For most of her life, CurlTalker Karen -- aka Kirochka -- thought she just had messy straight hair.

It wasn't until she hit 40 -- and read Lorraine Massey's "Curly Girl" -- that she discovered she actually had wavy hair.

'Wavy hair can easily look like you just haven't brushed your straight hair in a while if you don't take care of it,' agrees CurlTalker lovin_my_curls.

Those with waves can feel like they're in hair limbo -- neither straight nor curly. Some days they may long for silky, straight hair while others yearn for tighter curls.

"On a good hair day, I can get nice, soft, loose curls, but I find that I have to work pretty hard to coax them into the shape of curls" says CurlTalker WavieD.

But despite the frustrations, stylists say waves are the most versatile hair type because they can have it both ways.

"You can go either way -- straight or curly," says curly hair stylist Jonathan Torch. "You can have way more movement than curly hair. You can have wisps. You can cut in layers that would cause frizz with curls. It's very easy to straighten it. Wavy hair allows you to take advantage of today's fashion styles."

Redken artist Ellen Lawlor says she prefers working with wavy hair because it's so easy to style.

"With straighter hair, you have to really work at making it wavy," Lawlor says. "Wavy hair has more options than anybody else."

The unique needs of wavy hair are now being addressed by a number of new products and a growing awareness among hair stylists. Some product lines -- such as Matrix Curl.Life and Bumble and bumble Curl Conscious -- offer different formulations for wavier hair.

"With curly hair, less is more," says Christo, artistic director of Christo Fifth Avenue, which specializes in curly and wavy hair.

Curl guru Ouidad said the majority of products for curls are too heavy for wavy hair.

"They are detrimental to wavy hair -- they don't enhance it," she says.

That's why she is launching a new line called Play Curl just for wavy hair. The curl-boosting line, which includes a shampoo, conditioner and water-based mousse, will be available in August.

"The reason I came out with this line is we need to address all kinds of curly hair and customize products for their exact needs," she says. "Now that we're over the wall with curly hair, we need to work with it from A to Z."

"The biggest challenge is encouraging more curl," says CurlTalker kjwavy, aka Kathy.

Torch prefers gels to sticky products or those with heavy oils or silicones, which can pull out the curl.

"I'd avoid those at all cost," Torch said. "With curls you're trying to control frizz. But with waves, you need more hold."

In some cases permanent waves may be the answer. A light, low-PH body wave can create a tighter curl pattern. But because of the porous nature of wavy hair, the perm technician must be very careful.

Kjwavy says she's gotten perms for the much of the last 15 years to make her hair curlier, although she's now using other methods to bring out the waves.

The cut also is key when working with wavy hair.

"One length doesn't work," Christo says. "For wavy hair, we create a lot of angles and framing around the face so the waves are lighter. You need to look at the face structure and create the shape according to the shape."

Ouidad says she never carves wavy hair, instead strategically slices it to create movement.

Torch says the most important thing when cutting wavy hair is to watch what direction the wave goes in and to see where it falls. He cautions against cutting wavy hair too short because it tends to develop wings. It's important to have styling options, he says.

"If you choose the wrong length, you can end up with a lot of problems," Torch says.

With summer coming -- and with it more humidity -- Torch says those with waves can wear their hair longer to take advantage of the added curl. If they prefer it straighter, he suggests a shorter cut.

Proper styling also is important for wavy hair. Diffusing can bring out the curls and fullness of wavy hair. Often it is a challenge to create lift and volume. Torch recommends grabbing the roots by the hands and picking up the hair. Round brushes also work well, he says.

Because wavy hair is stronger than curly hair -- and usually not as dry -- there are more options when it comes to coloring. While peroxide is a no-no for curls, those with wavy hair can go for brighter, stronger looks, Torch says.

No matter what you do, make sure to condition the hair, says Christo, artistic director of Christo Fifth Avenue. He suggests using a deep conditioner every two weeks.

And ultimately, those with waves should appreciate the attributes of their hair.

"Wavies shouldn't fight with their hair," says CurlTalker Christy, aka csb. "I will never have a head full of perfect spirals like real curlies get, so I have to learn to live with what I've got."

"The best thing about being wavy is that I can go curly or straight without a lot of effort," she says.

Curl Talker SpunkyCurls (aka Tessa) says she's learned to love the low maintenance of her long, wavy mane and doesn't fight to have perfect coils or board straight hair.

