Body Wave vs. Loose Wave: Hairstylists Explain the Difference

Zendaya wears a long, wavy hairstyle and yellow dress


The new year is a great opportunity to try a new look, and I’ve been thinking about switching things up hair-wise with wigs and weaves. Wigs have always been a simple, low-commitment choice for me whenever I’ve been busy or unable to decide what to do with my hair, and while weaves require some maintenance, they're also a great way to protect your hair and promote growth.

When looking for hair extensions, I always take two things into consideration: the quality of the hair and the type of look I have in mind. I could go on about all the different hair extension options, but for now, let’s keep things short and sweet by focusing on body waves and loose waves. Both are popular options to achieve stunning, cascading texture, but what makes each unique, and which is best for you? We're having hairstylists break it all down so you can learn the difference once and for all.

Below, you'll find everything you need to know about body wave vs. loose wave hair, from what defines each to how to tell them apart. Keep reading to learn more about identifying these texture variations and how to choose the right hair extensions for you.

Meet the Expert

  • Sandra Simmons is the owner of Beyond Glam, a London hair and beauty studio that offers styling services as well as a range of wigs and accessories. 
  • Lesley Bryant is a hairstylist at SIMPLYGorgeous, a family-owned hair salon in London offering a range of services that cater to natural textures.

What Is a Body Wave?

“Body wave hair usually has loose curls that create an S-like shape,” Simmons tells us. “This S pattern is present throughout the length of the hair extension. Body wave hair is usually shiny and natural-looking in appearance. It also blends with most hair patterns due to its relaxed texture.”

If you're thinking about buying body wave hair (or any type of human hair), doing some research beforehand is essential, as some sellers are deceptive and can try to pass off synthetic hair as human hair. “Body wave hair should always be shiny and silky to the touch with a lightweight feel to each strand—this demonstrates that there has been little processing done to the hair,” Bryant explains.

What Is a Loose Wave?

“Loose wave hair consists of tight curls that are huge in size. They have a lot of volume and body and are ideal for someone who is looking for a fuller look,” Simmons says. While loose wave hair is quite shiny, it isn’t as glossy as body wave hair. When searching for good, high-quality loose wave hair, the bundles should separate with a light shake and be easy to unfurl. If you prefer to buy your hair in-store, this is definitely something to look out for before you head to the register.

Body Wave vs. Loose Wave Hair

The biggest difference between body wave and loose wave hair is the curl pattern. “Loose wave hair is much curlier than body wave hair. The curls in loose wave hair last longer than the ones on body wave hair,” Simmons says. Something else to keep in mind is that body wave virgin hair straightens out with time, so if you're looking for hair on the straighter side, it might be ideal for you. Loose wave hair and body wave hair look and feel like their names suggest, but according to Simmons, the strands on body wave hair are closer together: “This is what makes it less bouncy than loose waves.”

When it comes to versatility, loose wave extensions may fare better, as they can be worn in a variety of styles. The curl also holds better, which is a huge plus if you don’t want to spend a lot of time using curling tools, as you'll have to do with body wave hair at some point. “Loose waves tend to hold their shape a lot longer because they have more defined curls that are set in smaller sections—it will retain its shape, but it can be prone to tangling if it isn’t taken care of properly,” Bryant explains.

Alternative Curl Patterns

If body wave and loose wave hair aren't quite what you're looking for, the good news is you have plenty of other options when it comes to curl patterns in your extensions. A few other popular types to look into are as follows:

  • Deep wave: Deep wave hair is a great alternative to body wave hair. It’s a little curlier than loose wave hair and is similar to a natural curl texture that's been styled and left to dry naturally with gel. “Deep wave hair can offer a lot of versatility. It can be kept in its shape or brushed out with a Denman brush for added volume. To get the original curl pattern back, all you need to do is wet the hair and allow it to air dry,” Bryant explains. 
  • Water wave: Water wave hair is (you guessed it) wavy, but it's more curly than loose wave or body wave hair. “The curls go in different sections on the wefts, which gives a more tousled and voluminous finish to the overall style,” Bryant adds. 
  • Kinky curl: If you prefer to go all out with a curly style, then kinky curls might be for you. “Kinky curls resemble the structure of afro/curly hair when it is wet. They can be styled and manipulated to be less curly and more wavy if needed,” Bryant says. As kinky hair looks like natural curls and coils, it might be better to wear this type if you want extensions that can match your texture without having to straighten or style your hair first.

The Final Takeaway

Body wave and loose wave hair are both curly in texture and fully capable of providing a voluminous finish, so choosing the right extensions for you all boils down to personal preference. Which hair do you like the most? Which hair will be easiest to maintain in your routine post-installation? To sum it up, if you prefer thicker hair, a loose wave is best, but if a soft and bouncy curl with a little less volume is what you want, then body wave hair is for you.

Quality is also a major deal-breaker when looking for the right body wave or loose wave hair. If it doesn’t look or feel the way it should or you have doubts, don’t buy it. 

Post-installation care is key when it comes to keeping body and loose wave curls in check. You can get the best out of your curls by applying lightweight products—oils, serums, and leave-in conditioners are great, but don’t apply them too often. Applying products to your hair extensions once a week is enough to give your curls the voluminous boost they need.

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