles, twists, or braids. The finer texture can make it more susceptible to frizz, and meticulous care is often necessary to achieve desired styles.

Styling Options


Men with coily hair often opt for shorter hairstyles, such as fades or closely cropped cuts, which can be easier to maintain. However, longer styles are certainly possible with the right care.


Women have a wide range of styling options, from short afros to long, flowing curls. Many choose to embrace the natural texture or experiment with different protective styles, making versatility a hallmark of women coily hair.

Products and Maintenance


Men coily hair may benefit from simpler grooming routines, often requiring fewer hair products. A good moisturizing conditioner and occasional styling products can suffice.


women coily haircare often involves a variety of products, including leave-in conditioners, curl enhancers, oils, and gels. These products are used to maintain moisture, define curls, and control frizz.

Cultural and Styling Choices


It has been celebrated in various cultural contexts, and there’s a growing movement encouraging men to embrace their natural textures.


It has a rich history of cultural significance and is celebrated for its diversity and versatility. Women often use their hair as a form of self-expression, with an array of styling options available.

How to Manage Coily Hair

Managing it requires a tailored approach to keep it healthy and looking its best. Here are some essential tips:

1. Moisturize Regularly

It tends to be dry and prone to breakage. Use a hydrating shampoo and conditioner designed for coily or curly hair. Deep conditioning treatments are also beneficial.

2. Detangle Gently

Use a wide-tooth comb or your fingers to detangle your hair when it’s wet and saturated with conditioner. Begin from the tips and move gradually to the roots to limit breakage.

3. Protective Styling

Consider protective styles like braids, twists, or buns to minimize manipulation and reduce the risk of breakage. Be cautious not to make these styles too tight, as it can stress your hair and scalp.

4. Avoid Heat Damage

Limit the use of heat styling tools like flat irons and curling irons. If you must use them, apply a heat protectant spray and use the lowest heat setting necessary.

5. Regular Trims

Coily hair is prone to split ends, which can travel up the hair shaft and cause damage. Get regular trims to keep your hair healthy and prevent split ends from worsening.

6. Use Satin or Silk

Cotton pillowcases can absorb moisture from your hair and cause friction, leading to frizz and breakage. Opt for satin or silk pillowcases to maintain hair moisture and reduce friction.

7. Hydrate from Inside

Drink plenty of water and maintain a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals to promote overall hair health.

8. Product Selection

Choose hair products specifically formulated for coily hair. Look for ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, and glycerin, which help to moisturize and define curls.

9. Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Minimize the use of harsh chemicals like relaxers, which can weaken and damage coily hair over time.

10. Patience

Embrace your natural texture and be patient with your hair. It may take time to find the right routine and products that work for you.

Benefits of Embracing Coily Hair

It is not just a hair type; it’s a natural marvel, representing a rich tapestry of history, culture, and individuality. This unique hair type, often characterized by its tightly coiled or spiral-shaped strands, is a symbol of beauty in its most authentic form.

The Essence of Coily Hair as Natural Hair

Coily hair man

It is often referred to as type 4 hair on the hair type classification scale. It is most commonly found in individuals of African descent, though it can be seen in people from diverse ethnic backgrounds. 

What sets coily hair apart is its natural state, a reflection of one’s genetic heritage and a testament to the beauty of embracing one’s roots.

Celebrating Diversity

It represents a beautiful tapestry of diversity. Each hair strand tells a unique story, from its curl pattern to its texture. It’s a reminder that beauty is not confined to one standard but thrives in the variations that make each special.

The Journey to Self-Acceptance

For many individuals , the journey to self-acceptance can be transformative. Society’s beauty standards have often favored straight or loosely curled hair, but the natural hair movement has challenged these norms. Embracing it as natural hair is a powerful act of self-love and self-expression.


In conclusion, coily hair is a beautiful and unique hair type that deserves proper care and attention. Understanding its causes, learning how to manage it effectively, and distinguishing it from other hair types are essential steps in embracing your hair or helping others do so. 


Is coily hair more prone to breakage?

It can be more susceptible to breakage if not properly moisturized and handled with care. Regular conditioning and gentle detangling can help prevent breakage.

Can coily hair be straightened?

It can be straightened temporarily using heat styling tools, but it’s essential to use heat protectants and avoid excessive heat to prevent damage.

Are there specific products for coily hair? 

Yes, there are many products designed specifically for it, including moisturizers, conditioners, and styling products. Look for those that cater to your hair type for the best results.

How often should coily hair be washed?

It should be washed as needed, but avoid excessive washing, as it can lead to dryness. Aim for once or twice a week, depending on your hair’s needs.

Can coily hair be relaxed to make it more manageable?

While it is possible to relax it with chemical treatments, it’s essential to consider the potential damage and loss of natural curl patterns. Make an informed decision and consult a professional if you choose this route.

Does Coily Hair Grow?

Yes, it grows just like any other hair type. However, due to its spiral shape, it may appear as though it grows more slowly. Consistent care and a healthy lifestyle can promote optimal growth.

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