We’ve all heard of combination skin, but combination hair? What’s that?
If you’re blessed with curly hair, you might be all too familiar with the phenomenon of combination hair. That’s when you have different textures of hair on different parts of your head – most commonly, straighter hair on top and curly hair underneath.
This variation in hair textures is more common in people with curlier locks. However, it can affect every hair type to a certain extent.
It can be frustrating to deal with such different textures as you try to style your hair. You might be wondering if there’s something wrong with you.
So, why do you have curly hair underneath but straight on top? Turns out, it’s actually very common. And the reason for this phenomenon can sometimes be attributed to genetics, and other times it’s caused by damage to the top layers of your hair.
In this post, we will discuss the different reasons you might have curly hair on the bottom and straight hair on top. We will also go over some of the ways you can even out the textures of your hair and help it stay more uniform.
Why Is My Hair Curlier Underneath?
There are three possible reasons why your hair is curlier underneath. Let’s take a look below.
Yes, a lot of times uneven hair patterns are just due to your DNA. In fact, there are multiple “curl” genes that parents can pass down to their kids, sometimes resulting in a person having up to four different hair textures on their head at once.
The hair textures can change throughout the person’s life with certain genes becoming more prominent than others as the person ages and goes through hormonal fluctuations.
If your hair is straight on top but curly underneath, this could be due to your genetics, even if your hair hasn’t been that way all your life.
Scientists have found that aging, going through pregnancy, and sometimes even going through stressful citations can affect your gene expression and affect different parts of your hair in different ways.
If your combination hair is a result of your genetics, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to deal with it forever. Your genetic expression might change with time. In the meantime, there are things you can do to even out your hair texture, which we will discuss in a moment.
Another reason why your hair texture might be different in different parts of your head is your health status.
Some health conditions can affect the look of your hair. These include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, lupus, and others.
If you notice a sudden change in your hair texture, as well as some other changes in your health, it’s best to check with a doctor.
Sometimes taking medication and addressing the underlying condition can return your hair to its regular texture.
Another common reason for hair being straighter on top and curlier at the bottom is damage to the hair.
If you naturally have a curly texture, putting your hair through damaging activities can weaken the curl and cause it to look more straight.
The top layer of the hair typically incurs the most damage and exposure to chemicals so it loses its texture quicker than the hair underneath.
Here are some of the most common causes of damage that can make hair lose its curl:
Heat styling means using a hot tool to style and control the way your hair looks. It includes things like hair straightening, curling, blow-drying, blowouts, and hair rollers.
Heat styling damages the outer layer of the hair cuticle and dries up the moisture inside of the hair. This damage is permanent, although it can be repaired to an extent by ceasing to use hot tools or using a heat protectant and focusing on healing your hair with moisturizing products and keratin.
When you damage the structure of your hair with heat, you often damage the texture of the hair, causing curly hair to become more straight and to lose its bounce.
Chemical processing is when you use powerful chemicals to alter the color and texture of your hair. Some common chemical processes that you’re probably familiar with are: coloring, bleaching, perming, and relaxing.
Much like heat styling, chemical processing permanently changes the structure of your hair and can turn curly hair into straight hair. The affect is more pronounced on the top layers of the hair because that’s usually where the chemicals sit the longest.
The top layers of the hair are also much more exposed to environmental damage than the bottom layers. Environmental damage includes UV exposure from spending a lot of time in the sun, as well as chemical pollution and harsh weather.
All of those things can inflict additional damage to your hair structure, permanently altering your hair’s texture and causing it to lose some of its curls.
While brushing hair is normally not a damaging activity, over-brushing or over-combing can make the hair weaker and less curly.
This is even more pronounced if you brush your hair too much while it’s wet because your hair is more fragile and prone to pulling when it holds on to extra water.
Over-brushing wet hair can lead to pulling, stretching, and breaking which results in your hair looking more straight and frizzy on the top of the head.
Sleeping Without Protecting The Hair
Another overlooked source of damage is sleeping without protecting the hair. If you’re the type of person who tosses and turns during the night, this is something to pay attention to!
When you’re in bed, the top layers of your hair can rub against the fabric of your pillow, sheets, and blankets, which can do a surprising amount of damage to your hair.
Not only does this cause breakage and tangles in your locks, it can also affect the texture of your hair over time. Since the top layers of your hair are the ones rubbing against fabric the most, that’s where you’ll notice the biggest difference.
Try using a silk/satin pillowcase or head wrap to diminish damage.
Going Too Long Without A Haircut
As your hair gets longer and heavier, the added weight can straighten your natural curl pattern. This can lead to uneven hair textures, especially if you have sections of hair that are longer than others.
If you notice that the longer parts of your hair are more straight than the shorter parts, this can definitely be the culprit. Sometimes getting a haircut is all it takes to make the texture of your hair appear more even.
How To Even Out Your Hair Texture
Whether it’s genetics or damage that’s causing your hair to be curly at the bottom and straight on top, there are things you can do to make it look more uniform.
