Curl Pattern 101 : Everything You Need To Know To Identify Your Curl Type
Curly, wavy, coily, kinky, textured. There are a million different ways to describe curly hair because there are a million different types of curls. Like straight hair, curly hair can be thick, thin, sparse, or dense, but it can also vary in pattern and shape. Andre Walker, a professional hair stylist, invented a hair typing system to help us classify and understand our curls. According to him, there are ten main hair types ranging from straight to super kinky. While this curl pattern isn’t the only thing that affects your hair and its behavior, it’s a great way to better understand its specific needs. It also offers a starting point for creating an effective hair care routine and buying products that work with your hair. Since this hair typing system is based on the shape of your hair strands, a mirror is all you need to find out your curl pattern.
Depending on who you ask, there are 10-12 hair types. Andre Walker’s original system only included 10, but since he invented it, it’s been expanded to include more curl types that accurately represent the curly community.
Hair that is type 1 is straight. Type 1 hair has little to no texture and often struggles to hold a curl. It’s prone to showing signs of oil. If you feel like you have pin-straight hair that tends to look “greasy” in between washes, you likely have type 1 hair. We’ll focus on types 2-4 since these are the hair types that include waves, kinks, and coils.
Type 2 is the least textured type of curly hair. Type 2 hair is usually referred to as “wavy”, and these curls typically follow an “s-shape”. These waves often have more volume towards the ends, while their roots are flat.
2A curls follow a loose S-shape. These curls are the easiest to straighten and may even look like straight hair if they’re not cared for properly. If your hair frizzes up when you dry brush it, you may have 2A hair. This hair type is also easily weighed down by heavy products and may look “greasy” if not properly cleansed.
2B curls are tighter and thicker than 2A, but they still hold a loose S-shape. This hair type has the potential to be quite voluminous if given the right products. It benefits from moisturizing creams that aren’t too heavy, as they can still get weighed down easily.
Of the type 2 category, 2c curls have the tightest and coarsest pattern. They’re still S-shaped, but they appear curlier than 2A or 2B curls. These waves have volume from root to tip and need extra attention when detangling. Prone to both frizz and hydration fatigue, this curl pattern needs consistent conditioning and protein treatments.
Type 3 Curls
Type 3 curls are defined as being “coily”. They often look like corkscrews or ringlets and are highly susceptible to frizz. These spiral-shaped curls start from the root, and as a result, type 3 hair tends to have pretty impressive volume.
3A curls are the loosest of the type 3’s. While the ringlet shape is still clearly visible in this hair type, the curl itself is wide - typically about as wide as a shot glass. Unlike type 2 hair, 3A curls are defined. Although this hair type often has a combination of s-shaped curls and spirals, it’s characterized by its full, shiny ringlets. This hair type is a frizz magnet, so an effective curl cream, like The Curl Cream from Metisse Natura, is a must for keeping the shape of the curls intact.
3B’s tighter coil shape creates extreme volume that’s springy, beautiful, and big. These curls are smaller than 3As - about the size of a marker - and are difficult to detangle, so you’ll want to have an effective detangler on hand. It’s difficult for the hair’s natural oils to travel down the 3B hair shaft, so this curl pattern is prone to dryness. A steady routine of conditioning treatments is key for keeping these coils happy!
These trademark “corkscrew” curls are about the size of a pencil. This hair type can have a smattering of s-shaped curls throughout, and these coils are incredibly defined and densely packed. Similarly to 3A and 3B hair types, 3C is susceptible to frizz and dryness and needs extra patience when detangling. Lots of moisture, infrequent washes, and detangling sprays will be your best friends if you have this hair type.
Type 4 Curls
Type 4 hair is the kinkiest hair type there is. When you think of afros, you’re likely thinking of type 4 hair. Made up of a crazy amount of super tight curls, this hair type is the densest of all curl patterns. It’s also more prone to shrinkage than Type 2 or Type 3 hair and may be much longer than it appears to be.
4A curls start from the scalp. Depending on their thickness and what styling products are used, these curls can either grow down or up and out. This curl type can become frizzy and dry between wash days but often looks very defined if styled properly. Curl creams and gels can help maintain the look of the natural curl pattern while keeping the hair soft and bouncy.
This hair type is characterized by its z-shaped curls. Tighter and more zig-zagged than type 3 coils, these curls can be difficult to detangle and are less defined than 4A curls. This hair type usually grows up and out rather than down, and in between washes, these curls often stretch, creating even more impressive volume.
Due to how tightly they’re packed, these curls often create that distinct afro look. Although this hair type holds its shape exceptionally well, it’s incredibly fragile and delicate. The tightness of these curls makes them prone to tangles and dryness, so you should take care when washing, and ensure that you’re incorporating multiple conditioning treatments into your routine. Leave-in moisturizers and oils are also great additions to any type 4 hair routine.
Knowing your hair type can connect you to an entire community of people with similar curls. Once you identify your own pattern, you’ll better understand what your hair needs and what products will work best for you. If you want to know more about how to take care of your curls, check out our articles on TikTok and Instagram !