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Identifying your hair type is the first step toward achieving healthy-looking hair. Here, learn about the different hair types and how to determine yours.

What Is My Hair Type? Here’s How to Find Out Once and For All

Identifying your hair type is the first step toward achieving healthy-looking hair. Here, learn about the different hair types and how to determine yours.
What Is My Hair Type? Here’s How to Find Out Once and For All

You may not give much thought to your hair type other than “it’s straight” or “it’s curly.” But if that’s the case, chances are good you’re not getting everything you could out of your haircare routine. Experts generally agree that there are four main types of hair, each of which has three subtypes. And each of these different hair types has its own set of unique characteristics and needs.

Ahead, we’ll share everything you need to know to confidently (and accurately) answer the question, “What is my hair type?” Find it all below—plus a look at some of our favorite products for each hair type.

What are the different hair types?

The hair type classification system describes hair according to its texture and density. Texture, in this case, refers to how straight or curly it is: Type 1 is straight, 2 is wavy, 3 is curly, and 4 is coily. Subtype (A, B, C), meanwhile, represents the width and density of your hair from thin to thick. These two characteristics combined are written as a letter and a number (for example, 1A) and describe your hair’s most prominent characteristics.

Identifying your hair type is the first step toward achieving healthy-looking hair. Here, learn about the different hair types and how to determine yours.

What is my hair type?

While it may seem that identifying your hair type would be relatively straightforward once you understand the classification system, it’s not quite that cut and dry. Hair can fluctuate between different types throughout your life—and you may even have two (or more!) hair types simultaneously.

To determine your hair type, experts recommend washing and drying your hair as usual and then letting it air dry without using any products. Once it’s completely dry, inspect your hair in the mirror and compare your strands with a hair type chart, like the one above. Whichever one your hair most closely aligns with is most likely your hair type. Keep in mind that it may not be an exact match: The classification system is a guideline and doesn’t account for changes due to chemical or heat processing.

Ahead, we’ll dive deeper into the specific characteristics of each hair type (and subtype) to help you better understand your hair’s characteristics, challenges, and unique needs.

Type 1: Straight Hair Type

Good hair day by

Type 1 hair is straight, with no to very minimal bending or waving. Thickness and density can vary, from ultra-fine to thick and full.

1A: Straight and fine

1A hair is the straightest and finest of all the hair types. It tends to be shiny and smooth, but lacks volume and may become greasy easily. Because of its ultra-fine texture, 1A hair can be difficult to style without the right tools or products.

1B: Straight and medium

Type 1B hair is also extremely straight, but the strands are slightly thicker than that of 1A hair. This added body means that 1B hair may be able to hold a style better than 1A hair.

1C: Straight and thick

1C hair is thick, dense, and straight, with a slight bend or wave, typically on the underside of the head. It has plenty of body and volume, but it’s coarse, which may make 1C hair more susceptible to frizz.

Type 2: Wavy hair type

Good hair day by @touchofbalayage

Type 2’s loose, tousled texture can easily be manipulated into various hairstyles, and unlike type 1 hair, they’ll hold. However, frizz and limpness can still be a concern—especially if you’re using the wrong products for your mane.

2A: Loosely bended waves

In general, 2A hair has a flat root that starts to bend around eye level. This hair type is the flattest of all wavy hair and can have trouble keeping its curl definition.

2B: Elongated waves

Like 2A hair, 2B hair tends to lie flat around the crown of the head. However, 2B waves are thicker and more defined than that of 2A hair—more of an elongated S shape than a beachy bend.

2C: Thick S-shaped waves

2C hair has voluminous S-shaped waves that extend from the top of the head to the ends of the hair. It’s similar to curly hair, but lacks any distinctive coils or ringlets.

Type 3: Curly hair type

Good hair day by @beyoutifulccc

Curly hair is characterized by the presence of spirals, coils, ringlets, or twists. These hair types have plenty of volume, but sometimes fall flat (pun intended) in the hydration department.

3A: Loose ringlets

Loose, voluminous ringlets all around the head are often indicative of type 3A hair. These ringlets are typically pretty wide in circumference—roughly the size of a quarter. If your curls are tighter, you’re likely 3B or 3C.

3B: Defined spirals

3B hair falls right between loose curls and tight spirals, with defined, bouncy ringlets about the size of a penny.

3C: Tight corkscrew curls

3C hair typically exhibits fairly consistent, densely-packed spiral curls. These curls are tighter than type 3B curls; they’re usually about the circumference of a pen or pencil.

Type 4: Coily hair type

Good hair day by @powerfluffgirl

Also known as textured or natural hair, coily hair can feel spongy to the touch and tends to be thick, voluminous, and stiff rather than silky.

4A: Loosely-packed coils

Type 4A hair has loosely-packed, springy coils about the diameter of a crochet needle. It can be coarse, but tends to be a bit softer to the touch than other type 4 hair.

4B: Zig-zag bends

Type 4B hair isn’t curly, per se, but more angular. This coil pattern has a zig-zag shape, and the bends tend to be very tight—like the inner coil of a ballpoint pen spring.

4C: Mixed tight texture

Last but definitely not least is 4C hair. This coily hair type exhibits characteristics of both 4A and 4B hair, with a thick, coarse texture. Because of its tightly-packed spirals, 4C hair tends to be extremely vulnerable to dryness and breakage.

Good hair day by @jenghair

How to Care For Your Hair Type

Now that you’re clued in on the various hair types, you’ll want to know how to best care for your hair. We recommend setting up a consultation with your stylist for personalized advice, but here are a few pointers to get you started.

