“What’s my curl type?” This is the number one question I get asked personally and see being asked in all the curly hair groups I’m a part of. I’m going to start off by saying that I actually don’t like the current Curl Typing model, primarily because there are more important things to know about your hair than what shape it makes. Knowing your hairs porosity and density is far more crucial when it comes to choosing products and styling techniques. However, I know a lot of people put stock in hair typing so I’m going to try and break it down as best as possible here; I’ll do a separate post on figuring out things like porosity and density, so stay tuned. I also have a YouTube video discussing what I’m going to put in this blog post. I’ll link it below in case video format is easier for you to learn from.

First, I’d like to help you reframe the question. In reality, you should be asking “What’s my hair pattern type” not “What’s my curl type”. The reason being, one of the hair types is curly but there are technically 4 hair types. So if you may not have curly hair, it seems strange to ask what your curl type is? In my opinion the only real benefit that can come from knowing your hair pattern is potentially finding a community of people with similar patterns. This can lead you to swap product recommendations, styling techniques etc. However, even if you try something that works for someone with the exact same pattern as you, it may have a completely different end result on your hair based off of things like porosity and density.

The next thing I want to add is that ALL HAIR TYPES ARE BEAUTIFUL! I have seen so much division over hair typing, primarily coming from people being told they don’t have the type of hair they wanted or expected. Sometimes you will have straight hair with one or two crimps in it. That doesn’t mean you have wavy hair. Sometimes you might have tighter curls at random spots on your head. That doesn’t mean you have coily hair. At the end of the day your hair is yours and your singular goal should be to make it the healthiest it can be, regardless of pattern type.

The last thing that I will add is that obviously I am not a hairstylist, however everything in this post is all of this is based off of years of research and working with curly hair both my own and helping others.

Hair Pattern Types

Hair pattern typing can be broken down into 4 groups:

Type 1 – straight hair

Type 2 – wavy hair

Type 3 – curly hair

Type 4 – coily hair

* I will add is that while a large percentage of the textured hair community refers to type 4 hair as ‘kinky’, I will continue to say ‘coily’ instead. Unfortunately, ‘kinky’ has sexual undertones and given the rampant issues of sexualization and fetishizing that occurs within communities of color, in particular the Black community & Black women (who are a large percentage of the group with type 4 hair), I have chosen to not perpetuate that and to use ‘coily’ instead.

Within each of the above types, except for type 1, you will have 3 subcategories – A, B, & C. Type 1 does not have any subcategories. Even if you have one or two crimps in your hair, it’s still technically straight until it moves into the type 2 wavy category. Within each of the above types, the A/B/C will generally refer to the diameter of their pattern. A’s will be on the looser side of the pattern, B’s will be a little tighter, and C’s will be the tightest.

Type 2 Wavy Hair

type 2 waves

Type 2 waves are going to have a very loose ‘S’ shaped pattern to their hair.

2A – more of a tousled look, wave doesn’t start at the scalp but probably starts further down the hair shaft

2B – slightly tighter than 2A, can start to see a more definitive ‘S’ shape, pattern starts closer to the scalp

2C – very definitive ‘S’ shape, likely going to start closer to the scalp and hold steady throughout the hair

PRODUCT/STYLING RECOMMENDATIONS: remember this does not take into account your hairs porosity or density so learn those first before you tackle any new stylers or routines. My recommendations are based off of what I’ve seen a large percentage of people with this hair pattern type have success utilizing. No matter your hair type, always use a leave-in conditioner for moisture.

  • Look at lightweight products
    • sea salt sprays
    • foams
    • mousses
    • lightweight gels
  • Avoid heavy products and oils
    • not always necessary to use a curl cream
    • a little product goes a long way
    • use a lightweight oil to scrunch out the crunch & seal the ends
  • Deep condition once a month
    • start once a month then work to every 2-3 weeks
Type 2 Hair examples

Type 3 Curly Hair

Type 3 Curl Type

Type 3 curls (which is the curl type I have) are going to start to form ringlets from the root of the hair.

3A – about the diameter of a thick piece of sidewalk chalk or wine cork

3B – tighter than 3A’s, about the diameter of a sharpie or index finger

3C – more of a corkscrew pattern, much tighter than 3B’s, about the diameter of a straw or a pencil

PRODUCT/STYLING RECOMMENDATIONS: remember this does not take into account your hairs porosity or density so learn those first before you tackle any new stylers or routines. My recommendations are based off of what I’ve seen a large percentage of people with this hair pattern type have success utilizing. No matter your hair type, always use a leave-in conditioner for moisture.

  • Use lighter cream based products
    • a little goes a long way
  • Stronger hold products
    • look into layering stronger gels with lighter mousses/foams or vice versa
  • Deep condition every 2-3 weeks
    • easy to get over moisturized
  • Protein moisture balance is key
    • video with more details here
Type 3 curl type examples

Type 4 Coily Hair

type 4 curl type

Type 4 coils are going to be the tightest hair type, generally very dense and have the most shrinkage.

4A – still slightly ‘S’ shaped, very tight, about the width of a crochet needle

4B – starts to form ‘Z’ shaped pattern, very dense & tightly coiled

4C – forms ‘zig-zag’ pattern, very dense & tightly coiled

PRODUCT/STYLING RECOMMENDATIONS: remember this does not take into account your hairs porosity or density so learn those first before you tackle any new stylers or routines. My recommendations are based off of what I’ve seen a large percentage of people with this hair pattern type have success utilizing. No matter your hair type, always use a leave-in conditioner for moisture.

  • Deep condition weekly
    • use a heat cap like this to help open up the hair follicle
  • Utilize butters, creams and oils
    • research the LOC method for hair styling to help lock in more moisture
  • Protective styles help hold onto moisture and protect from the elements and breakage
    • twists, braids, and buns
  • Avoid co-washing and aerosolized products
Type 4 Hair Curl Type examples

FYI

It is VERY normal to have multiple hair types on your hair, in fact I would say that every person with textured hair has multiple types. I have loose type 2C waves on the bottom/back of my hair, but a 3A/3B mix over the rest of my head. It’s normal. Your hair pattern type would be what covers the majority of your head when it is clean, fully dried and free from products and styling.

Also remember, if you are working with damaged or unhealthy hair then your hair pattern or curl type is likely to change as you start treating your hair better. When I first started this journey, I had type 2C waves because of how much heat and color damage I had done to my hair. It’s possible for it to change as it gets healthier, but it’s also okay if it doesn’t. Don’t be disappointed if you have start off with waves and still have waves, because if you’re hair is healthier then your goal is achieved. Healthy is the end game, not a specific hair pattern or curl type.

I hope this helps! Be sure to check out other Essentially Erynne Curly Community College videos or drop a comment below if there’s something out there you want to know the truth about!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. This is at no extra cost to you and all products linked are ones I use personally and/or paid for myself