After answering more than a 1000 DM’s (easily), 200 emails and countless blog/youtube comments from girls and boys (!!) with curly hair, there is one mistake almost all newbies make.
One that this blog could have easily avoided, but I fell prey to assuming that one would obviously know that. A wrong assumption, you my reader has, that leads to questions and complaints like-
‘I’ve done your routine but I’m not getting any curls’
‘When will my curls look like yours???’
“I used abc but my curls are so limp and flat ? :(”
Now, read this closely because it is extremely important.
No two curl patterns are exactly the same and there are different types of curly hair.Curly hair is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re really going to get. Click To Tweet
In basic terms, this means that there are many different types of natural hair. Some have a mix of two-three types as well!
Each type needs a slightly different hair care routine, modified and tweaked to get the best out of that hair texture.
If you follow a routine meant for a different hair type, you will NOT get the best results. You might end up damaging them even more!
Knowing more about your texture will also help you decide things like
- Do I need to use a leave in conditioner AND a curl cream?
- Why do my curls start from the middle/end of my hair ?
- Why does my hair become messy and unmanageable in just one day!
- Should I choose lighter or heavier conditioners?
- Do I need a gel?
- Do I need to rinse off my curls with warm or cold water?
- I lose bounce and pattern when my hair is long..
If you are truly interested in getting your natural hair to the best state it can be, continue reading this post.
Disclaimer – Do make sure your hair is moisturised to truly determine your hair pattern. You can do this by conditioning your hair generously in the shower, combing it through and then rinsing it out gently to see how they curl up.
Also, with consistent routine and care, hair texture does improve over time but if you have wavy hair, it won’t suddenly become tight curls or coils. Learn to embrace your hair, not just the one you saw and liked on social media. 🙂
Table of Contents
- 1 1. Pattern
- 1.1 Types of Wavy Hair
- 1.2 Tips for Wavy Hair
- 1.3 Types of Curly Hair
- 1.4 Tips for Curly Hair
- 1.5 Types of Kinky/Coily Hair
- 1.6 Tips for Coily Hair
- 1.7 2. Length
- 1.8 3. Porosity
- 1.9 4. Density
- 1.10 5. Width
- 1.11 Conclusion
This is the most obvious and easy categorisation one can make with natural hair. It indicates the common pattern your hair strands have. Besides straight hair, there can be either wavy, curly or kinky hair. A, B, C explains the width of the wave, curl or kink.
This is SO IMPORTANT to understand because many of you have wavy hair and expect your hair to look like mine, when I have a curly hair type. You’ll understand what I mean below.
Also, do remember that you can have more than one hair type (see below) and you should take this as a general guide and experiment with products on your own!
Ready to find out your hair texture? Let’s begin!
Types of Wavy Hair
Hello my type 2 Wavies! Wavy hair can be the most versatile, rebellious and sometimes even frustrating hair type of all. A majority of women actually have wavy hair yet most of us don’t take care of our hair right to begin with so we often can’t tell!
There are 3 types of wavy hair- light (2A), medium (2B) to high (2C). They can require light to moderate hydration and get great results even with protein in their hair products. This texture also gets easily weighed down so using lightweight products and clarifying (using a sulphate shampoo free of silicones) regularly is essential.
If you think of you have wavy hair, see which of the below IG curlie’s hair looks the most similar to yours.
2A Wavy Hair
Fine, thin hair that form loose waves in a broad S shaped pattern. Since this hair type is very thin, it can easily get weighed down and will look better with lighter styling products like mousse and light, watery gels. This is also the easiest hair type to straighten.
2B Wavy Hair
Hello beachy waves! Slightly more coarser and thicker than 2A, they are also often straight from the roots but look wavier from mid-length to ends. This hair type also gets frizz at the crown easily. This is also easy to try different hairstyles and even switch to straight hair.
2C Wavy Hair
Who’s the waviest wavy of them all? 2C! 😀 People with 2C hair have the most defined waves and that usually starts at the roots. It’s also coarser and thicker in texture and frizzes up easily. This texture will need more hydration and moisture than other wavies but can also become limp and flat soon.
Tips for Wavy Hair
- Switch to the CG Method which will remove ingredients like silicone that can weigh down your hair.
- Even after switching to CG, do clarify OFTEN whenever you feel like your waves are looking too flat and is getting frizzy despite using the right styling product.
- Start with this routine- Shampoo hair, condition hair, rinse out with Squish to Condish Method.
- You HAVE to try styling with DIY Flaxseed gel. SO MANY wavies love this!
- If you find you still need more hydration and definition after this, begin experimenting with lightweight stylers like mousse, milks and leave in conditioning sprays.
- Want your waves to last longer in humidity? Try hard hold gels. Use the gel to style alone or after a leave in.
- Condition and style your hair upside down.
- Scrunch, Scrunch, Scrunch! After applying your stylers, take a t-shirt and scrunch your waves upwards for a few minutes and then ‘Plop’ your hair to fight gravity.
- Flat crown? Clip your hair at the crown and use a diffuser.
- Check our @powerdomi’s styling videos and experiment.