Type 1 Hair

In general, those with type 1 hair will want to look for volumizing products that add body and texture without weighing the hair down.

If you’re on the finer end of the straight hair spectrum (in other words, type 1A or 1B), we recommend kicking off your daily haircare routine with a volumizing shampoo and conditioner, such as the Redken Volume Injection Duo. It’s designed specifically for fine, flat hair and adds body and lift for thicker-looking strands over time. Those with thicker type 1C hair, meanwhile, may want to reach for products that help fight frizz. Try Biolage Professional Smooth Protection Anti-Frizz Shampoo and Conditioner Duo, which helps moisturize, detangle, and smooth the hair for a sleek finish.

As we mentioned earlier, styling fine, straight hair can be a challenge. Using a bodifying styling aid, such as Redken Full Body Mousse, can help provide grip so your styles stay put. (Bonus: This volumizing mousse offers heat protection up to 450oF—so you can use your hot tools without worrying about damaging your delicate straight strands).

Finally, keep in mind that type 1 hair can get greasy at the roots fairly quickly. If you’re in a rush and can’t squeeze in a quick wash-and-go, refresh your roots with dry shampoo. There are several formulas we love, but Matrix Refresher Dry Shampoo is especially great for type 1 hair due to its ultra-absorbent formula.

Type 2 Hair

The primary challenge with type 2 hair: Attaining smooth, defined waves—without weighing your mane down. Thankfully, there are plenty of haircare products that’ll help you do just that.

Start by lathering up with a lightweight, frizz-fighting duo, such as Biolage Professional Smooth Proof Shampoo and Conditioner. The duo encapsulates hair in a protective shield, giving you smooth strands for up to 72 hours.* If you have type 2B or 2C hair, we also recommend incorporating a deep conditioning mask, like Biolage Professional Smooth Proof Deep Treatment Pack Hair Mask, into your weekly routine for added hydration.

Next comes styling. For undone, beachy waves, try misting damp hair with a texturizing spray, like Redken Beach Spray. This works particularly well on finer type 2A hair, helping to amplify your natural beachy texture without leaving your hair feeling stiff or sticky.

If a sleeker finish is your goal, opt for a lightweight serum instead. We love Matrix Food For Soft Multi-Use Hair Oil Serum. It contains avocado oil and hyaluronic acid and leaves the hair looking smooth and shiny without weighing it down.

*When using the system of SmoothProof shampoo, conditioner, and serum vs. a non-conditioning shampoo.

Type 3 Hair

Curly type 3 hair often needs a bit more TLC than other hair types, because all of those spirals, twists, and ringlets can dry out fairly easily (and this goes double for those with color-treated curly hair). As such, caring for your curls often requires making hydration a priority.

The first thing to note is that curly hair doesn’t need to be washed every day. In fact, in many cases, less is more. Aim to lather up around twice per week, and condition your hair with a pre-shampoo treatment, like Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Intensive Treatment, when you do. This nourishing pre-poo helps repair damaged hair bonds and combats up to one year of visible damage in a single use. Pair it with the collection’s shampoo and conditioner, swapping out the latter once per week with Redken Acidic Concentrate 5-Min Liquid Mask. It’s formulated with Redken’s Conditioning Care Complex and leaves hair three times stronger with a single five-minute application.**

Last but not least, give your curls enhanced bounce and definition with Mizani True Textures Curl Enhancing Lotion. You can work the coconut oil-infused formula through damp hair, then air-dry or diffuse for ultra-soft, shiny ringlets.

**Acidic bonding concentrate 5-min liquid mask vs. non-conditioning shampoo.

Type 4 Hair

Natural hair is uniquely susceptible to breakage, so gentleness is key. The good news? You can go a lot longer between washes than other hair types. Aim to wash your strands once or twice per month with a rich, hydrating shampoo, such as Mizani Moisture Fusion Moisture Rich Shampoo. The powerhouse cleanser boasts argan oil, cupuaçu butter, and honey and helps quench thirsty strands for soft, bouncy curls and coils. Follow it with the brand’s True Textures Moisture Replenish Conditioner, or give your hair serious nourishment with Mizani Moisture Fusion Intense Nourishing Mask.

While your hair is still damp from the shower, apply a leave-in conditioner for continued hydration. Our pick: Mizani 25 Miracle Milk Leave-In Conditioner. As the name suggests, this milky treatment offers 25 benefits for coily hair, including detangling, frizz control, and heat protection.

When you’re wearing your coils down, help define your hair’s natural texture with a product designed to do just that, like Mizani Curl Define Pudding. The rich cream with olive, coconut, and marula oils moisturizes your coils for smooth strands with mirror shine. If you’re opting to wear your hair in a protective hairstyle, consider treating your scalp and strands with a hair oil like Mizani 25 Miracle Nourishing Hair Oil (take care to not apply too much—you want your hair to feel moisturized, not slippery).

Lastly, pick up Mizani Edge Control Taming Gel to smooth down your edges and give your coily style a sleek, long-lasting finish.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, different hair types have very different needs. If you’re still having trouble pinning down your hair type or want targeted advice specific to your strands, consult a stylist. They can help you identify your hair’s unique characteristics and work with you to develop a plan suited to your needs—whatever they may be.

Next: Hair Porosity: Care Guide For Low, Medium, and High-Porosity Hair

Header image credits: @jenghair and @powerfluffgirl

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