Prior to my big chop in 2018, I used to wear my hair straight. For years I could manipulate my 4A curls and coils into straight or wavy textures with the help of heat tools and styling products marketed as “smooth”, “sleek”, and “ultra straight.” Until, eventually, my nine inches of hair shriveled up to three inches. “Fighting your hair texture can leave you with more damage, frizz, and breakage,” Derrick Keith, celebrity hairstylist told me at a recent haircut. That’s why it is so important to know your hair type and understand what hair products work best for it.
Beginning in the ‘90s, Andre Walker, Oprah’s hair stylist, created an official system to recognize and classify curl patterns. Based on that system, there are four texture-based categories: straight, wavy, curly, and coily (labeled as Types 1 to 4). Hair is then defined more specifically by three types of density, (labeled as A, B, or C) indicating how tightly wound the curls are: thin/fine, medium, or coarse. Knowing your hair type and what products to use can be the difference between healthy, manageable hair and locks that feel like they’re fighting everything you do to style them.
For example, treating your Type 2 hair (wavy) with products made for Type 4 hair (coily) could leave it over-moisturized and weighed down, while utilizing Type 3 styling products on Type 4 hair could make hair feel dry, brittle, and lacking proper moisture. And unfortunately, since most people experience a few different textures on their head, finding your hair type and building an efficient routine might take some experimenting.
To help you sort out your hair type for best hair health, TZR spoke to three celebrity hair stylists for their top intel.
What Hair Type Am I?
To discover what hair type you have, start by washing and conditioning your hair, then allow it to air dry. While your hair is soaking wet, wring out a bit of the excess moisture, gently shake out the hair, and observe how the hair lays. Is there a curl, or does it lay flat? How defined is the texture (meaning is the curl springy or is it a gentle wave)? Since many people who actually have wavy or curly hair might not know it — mass hair marketing has not always accommodated textured hair — it’s crucial to take the time and observe your hair when it’s wet to determine your hair type.
In general, the curl type looks at the shape of the follicle that your hair grows out of. The flatter or more oval-shaped the follicle, the curlier your hair. The more circular the cross-section, the straighter your hair. Once you determine if you have texture or not, you can move onto trying suitable products for your hair type.
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Type 1: Straight
Straight hair is usually the easiest to identify and is determined by a lack of any discernible wave or curl. Products that are lightweight and frizz-fighting are usually the go-to for this hair type. Erinn Courtney, StyleSeat hairstylist, recommends light products that don’t have much oil in them as Type 1 hair can easily look and feel weighed down with too much product.
1A: This hair type is fine and silky, dries straight, and can be rarely hold a curl after styling.
1B: Has a full, natural volume and may curl up at the ends.
1C: Straight with a few natural waves mixed in. 1C holds curls well, but is prone to more frizz.
Type 2: Wavy
The midpoint between straight and curly, Type 2 hair is wavy and dries with a range of texture definition, depending on its density. It can have more or less S-shaped curls throughout, or lean more towards a defined curl. With fine texture, Type 2 hair tends to lack volume at the root but can easily create a barely-there tousled look that is easy to straighten or curl.
2A: Hair is fine and silky, and dries with a little more volume or loose waves.
2B: Beach waves with a medium-texture and a little bit more frizz.
2C: The thickest wave type with a few curls scattered here and there. The experts recommend finger styling and extra moisture to tame frizz.
Type 3: Curly
The most important thing for curls (light ringlets to big spirals) is retaining the adequate amount of moisture. Curls should avoid salt sprays and products with alcohol, silicone, or sulfates as they will dry the hair out over time, leading to frizz and breakage. Instead, look for curl creams, creamy leave-in conditioners, serums, hair oil, and deep conditioning treatments with natural ingredients, says Rashuna Durham, amika’s lead pro educator and hair stylist.
3A: Large, loose curls that are easily maintained with a curl refresher. Durham also encourages using a curl cream to help emphasize the curl texture and to keep hands out of the curls after styling to avoid the risk of frizz.
3B: Curls in this hair type range in size and hold shape when pulled out. Unlike 3A, they are a bit more full and susceptible to frizz, so make sure you have a good curl cream with humectants in them to attract moisture back to strands.
3C: Thick, corkscrew curls that usually begin to grow out and away from the roots are what you can expect with 3C curls. Curls are densely packed, giving it great natural volume. However, frizziness is common with this hair type.
Type 4: Coily
Coils can have a compact zig-zag pattern or tightly-wound S-shape curls, or both. Given its structure and full of texture, Type 4 hair is usually prone to dryness and loves products that provide intense hydration.
4A: These are tightly coiled and springy curls that grow out and away from the roots.
4B: This hair type isn’t S-shaped like other curls and instead zig-zags in different directions. Because this type has more frizz, it would be beneficial to use an oil or other frizz-control products.
4C: Similar to 4B textures that are tightly-coiled, 4C has extremely tight zig-zag patterns and a greater amount of shrinkage than other textures. The experts suggest using a good amount of leave-in moisturizer to stretch out the length of coils and spirals.