Styling curly hair is one thing—identifying your curl type is a whole other ball game. While it can seem intimidating at first, figuring out your curl type is actually pretty easy when it is broken down into this unofficially official guide to curly hair.
A quick intro to curl types
This classification system, originally created by Andre Walker breaks down curls into types and subtypes. To start, there are four types of curl types ranging from Type 1, Type 2, Type 3, and Type 4. The number refers to the four main curl families, where the ABC’s of curls point to how tightly wound your curls are. Still with us? So in turn, Type 1s are those who have naturally straight hair, while Type 2s are our wavy-haired ladies. 3s are those with spiral curls and 4s are the infamous kinks and coils.
Now that we’ve sorted out the types of curl patterns, let’s dive into each type and subtype in-depth so you can not only get a better understanding of your curl type but also find the types of products and styles to suit your hair needs.
SHOP LUXY HAIR EXTENSIONS
Types of curly hair
Type 1 (Straight)
As mentioned before, Type 1 is pretty much the absence of a curl—in other words, poker straight. This curl type technically shouldn’t be considered as a curl, however, it is just the beginning of the curl type system.
Type 2 (Wavy)
When it comes to wavy hair, the texture falls between straight and curly. This type typically lays slightly flat and straight at the root and falls into a definitive S pattern. Your hair can be fine or thick and it usually straightens and curls easier than the other curl types. It’s the curl type that normally dries naturally wavy with minimal product and knows how to hold heatless waves with a little help from damp hair and a braid.
Those with Type 2A hair have a loosely tousled texture with fine strands that are easily weighed down. It could pass off as Type 1 hair except that is has the slightest wave at the ends. Those with this texture want to stay away from the use of heavy styling products such as leave-in conditioners and heavy creams. A lightweight mousse and a sea salt spray are just what you need to add volume and texture without turning your hair greasy and limp.
Lying flatter at the crown, 2B hair has more defined waves that start mid-length. Hair is thicker than 2A and it is slightly more difficult to style due to all the frizzies around the top of the head and the fact that you have more hair to work with. You’re gonna have to put a little more effort into straightening your hair but if you want to enhance your natural waves you can do so with these heatless tricks.
Rounding up Type 2, 2C waves start right at the root and have a definite S-bend. With a few well-wound ringlet curls to them, this type of hair is thicker with a frizzier texture. To best way to take care of 2C hair is by avoiding over-washing because it will dry out your hair, cause breakage, and it will not combat the infamous frizz. Try washing your hair 2-3 times a week with a lightweight shampoo and by adding a little leave-in conditioner into your routine will do wonders for this curl type, especially when using a diffuser.
Type 3 (Curly)
Type 3 curls are the curls every girl with straight hair wishes they could have. It’s what people think of when they picture traditionally curly hair. Ranging from loose and fluffy curls to defined and bouncy ringlets, these curls form perfect loops with tons of volume from root to end and are seriously every girl’s voluminous dream.
Fact: 3A curls can be cheeky little shape-shifters. These curls are typically shiny with large loose curls that are about the size of a wine cork. 3As can easily have their hair blown out and styled, but the fine strands make the curls very reactive to fluctuating weather. So if it’s slightly humid, too dry, or if the stars don’t align perfectly, you will be attempting to tame a lion mane for most of the day. These curls are best styled when your hair is sopping wet. To settle frizz and define your curls, apply a curl-defining cream and rake through your hair with a wide-tooth comb for even distribution. For best results, use your hands and scrunch your hair with a cotton tee until you reach your desired shape.
As we move along, you’ll start to notice these curl types getting tighter and tighter. 3B curls are coarser and springier then 3A curls. These curls are usually the size of your index finger and can easily wrap around it. This hair texture is a little more on the drier side but it knows how to hold volume and no matter how much you play with these curls, they are here to stay. The most important thing for 3Bs are focusing on hydrating your curls. You will want to layer a cocktail of moisturizing and anti-frizz creams to enhance, protect, and add tons of shine.
