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How to Style Your Curly Hair

For decades, enthusiasts and hairstylists have managed to distill all hair style categories into four very broad, very general categories – straight, wavy, curly, and kinky curly – to help you figure out how to care for and style your hair.

What are each of the 4 types of hair?

Type 1 hair = straight hair
Type 2 hair = wavy hair
Type 3 hair = curly hair
Type 4 hair = kinky curly
Each category also contains three a, b and c subcategories that allow for further breakdown of each hair type.

How do I know what type of hair I have?
Well, it sounds obvious, but the only way to really know your hair type is to look at a lot of pictures and charts like the one we created above. It’s important to remember that most people have more than one type of hair – for example, my curls are a natural mix of type 3 curls and type 4 wool curls.

Sure, I could use an in-depth styling routine to make my curls tighter and look more evenly type 3, but without any product, styling or diffusion, my hair naturally dries into loose curls (I classify my hair as 2c/3a). So, when determining your hair type, look at hair in its natural state, without styling, and compare it to the table above.

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Type 1: Straight hair
Straight hair can range from thin and silky to thick and voluminous. But the one thing all straight hair types have in common? Dazzling shine, thanks to the oils on the scalp that easily slip and slide down the length of the hair to keep it moisturized and healthy. While some hair critics believe there is only one type of straight hair, I believe there are a variety of textures out there. Let’s break them down, shall we?

Type 1a
Type 1a hair tends to be the flattest, thinnest, and smoothest of the straight hair types. It takes magic to keep bobby pins or relaxers from slipping out of straight hair.

Type 1b
Type 1b hair is still very straight, but also has some bends and some thicker strands. Your biggest enemy is probably greasy roots, not puffy and/or dry ends.

Type 1c
Type 1c hair is thicker and coarser, which means they are also more prone to frizz, puffiness and dryness. If your straight hair is also damaged (chemically, color and heat treated), you’ll likely fall into Type 1c.

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TYPE 2: Wavy Hair
Wavy hair tends to have definite and multiple bends from root to tip. This means that if your hair is “just, like, a weird lump or two,” you’re probably using Type 1 straight hair rather than true Type 2 wavy hair. Type 2 waves can range from perfect beach waves to tousled, indeterminate bends and bumps, and they’re also one of the easiest hair types to play with.

Type 2a
Unlike 1c hair, 2a hair types have a flat S-shaped pattern that gives them a wavy shape. Type 2a hair is finer and flatter than any other type 2, and can be blown out and straightened easily.

Type 2b
Type 2b hair tends to have a more defined S-shaped wave – often with fine and/or medium thickness – and is more prone to curl and volume, especially if the hair is damaged.

Type 2c
2c hair types are still primarily S-shaped waves, but they can also mix in some loose curls and rougher textures (since they’re right on the edge of Type 3 curls). 2c waves tend to curl easily and are defined by quick loosening.

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Category 3: Curly Hair
In order for you to be part of the curly hair club, your hair must have real curls – that is, sections that curl around themselves like a spring, not sections that swing back and forth like a flat S-shape. It’s common and quite possible to have multiple curl textures on your head at the same time.

Type 3a
Unlike type 2C hair, which is mostly waves and some loose curls, type 3A hair is mostly loose curls with only some waves. type 3a curls tend to be finer, easily blown out and super reactive to the elements.

Type 3b
Type 3b hair will usually have curls that are as round as your fingers or markers. These curls are more bouncy and tight than Type 3a curls, but they are also more prone to dryness and frizz.

Type 3c
Type 3c curls are significantly tighter than Type 3b curls, like the size of a straw or pencil, and are thickly packed together, giving your hair a lot of volume. They are also the most prone to dryness and breakage of the 3 types of curls.

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Category 4. Kinky curly hair
kinky-curly, can have a mix of textures, from tightly coiled, spring-like patterns (S-shaped) to zigzag patterns that don’t actually curl around themselves (Z-shaped). Because of their twists and angles, scalp oils can’t easily lubricate your strands, making Type 4 hair the most fragile, dry and vulnerable of all hair types, but also the easiest to style.

Type 4a
Type 4a hair has the tightest, smallest coils – usually mixed with some type 3c curls – that can barely wrap around a crochet hook.

Type 4b
Type 4b (and c!) Instead of curling or coiling around itself, hair of type 4b is curved in a sharp zigzag pattern, its circumference resembling the spring of a ballpoint pen. type 4b hair shrinks and dries more easily than type 4a.

Type 4c
Type 4c hair has a Z-shaped pattern that is tighter than Type 4b hair, and it naturally has less cuticle than any other hair type, which means it needs moisture, moisture, and more moisture.

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