When it comes to treating your hair right, the first thing you should be asking yourself is this: “What is my hair type?” Finding the answer will be one of the first steps in determining the ideal hair care routine, products, and styling tricks to address your hair’s needs.
Having dark brown or highlighted blonde locks has nothing to do with which hair type you have, but we’re here to help. Keep reading to get to the root of which category your follicles fall under, plus find our best must-have products to help you style and care for your one-of-a-kind strands.
What are the four types of hair?
How do I identify my hair type?
While it may seem like the different hair types are cut and dry, the reality is that hair often fluctuates between one or more types, so simply looking at your hair isn’t enough to determine what category your locks fall under. To identify your hair type, experts recommend allowing hair to dry naturally without using any products and then comparing it to photos or a detailed chart, like the one above.
Since there are three distinct subcategories that exist within all four of the hair types, we’ve outlined each of them below.
Type 1: Straight
1A: Out of all the hair types, 1A hair is the finest and thinnest. These manes are straight and flat as a pin and have difficulty holding a style. Even bobby pins tend to slip out with ease!
1B: Type 1B hair has more volume than 1A hair with a bit of a bend to it. Those with 1B hair may notice that their roots tend to become greasy more quickly.
1C: Straight with a slight wave, type 1C hair has a thicker, coarser consistency and can appear more voluminous than other type 1 hair.
Type 2: Wavy
Your tousled texture can easily be manipulated into various hairstyles, allowing you to have the best of all styling worlds. The downside? Frizz and limpness can still rear their heads.
2A: Appearing as beachy waves, 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: A defining trait of 2B hair is curlier waves that appear more S-shaped, but these waves tend to lie flatter around the crown of the head.
2C: These voluminous S-shaped waves start from the top of the head to the ends of the hair. They’re often mistaken for type 3 hair, but they don’t have the distinctive ringlets that are characteristic of curls.
Type 3: Curly
Curly hair types are quite often the most delicate. Thanks to the abundant spirals and twists, it can be harder for the natural oils that nourish and protect the hair to travel down curly strands, resulting in dryness.
3A: If you have loose S-shaped curves about the size of a piece of large sidewalk chalk, chances are good you have 3A hair.
3B: Mixed curl patterns (think: loops to spirals, ringlets to corkscrews) means you likely have type 3B hair, which has a lot of natural bounce but is more prone to frizz.
3C: You have 3C hair if you have defined, S-shaped corkscrew coils that are tightly packed together. They’re often the size of a pencil.
Type 4: Coily
Also known as textured or natural hair, coily hair can feel spongy to the touch and varies between soft and springy to coarse and rough depending on strand thickness.
4A: Type 4A hair has medium-sized, loosely packed curls with a springy S-shape about the size of a crochet needle.
4B: The most noticeable trait of 4B hair is its Z-shaped curl pattern about the size of a ballpoint pen spring. In addition, 4B hair can sometimes take on a wiry appearance.
4C: Those with 4C hair will notice no single curl pattern. Instead, 4C hair will typically have a mix of waves, coils, curls, and zigzags throughout their strands. This is the driest out of all hair types.
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 own. We recommend setting up a consultation with your stylist to receive a full breakdown of your best hair care regimen, but here are a few pointers to get you started.
Type 1: Straight
Kicking your routine off with a good volumizing shampoo and conditioner is a key to boosting fine, straight hair. We love Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Muroto Volume Shampoo and Conditioner to help infuse long-lasting volume and lightweight hydration into limp hair.
If you have fine, straight hair and often deal with breakage, opt for L’Oréal Professionnel’s
Regarding styling, those with fine, straight hair need volumizing products. Consider adding a body-enhancing foam like Redken’s Root Lifter Volumizing Spray Foam to your routine. Previously known as best-selling Redken Guts 10, this iconic professional volumizing mousse is famous for providing a bold and voluminous finish while raising the hair root to add all-over body and thickness.
Type 2: Wavy
If you have naturally wavy hair, you need a hair care routine that will control frizz without weighing down your enviable texture. Start with Matrix Total Results Mega Sleek Frizz Control Shampoo and Conditioner, a system made with shea butter to help control rebellious, unruly hair and manage frizz.
We also recommend incorporating a deep conditioner into your shower routine about once a week. Dryness can be wavy hair’s worst enemy by leading to breakage and making frizz and flyaways more of an issue. We love the Redken All Soft Heavy Cream Deep Conditioning Treatment Mask, a nourishing, argan oil-infused formula for dry, brittle hair.
Wavy hair often requires less hot tool manipulation than other hair types, which is why we love using a leave-in like Redken’s All Soft Moisture Restore Leave-In Treatment. Thanks to the buzzy skincare ingredient hyaluronic acid, this lightweight treatment helps hair retain moisture and offers humidity and frizz protection for up to 24 hours so you can enjoy the benefits of silky, air-dried waves. Bonus: If you decide to queue up your curling iron, this multi-tasking treatment offers heat protection up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Looking for more heatless ways to enhance your wavy texture? Give dry hair a liberal spritz of Pureology’s Style + Protect Beach Waves Sugar Spray to play up your natural definition, or check out this finger wave hack from Hair.com ambassador Bradley Leake.
Type 3: Curly
Curly hair types are likely no stranger to breakage. The twists and turns of your curls make strands more susceptible to breakage than other hair. That’s why you need a pre-shampoo treatment like Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Intensive Treatment.
This rinse-off treatment’s two main ingredients, Bonding Care Complex and 14% citric acid work together to repair and condition hair damage from the inside out. The higher concentration of citric acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid, and Bonding Care Complex means intensive, immediate results—hair is left 90% more conditioned, 14 times smoother, and two times stronger after just one use.
As far as washing curly hair types, less is always more. Washing your hair daily can strip your strands of their natural oil, causing it to become dry and frizzy. If you need to refresh your ringlets between washes, use a styling product like L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Curl Expression Curls Reviver Spray. This feather-light spray instantly defines all types of coils and curls, adding shine and a frizz-free finish for up to 48 hours.
Sidestep greasy roots between wash days with a dry shampoo like Kérastase Fresh Affair Refreshing Dry Shampoo. Not only will it absorb oil like a charm, but it also leaves behind a seriously sexy scent.
Coily hair is often the most misunderstood texture, and the wrong products and styling techniques can wreak havoc on your hair. The key to nourished coily strands? Moisture, moisture, moisture! Start simple when figuring out which products work best for your coils. A moisturizing shampoo, conditioner, and cream-based leave-in conditioner are essential for anyone with type 4 hair.
You may already know that coily hair can go longer than most between shampoos, but there is no single rule that works for everyone. Swapping a deep cleansing shampoo like L’Oréal Professionnel’s Serie Expert Curl Expression Anti-Build Up Cleansing Shampoo into your routine once or twice a month can help wash away the build-up that accumulates on the surface of hair between wash days.
Shampoo has a reputation for being drying, but not all shampoos are created equal. If you’re unsure what shampoo is best for your type 4 hair, we recommend Biolage’s Ultra Hydra Source Shampoo. It’s formulated with moisture-retaining aloe, making it a powerhouse for extremely dry hair, like coils. Follow up your wash routine with the line’s Ultra Hydra Source Conditioner, or pick up a mask like Mizani’s True Textures Moroccan Clay Steam Mask whenever your hair needs a little extra TLC.
Using this handy guide to figure out your hair type ensures you’re listening to your hair and providing it with the care it needs to thrive.
Find more professional hair products that cater to your hair type on Hair.com.