Now we’re moving towards tight corkscrew curls. 3C curls are about the size of a straw and pack a density punch. Even though these curls are tightly packed together (giving your hair some serious volume) they tend to have a finer texture which results in loss of definition. A mixture of oils and creams and knowinghow to properly care for your curly hair will do wonders for your tedious curls.
Type 4 (Coily)
Type 4 curls are kinky, coily, and tight. These curls are usually not well-defined when wet and when it dries, they tend to shrink and turn thick and fluffy. Naturally very dry with a spongy texture, Type 4s are the most fragile type of them all. Strands are extremely tight and hold very small curls right from root to end.
Those with 4A curls have the tightest, smallest coils/curls and follow a well-defined s-pattern. They usually retain moisture better than the other Type 4 hair and experience the least amount of shrinkage. As you know by now, your coils need serious moisture to keep them healthy and bouncy, especially if you’re a fan of wash-and-go styling. The trusty moisture combination of oils, creams, and gels will help maximize your coily texture. You can also define 4A curls with the classic hand scrunching technique for optimal results.
Moving away from the standard S pattern, 4Bs (and C) are actually in a class of its own. These strands are densely packed and bend in a zigzagged Z shape. About as wide as a spring from the inside of a ballpoint pen, these coils can either have a fine or coarse texture and is the curl type that is most prone to moisture loss, shrinkage, and breakage. This means your hair can handle rich formulas so don’t be afraid to load up on leave-in conditioners and creams. The best way to apply them is to section your wet hair and apply the product from root to end while curling each section around your finger to shape and define.
Similar to 4B, 4C curl types have one distinct difference being that the zigzag pattern that they share is much more tighter. This means that the strands are a lot more fragile and it is the curl type that experiences the most amount of shrinkage out of all of the other types. 4Cs tend to be extremely delicate and often lead to breakage and yup! you guessed it...loss of moisture. The most important thing is to cover your hair from root to end with hydration and being very gentle when it comes to styling. You are going to want to gently and slightly pick-out your hair while applying a leave-in oil or cream to maximize your moisture retention. It’s all about in the way you massage—softly and delicately.
So that’s that! Now that we’ve decoded your curl type you can properly take care of your curls and actually identify the type of curls you didn’t realize you had. It’s safe to say that we all know that your hair can hold several different textures and it can be so difficult to somehow make everything look cohesive when styling it. So, hopefully, you can go forth and test some of these tips on yourself to master that head of hair you had no idea had a type.
If you're still unsure of what your curl type is, take our quiz below!
What are the 4 types of curls? ›
What are the curl types? Curly hair is most often categorized into three different types: type 2 (wavy), type 3 (curly), and type 4 (kinky and coily).How do I know if I have 2C or 3A curls? ›
The most apparent difference between types 2C and 3A hair is their appearance. 2C hair is wavy, while type 3A hair is curly. If you look closely at 2C curls, you'll see that they have more of an s-shape than a spiral (which 3A curls have). In addition to that, type 2C curls may not start at the root.Do I have 2A or 2B curls? ›
2A hair tends to have a tousled texture. 2B hair consists of 'S' shaped waves in the lengths, but sits relatively straight at the roots. 2C hair has even more defined 'S' shaped curls that start from the root and continue down the lengths of the hair.What are curl types 3A to 4c? ›
The number refers to curl families, while the letter points to how tightly wound your curls are within that. Curl type 1 is pretty much the absence of curl—in other words, straight. Type 2 means waves, while 3s are spiraled curls, and 4s are kinks and coils.What do 3A curls look like? ›
Type 3a hair is characterized by well-defined spiral curls that are typically the size of a piece of sidewalk chalk. Although the circumference of 3a curls is wider than that of 3b and 3c hair, it can be difficult to tell the three curl types apart.What does type 2C hair look like? ›
2C type hair is extremely wavy but not coily. The S-shape bends in the hair start off at the roots. These waves are defined and thick. The bends are looser and wider than the tighter structure of curly hair.What do 1C curls look like? ›
1C hair is straight but thick and coarse. It has a natural tousled look and tends to frizz. Type 2 is wavy hair.What do 3B curls look like? ›
3B hair is made up of well-defined, spiral curls that range from bouncy ringlets to tight corkscrews. Their circumference is the size of a large marker. 3B curls have a fine to medium texture. This curl type benefits from lots of body and movement but is prone to frizzing and dryness.What does 3C curls look like? ›
Type 3C. 3C curls are tight corkscrews that range in circumference from a straw to a pencil, like you see her on Nathalie Emmanuel. Strands are densely packed together, giving way to lots of natural volume.What does 2A curls look like? ›
Type 2A hair is the loosest of all wavy hair. Type 2A waves are loose and lax S-shaped waves and can sometimes be hard to determine if not styled properly. At the root, this curly type may be straight, but the shaft and/or ends of the hair have a slight bend that creates the wave.
