By Marlene Lenthang

An 18-year-old became a viral sensation after she created a witty dating meme comparing "girlfriend" hair to the style favoured by the "other woman".

Payton Hicks, a cosmetology student from Muncie, Indiana, tweeted side-by-side before and after photos of curled hairstyles, captioning the images: "You vs. the girl he cheats with."

The "other woman" photo on the right shows a blonde with a head of tightly curled ringlets, and the "girlfriend" picture on the left shows a woman with the same beach-ready waves seen in millions of Instagram snaps - having taken the crucial step of raking a comb through the stiff curls to achieve the all-important natural look, the Daily Mail reports.

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Payton's suggestion that the tight curls were likely to be sported by the sort of girls who are out to steal your boyfriend, while nice girls know better, immediately struck a chord with women everywhere, amassing more than 24,000 retweets and more than 102,000 "likes" after being shared on Wednesday.

But men who failed to spot the subtle difference between the styles were baffled by the meme, and thousands took to Twitter to admit they did not understand the joke.

But their confusion only added to the delight of in-the-know women, further boosting the post's popularity.

Speaking to Buzzfeed, Payton explained she came up with the idea after experimenting with hairstyles on her roommate.

"My method for curling clients' hair is creating ugly ringlet-type curls that I then brush to make beachy beautiful waves," she said.