Curls, coils or straight-as-an-arrow strands? Take the tricky guesswork out of styling with this helpful guide to every hair texture type.
Hair classifications include four major texture types that are numbered: Type 1 is straight, 2 is wavy, 3 is curly and 4 is coily. Then, the letters A, B and C correspond to the pattern type to break it down 1 further, creating a number-letter combination. To determine your hair type, it’s best to see what it does when it’s sopping wet.
TYPE 1 HAIR
“Type 1A hair is described as fine, straight, thin and soft, with noticeable shine,” says Glenn Dale, MD dermatologist Valerie Callender, MD. “Products that have a lot of oil will weigh down this hair type, leaving it looking dull. Dry shampoo and scalp treatments are excellent products to use in between washings because they remove oils that accumulate on the scalp daily.”
TYPE 2A HAIR
According to Dr. Callender, “Type 2A is a loose hair type and is also known as wavy hair because it naturally forms an ‘S’ shape. Lightweight products such as mousses and gels work well for both straight and wavy styling of this hair texture, as heavy products will weigh the natural curl pattern down.”
TYPE 2B HAIR
“If you have a 2B curl, your hair usually lays flat to your head and forms an ‘S-wave’ starting at your roots for three to four inches before it turns into a curl,” says celebrity hairstylist Chuck Amos. “This type is prone to go flat and also can get a bit frizzy, so no heavy styling products. Instead, opt for heavier moisturizing, in-shower products like a great conditioning shampoo and mask.”
TYPE 2C HAIR
Amos says 2C hair texture is your typical Brazilian wave or loose wave. “Serums, moisturizing mousses and very light creams are very helpful for styling,” he adds. “If you’re a 2C, you’re usually a lighter-textured curl than others, so it is important not to pile on products like gels, curl creams and butters because this will make the hair sticky and clump together.”
TYPE 3A HAIR
“Hair that is 3A is curly—usually the kind of curls with a thick texture and a lot of shine, but it can be frizzy,” Dr. Callender notes. “A sulfate-free moisturizing shampoo and conditioner should be used daily to hydrate the hair, while creams and jellies can add control and definition.” Leave-in conditioners are also a good idea to help add daily moisture.
TYPE 3B HAIR
“This texture tends to be thick and coarse, and curls often vary in shape around the head,” explains Pattern Haircare (Tracee Ellis Ross’s brand) product developer Sierra Britt. “Dryness can creep in to tousle up ringlets, so moisture is key for maintaining definition and shine.”
TYPE 3C HAIR
“With the pencil-tight coils of 3C curls, moisturization is key,” Amos says. “The 3C coils are tighter and more condensed at the roots, so butter cremes mixed with serums, scalp oils and moisturizing curl cremes best suit this texture. Avoid gels or products with alcohol and other drying agents that make curls fall limp, and become dry and unmanageable.”
TYPE 4A HAIR
“Type 4A hair is tightly curled or kinky with very thick, sometimes well-defined curls,” says Dr. Callender. “It can often appear dry and brittle, which can lead to breakage. The key to caring for very curly hair is moisture, moisture and more moisture, starting with a shampoo designed for curly hair and a heavy moisturizing conditioner.”
TYPE 4B HAIR
“Luscious, Z-pattern coils that bend and flare in a zig-zag pose represent 4B,” says Britt. “Tight textures crave as much moisture as they can get—this type loves to spend time in protective styles to remain moisturized, support delicate ends and aid in length retention.”
TYPE 4C HAIR
“The tightest curl of all the textures, 4C is the most sensitive and prone to breakage,” explains Amos. “It usually has no curl definition and a large amount of shrinkage. This type needs a lot of moisture and love: Highly hydrating cremes and serums mixed with light curl definers and scalp oils are the absolute best for this hair type.”
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