What is 2A to 2C curls? ›
Wavy Hair can be classified by three curl types; 2A - A slight wave to your hair. 2B - Medium Wave form in the hair. 2C - Wavy hair that starts to form ringlets, especially when hydrated (wet) and styled correctly.Do I have 3B or 3C curls? ›
You have type 3A hair if you can easily wrap your curls around sidewalk chalk. Your hair type is 3B if the permanent marker is the best suit. Finally, you know you have 3C hair type if your spiral curls are about the same size as a pencil.What does type 4a hair look like? ›
Type 4a hair has medium-sized, loosely packed curls. The curls have a springy S-shape and are about the size of a crochet needle. If you look closely at the 4a hair type, you'll notice the curls are not as interlocked as 4b or 4c curls. Each 4a strand independently curls or spirals away from other neighboring strands.What is 3A vs 3B curly hair? ›
3B curls are coarser, springier, and tighter than 3A curls, and they usually have the circumference of a Sharpie marker or your index finger. Unlike 3A curls, which tend to lose their definition or get pulled out, 3B curls stay coiled no matter how much you play with them or what products you put on them (yay!).What does 2B hair look like? ›
If you have 2B hair, your hair may be mostly straight and flat at the roots but forms full, bouncy waves as you travel toward the ends. It also has a not-too-fine, not-too-thick texture that makes styling fairly easy.Are my curls 2B or 2C? ›
2B hair consists of 'S' shaped waves in the lengths, but sits relatively straight at the roots. 2C hair has even more defined 'S' shaped curls that start from the root and continue down the lengths of the hair.What are 1a curls? ›
Type 1a hair is 100% straight. There is no hint of curl pattern or wave, it's simply straight and flat as a pin. Another defining feature of type 1a hair is its thinness. Each strand of type 1a hair is extremely fine and therefore, easily falls out or sheds.Do I have 1C or 2A hair? ›
The main difference is that 1C tends to be more coarse and thick, whereas 2A is a bit more fine and flat. 1C has some volume and body, but 2A doesn't. If you have more waves in your hair, you likely fall into the 2A category. If the waves are barely there and mainly underneath, you probably have 1C hair.Is type 2A hair frizzy? ›
Type 2A hair can also be more likely to frizz than other hair types, simply because there's naturally less moisture stored in the hair, Rilington explains.What is 3C hair type? ›
3C hair is the curliest of the type 3 curly hair pattern. And since type 4 hair is considered coily instead of curly, type 3C hair is the curliest of curly hair. If you have 3C curls, your curls have the width of a pencil and are shaped like corkscrew-like ringlets. Type 3C hair is also very dense and full of volume.
