Smiling woman with curly hair wearing a one-shoulder top.

Not all curls are created equal. Kiana Valenciano’s waves flow differently from Zahraa Bani’s ringlets, and Yassi Pressman’s wild tresses are definitely not the same as Andi Eigenmann’s beachy locks. Understanding curl types and figuring out yours can give you intel on how to care for them better. For all you know, your frizzy “straight” hair might actually identify as wavy, and you’ve been mishandling it this entire time.

Find out about curl types so you can “diagnose yours,” allowing you to manage and flaunt them better!

Curly Types: How to Know Your Hair Pattern

can fall into different classifications depending on the shape. One curly-haired icon, Oprah Winfrey, had a hand in determining these categories on behalf of women everywhere. Along with her stylist, Andre Walker, she created a hair typing system that consists of four major types and three sub-types.

  • 1A: Fine, straight hair that can’t maintain a curl.
  • 1B: Thick, straight hair with more volume at the top.
  • 1C: Mostly straight hair that tends to bend at the ends.
  • 2A: Flat at the top with a loose S-wave pattern from the midshaft to the end.
  • 2B: Has a more defined S-wave pattern and volume at the ends.
  • 2C: Has thicker and deeper waves with coarse texture.
  • 3A: Big corkscrew curls with a lot of body. The curl size is the same as a marker.
  • 3B: Tighter curls with more buoyancy. The circumference is about the same as chalk.
  • 3C: Dense and tightly curled hair (the rim of a pencil) with a big volume at the top.
  • 4A: Stretchy, O-shaped small coils about the size of a crochet needle.
  • 4B: The coils have a Z-shape pattern that feels wiry to the touch.
  • 4C: The coils are very tight and clumpy that you might not be able to see any curl definition.

To find your curl pattern, see how the strands look when wet, damp, and fully dry. If your hair looks straight when wet but becomes wavier as it dries, you have type 2 curls. If your locks are much longer when they're wet, you have type 3 hair, which shrinks by 25% after it dries. