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What is Your Curl Pattern and Hair Type?

New to the curly girl world? Bombarded by acronyms, chemical names and rules? Starting your natural hair care journey is scary, overwhelming and confusing, but there are a few things that are key to learning before you buy your curly hair products and swear off sulfates and silicones.

These being, putting down the heat tools for one, but also, understanding your hair and curl type! When figuring out your natural hair care routine, whether you have wavy, curly or kinky hair it is imperative to understand your curl and hair type. This will help you understand what types of products, nourishment and care your hair needs.

To put it simply there are 3 main factors that determine your curl pattern:

  1. The hair follicle
  2. The structure of your hair cells
  3. The hair cycles 

Type 2 hair is defined as “wavy” hair, an in between straight and curly hair with a unique loose S shape. Type 2 hair typically involves wave like strands that can range from barely noticeable to almost curls.

2A: This wave type is seen as a very loose S shape and a soft wave. Frizz is usually an issue with 2A hair type.

2B: S shaped waves that are much looser than curls and is important to create volume and moisturize as to avoid frizz. 2B hair can be described as beach waves.

2C: A deep wave and is seen as almost curly hair or a loose curl.

Type 3 hair is defined as curly hair, where strands clump together and create spirals and ringlets. People with Type 3 hair can have thin, medium and thick hair. Type 3 hair can also be dry so curly hair benefits from moisturization.

3A: A soft curl, hair that has loose spirals of curls, usually without shrinkage. The curl itself has a large diameter. 3A hair is one of the more manageable curl types since they are soft and require minimal styling, because they have a lot of natural bounce.

3B: Well defined curls that are tighter and curls like springs or corkscrews. 3B hair usually has more volume than the 3A. These curls are prone to breakage, frizz and dryness, so weekly washes and deep conditions are recommended.

3C: Tight defined coils that are described as corkscrew curls. The curls have a very small diameter, the size of a straw. 3C hair can have a mixture of curl patterns, from tight to looser curls. The texture of the 3C hair tends to be coarse compared to other Type 3 hair.

Type 4 hair is defined as coily, kinky, or afro-textured hair. Curl strands are formed into very tight coils or zig zags from the scalp which can lead to major shrinkage. Type 4 hair is usually very dry but can be fine, soft or coarse.

4A: Tight coils that have an S shaped pattern with a very small diameter where a crochet needle can fit. Moisture and hydration are key for these curls to look healthy.

4B: It is characterized by densely packed curls that form sharp angles that make a Z shape. 4B zig-zag hair tends to be porous and requires deep conditioning to prevent breakage. 4B is also accompanied by many different curl shapes like S shape coils.

4C: The tightest of the curl patterns and has the most amount of shrinkage. 4C hair is categorized by tightly coiled strands with Z shaped curls that sometimes can’t be seen by the eye. 4C is known to be very sensitive and fragile so constant moisturization is needed.

It is crucial to also state that these hair types are not the end all be all of curly hair. Many women find that there have multiple curl patterns and curl types, and find their hair is categorized in between these hair types. However, it is important to realize that there are different steps, products and tools used for all these hair types ranging from 2A, 3B and 4C hair. Also keep in mind key factors other than curl type, such as the porosity and density of your hair. Figuring out what type of hair you have is a key step in finding the right hair care routine for you. Personalizing to the best of your ability will help you create and maintain beautiful natural hair.

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