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Have you ever looked at your naturally curly hair and studied the way your curls look, feel and react to different products and hairstyles? If so, you’ve probably noticed that each strand of hair has a defined curl pattern of its own. Curly hair has several curl patterns, sizes and textures.

You might see soft waves, smooth S-shaped curls, tight corkscrew curls, or tight Z-shaped coils throughout your head but what does all of this mean? It doesn’t mean that you have good or bad hair (whatever that is). This guide will help you identify your curl pattern so you can jumpstart a healthy regime for your waves and curls.

Type 2 Hair

Type 2 hair has more of a wavy curl pattern that’s shaped like the letter S. There are two subsets of wavy hair: Type 2a/2b. Type 2a hair is very fine while Type 2b hair has a thicker, medium texture (Think singers Chili and Mya.) Wavy hair warrants a variety of styling options. It can be straightened easier than tighter curl patterns but beware of frizz. Use light products to enhance to avoid weighing down the curls.

Type 3

Type 3 hair has a more defined, springy curl pattern with lots of body full of loopy curls. It’s very thick but isn’t coarse; it’s actually fine. Type 3 hair has a lot of body and is categorized as 3a, 3b and 3c. Type 3a hair has a loose curl pattern while type 3b is a little tighter with ringlets. It’s common to see a combination of type 3 a/b curls. Type 3c hair is very thick and looks a bit more like kinky corkscrew curls. Type 3 hair easily absorbs the water so shrinkage occurs when it’s wet but it is very springy. So when it’s dry if you pull it, it bounces back to the original curl pattern. Use light pomades and cream to enhance curls.

Type 4

At first glance, most assume that type 4 hair is coarse but it’s actually quite fine. It has fewer cuticle layers than the other hair types so when it is brushed or combed, the hair is more susceptible to breakage. That’s why keeping hair moisturized and conditioned is very important for all curly hair but especially tighter curl patterns like this.

There are two subtypes: type 4a which is tightly coiled with a defined curl pattern and if stretched has more of an S pattern and type 4b which doesn’t have a distinctly defined curl pattern but bends in sharp angles like the letter Z. Type 4 hair type is prone to shrinkage of up to 75% of hair’s actual length. The hair can range from fine and thin to coarse with many strands densely packed together. Type 4 hair is versatile for styling and holds styles such as twists, braids and afros well without the aid of several products.

Do you pay attention to “curly hair type” classifications? Why or why not? If you do, what type is your hair? What products have you found work best for your hair type?

-Margaret Francois

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  • Kenzie

    I’m a 3b/3c and products that have worked well for me, have also worked well on many 4c sistas. Then again, some type 3 sistas love products that have done absolutely nothing for my hair. The typing system is helpful but can be misleading, in that aspect.

    I also agree that the typing system has been used by catty sistas to tear down other people’s opinion of their hair, while forcing their own opinion. It’s so ridiculous.

  • Kenzie

    I’m a 3b/3c and products that have worked well for me, have also worked well on many 4c sistas. Then again, some type 3 sistas love products that have done absolutely nothing for my hair. The typing system is helpful but can be misleading, in that aspect.

    I also agree that the typing system has been used by catty sistas to tear down other people’s opinion of their hair, while forcing their own views/agenda. It’s so ridiculous.

  • Sophia

    I have type 4 hair. I think you do too.

    • Sophia

      sorry that was an accident.

  • Alexandra

    I know what type my hair (Type 4) is but I can never get the letters (a/b/c/d/e). I’ve looked at several photos of each and they all look the same to me. I haven’t found the typing system to beneficial. I just know that my hair needs moisture & patience.

  • whilome

    Hair typing has helped me in one respect. I don’t dwell in the shame from words with negative connotations. My “nappy”, “coarse”, “rough” hair is simply Type 4c. That’s it.

    I have kinky hair and it is big and healthy and growing longer everyday because I’m not trying to tame it into submission with chemicals and heat. That’s the type of hair I have now. Good Type 4c hair.