Curly hair types are extensive, so discovering what type yours is, is an essential step in figuring out the best routine for your locks. Caring for your tresses begins with identifying your curly hair type, and what it needs. Our expert guide walks you through each type to help you make the most of your curls.
Table of Contents:
- What Are The 3 Different Curly Hair Types?
- How Can I Identify My Curly Hair Type?
- Curly Hair
- Wavy Hair
- Coily Hair
- How Often Should You Wash Your Curl Type?
- How Many Curl Types Can You Have?
- What Are the Benefits of Knowing Your Type?
- What Other Hair Types Are There?
What Are The 3 Different Curly Hair Types?
There are several ways to categorize curly hair, but the most popular classification divides the curl hair types into 3 textures:
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 curly hair types can then be broken down further into subcategories of A, B, and C, depending on how tight the pattern diameter is.
How Can I Identify My Curly Hair Type?
Knowing which type of curly hair you have is an important step in achieving the curls of your dreams. This does not largely influence the type of product you pick, but it may have a strong impact on your curly hair routine and how you apply them.
To identify your curl type, you may remove a few strands of hair, while it is wet, and lay them flat upon a surface, watch what happens as the strands dry. This can help you determine your curly hair type:
- S shaped curls - If your locks bend in a loose S shape, then you’re likely to have a wavy hair type.
- Corkscrew shaped curls - For those with tighter curls which resemble a corkscrew shape, you may have a curly hair type.
- Z shaped curls - Curls which form a Z or very tight corkscrew shape have what is known as a coily hair type.
There are three types of curls, plus another hair type: straight hair. Straight hair has no curl pattern and so is very easy to identify.
Product Development & Textured Hair Expert
Gaia Tonanzi, Product Development & Textured Hair Expert
Curly hair is a curly hair type characterized by a springy, corkscrew-type texture. Those with curly hair type may notice they have dry hair, more so than those with wavy hair. This is because the scalp’s natural oils struggle to travel down the curls, due to their twists and turns.
Curly hair 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 loosest curly hair type, with a bouncy texture and silky textured curls.
- 3B - A springy and spiraled curl, which is more prone to frizz.
- 3C - The tightest curl of category 3, with a lot of volume and texture.
An essential for this curly hair type is to get the right curly hair products to care for it. Curly hair types need styling products, as your hair can be particularly prone to frizz. Use it on wet hair at the end of your routine to define your pattern, hold it for longer and help get rid of frizzy hair.
Wavy hair sits in between curly and straight hair. This curly hair type 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.
Wavy hair can also be referred to as type 2 hair. Depending on how tight the wave pattern is, it can be further divided in 2a, 2b and 2c.
- 2A - Waves have a loose, tousled texture, and tend to be quite straight at the roots of the hair, whilst the lengths form gentle waves.
- 2B - The waves in 2B hair have a tighter ‘S’ shape pattern than 2A.
- 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.
Wavy hair is the least dry of the curly hair types, therefore the scalp’s natural oils can move down the hair shaft more easily. This could leave you feeling like you have oily hair. You need to use wavy hair products which can help to enhance the wave pattern, and volumizing formulas that leave you with defined, bouncy waves.
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.
Coily hair is also known as type 4 hair, and can be further split out into 4a, 4b, and 4c, depending on the tightness of the curly hair type.
- 4A - Tight coils, around the width of a crochet needle, with fairly strong curl definition.
- 4B - Densely packed ‘Z’ shaped coils, often difficult to distinguish at the root, but visible at the ends.
- 4C - The most delicate and densely packed zig-zag pattern, 4C hair experiences a lot of shrinkage.
The tightly wound coils in these curly hair types 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. Coily hair products are formulated to provide moisture and frizz control, to help define the coils.
For more information on your curly hair type, and what products you should be using to achieve your hair goals, take our curl quiz now.
How Often Should You Wash Your Curl Type?
Identifying curly hair types helps determine how often you should wash your hair. Each type will respond to the products you use to style it, which will impact how frequently it needs cleaning. For best results, we recommend:
- Curly Hair - As curly locks tend to encounter dryness as a problem, we recommend only washing it two to three times a week.
- Wavy Hair - Wavy hair is more prone to oiliness because of the looser wave pattern, so can be washed every 2-3 days to avoid build up accumulating.
- Coily Hair - Being the driest of the hair types, coily hair should only be washed once or twice a week, to avoid the signs of damaged hair.
How Many Curl Types Can You Have?
You can have more than one of the curly hair types on one head! Most people tend to have multiple hair types, so identifying the most prevalent isn't as easy as it seems. This is because the hair tends to be curlier on the top layers and looser in layers underneath.
Using the shapes of the curly hair types outlined, you can help to align which you have and follow the best tips for your hair type.
What Are the Benefits of Knowing Your Type?
It is important to find the curly hair types you may have, so you can have the knowledge to care for your locks and find a routine which works for you.
- 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.
- The product application techniques you use are what differs between curly hair types.
It will make a difference in the results for your curl type, and what curly hairstyles you can create. With your curly hair types in hand, you know how you should refresh and protect your curls at night and in between washes.
What Other Hair Types Are There?
Curly hair types aren’t limited to the physical shape of your locks. Other factors can affect how your curly hair type reacts to products, tools, or humidity. Each curly hair type will have its own porosity level.
Hair porosity is the hair's ability to absorb and retain water. Porosity can be split into three different categories:
- High: Cuticles have a very open structure, so moisture can easily enter and leave high porosity hair, making this curly hair type prone to dryness.
- Medium: The cuticles in medium porosity hair are less open, allowing moisture to enter the hair quite easily but not losing it too quickly, making it easier to manage.
- Low: The cuticles in low porosity hair are tightly closed, making it difficult for moisture to enter or 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).
Curlsmith’s Approach to Curls
We believe that all curls are beautiful and should be enhanced in their natural form. Our curl-loving formulas are all cruelty-free, vegan hair products that do not contain silicones, sulfates or parabens.