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The 10 Different Hair Types and Why Understanding Them Is Important

The 10 Different Hair Types and Why Understanding Them Is Important featured image
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This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

While different hair textures from type 1 to 4C have always represented our diverse culture, industry professionals say hair care is more inclusive today than ever before. “Hair diversity is extremely important,” says celebrity hairstylist Kim Kimble. “It’s important to understand different types and textures of hair because then you’ll be more successful in styling and caring for it. It’s also crucial to have diversity in hair-care products.”

The Test

Your hair texture classification can include one of four numbers and one of three letters. Type 1 is straight, type 2 is wavy, type 3 is curly, and type 4 is coily. When you add the letters—A stands for wide and large, B stands for somewhere in the middle, and C stands for tight and compact—you can determine your exact hair type, from pin-straight to afro-level curly.

1 / 10

Type 1 Hair

“Common among women of Asian descent, type 1A hair is very straight and fine, with no hint of wave or curl,” says hairstylist Darren Hau. ”People with this texture tend to have shinier hair than those with curly textures because the natural oils in the hair travel straight down from the root to the tip.” To avoid excess oiliness, Hau recommends lightweight styling products such as mists and sprays.

2 / 10

Type 2A Hair

Those with hair type 2A have a fine, barely there tousled texture that’s very easy to straighten,” says Birmingham, AL dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, MD. “Because of its thin nature, this hair type tends to accumulate oil and should be washed more frequently. To style, use a light, water-based mousse to add more structure at the base.”

3 / 10

Type 2B Hair

Lanaia Edwards, VP of global marketing for hair-care brand Alaffia, classifies this hair type as “loose texture patterns and bouncy curls.” To style, she recommends opting for the brand’s Beautiful Curls line. “What sets this collection—it’s built on Alaffia’s mission to alleviate poverty and advance gender equality through community empowerment initiatives—apart is the unique plant-based ingredients that produce impactful results for textured hair.”

4 / 10

Type 2C Hair

This is the hair type that you likely have if you are confused as to whether your hair is curly or wavy,” says celebrity hairstylist Justine Marjan. To amp-up your curl or wave pattern, she recommends reaching for a hair dryer with a diffuser attachment. “My favorite is the ghd helios Hair Dryer ($249) with its diffuser attachment.” According to Hau, “some curlies find that diffusing creates frizz, so finish of with a small amount of finishing gloss.”

5 / 10

Type 3A Hair

After stepping out of the shower, Marjan suggests gently squeezing out moisture with an old cotton T-shirt. “Avoid rubbing the hair with a towel, as this can cause frizz and dryness,” she says. “To style, apply a leave-in conditioner and use a brush through 2-inch sections, using tension so the hair ribbons around the rounded edges of the brush create a spiral.”

6 / 10

Type 3B Hair

“Quite dense and coarse, this hair texture can range from spiral curls to corkscrew coils with volume,” says Edwards. “Stay away from products with sulfates, parabens and silicones, as they tend to pull the hair’s natural oil right out, leaving it dry and more prone to breakage. If you need to use heat, I highly recommend diffusing on low to no heat.”

7 / 10

Type 3C Hair

According to Dr. Hartman, 3C curls are tight corkscrews that range in circumference from a straw to a pencil. “Because sebum from the scalp doesn’t have a direct highway down the lengths due to obstruction from these ringlets, oil doesn’t get distributed as evenly through the hair. Therefore, this curl type is said to be more prone to dryness, dullness and damage than straighter types.”

8 / 10

Type 4A Hair

“People with hair type 4A have springy, ‘S’-patterned coils,” says Dr. Hartman, who suggests styling with a thick emollient like shea butter. As of June 2020, Walmart no longer keeps these products in locked display units in an attempt to make curl-forward hair care more accessible.

9 / 10

Type 4B Hair

Edwards says this hair type is often shaped like a “Z,” making it challenging to get the hair completely wet. “If you experience shrinkage—up to 70-percent loss in length when your hair is dry—this is another way to tell that you have 4B hair. Washing your hair in sections will help ensure that you are washing thoroughly and not putting your hair at risk of excess tangling and causing unnecessary breakage.”

10 / 10

Type 4C Hair

4C hair is very tight curl pattern of coils that have a zigzag pattern,” says Marjan, who recommends defining them with TRESemmé Flawless Curls Defining Gel ($10), a classic staple in the brand’s Flawless Curls line, which just launched two new products made for those with tightly coiled hair. The brand also recently debuted The Future Stylists Fund to help aspiring Black female hairstylists attend cosmetology school, and supporting its commitment to diversity.

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