- Try Finger Coiling Method with your deep conditioner and styler to ‘train your curls’ to clump together.
- Read this brilliant post by resident wavy hair goddess Alyson
Didn’t find your hair twin yet? Check out the next category of hair type below.
Types of Curly Hair
This is what I have. By looking at the texture even when it is wet, you can identify a common curl pattern. Curly hair types varies from loose to tight curls and one usually always has more than one type. Hair is more defined, shrink easily and curls often start right at the root.
Again, there are 3 types of curly hair – 3A, 3B & 3C!
This hair type needs a lot of hydration and moisture from leave in conditioners, creams and gels to keep the frizz away. Depending on intensity of curliness, you can get great results with multiple styling products too. This pattern also requires a lot of elbow grease to straighten and gets damaged easily.
3A Curly Hair
Big, angelic, loose spirals with a definite S shape. Very easily weighed down like wavy hair if you overdo conditioning and use heavier stylers. Curls can lose their definition easily & you will need to restyle or wash more often. Squish to Condish inside the shower, using light leave in conditioners to style hair after shower, plopping, finger coiling and diffusing hair are recommended for 3A curlies.
3B Curly Hair
Coarser, drier texture with tightly wound curls that can vary from ringlets to corkscrew shape. This hair type can easily look voluminous even with air drying but can lack shine and can get very frizzy if not taken care of properly. Layering styling products (leave in conditioner, curl creams and gels) immediately after your shower (when hair is still wet) with techniques like LCO,LCG helps defend 3B hair against humidity.
3C Curly Hair
3C hair is tightly curled hair, dense, with the circumference of a pencil. This hair type shrinks a LOT but also has the most volume when it dries! One needs to remember the shrinkage when you go to the salon for a hair cut because most hair stylists will cut it wet, when the curls are elongated. When they dry, shock at how short it has become is very common.
Make sure you condition your hair well and deep condition once a week and use leave in conditioner, curl creams that keep your hair hydrated. To distribute the products, comb after the conditioner and leave in conditioner and coat it with a layer of curly girl friendly gel.
Tips for Curly Hair
Types of Kinky/Coily Hair
Wiry, delicate and fine, this is the most fragile textures of them all where the coils are tightly packed on the scalp. This hair texture requires careful handling because it has the fewest cuticle layers among all hair types so care needs to be taken to add and retain moisture, increase length and reduce tangles and breakage. Heavier deep conditioners and styling products with rich butters, emollients and oils, along with techniques like Shingling, Twist Out, Bantu Knots & Baggy Method give great results.
I have rarely seen this texture on women in India but when I have they have often been South-Indian! If you do have this texture, turn to the gorgeous women I have linked here for advice.
4A Coily Hair
Wiry, fine coils with a visible S pattern that are tightly packed together. Looks very voluminous.
4B Coily Hair
The previous hair types had variations in an S pattern whereas with 4B, you have a Z pattern with hair bending at sharp angles. They can look less defined and undergo 75% shrinkage.
4C Coily Hair
The most tightly packed, dense Z shaped coils of them all. This hair type experiences the most amount of shrinkage.
Tips for Coily Hair
- Embrace Patience – your hair will take time to detangle, moisturise and style. Don’t do it in a hurry when you’re liable to be impatient and be rough with your hair.
- Deep conditioning will become your friend! In fact, you can even use your deep conditioner as a daily styler.
- Try the Baggy Method (with caution, if you overdo it you might get hydral fatigue).
- Try out styling methods like Shingling, Twist-Out’s, Braid-Out’s, Bantu Knots.
- Find products with rich butters and emollients to condition and style your hair.
- Do regular scalp massages and oil your hair before and after to help in growing hair long.
Do I really need to explain this? 😛 This helps identify how long your hair is. Now considering wavy and curly hair shrink, sometimes up to 75%, it is important to know your actual length. Twist your arm around your back and stretch a curl straight and note where it ends.
When you know your length, you can choose the right styling technique and also find out how much effort you will need to put in while taking care of your hair!
Short Curly Hair
If your hair length does not or barely touches your shoulders, you have short hair! This is the easiest to maintain in all weathers. Since the hair is short, the strands still have the natural oils and will only need a light spray to keep it fresh and healthy. Don’t use very heavy products as they can slide down your hair and cause build-up on the scalp. A great DIY product to use to style is the Flaxseed Gel.
I personally love short hair – it’s super fun and easy to maintain. If you’re feeling a little on the fence on cutting your hair short, check this out.
Medium Length Curly Hair
Hair length that reaches your shoulders or your bra strap. A little more care is required to keep the frizz at bay and encourage volume. Flip your head over and then apply leave in conditioner or stylers from roots to ends and dry them with a diffuser. At night, protect your curls by making a ‘pineapple’.
Long Curly Hair
The most coveted length, especially in India. So many DMs sent to find out how they can grow their curls long. Now, if your hair (when pulled straight) reaches your armpit or waist, congratulations, you have long hair! But remember, you will need to put in the most effort in taking care of your hair since the natural oils from your scalp can’t reach the ends. So remember to deep condition often, seal your ends with an oil, try protective hairstyles like pineapple, plaits & trim the ends when you see damage.
