Beautiful black woman with typed 4B hair holding a green bottle of derma e's scalp relief serum and smiling

All About Curl Patterns: Finding Out Which Type of Curls You Have

Taking care of your beautiful, natural curls requires you know what curl pattern and type you have. Read more to find out yours.

If you're in the loop when it comes to must-have hairstyles, you'll notice that curly hair is everywhere, with tendrils trending in every kind of cut you can imagine--from a curly bob haircut to curly bangs and even curly mullets. The curly-hair hype is also making waves in the haircare industry, with many companies springing into action to create countless curl care products that cater to naturally curly hair types. So why is it still difficult for those who were born with twisted tresses to tame their manes? If you find yourself in this predicament, you might benefit from learning about your curl pattern and hair type.


Whether you've got loose and luscious wavy hair, wonderfully wild ringlets, or springy spirals, this article will help you wrap your head around all the different factors that make up each curly hair type. Naturally curly hair is beautiful and those who are lucky enough to have curly hair types know that it comes in a variety of natural patterns and types.


Understanding your natural curl pattern, type, and hair texture can help you better care for your coif and achieve the stress-free tresses of your dreams--whether you're aiming for more defined curls, want to optimize your curly haircuts so that they frame your facial features perfectly, or just want to know how to show off your head full of beautiful, bouncy curls to the world without getting tangled up in a web of hair products, we're here to help.


illustration of hair types and curl patterns

Figuring Out Your Hair Type and Curl Pattern

 There are essentially only four naturally curly hair patterns if you don't have Type 1 hair, or straight hair: Type 2 hair (wavy hair), Type 3 (curly hair), Type 4 (coily hair). In addition to the main curl patterns, curly hair can also be categorized into different subtypes based on the diameter of the curl. These subtypes range from A (the largest diameter curl) to C (the smallest diameter curl). Understanding your curl type can also help you choose the right products and techniques for your hair.


Type 2 (Wavy):

This curl pattern is characterized by loose, S-shaped waves. Type 2 hair is usually fine and prone to frizz. Fine hair refers to the diameter of each individual hair strand, and it is characterized by a small circumference, making it more fragile and prone to breakage due to how thin it is. Typically, fine hair has a smooth texture and is often described as soft and silky. Fine hair can be straight, wavy, curly or coily, but the curl pattern in fine hair is usually not as defined as in other hair types. Type 2 hair can fall into three categories: 2A, 2B, and 2C.


  •  Type 2A Hair

This subtype has loose, barely-there waves that are mostly straight. Theyare easy to style and have a lot of shine, but they can be prone to flatness. Usually, you see the hair start to bend at the center or ends of the hair length
Brunette with 2a wavy long hair holding a bottle of derma e nourishing shampoo and smiling
  • Type 2B Hair

    This subtype has more defined waves that are slightly bent, but not as curly as type 3 hair. Wavy hair has more volume and texture than 2A hair but can be prone to frizz.


  • Type 2C Hair

    This subtype has waves that are more defined and can be closer to loose curls. The waves are more voluminous and have a lot of body but can be prone to dryness and tangles.


woman with 2c hair holding derma e's shampoo and conditioner


Type 2 hair is typically fine or medium-textured and has less volume and texture than type 3 hair, with more susceptible to becoming limp or weighed down. Type 2 hair requires lightweight hair products that won't weigh down the waves, but still provide enough hold and definition to enhance the natural texture.


Type 3 (Curly):

This curl pattern is characterized by defined, spiral curls. Type 3 hair is typically medium-textured and has a tendency to be drier than those with Type 1 or Type 2 hair types. This is what is typically referred to as "curly hair" and falls into three subcategories: 3A, 3B, and 3C. Here are the characteristics of each subtype:


  • Type 3A Hair

    This subtype has loose, big S-shaped curls that are about the size of a sidewalk chalk. They have a natural sheen, are prone to frizz, and have a very rounded shape.

    Girl with 3a type curly hair using derma e's hair oil treatment

  • Type 3B Hair

    This subtype has tighter, ringlet-shaped curls that are about the size of a Sharpie marker. The curls are springy and have a lot of body, but they can be prone to dryness and tangles.


  • Type 3C Hair

    This subtype has tight, corkscrew-shaped curls that are about the width of a pencil. They have a lot of volume and texture, but they can be prone to shrinkage and breakage.


