Help Me Identify My Curls: What Types of Curly Hair Are There?
Curly hair is its own language. If you’ve been blessed with curls, you need to become something of a curl whisperer in order to get the looks you want. While we often assume that hair can either be curly or straight, the truth is that there are several curly hair types on the curl spectrum. That means that two people with curly hair can have two entirely different hair types. Here’s a crash course on the different types of curly hair.
One Curl Size Doesn’t Fit All: How Curl Type Is Determined
Curl type is actually determined by follicle type. The shape of the follicles that your hair grows out of determines your curl type. The “hack” for identifying hair type is that curlier hair has what can be described as an oval-shaped follicle. By contrast, straighter hair tends to have a circular follicle. It’s also possible to have textured hair that contains more than one curl type. An example would be curly hair with waves, coils, or kinks. There’s one last trick for identifying your curl type. The best time to determine your curl type is when your hair is wet because this gives you the most honest view of your follicles.
Finally, it’s important to know that curly hair types start with type 2 curly hair. The simple reason why is that hair type 1 is straight hair. Next, get acquainted with a simple curly hair types chart to make narrowing down your curls easier.
Type 2 Curly Hair: Wavy
Type 2 hair is wavy hair. This describes hair that is bendable and moveable. Wavy hair can vary from fine to coarse. Generally, you’re seeing a very distinct S-shaped pattern that rests close to the scalp. Curly hair has several subsets.
Type 2A Wavy Hair
Type 2A wavy hair has a fine texture with very subtle waves that are tousled in texture. It is often described as natural “mermaid hair.” You’ll notice that this category of curls tends to lack volume near the roots. People with wavy hair generally have an easy time getting their hair to straighten. While this hair type is easily styled, people with type 2A wavy hair do need to be careful about weighing their hair down with product due to its lightweight nature. It’s easy for type 2A wavy hair to look limp and weighed down when too much product is applied.
Type 2B Wavy Hair
Type 2B wavy hair is easy to spot due to the way it rests flatter at the crown. The bold, well-defined S-shaped curls actually start well below the crown. When compared to type 2A wavy hair, type 2B wavy hair tends to produce curls that are much thicker and fatter. These curls generally require more work when styling them straight.
Type 2C Wavy Hair
Type 2C wavy hair is what many people describe as “kinky” curls. Type 2C curls are well-defined S-shaped curls that begin directly at the roots on the top of the crown. While these thick waves can be easily styled to create a look of robust curls, people with type 2C wavy hair do have to be more vigilant about frizz compared to people with other types of waves. In fact, having your curls dry out is a big problem when you have this type of wave. Products that nourish the hair with natural oils are definitely your friends when you have type 2C wavy hair.
Type 3 Curly Hair: Essential Curls
Type 3 is the category where true, unadulterated curls begin. There’s no mistaking these corkscrews and curly Qs for waves. However, there’s tons of range within the true curl family. Curls can range in style from loose and airy to springy and tight. They also handle the frizz factor differently. Next, take a look at the different subsets of curly hair.
Type 3A Curly Hair
Type 3A curly hair is characterized by long, loose curls. Curl diameter is roughly the size of a crayon. What makes type 3A curls distinctive is that they tend to be shiny and lush compared to other curl types. They often need little more than some nourishing conditioner spray to stay looking flawless.
Type 3B Curly Hair
Type 3B curls are larger rings. The circumference is only a little tighter than a magic marker. While this is a true look-at-me curl, the 3B curl can often become dry if it’s not being properly nourished and moisturized with the right blend of conditioning and hair oils. Frizz can be a problem when type 3B curls aren’t given constant love.
Type 3C Curly Hair
Type 3C curls are dense, corkscrew-style curls that band together to create a crown of volume! Generally, the tight circumference on the 3C curl is narrower than a pencil. The fun styling hack for type 3C curls is that what you do while this type of hair is wet makes all the difference. Adding mousse and styling cream before allowing the hair to dry naturally will actually increase thickness and volume without the use of heat.
Type 4 Curly Hair: Coiled Curls
The term coiled curls generally refers to what the hairstyling world calls Afro-textured hair. This curl type has a multitude of ranges. It can be dry, soft, wiry, coarse, spongy, or some combination of several textures. Strand size can also vary quite a bit. Some people have coiled curls that are very small and tight. You might also see zigzag patterns that rest directly against the scalp.
Type 4A Coiled Curls
4A coiled curls are generally defined as being dense. They often combine density with a springy quality. The telltale sign that you have 4A coiled curls is that you’re seeing S-patterned curls with a circumference that’s roughly equal to a drink stirrer. If you’re looking for an easy way to style without heat, this type of hair often works beautifully with leave-in curling creams and moisturizers.
Type 4B Coiled Curls
Dense, sharp curls that are full of dimension are what you’ll see when you look in the mirror if you have type 4B coiled curls. It’s common for the angles with these curls to have sharp, Z-shaped edges. Styling for volume without using heat is easy with this curl type once you know the trick of “stretching and clumping” 4B coils that makes them appear longer and fuller.
Type 4C Coiled Curls
It’s actually difficult to tell 4C coiled curls apart from 4B coiled curls unless you have some practice. What makes 4C curls different from 4B curls is that they tend to be more delicate. Type 4C curls also tend to shrink more than just about any other curl texture. The good news is that keeping curls moisturized can combat shrinkage. Generally, products containing natural oils and cocoa butter tend to work beautifully with 4C curls because they provide the deep nourishment needed to keep curls from drying out. Oils also help to stretch out curls to their maximum potential to fight back against shrinkage that occurs when hair is dry and coiled.
Understanding the Different Types of Curly Hair Is the Start of Having Your Best Style Moment Ever
It’s impossible to style hair you don’t understand. Taking time to identify your specific curl type can open doors to smart, effortless styling techniques. You may just discover that you’ve been making style choices for someone else’s hair this entire time! If you’re struggling to identify your curl style, it’s always helpful to ask a professional stylist to help you identify your specific style type using the curly hair types chart shared above!