Porosity refers to how well your hair absorbs and retains moisture. This depends on the structure of your hair strand – how porous it is. This is a great thing to learn about your curls because it can help you choose the right styling products.
It is usually genetic but your porosity can change due to environmental damage, chemical treatments and getting them coloured. Healthy, virgin natural hair is usually low porosity (mine) and coloured or transitioning curly hair is usually high porosity. You can also have two types on your head – often seen in the case of girls where their ends are coloured.
There are many tests (Shower Test, Float Test, Slip n Slide Test) to find out your porosity that you can check but remember to take these tests as a general guide and with a grain of salt. Many people have said this is not always correct. And often, what is a strict No-No for low porosity hair actually ends up suiting some curlies!
Mostly all healthy hair is low porosity hair. This means that in each hair strand, the cuticle is tightly bound with the scales lying flat which makes it shiny. This also makes it resistant to absorbing water and chemical treatments. This hair type also experiences a lot of build-up and can be sensitive to protein, leaving it stiff and hay like.
Tips for Low Porosity Hair:
- Use lightweight liquid based conditioners, stylers and gels that have humectants (moisture attracting ingredients) like glycerine and honey but are free of heavy butters and proteins. It shouldn’t feel like the product is ‘sitting’ on your hair.
- To encourage the scales to open up and absorb more water or products, do some steaming or use warm water to wash your hair. This will allow the products to penetrate the hair strand instead of building up on top.
- After applying a deep conditioner, cover your hair with a plastic shower cap or get a thermal cap.
- Every few weeks, use a clarifying shampoo (shampoo with sulphates but without silicones) to remove build-up.
Best of both worlds! The cuticle is open just enough to allow water to penetrate the hair strand while preventing it from escaping too fast.
Tips for Medium Porosity Hair:
- Do a protein deep treatment occasionally when you think your hair feels too limp or mushy.
- Experiment with both lightweight and layering styling products to find the right cocktail of products.
You can have high porosity genetically too but it is rare. In most cases it is due to chemical treatments like colouring, sun damage or environmental damage. In this hair type, the cuticles are very open with gaps and holes and while they absorb moisture readily, they also let it escape out of the hair as fast! This hair type can overdo on the moisture as well which can ironically make hair frizzy too. So retaining the right amount of moisture and definition become concerns for high porosity hair.
Tips for High Porosity Hair
- Avoid products with humectants like Glycerine and honey in high heat and humid weathers as they will absorb extra moisture from the environment leading to frizz.
- Layer your products! Follow up your leave in with a curl cream, a gel and seal the strands with an oil.
- Try rich butters in your products that can fill up the holes in your cuticle.
“Wow, your hair is so thick!”
This is often used to convey that the person has a LOT of hair and looks full. Thick actually is the wrong word and indicates the width of the hair strand, whereas what you need to actually use is Dense‘.
Density refers to how many and closely the hair strands are packed together on an 1″X 1″ area of your scalp. Want to find out? Wash and dry your hair as normal and look at it from different angles.
If you see your scalp easily, you have low density, if you see some- high density and if you can’t see your scalp at all or it is very tough to- you have high density hair.
Density is usually passed down via genetics but can change due to nutrition and hormone imbalances, stress and such.
You’re always on a hunt to find products that hide the scalp or make it look more fuller and voluminous. For that you can try dry shampoos, volumising conditioners and mouusses. Stay away from heavy conditioners and stylers and diffuse your hair to make it look bigger.
Volume or definition? You have the liberty to choose and play with stylers to achieve both! Use lightweight products and diffuse your hair when you want volume and use heavier styling products or layer them to achieve more definition.
Your hair can look too voluminous and lose out on definition. Use creams and gels that are rich to keep them clumped together and defined. Also, you will need a lot more product that the rest. When getting a hair cut, ask for layers so the volume is divided better.
Width indicates the thickness of each strand in your hair. Here too, you can have a mix of two or 3 types of width! Knowing your width informs you of how much damage your hair can withstand.
To find your width, take a hair strand from your comb and hold it it up to a light source. If you have very thin hair and you can hardly see it, it’s fine hair. If you can see it very clearly and it looks wide, then it’s coarse. Medium obviously falls between those two.
Very delicate and fragile – one needs to be careful handling fine hair. Remember this does not mean only wavy hair is fine, there are women with really curly and coily hair that is fine in nature. Deep conditioning with moisture and sometimes protein will keep hair nourished and strong as is making easy hair styles.
Resistant to damage and can grow long easily without much effort. It is equally strong and elastic.
Strongest and toughest hair type that can withstand more chemical and environmental damage and stress. Women with this hair can easily try many hairstyles without breakage and they can retain length more easier. Deep conditioning with moisture is recommended with minimal to no protein treatments.
Whew! Who knew there was so much in the world of natural hair care? I hope this was easy to follow and understand. Now I want you to comment below and tell me your full curly hair identity.
I have 3a/3B, low porosity, medium length, high density and medium width hair. What about you? 🙂