How To Determine Your Natural Hair Curl Pattern

Whether you’re new to wearing your naturally curly hair or you’ve been long-acquainted with your hair texture, it can be difficult to determine what exactly your curl type is.
Believe it or not, you’re going to need more than a couple of YouTube videos to achieve your perfect curls! Everyone’s hair is different and has specific concerns, so figuring out your hair type is key to discovering what exactly it is that your hair needs.

Discovering your natural curl pattern can help you to determine which hairstyles work best, which products you should use, and even which natural hair care techniques will work for you. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with this thorough guide to help you determine your natural curl pattern.

What are the different curl types?
There are several different types of curly hair out there, and if you’re wondering, “Can I have more than one hair type?” the answer is—absolutely yes! It is not uncommon to have looser curls in some areas and tighter curls in others. However, most people do have one dominant curl type, so if you’re unsure of your curl type, go with the texture that you see the most.

4C Hair
Let’s start with the most coiled of them all—4C hair. These beautiful, densely packed coils are naturally more susceptible to shrinkage, giving them a spongier afro texture. You might notice that the strands appear to be a zig-zag or that the curl pattern is hard to follow. The biggest concerns for this curly hair type are typically dryness, curl definition, and avoiding tangles.

4B Hair
This curl type has tight zig-zag curls similar to 4C hair, with a little more curl elongation (think like a pen’s spring). This springy texture has a visible curl that’s no stranger to shrinkage, and it typically requires some product to really let the curls shine. The biggest concerns for 4B hair are dryness and avoiding tangles.

4A Hair
4A hair falls under the lovely “afro” category with tight, corkscrew curls. This coily texture experiences moderate shrinkage, but the curls can be elongated and defined rather easily with product or even a curl diffuser. The biggest concerns for 4A hair are typically dryness, frizz, and avoiding tangles.

3C Hair
This curly hair texture has plenty of volume and curl definition. These pencil-sized ringlets are densely packed and don’t experience a lot of shrinkage. The biggest concerns for 3C hair are typically frizz and avoiding tangles.

3B Hair
This curl type has large and springy loose curls. If you have 3B hair, you might notice that your hair needs plenty of moisture to obtain curl definition. The biggest concern for this hair type is typically frizz.

3A Hair
This loosely curled hair type has a very defined S-shape. With 3A hair, you might find yourself needing to scrunch your hair in order to emphasize your curls. The biggest concern for this hair type is typically frizz and curl definition.

2C Hair
The most defined of the 2 curl types, 2C hair has an S-shaped wave pattern that begins at the root. Unwanted frizz is the most common concern for this hair type.

2B Hair
Your 2B curls likely have less definition than 2C curls but flaunt an equally stunning S-shaped pattern. 2B curls are often prone to frizz and less definition.

2A Hair
While 2A curls are flatter at the root, your wave starts to peek through at your mid-lengths and ends. Volume and lack of body is usually the biggest concern for this curl type.

How do I find my natural curl type?
In order to discover your natural curl type, you’ll want to start with freshly washed hair. It’s important that your hair hasn’t been manipulated by styling tools or products in order to get a clear understanding of your curly hair pattern. Allow your freshly washed hair to air dry without any product in it. Once your hair is dry, take a look at your curl pattern and try and identify the characteristics listed above. As we mentioned, it is possible to have more than one curl pattern, but there will likely be a dominant pattern present.

It’s also important to note that color-treating or heat styling your hair can affect your curl pattern. Heat-damaged strands may not revert back to their natural curl type, so if you’ve been wearing your hair straight for a while, your new growth will reveal a more natural texture. Hair treatments can also revive your hair in order to bring your curl pattern back to life.

Is my curl pattern different from my hair type?
Your curl pattern and your hair type are two different ways to categorize your hair. Your curl pattern is the overall shape and size of your curls, while your hair type refers to the state of your strands—specifically its fineness or thickness. For example, you can have tightly coiled 4C hair and still have strands that are very fine; or you can have loosely curled 2B hair, and your strands are very thick.

What are the best products for my curl type?
All curls are not created equally, so it’s imperative to find products that work well with your curl type. For 4C hair, moisture is the greatest factor. So even if you find that shampoo only makes it into your routine every once a week (ideal for coily hair), a shampoo like Monoi Repairing Sulfate-Free Shampoo can work wonders. Not only is it intensely hydrating, but it also reduces breakage, which can be so common in textured hair. It’s also great for 4C hair to have a shine pomade like Mimosa Hair Honey on hand. It moisturizes your hair while smoothing and controlling frizz.

For 4B/4A hair, focus on products that encourage easier detangling, like the Black Vanilla Moisture & Leave-In Conditioner. It makes dry, brittle hair much more manageable and can be used daily without too much product buildup. The Monoi Repairing Conditioner is also a great option to keep your hair strong in spite of styling or other manipulations.

Type 3C/3B hair needs plenty of moisture, and it’s also prone to tangles, which makes the Wash Day Delight Rose Shampoo and Conditioner the perfect pair. The shampoo has a gentle lather that cleanses without stripping the hair, while the jelly-cream conditioner provides the ultimate slip for simple detangling.

Type 3A hair thrives when using products that deeply hydrate while also providing some hold, like the Coco Crème Curl Shaping Cream Gel. It has a natural hold that’s the perfect complement to wash-and-go styles. You’ll also want to find a great leave-in conditioner that can refresh your curls regularly, like the Almond Milk Leave-In Conditioner that shields and protects hair from damage.

For Type 2 waves, we recommend the Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Pure Hair Oil. It’s great for all curly hair types and is especially ideal for restoring shine and body to limp hair. Use it as a treatment before shampooing for waves that are soft and shining.

Interested in learning more about taking care of your naturally curly hair? Check out the Ultimate Guide to Detangling Natural Hair.

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