How To Tell Your Curl Type So You Can Get The Most Out Of Your Hair Pattern
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Like many in the curly hair zone, I have combed through numerous photos of curly hair types meticulously comparing them to my own to figure out what type of curl pattern I have. This time-consuming and often misleading task may seem like overkill, but determining your curl pattern can be the key to figuring out a hair care regime that gives you your best locks ever.
You see, no two curl patterns require exactly the same type of TLC. If someone with Type 2 hair was to follow their friend's Type 4 regimen, Type 2 would end up with over-moisturized, weighed down curls. And if Type 4 was to borrow products from their Type 3 pal? They'd likely see a big increase in the amount of daily breakage they experienced due to lack of moisture.
If you've struggled with determining the curl pattern of your hair before, there are a few factors that might have been messing with you. The more moisturized the hair is, the more defined the curl will be. The pattern is best determined immediately after it goes from being wet to dry, not a few days after a wash where the hair may have been stretched from updos or styling techniques. If you apply any sort of products or heat, you'll temporarily alter your true pattern, which can lead to a misdiagnosis.
Don't comb your hair before you try to figure out its pattern either — doing so can alter the natural pattern. And finally, it's normal to have multiple curl patterns going on at the same time, so take that into consideration in your hair care as well. Wash gently, detangle gently, and mind your protective styles by prioritizing the most fragile part of your hair.
Before you get too sidetracked in the quest for your own curl pattern, know it's not all about how the hair curls. As Naturally Curly's Amanda points out, curly hair care is based more on the porosity of your hair than the pattern of the curl. This means that while knowing your curl type is a great starting point, it's also important to know how your hair absorbs moisture. This is easily observed by how quickly your hair feels dry after being moisturized.
To help create our own handy guide, Jessica O’Brien, NYC-based stylist and Ouidad Curl Expert, spoke with Bustle about the features that define each curl pattern. Then, we asked our curly haired models for their personal care tips to help get you started on the journey to your best hair ever.
2A - Open Wave - Katie
Distinguishing Features: According to O'Brien, a 2A hair texture is more like a soft wave. When it's wet, it looks straight and really needs encouragement from products and styling for the waves to show.
Katie's Care Tips: Heat styling isn't typical for Katie; she prefers to air-dry with a hair milk to create a little bit of extra texture. If you're looking to define your 2A curls more, try Ouidad's PlayCurl Amplifying Curl Foam.
2B - Wavy - Liana
Distinguishing Features: A 2B hair texture will have a more defined wave than 2A. When it dries product free, it looks like a loose S shape.
Liana's Hair Tips: Liana uses a balm on wet hair to tame any frizzies and enhance her natural definition while she air dries. Pacifica's Best Day Ever 10 in 1 Style Balm features a formula lightweight enough for 2B hair.
2C - Coarse Waves - Morgan
Distinguishing Features: A 2C hair texture looks like a very loose S when wet. When it's dry, the S shape is more defined.
Morgan's Hair Tips: Morgan's approach to drying her S shaped curls is to let them dry at night after washing, so her curls aren't subject to frizzing or dryness from the outside world. She adds a little water and oil in the morning to help bring out the waves even more. Try pure jojoba or grapeseed oil for a lightweight oil that won't weigh down your tresses.
3A - Silky Ringlets - Tori
Distinguishing Features: 3A is when the curl texture starts to look more like an actual coil, similar to a telephone cord, when dry. When it's wet, it looks like a deep wave and looks less dense than other textures, O'Brien explains.
3B- Springy Curls - Amanda
Distinguishing Features: 3B is when the curl starts to look like a coil in both wet and dry states. It dries fluffy and needs product in order to keep its definition.
Amanda's Hair Tips: Amanda combats dryness and flatness by wetting the ends of her hair daily and deep conditioning weekly. She uses styling clips with DevaCurl Arc Angel gel to keep her curls defined and fluffiness at bay during humid times.
3C - Tight Corkscrews - Iman
Distinguishing Features: 3C is a more deeply spiraled curl and can get really fluffy like an afro because the texture doesn't clump into defined curls as well without product.
Iman's Hair Tips: Iman keeps up with weekly conditioning and uses a wide-tooth comb to detangle her strands before adding an all natural leave-in conditioner. For a leave-in conditioner free of parabens that keeps the frizziness to a minimum, check out Miss Jessie's Leave-In Condish.
4A - Tightly Coiled - Junissa
Distinguishing Features: According to O'Brien, 4A is a very tight curl. It still has a loop and coils like an old telephone cord, but it's smaller in size than the type 3 textures. One of the main differences between type 4 hair and other curl patterns is it's highly textured. The shaft creates shape and dimension by creating tight coils, and because of this, the oil from the scalp doesn't reach far beyond the root of the hair. This creates the matte look of afro-textured hair
Junissa's Hair Tips: Junissa recently began the painful process of trimming off hair damaged from heat. Now she uses no-heat manipulation techniques like twist-outs and keeps up with co-washing in between her weekly wash and conditioning routine. To keep heat damage in your past, try using Ouidad's Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel.
4B - Bended Curls - Shareefah
Distinguishing Features: These Z-shaped coils can be hard to find in 4B hair as this curl type tends to lack curl definition. According to O'Brien, 4B textures have an even tighter curl pattern. Because of this, they tangle easily and tend to be drier in appearance.
Shareefah's Hair Tips: Shareefah knows that shrinkage is the name of the 4B game and uses the L.O.C method (Liquid-Oil-Cream) to twist her hair nightly. Wash-n-go styles work well for her on humid days when she uses Eco-Styler Gel with coconut oil. Shareefah also deep conditions weekly.
4C - Zig-Zagged Curls - Kristin
Distinguishing Features: According to O'Brien, 4C is the tightest curl pattern. It looks dry even when wet and it's difficult to detangle with anything other than a wide tooth comb. It appears to be very dense. I can tell you from personal experience as well that these densely packed curls shrink more than 50 percent of the natural length and the curls almost never clump together. That shrinkage and lack of clumping are telltale signs of 4C hair.
My Hair Tips: The upside to having serious density is that I can manipulate my hair without product or heat into literally any style. My first rule of thumb is to wash my hair with a no-poo product while my hair is in a protective style to avoid knots that occur when the hair is wet. Then, I deep condition by untwisting, applying, and twisting back up. I keep my hair in stretched styles and love to wear it out as long as I promise myself to put it back at night. My other rule of thumb? If my ancestors didn't put it in their hair, it probably doesn't need to go in mine either.
Styling: Gabrielle Prescod