Hair types help us to identify what care your tresses need and what products are best for it. Our ultimate guide breaks down the different curly hair types, the characteristics they each have, and what the differences each can make.
Table of Contents:
- What Are the Different Types of Curly Hair?
- What Type of Curly Hair Do I Have?
- Curly Hair
- Wavy Hair
- Coily Hair
- How Often Should You Wash Your Hair Type?
- Can You Only Have One Curly Hair Type?
- Why Do You Need to Know Your Hair Type?
- What Else Can Influence Your Hair Type?
What Are the Different Types of Curly Hair?
There are several ways to categorise curly hair, but the most popular classification divides the curl textures into 3 types:
These three curly hair types can also be referred to numerically, as types 2, 3, and 4. The higher the number, the tighter the curl pattern of this hair type.
These numbered hair types can then be broken down further into subcategories of A, B, and C, depending on how tight the pattern diameter is.
Product Development & Textured Hair Expert
Gaia Tonanzi, Product Development & Textured Hair Expert
What Type of Curly Hair Do I Have?
Knowing which type of curly hair you have is an important step in achieving the curls of your dreams. It doesn't necessarily influence what product you'll pick, but it will have a strong influence on your routine and how you apply them.
- To identify your hair type you will need to examine your locks against the guides laid out below.
- Look for the pattern of your natural hair, preferably while it is wet.
- You may remove a few strands and lay them flat upon a surface, watch what happens as the strands dry. This can help you determine your hair type.
Once you’ve discovered your curly hair type, you’ll have the knowledge to nail the right curly hair routine. Although there are three different curly hair types, there is also a fourth hair type: straight hair. Straight hair has no curl pattern and so is very easy to identify.
Curly hair is characterised by a springy, corkscrew-type texture. This curly hair type tends to be drier than wavy hair, as the scalp’s natural oils struggle to travel down the curls.
This hair type is also known as type 3 hair, and, depending on how tight the curl pattern is, it can be further divided in 3a, 3b and 3c.
- 3A - The largest and loosest curl of hair types, 3A hair may experience some frizz, but has a bouncy and silky texture.
- 3B - Springier and more spiralled than 3A, 3B hair type is prone to frizz, and requires definition and moisture.
- 3C - The tightest curl pattern of the category 3, this hair type is very textured and has a lot of volume.
To care for this hair type, you’ll need the essential curly hair products. A top tip for curly hair is using deep conditioners. Once you know how to use deep conditioner you’ll see the wonders it can do for your tresses! Using this treatment regularly will keep this curly hair type feeling soft, hydrated, and looking healthy.
Wavy hair has the loosest curls of the hair types, sits between straight and curly hair. The curls, or waves, have an ‘S’ shape to them. The wavy hair type tends to sit flatter on the head and has less volume at the root than some of the other curly hair types.
This hair type can also be known as type 2 hair, and depending on how tight the S wave pattern is, can be divided into 2A, 2B, and 2C.
- 2A - Characterised by a very loose tousled texture, this type tends to be quite straight at the roots of the hair, whilst the lengths form gentle waves.
- 2B - With a tighter ‘S’ shape pattern, it’s still easy to weigh the waves of 2B hair down with excess product.
- 2C - The waviest of the wavy hair types, some strands of 2C hair may form loose corkscrews when styled, and be more prone to frizz.
Coily hair can sometimes be referred to as afro or kinky hair, and is the tightest curl pattern. Coily hair can consist of very tight corkscrews or a ‘Z’ shaped pattern that starts right from the root. This curly hair type often appears shorter than it actually is due to how tight the curls are - this is referred to as shrinkage.
Coils are also referred to as type 4 hair, and categorised further into 4A, 4B, and 4C.
- 4A - Tight coils that are about the width of a crochet needle. These coils are usually visible within the hair due to the strong curl definition.
- 4B - Densely packed ‘Z’ shaped coils which can be difficult to distinguish at the root, but are often visible at the ends.
- 4C - 4C hair is the most delicate of all the types, and is an extremely tight zig-zag pattern which can be hard to see. Usually experiences more shrinkage and less definition than 4B.
The best products for coily hair focus on hydration, we recommend using a deep conditioner with every wash and using leave-in conditioners throughout the week to give this curly hair type an extra boost!
How Often Should You Wash Your Hair Type?
Identifying your hair type can mean you can determine how often you should wash your hair. Each hair type will respond to moisture, dryness, styling differently, so the way you treat it should differ too. For best results, we recommend:
- Curly Hair - As curly hair tends to be a little drier, we recommend only washing it two to three times a week. This will give your natural oils time to coat the hair and keep it hydrated!
- Wavy Hair - As the least defined curl pattern, oil and build up tend to accumulate much faster. Due to this we recommend washing hair a bit more often, every 2-3 days, to avoid the build-up from accumulating.
- Coily Hair - This is the driest and most fragile curl type, because the tightly wound coils don’t allow natural scalp oils to travel down the hair length. Being the driest of the hair types, coily hair should only be washed once or twice a week.
Can You Only Have One Curly Hair Type?
Absolutely not, in fact quite the opposite is true. In most cases, people will have a combination of curl types in different areas of their head, because the hair tends to be curlier on top layers and looser in layers underneath.
The hair type is not a perfect science, it is just an indication to help you compare yourself to other people. It can help you find the best tips for your hair type and understand what routine might work best for you.
For more information on your hair type, and what products you should be using to achieve your hair goals, take our curl quiz now.
Why Do You Need to Know Your Hair Type?
Depending on your curl type, you may think you need to switch up your routine. However, curl types can have a limited influence on which products you should use on your hair. Our experience shows that the same products can work for all types of curly hair, from 2A to 4C, but the product application techniques are what will make a difference in the results.
What Else Can Influence Your Hair Type?
Whether you have curly, wavy, or coily hair, your hair will also have its own porosity. Hair porosity can be split into three different categories:
- High Porosity: With cuticles that have a very open structure, moisture can easily enter high porosity hair, but it can also leave just as easily. This makes this porosity type particularly prone to dryness.
- Medium Porosity: The cuticles in medium porosity hair are more open, allowing moisture to enter the hair quite easily but not losing it too quickly. This makes it an easy hair type to manage.
- Low Porosity: The cuticles in low porosity hair are tightly closed. This makes it difficult for moisture to enter, but also difficult to leave. So once moisture is in the hair shaft it finds it easy to retain this hydration.
Each of these porosity types has its own special needs, which is why it’s important to discover which your locks fall into.
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