Curls aren't one-size-fits-all—I'm a 2b, what about you?
Curly hair is a blessing—a gift from the beauty gods. But, as it happens with these things, there’s a catch. It’s not all bounce, shine, and perfect definition; and you have to face a unique world of challenges that straight-haired ladies wouldn’t understand. From the fickle frizz to the ever-thirsty strands, curly hair makes you work for it. The most important thing you can do when it comes to your curls is to understand them, and identifying your curl type is the first step to getting your best-ever curls. Your curl type will help you map out a styling strategy that works for you, taking into account your texture, curl pattern, and porosity. Ouidad, DevaCurl, and NaturallyCurly are some gurus we turn to in times of distress, which inspired and informed this handy guide. (We’re all in this together, right?)
What Exactly Is a Curl Type?
Curls are not a one-size-fits-all category, and they shouldn’t be treated as such. Curls can be broken down into three main forms—wavy, curly, and coily—referred to in the beauty world as Types 2, 3, and 4. Each form can be broken down further according to texture and pattern. (Below, we’ll get more into the details of each.) Another fun, albeit tasking, thing about being a curly girl? You can experience different curl types at once: varying at the roots, midway down, and at the ends. This can affect the lineup of styling products you use, and how you use them. This guide for identifying your curl type will help you figure out how to get your curls in line.
Type 2: Wavy or Loose
This type is characterized mainly by a varying S-shaped pattern and needs lightweight products that won’t make the hair too heavy.
2a: This is the most subtle of curly hair, with loose and bendy S-shaped strands. It’s typically fine and not too naturally voluminous. Using salt spray or a volumizing foam helps coax more movement and body out of it.
2b: These waves are a little more defined, especially starting at eye-level. This type can suffer frizz and really benefits from smoothing oil and defining mousse.
2c: We’re getting into more defined S-shaped curls with this type, and it starts all the way up at the roots. It tends to be a little coarser than the other Type 2 patterns.
Type 3: Curly
These types are the more springy, defined curls we often dream of, with actual spirals and density that varies according to type. These aren’t the loose, stretched out S-shape of Type 2, but rather a more compact, bouncy S-shape. Type 3 is more prone to dehydration and frizz, which should be combated with moisturizing and defining creams and gels.
3a: This type typically has defined spirals that have a circumference the width of a piece of sidewalk chalk. These curls can be perfectly bouncy and springy if following the curly commandments and being religious with products.
3b: This type has curls that are smaller in circumference, such as the width of a Sharpie. They are tighter, more voluminous, and more prone to drying out. Use a moisturizing cream and defining gel to keep them in check.
3c: These curls are way tighter and corkscrew-like, taking the circumference of a straw or pencil. This type is typically denser and coarser in texture, making it very important to avoid drying products and ramping up hydration.
Type 4: Coiled or Kinky
Type 4 curls are compactly coiled, ranging from tight S-shaped to Z-shaped curls. These types crave moisture more than any other type, making it super important to use hydrating products like deep conditioners or leave-in conditioners in your normal routine. Type 4 is full of volume and body, but is also very prone to tangles.
4a: This type still follows an S-shaped pattern, but the circumference is even smaller than Type 3 curls, making it more compact and dense. (Co-washing is sometimes useful for these curl types.)
4b: These curls follow a Z-shaped pattern, which is less defined but very coiled. It can be dry and wiry to the touch, making hydrating products a must. Try using coconut oil for hydration and detangling.
4c: This is the tightest curl pattern and needs a wide-tooth comb only for detangling. It looks very dense, but can really play up the volume and body as a result. The curls rarely clump together and shrink 50% of the natural length.
So What Type Are You?
These curl types are not mutually exclusive or end-all answers, but they are a great place to start understanding these spritely, temperamental friends of ours. A good haircut, a little love, and some topnotch styling products make all the difference. Remember, curls are a blessing—and no blessings are just the same. These types vary in pattern, texture, and needs; but we believe in the community of curly girls, no matter the type! (I'm a 2b, what about you?)