"I actually get more compliments as a wavy, which is nice," she says. "It tells me that it is a good fit for me."

Some favorite products of wavies:

  • Devacurl Low Poo
  • Jessicurl Aloeba Daily Conditioner, Rockin' Ringlets and Gelebration
  • Biolage Gelee
  • Suave Tropical Coconut Conditioner
  • ISO Multiplicity Texture Style Cream
  • Beyond the Zone Noodle Head
  • John Frieda Funky Chunky
  • Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper
  • Ouidad Curl Quencher Shampoo and Conditioner and Climate Control Gel
  • Clinique Defined Curls
  • Aveda Be Curly
  • PM the Cream
  • Tigi Bed Head Curls Rock
  • Alterna Nutritive Creme Gel
  • Curlisto Bio-Gel Mousse
  • Redken In the Loop and Fabricate
  • Philip Pelusi Phyto-Life Honey, Fusion Foam and Glisten
  • Elucence Shampoo/Conditioner
  • Michael DiCesare Liquid Fix Curl Enhancer
  • John Frieda Ocean Waves Spray Curl Enhancer
  • Suave Aloe Mousse
  • Tigi Curl Up Curl Activator
  • Kenra Thermal Styling Spray
  • Kenra Platinum Silkening Gloss
  • Tigi Shine Junkie
  • Matrix Biolage Smoothing Milk

Tips for wavies:

"Use a dry hair spray instead of a wet hairspray. Wet sprays make wavy hair frizzy."
-- Christo, artistic director of New York's Christo Fifth Avenue, which specializes in curly and wavy hair

"I wash my chin-length layered hair at night, putting in gel, pinning the top and letting it dry. I take out the pins and go to bed. In the morning, I scrunch out the crunch. I spray lavendar water on the parts that are flattened out on the back and sides to re-curl."
-- Curl Talker Kirochka

"Blunt hair is not advisable. A razor can work well as long as the hair's not too coarse. If it's coarse, point cut it."
-- Ellen Lawlor, Redken Artist

"You want to do some layering so the hair won't look boxy or like a big triangle. But you don't want to layer it too much. You want long layers, even if it's cut shorter."
-- Stylist Philip Pelusi

"Brush it all forward as your blowdry and then brush it back and the hair is in control. Most people start by brushing it back and they end up with big wings."
-- Jonathan Torch of Curly Hair Solutions

"I rinse my hair upside down in the shower, scrunch out the dripping water and then wrap my hair in a t-shirt. I can't apply my products in soaking wet hair because they get too diluted. I leave my hair in a t-shirt for about 10 minutes and then shake it out. I run my fingers against my scalp to loose up the roots a bit, then apply my products."
-- CurlTalker kjwavy

"Have a good cut. By that I mean long layers, no razoring, no thinning shears. I am so adamant about this that I am now driving five hours to Atlanta and spending a pile of money to have my hair cut. A long layered cut lets the waves bounce up but doesn't leave them fighting each other."
-- CurlTalker Christy, aka csb

"Use any product with magnesium sulfate - epsom salt - because it really encourages the curl. Also, don't comb out the hair outside of the shower, as that will pull out much of the wave/curl. (This is true for anyone wanting to enhance curls.) Instead, using a wide tooth comb in the shower when the conditioner is on the hair will ensure tangle free hair, but not at the expense of curl enhancement. And get the water out of the hair ASAP after showering.The longer the water stays in the hair, the more wave/curl will be pulled out, due to the weight of the water."
-- Jess McGuinty of Jessicurl

"I know less is more is really a cliche, but I've found it works the best for wave formation and minimizing frizz."
-- CurlTalker SpunkyCurls

"If you have a tendency to frizz, ditch your towel and use a t-shirt to gently squeeze out any excess water for about 30 seconds. You can also plop with it afterwards for more volume at the crown."

"Add honey to your conditioner. It has made a huge difference for me! I add one tablespoon honey to about three tablespoons of conditioner and mix in my hand before applying. Rinse 80 percent of the way. This makes my hair softer, curlier and more moisturized. And your conditioner lasts longer too!"
-- CurlTalker lovin_my_curls

"Razoring is the ultimate evil to a wavy. I've never looked messier, which is my ultimate disaster.

"Quality trumps quantity. I've seen some wavies who have covered their hair with product and just the top layer is defined. Between the curls, a giant poof ball is evident. It would be better to have all soft waves than artificial surface curls over a mound of fuzz."
-- Curltalker Laurabeth33