There are several types of curly hair, and they all have a specific way of treatment and routine. The products and routines that work great on wavy hair may not work for hair that has a tighter coil pattern.
So if you have curly hair, you need to take the time to learn your exact curl type. This includes which products and routines will help your hair thrive. Keep reading for comprehensive information on curly hair types and how to care for each type of curl pattern.
What's Your Hair Type
According to the L'Oréal Institute for Ethnic Hair and Skin Research, there are four main hair types: Straight (type 1), wavy (type 2), curly (type 3), and coily (type 4). The higher the number, the tighter the curl pattern of the hair.
To find out what type of hair you have, pluck out 3 to 4 wet hair strands from different parts of your head and then leave them to dry. Watch the curl pattern that your hair forms as it dries and then match it to the descriptions below.
Type 2 hair appears straight when wet and dries into waves that don’t wrap around themselves. Type 3 hair appears wavy when wet and dries into swirls, springs, or corkscrew shapes. Type 4 hair is coily even when wet and shrinks the most after it dries.
Note that we can have several curl patterns on our head, but there should be a predominant curl type that determines your overall hair type. In this guide, we'll only discuss type 2 to type 4 hair as these are the curly types.
The first type of curly hair is type 2A which almost appears straight. Closer to the scalp, the hair is straight but forms into waves towards the tip. Type 2A is the easiest curly hair type to maintain, as it combs easily and requires minimal styling.
Use light yet volumizing shampoos and conditioners that won’t weigh your hair down. Moisturize with mousse rather than creams to prevent your hair from appearing limp and lifeless.
Type 2B hair also grows straight at the scalp but starts forming waves at the crown of your hair. This hair type is more difficult to comb than type 2A, but it's still a wavy hair type and requires little styling.
With type 2B your hair tangles easier than type 2A, so use gentle hair products that will soften the hair and remove frizziness without tangling it. If you live in a humid area, then leave-in conditioners are a must for reducing frizz and preserving waves.
Type 2C is the curliest of the wavy hair types, and its appearance is often mistaken for type 3 hair. This hair type grows in S-shaped curls but does not form springs. Type 2C hair is very prone to frizziness, yet still gets limp and weighed down if you use the wrong products on it.
For this hair type to thrive, it is best to use leave-in conditioners and serums that protect wavy hair while adding volume. Stay away from heavy hair creams.
Type 3A hair has large soft curls that form from the crown. This type of hair is soft to the touch and requires minimal styling, as the curls are naturally bouncy and lively. The best products to use on this type of hair are light creams that keep any frizz at bay while drying and styling the hair.
This type of hair has curls that resemble corkscrews. With this type of hair, you don’t have to worry about volume as the curls bounce off each other, creating a full appearance. Corkscrew curls can tangle, so this curl type forms frizz easily and it is prone to breakage.
It's important to reduce friction by using a soft cotton t-shirt or towel to dry the hair. This prevents tangling and dulling of the hair. Hair oils and serums that prevent frizz and dullness help maintain shine.
3C curls are tighter and smaller than the 3B hair type. Those with type 3C hair have to take extra care when combing and styling their hair. This is because there's a greater chance of breakage than with 3B and 3A hair.
Detangle hair from the tip of the strands towards the root to reduce breakage. The best products to use if you have 3C hair are cleansing conditioners to co-wash the hair. Hair gels are great to hold the curl pattern and prevent frizz.
Type 4A hair has small yet distinct S-shaped curls that can reveal long strands of hair when stretched. The tight curls make type 4 curly hair types prone to dryness and breakage. Use moisturizing products often.
After washing the hair using a cleansing conditioner, pat it dry with a soft cotton towel or cotton t-shirt. Rubbing hair dry creates too much friction for type 4 hair, leading to dryness and breakage. Hair creams and oils are also great to keep the curls soft and defined.
4B hair has zigzag-shaped coils combined with compressed s-shaped curls. This curly hair type is versatile and can take a wide range of products and styling. However, it is important to keep the hair well-conditioned by co-washing the hair and using leave-in conditioners.
This hair is very vulnerable when wet, so only style it after applying leave-in conditioners and creams.
The last of the curly hair types is 4C hair. This hair type shrinks the most when exposed to water and can be recognized by its tightly coiled pattern. It is the most fragile type of hair and has breakage when handled roughly.
For 4C hair to thrive, moisturize it using deep conditioners and hot oil treatments at least once a week. Normal shampoos are very drying for this hair type, so use clarifying conditioners to clean the hair. Scrub the scalp for at least one minute while washing. Once you wash your hair, pat it dry using a soft cotton t-shirt or incredibly soft towel.
You must then seal moisture into the stands using natural oils and butters. When sleeping, use silk or satin bonnets, scarves, and pillowcases to avoid friction breakage. Protective styling helps maintain length. Comb the hair only when necessary and detangle using your fingers.
Learn About Curly Hair Types to Help Your Hair Thrive
There are several curly hair types, and it's important to know what type yours is to care for it appropriately. The curlier the hair type gets, the more important it is to prevent friction, which dulls the hair and causes breakage.
So make sure to dry your hair using a cotton t-shirt or soft towel as standard towels will cause breakage. To find accessories that keep your hair healthy, check out our products!