By Ebony Bomani
4C. 3A. 3C. Everyone is talking about hair type. What does "hair type" even mean? It simply refers to whether your hair is straight or curly. There seems to be so much to grasp when it comes to discovering your hair type. It's understandable because multiple hair types, with different traits, can exist on one head.
Overall, hair types can be divided into four groups: There's type 1, which is straight, type 2 is wavy, 3 is curly, and 4 is coily & tight textures. Waves, curls, and coils can be further broken down into sub-categories by referencing the size of your waves, curls or coils, using the letters A, B, or C. Size A, being the largest, B, medium-sized, and C, the smallest. For example, someone with large, curly strands may identify their hair as 3A. Many people debate about whether hair typing is necessary, but it can help you take better care of your hair. Accuracy also comes into question. Although the current hair typing system has a pretty solid foundation, it has room to evolve and definitely will with time. If nothing else, it can help you identify with other people whose hair type is similar.
In the comment sections of curlies all over the web, we often see the question: "What's your hair type?" Do you know yours? Let's explore!
Type 2 hair has more of an S-pattern than straighter hair types. It's naturally wavy and the strands may be fine, medium or coarse in diameter. The diameter of hair strands is called texture. The overall head of hair could be thin, medium, or thick in density. Density refers to the number of hairs that grow on the scalp, per square inch. 2A hair is the finest and the easiest to straighten. It's best for people with this hair type to avoid using heavy styling products, as their hair is easily weighed down. Type 2B hair is wavy with medium-sized strands. Although there may be a bit of frizz in the crown, 2B hair is usually straighter near the roots and cascades into S-shaped waves starting mid-length. Type 2C strands are typically wavy and coarse. It's more prone to frizzing and may be challenging to style. The S-pattern waves are more defined and start at the roots.
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Type 3 hair is, indeed, curly and can range from loose curls to tight corkscrews. Heads with type 3 hair usually hold a conglomerate of curls. 3A hair is the loosest of the curls and it can appear straight when wet and spring back into curls once dry. It can be frizzy at times, but is also easily defined and shiny with fascinating volume at the root. Type 3B hair tends to have a combination of tighter curls and coils similar to the size of a sharpie marker or a piece of chalk. Often times, the strands are coarse and the overall density is thick. 3C hair looks more like larger coils that are about the size of a pencil or drinking straw in circumference and can give the appearance of tons of volume, even if density is low.
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Type 4 hair can range from well-defined coils and Z-pattern strands, to highly-textured hair with less obvious definition. Type 4 hair strands can be fine, medium, or coarse. Due to the nature of coils and how they take up space, type 4 hair can appear thick in density whether it's thin, medium, or thick. Coily hair may seem sturdy, but it’s the most fragile hair type because it has the fewest cuticle layers to protect it from structural damage and dryness. Retaining moisture and combatting shrinkage are among the top concerns for those with coils. 4s can have hair that's soft and spongy, wiry and coarse, or a combination, with the strand circumference of a coffee stirrer or crochet needle.
Type 4A hair, the loosest of the type, shows up as a variety of tight, S-patterns and coffee stirrer-sized coils. It appears to be the most naturally defined and adapts to new shapes, such as roller sets, finger coils, twist/braid-outs, etc., the easiest. 4B hair is soft and spongy, but fragile, with combination of very tight coils and/or Z-patterns. It's often be mistaken for 4C hair, but the pattern isn't as small and the shrinkage isn't as strong. Type 4C has incredibly tight coils and/or zig-zags that may only be visible when saturated with water or lots of styling product. Our 4C friends experience the greatest amount of breakage, shrinkage, and moisture loss of all the other hair types. It must be handled with kid gloves! Due to the nature of the type 4 hair structure, it doesn't reflect as much light as looser hair types, making it appear dry, even when it's not. However, when it's clean, properly conditioned, and healthy, it reveals a natural, radiant luster from within.
*Fun fact: More type 4s than you realize have finer strands and don't need thick, heavy products to bump up the moisture.
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In the end, each hair type may have different variations within each category, but the above descriptors can still help you identify your hair's overall needs and aesthetic. Learning your hair type can guide you to the best products for your hair. Build a hair care regimen with PATTERN using the Curl Guide.