Woman with 3C type curly hair in shower


Type 3 hair is typically medium-textured and can range from fine to coarse. It has more elasticity but requires a lot of moisture to maintain its shape and definition, so it is essential to use products that will help enhance the curls without weighing them down.]


To care for type 3 hair, use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner and avoid using drying or damaging styling products that contain sulfates.


Type 4 (Coiled Curls):

This curl pattern is characterized by tight, springy, and defined coils and tendrils. Type 4 hair is typically coarse and prone to breakage, due to natural oils that are produced by the scalp having a harder time traveling down the length of coily hair strands (blame it on the numerous twists and turns in the curls that are harder to distribute evenly throughout hair). Coiled, curly hair falls into three subcategories: 4A, 4B, and 4C. Here are the characteristics of each subtype:


  • Type 4A Hair

    This subtype has tightly coiled curls that are about the size of a crochet needle. The curls are well-defined and springy, with a lot of volume and texture.


    Woman with short type 4b hair holding a bottle of derma e shampoo and conditioner and smiling

  • Type 4B Hair

    This subtype has even more tightly coiled curls. The curls are less defined than 4A curls and have a lot of shrinkage, making the hair appear shorter than it actually is. This curl pattern is characterized by coiled, zig-zag curls in a z shape rather than an s shape, with typically very coarse texture that can be fragile and prone to breakage.

  • Type 4C Hair

    This subtype is comprised of very densely-packed hair that ranges from fine and thin to very coarse. It is also known as "kinky hair" and is the most tightly coiled of all the hair types. Type 4C hair can also be difficult to manage and style, as the curls can be very tightly packed and may require more time and effort to manipulate.


smiling woman with 4c type kinky hair holding derma e hair scalp serum


Type 4 hair is typically fine or coarse in texture and has less natural sheen than other hair types. It is more prone to dryness and breakage, so it requires a lot of moisture and gentle handling. Type 4 hair also requires a lot of patience and time for styling, as these types of defined curls can be difficult to manage. To care for type 4 hair, use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner and deep condition regularly to help prevent breakage. The hair is very densely packed and has a lot of shrinkage, making it appear shorter than it actually is.


Overall, type 4 hair is a beautiful and unique hair type that requires specific care and styling techniques to achieve the best results. By understanding the characteristics of each subtype and using the right products and techniques, those with type 5 hair can embrace their natural hair and achieve healthy, defined curls, and voluminous hair. To care for type 4 hair, use a gentle shampoo and conditioner and avoid using heat styling tools that can cause damage.


Your defined curl pattern and texture can also affect how your hair responds to different styling techniques and products. For example, if you have tight coils, you may find that your curly hair is more prone to breakage and tangles, and that extra moisture is necessary to fight frizz, smooth down the hair shaft, and control your coils. On the other hand, if you have loose waves or long curly hair, you may find that your hair is more prone to frizz and needs a lightweight styling product, like a curl-defining cream, to control fly-aways without weighing down your delicate curls.


Follicle Shape and Porosity



The shape of your hair follicles, the thickness of your hair, and the way your hair grows out of the follicle play big roles in determining your hair type; circular or round hair follicles produce straight hair while oval follicles are conducive to wavy and naturally curly hair.


High Porosity :

High-porosity hair has gaps and holes in the hair cuticle, making it more prone to damage and breakage. To care for high-porosity hair, use a moisturizing conditioner, a protein treatment, and styling products that will help lock in moisture and prevent breakage. Deep conditioning treatments can also help improve the health of high porosity hair. Avoid using hair products that contain heavy silicones or drying sulfates, as those will make your hair heavier and more prone to breakage.


Low Porosity:

Low-porosity hair has a tightly closed cuticle that makes it difficult for moisture to penetrate. To care for low-porosity hair, use lightweight products that won't weigh down your curly hair. Heat can also help open up the hair cuticle and allow products to penetrate the hair follicle more effectively on low-porosity hair, so covering your head with a shower cap when you condition your hair can improve absorption.


Natural hair textures for curly hair are as diverse and unique as the people who have them. Whether you have loose waves, tight coils, or anything in between, understanding your natural hair texture is essential for maintaining healthy, beautiful curls.


Want more tips and tricks on how to keep your curly hair perfectly coiffed? Stay tuned for our upcoming blog that talks about the Dos and Don'ts of natural curly hair care.

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