What's Your Curly Hair Type?

by GAIA TONANZI
What's Your Curly Hair Type?

Discovering your curly hair type is an essential step in figuring out the best routine for your locks. There are several ways to categorize curly hair, but the most popular classification divides the curl textures into 3 types:

  • Wavy
  • Curly
  • Coily

These three curly hair types can also be referred to numerically as type 2, type 3 and type 4 (the higher the number, the curlier the pattern). They can then be broken down further into subcategories of A, B, and C, depending on how tight the pattern diameter is. This ultimate guide breaks down the different curly hair types, explaining the differences and characteristics of each.

How to Identify Your Curly Hair Type

Knowing which type of curly hair you have is an important step in achieving the curls of your dreams. It doesn't necessarily influence which type of product you'll pick, but it will have a strong influence on your routine and how you apply them. There are three types of curls, plus a 4th hair type: straight hair. Straight hair has no curl pattern and so is very easy to identify. For the others, it might not be as easy. Most people tend to have multiple hair types on their head, so identifying the most prevalent isn't as easy as it seems. If you’re finding it difficult to identify your curly hair type, check out this curl quiz for some help. 

different-types-of-curly-hair

Knowing which type of curly hair you have is an important step in achieving the curls of your dreams. It doesn't necessarily influence which type of product you'll pick, but it will have a strong influence on your routine and how you apply them.

Gaia Tonanzi, Product Development & Textured Hair Expert

What are the Different Types of Curly Hair?

To recognize your curly hair type, you must first take a closer look at your own curl patter. These are the distinct characteristics of each curly hair type:

  • Wavy hair (or type 2 hair) has the loosest curls of all and tends to bend in an ‘S’ shape.
  • Curly hair (or type 3 hair) has tighter curls than wavy, and these are normally corkscrew shaped.
  • Coily hair (or type 4 hair) has the tightest curl pattern of them all and can either be small corkscrews or in ‘z’ patterns

What is Curly Hair?

Curly hair is characterized by a springy, corkscrew-type texture. This hair type tends to be drier than wavy hair, as the scalp’s natural oils struggle to travel down the curls, due to their twists and turns. Depending on how tight the curl pattern is, it can be further divided in 3a, 3b and 3c.

curly-hair-type-3

As curly locks tend to encounter dry hair as a problem, we recommend only washing it two to three times a week. This will give your natural oils times to coat the hair and keep it nourished. An essential product for curly hair is stylers, as this hair type is particularly prone to frizz. Use it on wet hair at the end of your routine to define your pattern, hold it for longer and keep frizz under control

What is Wavy Hair?

Wavy hair sits in between curly and straight hair. It has an ‘S’ shape to it. Wavy hair normally sits flatter on the head and has less volume at the root than some of the other curly hair types. Depending on how tight the wave pattern is, it can be further divided in 2a, 2b and 2c.

wavy-hair-type-2

Wavy hair is the least dry of the three curl types, and so the scalp’s natural oils can move down the hair shaft more easily. Because of this, wavy hair can be more prone to build-up, so it may need to use a clarifying shampoo more often. When it comes to styling products for wavy hair, prefer lightweight or volumizing formulas that define the waves weighing them down!

What is Coily Hair?

Coily hair is often referred to as afro or kinky hair, as well as type 4. Coily hair can consist of very tight corkscrews or a ‘Z’ shaped pattern that starts right from the root. Due to its tight curls, this curly hair type often appears shorter than it actually is - this is referred to as shrinkage. The tightly wound coils in this curl type make it more difficult for natural oils to move down the hair length, which means that coils are the driest and most fragile hair type. Being the driest of the hair types, coily hair should only be washed once or twice a week.

coily-hair-type-4

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 Many Curl Types Can You Have?

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 the top layers and looser in layers underneath. Curl types are not a perfect science, they are just an indication to help you compare yourself to other people and understand what routine might work best for you.

Curly Hair Types & Porosity

Whether you have curls, waves, or coils, your hair will also have its own porosity. Hair porosity is the hair's ability to absorb and retain water, and it 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 hair type particularly prone to dryness.
  • Medium Porosity: The cuticles in medium porosity hair are less open, allowing moisture to enter the hair quite easily but not losing it too quickly. This makes it an easy curly 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. This hair is mostly healthy, and 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 will influence your protein moisture balance and how many protein-rich products you should add to your routine (the higher the porosity, the more proteins you need).

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The Benefits of Knowing Your Curly Hair Type

Common knowledge preaches that you should change your hair products depending on your curl type. However, curly hair types have a very small 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. The application technique is different, and it will make a difference in the results for your curl type, but the product used can be the same.

Finding out your curly hair type will help you identify which techniques are better to apply the products. From there you can understand how often you should wash your hair, how you should style your hair, how you should refresh, and how you should protect your hair style in between washes. 

Curlsmith's approach to curl types 

We believe that all curls are beautiful and should be enhanced in their natural form. Understanding your hair porosity, density and thickness will have a more relevant influence on the creation of your curly hair routine than your curl type does. Focusing on hair benefits, from our strength range that restores hair bonds, to our moisture range that provides ultimate hydration, to our clarifying scalp range, and our fun color range, is the most effective way to address your hair needs

Gaia Tonanzi
Product Development & Textured Hair Expert

Product development expert on a mission to shine the spotlight on textured hair, bringing awareness of the category to the whole haircare industry. She is passionate about debunking false myths and bringing science-backed facts to the community, creating easy-to-follow guides to simplify curly haircare.

Gaia Tonanzi
Product Development & Textured Hair Expert

Product development expert on a mission to shine the spotlight on textured hair, bringing awareness of the category to the whole haircare industry. She is passionate about debunking false myths and bringing science-backed facts to the community, creating easy-to-follow guides to simplify curly haircare.