Curly hair comes in all shapes and sizes. That’s why some products and care routines make one gal’s curly hair look wonderful but can also make another person’s look flat and lifeless.
There are several different curl types, each with their own unique traits and recommended regime to care for it. This guide should help you to distinguish different types of curls and help you figure out which one you have.
A little bit of this curly curiosity can help you find the best products, styling techniques and treatments for your hair – so let’s get into it!
Wavy, kinky, curly, coily… been wondering which title suits your hair the best? The thing is, everyone’s curls are different, and you can have curly, kinky, coily and wavy hair all on one head.
To try and make curly hair care a little easier, hair professionals have come up with several systems to help categorise curly hair.One of the most-used and famous ways to categorise different types of curls is celebrity hair stylist Andre Walker’s Hair Typing System.1
This curl pattern chart can help you determine your hair type by matching a number to the shape your hair adopts when it grows from your scalp.
Here’s what the numbers mean on this curly hair chart:
P.S. don’t worry if you don’t fit perfectly into one category or sub-category as you may have a combination of a few hair types, which is very normal.
If your hair falls straight down and doesn’t tend to wave or kink, then you’ve got straight hair. Straight hair tends to be shiny and sleek, but can also be frizzy if prone to dryness.
Wavy hair is positioned somewhere in between curly and straight hair. It tends to fall in loose ‘S’ shapes and is more prone to dryness and frizziness.
When we refer to type 2 curls, we’re talking about the waves!
Tousled waves – like you’ve spent the day at the beach. Hair usually has some volume, but the waves sit close the head.
Can easily be straightened and weighed down if heavy styling products are used on it for a ‘limp and lifeless’ look.
These waves usually begin an inch or so from the scalp and are generally more defined than 2A type waves.
2C curls begin as waves from the root with a more defined S wave throughout the whole hair. This wave type has much more volume and body, sometimes with some true curls thrown in.
Curly type 3 hair gathers and winds around in a spiral shape to form curly ringlets.
3A curls have defined loops the size of wine bottle corks, aka corkscrew curls! The 3A hair type can also be large buoyant loops.
The 3B hair type is defined by bouncy, springy ringlet curls that are about the same circumference as a whiteboard marker.
3C curls are tight corkscrew curls which usually have the circumference of a pencil or drinking straw. It’s very densely packed and voluminous.
Coily hair, aka kinky or afro-textured hair, is naturally spongy and very dry in texture.
4A curls are dense, springy and about the circumference of a knitting needle.
Kinky 4B hair is packed tightly together and can shoot out and bend at sharp angles, like ‘Zs’ as well as ‘S’s.
Similar to the 4B texture, 4C curls are tightly coiled together but the strands are more fragile and sometimes so small you can’t really see the curls. This tight and often zig-zag patterned hair shrinks about 75% more than other hair textures!
Still can’t tell where you fall on the curly hair scale? Is it wavy or curly? If you have one of these in-between styles, e.g. wavy ‘s’ shaped hair with full ringlets scattered throughout, that’s totally fine! Just try the hair care tips for both sorts of hair and find a balance that works best for your locks.Shop Natural Hair Care
Last updated: 15 January 2021
Expertly reviewed by:
Reviewer: Manisha Taggar