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Discovering Your Hair Type

Discovering Your Hair Type

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By Ebony Bomani

Have you ever wondered how to figure out your hair type? 4C. 3A. 3C. Everyone is talking about hair type, but 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 natural 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 texture as 3A. Many people debate about whether hair typing is necessary, but it can help you take better care of your curl pattern. 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 texture type is similar.

In the comment sections of curlies all over the web, we often see the question: "What's my hair type?" Do you know yours? Let's explore!

4 different hair textures: tight, coily, curly, locs

Type 2

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. Type 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 hair is 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.


Type 3

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. Type 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. Type 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 hair density is low.

SHOP NOW: Curly Hair Routine Products

Type 4

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 tight curls that are 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. Type 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 natural hair 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.

SHOP NOW: Hair Products For Textured Hair

In the end, each curl 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 our guide for curly hair types. Looking for extra nourishment for your curly hair type? Try out our low porosity hair products.

Ebony Bomani is a licensed cosmetologist, textured hair enthusiast, content creator & brand educator. Connect with her about healthy hair care, hair porosity, different hair types & green beauty-related topics via Instagram or LinkedIn.


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Reviewed by Ashley Ludgood

With over 12 years of experience in the beauty and fashion industry, Ashley Ludgood brings a wealth of expertise to her current role at PATTERN. Her insights have been featured in reputable publications like American Salon Magazine, American Spa Magazine, and Skin, Inc. Ashley has also shared her knowledge at conferences, including Face & Body, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to contributing to the industry. Having been an integral part of the team at PATTERN for nearly 4 years, Ashley continues to make significant contributions. Holding a degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, she remains passionate about her field. Among her favorite products, Ashley turns to the PATTERN Styling Cream, Moisture Milk, and the Cleansing Shampoo as her go-to essentials.


I’ve been natural for 18 months. I cut all of my hair off and the stylist told me that I have wavy hair. What do I use to keep my hair shiny? I use the Pattern shampoo and I have the light conditioner. This is what the lady at the Ulta beauty gave me. I want to use the right thing for my hair. Please help!!

Sarah Jackson

Very dry color treated hair very itchy dry scalp Tangled Up very bad

Very dry color treated

Can you tell me what patent product is best for my hair it is extremely dry and also color treated as well also dry and itchy scalp tangle up very easy help what can I use this best for my hair

Cynthia Berry Small

My hair is extremely curly but I have color on it so it’s processed as well I need something to detangle it and keep it from having a dry and itchy scalp

Cynthia berry Small

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