Caring For Your Curl Type: What Curl Pattern Do You Have?
Is there anything more beautiful than a full head of bouncy, healthy, curly hair? We say no way. Perfect curls are certainly difficult to achieve, especially if you’re unsure what type of curly hair you have. Does your hair dry into perfect ringlets, but regress into a frizz fest by midday? Do you have tight coils that can’t seem to lock in any moisture? Whatever your biggest curl problem may be, you need to know what type of curls you have in order to fix it.
The 12 Curl Types
The legendary Andre Walker (hair stylist to Oprah Winfrey) was the first to categorize hair into 4 curl types:
- Type 1: Straight hair
- Type 2: Wavy hair
- Type 3: Curly Hair
- Type 4: Coily hair
Today, we recognize 12 types of curly hair, organized first into 4 categories (1-4) and then organized again into 3 subcategories (A, B, and C) to define the diameter of the curls from straight, to S-shaped to classic and finally kinky. While this more custom approach to understanding curl type can be a great start to understanding how to properly take care of your hair, there are some other details to consider too:
- In addition to curl type, factors like porosity help you determine which products you should use daily, weekly, or never ever. Porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb moisture. In general, the curlier the hair, the more likely it is high porosity.
- Curls patterns are like fingerprints, which means your hair is as unique as the rest of you. Understand it might take some experimenting to find what products and techniques really work for you.
- If you consistently use heat styling tools or chemical treatments, then you probably aren’t seeing the true curl pattern of your hair. To find out what your true curl pattern is, look at your roots, or let your hair air dry.
- Many people do not fit distinctly into one of the curl types. In fact it is more common for people to have two or even three curl patterns going on.
Keep these details in mind as you learn how to care for your curl types. You may find that a shampoo and conditioner meant for your classic curls causes your hair to feel a little too greasy. If you have S-waves, you may find you can use certain oils in your hair without any problems. Every body of hair is different, but the care tips below area great starting point for curl care.
Caring For Wavy Hair (2A, 2B, 2C)
People with wavy hair have S-shaped waves that cascade down loosely. People with Type 2 hair are primarily concerned with taming frizz and maintaining the integrity of the curl without weighing them down or making them look crunchy.
- Washing Tips – While Type 2A and 2B can generally get away with a shampoo that contains sulfates, Type 2C people should wash with a sulfate-free shampoo made for wavy hair. Type 2A and 2B should wash their hair every 2-3 days and every 3-5 days for 2C.
- Moisture Tips – Avoid using natural oils in your hair after the shower, as they can make your hair look greasy. If you absolutely love your oils, that’s fine too, but we recommend applying these oils before your shower and washing them out with shampoo.
- Product Tips – Stay away from heavy creams and gels, as they will make your hair look greasy and weigh down your curls. Instead, aim for a mouse or light leave-in serum.
Caring For Classic Curly Hair (3A, 3B, 3C)
People with curly hair develop curls in the form of ringlets that vary in diameter from the size of a jumbo marker to the size of a pencil. This type of hair often feels dry and frizzy, which makes it difficult to maintain the curls throughout the day.
- Washing Tips – Curly hair types should stay away from ingredients like sulfates that dry out the hair. Instead use a gentle shampoo that helps lock in moisture. Wash hair once every 5-7 days. If your hair feels dirty in between washing, try co-washing in between regular washes. (Co-washing means to wash your hair without shampoo and only with conditioners
- Moisture Tips – Apply humectant moisturizers to attract and lock in moisture from the environment. Hair types 3B and 3C should experiment with light oils for locking in moisture. However, this may be too much for 3A and could make hair look greasy. It is also important for Type 3s to regularly deep condition their hair (every 1-2 weeks).
- Product Tips – Cream and gels should be your best friends in terms of creating definition. Instead of relying on heat tools, experiment more with leave-ins and gels while your hair is damp.
Caring For Tight Curls or Kinky Hair (4A, 4B, 4C)
People with kinky hair have tightly wound curls or zig-zag coils. Type 4 hair tangles very easily and has difficulty retaining moisture. Type 4 hair is also prone to shrinkage.
- Washing Tips – Type 4s are lucky in that they really only have to wash their hair once a week, sometimes every 2 weeks depending on how tight the curls are. It is extremely important that type 4s stay away from sulfates and other drying ingredients. This includes certain fragrances, formaldehyde, and alcohols. If your hair feels dirty in between washing, try co-washing in between regular washes.
- Moisture Tips – Be liberal with your moisturizer while your hair is wet. This will help prevent tangles. As you comb through your curls remember to be gentle, you don’t want to break your hair. Use a daily leave-in conditioner and deep condition your hair once every week or two to keep those locks extra moisturized. You can also use oils to seal in moisture if that’s more your style.
- Product Tips – Kinky hair is more fragile than other curl types, so it is important to stay away from heat styling tools entirely. Instead, style hair with gels while the hair is still damp