Some of these strategies work best as short-term solutions, while others are better for evening out your hair texture in the long term and will require more patience.
Here are the things we recommend trying if you want your hair to be one texture all over:
Reduce Chemical and Heat Damage
This is definitely more of a long-term solution. Heat and chemical damage is permanent, and even though you can reverse some of it, most of it won’t be gone until your hair grows out.
That being said, it’s a worthy pursuit since your hair will start growing out healthier and the textures of your hair should become more uniform.
Of course, if your combination hair is a result of genetics, reducing heat and chemical damage won’t get rid of it entirely, but having healthier hair, in general, will help it look better overall.
To reduce chemical damage, think about embracing your natural hair color and texture without altering it going forward. This can be hard to do, especially if you’re coming back from significantly altered hair.
The middle stage while your roots are growing out can be pretty awkward, but there are lots of ways you can get creative by wearing your hair up and accessorizing while it grows out.
Heat damage is a little easier to avoid – simply reduce the frequency with which you heat style your hair. You can also use a cooler setting whenever you are drying your hair.
Curl Your Top Layers To Match The Bottom
Ok, this sounds completely opposite from our advice above, and that’s because it is. If you’re looking for an immediate solution, you can simply curl your top layers to make them match the bottom layers better.
This is a great short-term solution that works right away. It won’t get you any closer to naturally even hair, but if you need something pronto, this is it.
To curl your top layers, you can use a curling wand or rollers. Just make sure they are the right size so that the curl pattern looks similar to the curls on your bottom layers.
As an alternative, you can straighten your bottom layers to help them look more like your top layers of hair. It’s up to you which direction you decide to take it.
Enhance Curls With Product
A less damaging but equally immediate option of making your straight hair match up to your curly hair underneath is to encourage the top layers to curl by using curling products.
There are lots of different curling gels and mousse products that you can apply to your hair while it’s still damp to promote curls and waves. This makes it easy to air-dry and eliminates the need to use hot tools, which can help heal your hair, too.
In addition to using curl-enhancing products, you can also finger-coil the straighter parts of your hair to help them take shape while they dry. Sometimes the combination of curling gels and finger-coiling is all you need to get pin-straight hair to start curling and waving into beautiful locks.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Well-moisturized hair curls better. If you suspect that your top layers have become straight due to damage from heat styling, chances are, adding back some of the hydration that was lost during your use of hot tools can reverse some of the damage.
We suggest using moisturizing shampoos and conditioners, as well as doing regular hair masks that include ingredients like shea butter, argan oil, and honey. These ingredients help rehydrate the hair.
You can also look into incorporating a leave-in conditioner into your routine. For example, this leave-in conditioner helps nourish your hair while defining and adding some hold to your curls.
If you use it along with the finger-coiling method we described above, you can kill two birds with one stone and moisturize your hair while adding some curl back into your straighter strands.
Pin Top Layers While Air-Drying
If finger-coiling isn’t quite your thing, another way you can encourage your top layers to curl is to pin them up while they dry.
Pinning involves separating your hair into sections and rolling them up towards your scalp. You can secure the rolled-up hair with a pin and let it dry for a few hours or overnight. When you remove the pin, the hair will unroll in a beautiful curl pattern.
If your hair is only straight at the top of your head, you’ll only need to pin your top layers, while allowing your bottom layers to dry as usual, since they’re already naturally curly.
Cut Your Top Layers Shorter
Since longer hair can make your hair straighter, one thing you can do to get your top layers to curl better is to cut them shorter.
A good stylist will know how to cut the right kind of layers in your hair to enhance your natural texture and help define more curls in the top part of your hair.
Look into the “Deva Cut” – it’s a haircut that involves cutting top layers to a specific length that takes into account the natural texture of the hair to promote the best curls and waves that look uniform all throughout the head.
Wrap Your Hair While Sleeping
To prevent any further damage to your top layers, we recommend wrapping your hair up when sleeping. This won’t give you any immediate results when it comes to evening out your hair textures, but it will help prevent your top layers from continuing to grow straighter than the rest of your hair.
It will also help tame frizz and reduce breakage, which is a win-win in our book. It’s always best to use a silk hair wrap or scarf as silk doesn’t pull or tug on your hair. As an alternative, you can look into getting silk or satin pillowcases which will help reduce the damage too.
Avoid Ponytails And Tight Buns
Try to avoid any hairstyles and updos that pull on the top layer of your hair, as over time, these can contribute to the mismatched texture of your top layers.
This includes ponytails, tight buns, topknots, and similar hairstyles. While this won’t help much if your combination hair is genetic, it can definitely reduce the overall damage to your top layers that contributes to the hair becoming straighter over time.
As you can see there are a lot of different reasons why your hair might be curly underneath but straight on top – from genetic predisposition to damage incurred from over-styling and over-processing.
Regardless of the reasons, you’re not alone and lots of people deal with “combination hair” on a daily basis.
Luckily, there are lots of things you can do for immediate and long-term results that can help even out the texture of your hair. We hope you find these tips helpful and embrace the natural variety of your hair!