Is type 2c hair curly? ›
Like all type 2 hair, 2c hair is wavy, but that often feels like a technicality. Your S-bend hair is thick and the waves start at the roots. If you've ever been confused about whether your hair is wavy or curly, it's likely you have the 2c hair type.What are c2 curls? ›
2c hair curls: they are the natural movement that's between waves and curls. One day it can look wavy, the next curly. So, even though 2c hair can drive you around the bend on its off days, enjoy the process of learning and the fun of an ever-changing look.What is 1A vs 1B vs 1C? ›
Type 1A hair is the most straight and fine of the hair types. Typically, this hair type is found in individuals of Asian descent. Type 1B hair is typically straight with a medium texture but slightly thicker in volume than Type 1A. Type 1C hair is very straight, but also very thick and coarse.How do you define 2B curls? ›
2B Hair type is best described as wavy hair. This hair type is not quite curly and it's not quite straight. If your hair is mostly flat and straight at the roots but gets wavier and more “S” shaped toward the bottom, then you have 2B hair!What are 3C and 4c curls? ›
The 3c/4a Kinky Coily texture has a tight and defined curl pattern. It has coarse, "S" shaped coils with a bit of frizz. The 4b/4c Afro Kinky texture is a perfect blend for 4b-4c kinky hair. Its strands are densely packed with a "Z" tightly coiled curl pattern to it.How to style 2C hair? ›
With your 2C hair type, it's generally best to stick to styles that bring out your natural pattern. Enhancing your waves or making them a bit curlier will suit you best. Straightening your strands, on the other hand, will require quite a bit of work. It is achievable, though a simple flat iron won't cut it.What does 4c curls mean? ›
Now really - what is 4c hair? 4c hair type has the tightest curl pattern of all the curly hair types. Strands are formed in tight, springy, ringlets. 4c hair tends to clump more at the ends and is even more prone to shrinkage than 4b hair. According to CURLS, 4c hair can shrink up to 75% of its length!What is 3B hair type? ›
What is 3B Hair? If you have the 3B hair type, your curls are likely big, bouncy, and voluminous. The “S”-shaped curls are usually about the circumference of your index finger or a sharpie marker and may vary between tight spirals and loose waves.What does 1b hair look like? ›
Let's talk about the features of type 1b hair: Generally straight from the roots to the ends, but with some subtle bends mid-body, finished off with gently curled ends. Shiny and sleek (just like type 1a hair) Mostly fine hair strands interspersed with a few coarse fibers.How do I look after 2A 2B hair? ›
- Get a curly cut. One of the best things you can do for your wavy hair is to get a good haircut. ...
- Avoid heat styling. Heat styling tools can damage your wavy hair, so it is best to avoid them, if possible.
- Use a diffuser. ...
- Use a leave in conditioner. ...
- Deep condition. ...
What is type 2A vs 2B vs 2C? ›
Type 2A hair is the loosest wave, 2B hair consists of curlier waves with a more defined 'S' shape, and 2C hair is the waviest with the most definition among the three categories. This specific type may often be mistaken for curly hair.How do you get 3a curls? ›
- Comb your curls thoroughly to remove all knots. ...
- Stop raking after you have combed your curls. ...
- Get rid of excess moisture. ...
- Keep on scrunching… ...
- Minimize frizz with the right blow-drying technique.
“The best type of haircuts for 2B texture—or any texture, in fact—are round layers with graduation,” Roberts says. “Layers are important to encourage the curl and add volume. I find this technique works best as it allows the texture to support itself without creating a triangular shape.”How do you define 4A curls? ›
4A hair is made up of tightly coiled curls with a spiral pattern. Their circumference is the size of a coffee stirrer. 4A curls have a fine to coarse texture. This curl type is prone to dryness, breakage, tangles, and lack of curl definition.What are the 3A B curls? ›
Curly hair is generally classified by 3 curl types, 3A - Your curl ringlets are forming regularly but are longer and more stretched out than curlier types. 3B- Your Curly hair is made up of looser and tighter ringlets.What is 5A hair type? ›
5A hair is a medium grade 100% virgin human hair with a thinner hair shaft. With proper care, 5A hair bundles will last up to 6 months. It can be dyed up to a medium brown colour and remain in good health. This hair is considered to be a good quality hair.What 4b hair looks like? ›
4b hair is easily distinguished by its zigzag pattern. Unlike 4a or 4c, 4b has tight “Z” shaped strands with little definition in curl shape. Often, 4b hair is fluffy and can be soft or coarse depending on hair texture.How do I know if I have 3C or 4A hair? ›
Just like Type 3 hair, it has an 'O' shape and maintains a 'Z' shape when extended. Where this hair type differs from type 3, hair is in the coil. 4A hair is more tightly coiled than its type 3 counterpart. Type 4 hair is often called 'kinky' with a dense coil pattern that might not resemble a curl.Is gel or mousse better for 3A hair? ›
Best Bet for Type 3 Curls
It's the technique or application of the product when it comes to mousse versus gel that makes a difference. When it comes to thin or type 3a hair, mousse may be a better option. It's light weight and can give your hair the extra sculpting ability it needs to either become wavy or curly.
