Hair - Hair Type - Straight

Why Straight Hair Turns Wavy When Wet: The Science

Does your hair get wavy when wet, but turn straight after drying? Here’s why.

Written by Amber Belanger
Why Straight Hair Turns Wavy When Wet

We may earn a commission for products sold through links on this page. Learn more.

We all have a hair type. We either have straight, wavy, curly, or coily hair. It’s part of our looks and who we are.

But what you might not know is that your hair type can change.

It can change with age. When it’s humid outside. When you apply heat. And a lot of other situations.

If your hair changes from straight to avy when wet, there’s a reason. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Is My Hair Wavy When Wet?

The main reason why your hair is wavy when wet, but dries straight, is because the water affects your hair strands. Hair is made up of protein bonds. These bonds are affected by water. So when your hair gets wet, it changes form.

But, there are many other possible reasons.

You might have naturally wavy hair, also called type 2 hair. When you style it, it might turn straight and look like type 1 hair.

Or, maybe you use too many hair products.

Here are 14 reasons why it might happen.

1. Water Alters the Protein Bonds In Your Hair

Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen. When your hair interacts with water, it alters the hydrogen bonds between the hair’s protein strands, making your hair more flexible and sensitive to changes in texture.

Think of the hair strands like a long spring. When it gets wet, the spring contracts and turns wavy.

The added water also weighs your hair down, emphasizing any waves or curls.

2. You Have Naturally Wavy Hair

Your hair might appear straight when it’s dry but might be naturally wavy.

When wet, the waves in your hair become more noticeable as the water relaxes the natural curls. If you notice bends or twists in your hair when it’s wet, you may have wavy or curly hair.

Related: Wavy vs. Straight Hair: Which Do You Have?

3. Improper Towel-Drying

If you rub a towel on your hair right after stepping out of the shower, it can make it appear wavy. Instead, squeeze the hair with a microfiber towel to reduce friction and minimize any potential waviness.

4. You Have Residual Hair Products

Residual hair products can cause your hair to appear wavy when wet.

Over time, some products can build up on your hair shaft, weighing it down or causing a change in texture. Remove any excess product to maintain your hair’s natural texture.

5. Your Hair Lacks Protein

Lack of protein sometimes leads to signs of waviness when wet. This is because of the protein bonds in the hair. If they are weak they may change structure.

6. It Could Be the Brushing

Brushing your hair while it’s wet can cause it to lose its natural pattern and become wavy. Instead, use a wide-tooth comb to detangle your hair and preserve its natural texture.

7. You’re Exposed to High Humidity Levels

Hair can become wavy when exposed to high humidity levels.

Humidity can alter the hydrogen bonds in your hair, causing it to wavy. If you live in a humid environment, use humidity-resistant hair products.

8. You Wash Your Hair Frequently

Washing your hair too often can strip it of its natural oils. This can result in frizziness and unruly waves. Wash your hair less frequently and use a gentle shampoo to avoid this.

9. You Use Hair Dye or Bleach

Hair dyes and bleaches can damage your hair’s protein structure, potentially causing it to become wavy when wet.

If you get wavy hair after dyeing or bleaching, limit your use of chemical treatments. Opt for natural alternatives when possible.

10. You Have High Hair Porosity

High hair porosity means your hair easily absorbs and loses moisture.

Due to its porous nature, high porosity hair might appear wavy when wet as it absorbs more water. To help combat this, use protein treatments and seal your hair with natural oils after washing.

11. You Have Damaged Hair

Another explanation is hair damage.

Damaged hair turns wavy when wet due to changes in the protein structure. This mostly happens during the drying process though, as the heat causes and interacts with the hair.

Use heat protectants and avoid heat styling whenever possible to restore your hair’s health.

12. You’ve Recently Had a Haircut

Sometimes, after a haircut, your hair may lay differently and appear wavy when wet. This is normal, and as your hair grows, it should regain its natural texture.

13. You’re Using Hard Water

Hard water contains minerals that can affect your hair.

If you suspect hard water is causing your hair to become wavy, consider investing in a water softener or using a chelating shampoo to remove mineral buildup.

14. You’re Aging

As you age, your hair’s texture can change due to hormonal fluctuations. You can go from having straight to wavy hair simply because you get older.

How to Keep Your Hair Straight

How to Keep Your Hair Straight

If you have the issue of waves when your hair is wet, here’s how to fix it. Whether it’s after the shower, or because of high humidity:

  • Anti-humidity products
  • Straightening or smoothing shampoos and conditioners
  • Heat protectant before styling
  • High-quality straighteners
  • Hydrate your hair
  • Avoid touching your hair
  • Keratin treatments
  • Permanent or semi-permanent straightening treatment

Anti-Humidity Products

Anti-humidity products help control frizz and keep your hair straight in humid conditions. They often contain nourishing oils that combat humidity.

