I receive several questions about hair type so I decided to create a comprehensive hair type guide that addresses the questions – what’s my hair type? What’s my curl pattern?
All human hair is composed primarily of keratin. Keratin is a kind of protein that’s formulated in the cells of the hair follicles.
Your curl pattern is determined by the number of bonds between the keratin and other proteins within your hair shaft. The more bonds there are, the more textured your hair will be.
Before I get into the different hair types, you should know that everyone has different hair types and textures on their heads.
The purpose of finding out your hair type is to identify the right kind of products and treatments for your hair type not obsess over what it looks or doesn’t look like.
The hair classification discussed below was first identified by Andre Walker, Oprah’s hairstylist.
It’s a broad spectrum of hair classification that will help you narrow down your hair type effectively.
What’s My Hair Type? What’s My Curl Pattern?
Andrew Walker’s hair classification system breaks hair down into 4 different categories with each having several subcategories.
According to this system, hair is straight, wavy, curly, or kinky.
What is Type 1 Hair?
Type 1 hair is straight hair that has very little texture to it. It’s straight from root to tip. The cuticles of type 1 hair are closed, which makes it very resilient.
Type 1 hair has a lot of sheen and is difficult to curl. It’s also the oiliest hair type because sebum spreads easily from the root to the tip.
Examples of celebrities with type 1 hair include Demi Lovato, Keira Knightley, and Cameron Diaz.
Type 1 hair needs to use shampoos like Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo regularly to keep their scalps clean.
Type 1 hair subcategories include 1A, 1B, and 1C which varies from fine/thin to coarse.
What is Type 2 Hair?
Type 2 hair is wavy, which is somewhere between straight and curly hair. Type 2 hair is shiny and just as resilient as type 1 hair. However, it’s prone to frizz.
Type 1 hair subcategories include 2A, 2B & 2C. 2A hair can be straight or curly while type 2B & 2C remains wavy and resistant to styling.
Examples of celebrities with type 2 hair include Gisele Bündchen, Jennifer Lopez, and Shakira.
Type 2 hair needs light products that won’t weigh down the hair texture. They also need products that control frizz.
What is Type 3 Hair?
This is where natural hair starts coming into play all the way to the last hair type. Type 3 hair is curly hair with an S or Z shape.
Type 3 hair is voluminous, full-bodied, prone to frizz, and damage. Type 3 hair has many styling options.
However, type 3 hair is also prone to dryness as the shape prevents sebum from traveling effectively down the hair shaft.
Type 3 hair needs hair products that are chemical-free and natural. These products prevent type 3 hair from drying out and compromising the curl pattern.
Type 3 hair subcategories include 3A, 3B & 3C. 3A & 3B range from loose curly to tight curly while 3C is very curly and more prone to damage, dryness, and frizz.
Examples of celebrities with type 3 hair include Salma Hayek, Mariah Carey, Keri Russell, Alicia Keyes, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Andy Allo.
Type 3 hair needs rich styling creams and moisturizers. Looser type 3 may want to avoid heavy products like butters and oils.
What is Type 4 Hair?
Type 4 hair is kinky hair and is the most vulnerable of all the hair types. It is tightly coiled and has a high density.
Type 4 hair may have a z pattern or have no pattern at all and appear puffy. Type 4 hair experiences dryness and extreme frizz.
Type 4 hair shrinks considerably when wet and is more prone to damage. It is also very difficult for sebum to travel down the hair shaft.
However, type 4 hair has the luxury of being styled in many many ways. You could wear a different style every week of the year and not repeat a style.
Type 4 hair subcategories include 4A, 4B & 4C. 4A is soft and tightly coiled while 4B and 4C are wirier and exhibit very little curl pattern.
Examples of celebrities with type 4 hair include Solange, Viola Davis, Teyonah Parris, Yaya DaCosta, Nicole Ari Parker, Janelle Monae, India Arie, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Esperanza Spalding, and yours truly.
Type 4 hair needs to be constantly hydrated and protected from the elements to prevent dryness and breakage. It requires gentleness and patience.
Type 4 hair loves deep conditioners, heavy styling creams, butters, oils, and leave-in conditioners but hates shampoos so use sparingly.
Avoid products with mineral oil, lanolin, petrolatum, sulphates, and other harsh chemicals. They will eventually dry out your hair and suffocate your scalp.
With type 4 hair, moisture is your best friend. However, take care not to overdo it as it is possible to over-moisturize natural hair.
There are other hair typing systems like Fia’s Hair Typing System but I wouldn’t focus too much on these as they can be confusing.
The Andrew Walker system is most popular and the one used as a point of reference by most women.
The purpose of knowing your hair type is so you can customize your regimen with the right products for your hair type.
No hair is bad. Healthy hair is good hair. You should also check your hair porosity – Read What is Hair Porosity and How Can You Tell Your Porosity Level?
Below image shows a good representation of the hair types as well as the curl sizes, which can also aid you in deciding what your hair type is.
FAQs About Hair Type
How Can I Tell What My Hair Type Is?
In order to identify your hair type correctly, shampoo, and deep condition your hair.
After rinsing your hair, take a look in the mirror and check your strands. You should be able to tell at this stage what your hair type is.
Can I Have More Than One Hair Type?
Yes, it is possible to have more than one hair type. 40% of my hair is 3C, 30% 4A, and 30% 4B. I also have a 2-inch diameter that’s 4C.
It’s quite fascinating to me on regimen day the way each section of hair reacts to different concentrations of my hair products.
In the picture below, the section that appears longer than the rest of my hair is the 3C section.
Many women have even more hair types and textures than I do. It can be a challenge to work with but once you figure out your hair type correctly, you will be able to customize your hair products and regimen.
Can I Change My Natural Curl Pattern?
The only thing that can change your natural curl pattern is a relaxer or texturizer while curling irons and blow dryers can provide a temporary alteration.
It doesn’t matter what magical treatments you read about that can revert your pattern back to natural post altering with chemicals or heat damage. This isn’t possible. You will have to cut your hair.
If you have any more questions about identifying your hair type, let me know in the comments section and I’ll update the article ASAP.
Abi is a curly hair expert, researcher, product tester, and author of the highly-rated Healthy Hair Care Series. She is also the founder of Ade Ori Hair Care, Healthy Natural Hair Products, and Natural Oils for Hair & Beauty. HNHP has strict editorial standards and ensures all the information on Healthy Natural Hair Products is the best for natural hair care. Learn more about our Editorial Policies
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