You cannot change your curl pattern. A permanent is just chemical process to give hair curl but it will damage and weaken your hair. And, it cannot change the new hair that grows from your head...that would still be 3A attached to the permed part (and I don't think they can even get a perm as tight as 3c/4a).
Does 3B hair need gel? ›
Just like 3A curls, 3B curls love gel. Applying gel to your 3B hair will guarantee your curls stay bouncy and defined all day long. The best gel for curly 3B hair is Wash Day Delight Hair Gel to Foam Styler gives soft, shiny curls extra hold without flaking or stiffness.What is 3A vs 3b vs 3C hair? ›
If your curls easily wrap around the sidewalk chalk, then you have type 3A hair. If the permanent marker is the best fit, then your hair type is 3B. If your spiral curls are the size of a pencil, you have type 3C hair.Why is my 3b hair so frizzy? ›
Due to the tight coils in 3b hair, scalp sebum has a difficult time sliding down the length of your hair shafts to moisturize the tips. 'Tis the reason why your curls frizz so easily and are prone to breakage. Coarseness: Compared to 3a fibers, 3b curls have a coarser hair texture, which also contributes to said frizz.Do I have 4a 4b or 4c hair? ›
4a hair has sweet S-shaped curls, 4b hair has juicy zig-zagged curl strands and looks like cotton candy, and 4c hair has thick coils that form massive afros.What is the rarest curl type? ›
The last, but most rare type of curl is the coily curl. This curl type is similar to that of an afro and when observed carefully, looks like the angular letter 'Z'. These curls require the most amount of moisture, as the hair type is much thicker than the other curl types.
Type 3c hair follicles are oval in shape, giving rise to their signature twists and turns. Just like 3b hair, 3c curls manifest as ringlets, albeit with a tighter curl pattern (think the diameter of a straw or pencil). It's why you have major volume compared to straight and wavy hair types.What does 1C hair look like? ›
1C hair is straight but thick and coarse. It has a natural tousled look and tends to frizz. Type 2 is wavy hair. Wavy hair follicles tend to have an “S” shape.What is the most common curl? ›
Type 3 curls are amongst the most common curl types. This curl type is the happy medium between type 2 and type 4 curls. It is flexible but thick- meaning it can be a hit or miss when using different products to style this hair type.What's the most Curliest hair type? ›
Out of all the hair types, types 4A, 4B and 4C are the curliest. They tend to form a compacted Z pattern, plus they have a high density that requires creams, gels and custards to hold their shape and reduce volume. Plus, due to the lack of cuticle layers, coily hair also requires extra moisture.What nationality does curly hair come from? ›
The story of human migration and evolution is written in hair DNA. In sub-Saharan Africa, genes favour tight, curly hair. But in east Asia, mutations have led to straighter, thicker hair. In Europe, other mutations brought wavy and straw-coloured hair.
What is 3A or 3B curly hair? ›
3B curls are coarser, springier, and tighter than 3A curls, and they usually have the circumference of a Sharpie marker or your index finger. Unlike 3A curls, which tend to lose their definition or get pulled out, 3B curls stay coiled no matter how much you play with them or what products you put on them (yay!).What are 4C curls? ›
Type 4C. 4C textures are similar to 4B textures, but the tightly-coiled strands are more fragile and have a very tight zig-zag pattern that is sometimes indiscernible to the eye. This hair type experiences the greatest amount of shrinkage — about 75 percent or more — than the other textures.Is 2c hair curly? ›
Like all type 2 hair, 2c hair is wavy, but that often feels like a technicality. Your S-bend hair is thick and the waves start at the roots. If you've ever been confused about whether your hair is wavy or curly, it's likely you have the 2c hair type.