Too much can make your hair greasy; use it sparingly.

Straightening or Smoothing Shampoos and Conditioners

The right shampoo and conditioner are essential. Look for smoothing or straightening formulas that help control frizz and maintain straightness.

Heat Protectant Before Styling

Before using any styling tools like flat irons or blow dryers, apply a heat protectant to your hair.

This will shield your hair from heat damage, lock in moisture, and prevent frizz.

Buy a High-Quality Straightener

A good straightener can make all the difference in keeping your hair straight in humid conditions.

Look for one that has adjustable heat settings and ceramic or titanium plates. These distribute heat evenly and prevent damage.

Hydrate Your Hair

Moisturized hair is less prone to frizz and more manageable in humid weather. Your hair will already have the moisture it needs, and won’t absorb as much from the air.

Avoid Touching Your Hair

Resist the urge to touch your hair. The oil and dirt from your hands can lead to frizziness.

The less you touch, the better your hair will hold its straight style.

Try a Keratin Treatment

Keratin treatments help in preventing frizz and making your hair more manageable in a humid environment. These treatments can be done at a salon, or you can opt for at-home kits for a more budget-friendly option.

Get a Permanent or Semi-Permanent Straightening Treatment

For longer-lasting results, get a permanent or semi-permanent hair straightening treatment. Like Japanese straightening or a Brazilian blowout.

Straight vs. Wavy vs. Curly Hair When Wet

Your hair type depends on the shape of your hair follicles.

Straight hair comes from round follicles, while wavy and curly hair emerges from oval and twisted oval follicles.

When wet, your hair may look wavy because water weighs it down, revealing its natural shape.

How to Keep Your Hair Wavy After Drying

You May Need Gel

Wavy hair might need some help from styling products like gel or mousse. They can provide the hold your hair needs to maintain the wave pattern as it dries.

Shampoo Hair Thoroughly

Cleanse your hair with a gentle shampoo to remove any buildup, which can weigh down your waves and make them appear straighter.

Start with Warm Water & End with Cold Water

Rinse your hair with warm water to open up the hair cuticles, then finish with a cold water rinse to seal them and lock in moisture.

Scrunching Your Hair

While your hair is damp, scrunch it to help retain the wave pattern as it dries. This can also be done after applying a styling product, like gel or mousse.

Blow Dry Your Hair Properly

Use a diffuser attachment on your hairdryer and dry your hair on the lowest setting. This will gently dry your hair while maintaining its natural wave pattern.

Apply Hair Spray

Lightly mist a flexible hair spray over your dry, styled waves. This will help lock in the style and reduce frizz.

Use a Satin Pillowcase or Scarf at Night to Maintain Curls

Avoid cotton pillowcases, which can cause friction and frizz. Use satin pillowcases or wrap your hair in a satin scarf before bed.

Never Comb Your Hair When It’s Dry

Combing your hair when it’s dry can disrupt your waves. Instead, detangle your hair with a wide-tooth comb while it’s still damp.

Use a Styling Tool

For extra definition and hold, try using a curling wand or flat iron to create more structured waves. Remember to use a heat protectant to prevent hair damage.

Why Does My Wavy Hair Go Straight When I Brush It?

Why Does My Wavy Hair Go Straight When I Brush It

Wet hair is more flexible and the brush stretches out your waves. But brushing dry hair can actually make it look frizzier and lose definition.

To maintain your beautiful waves, try using a wide-tooth comb or even finger-combing when your hair is wet. And, avoid brushing when it’s dry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my hair wave when wet?

When your hair gets wet, it interacts with water (hydrogen and oxygen) and forms hydrogen bonds between the hair’s protein strands. These bonds can temporarily change your hair’s shape, causing it to appear wavy when wet. Once your hair dries, these bonds weaken, and your hair returns to its natural, straighter state.

Is it normal for straight hair to turn curly when wet?

Yes, it’s normal for straight hair to appear wavy or slightly curly when wet. As mentioned earlier, this is due to the hydrogen bonds that form when the hair interacts with water. This temporary change in texture is completely normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

Why does straight hair turn wavy?

Straight hair can turn wavy due to several reasons, such as humidity, using specific hair products, or even how you style your hair. Humidity can cause the hair to absorb moisture from the air, changing its texture. Hair products and styling techniques can also encourage waves to form, even in naturally straight hair.

What hair type is wavy when wet?

Most hair types can appear wavy when wet, including naturally straight hair. Wet hair is more susceptible to changes in texture because water molecules break the hydrogen bonds in the hair, allowing a temporary change in shape. Once the hair dries and the water evaporates, the hair usually returns to its natural texture.

Photo of author

Amber Belanger

Amber is not just a beauty enthusiast. She has spent countless hours doing the nails of her friends, researching the newest studies on personal care, as well as tried and tested numerous hair products. She prides herself on her factuality and luscious hair.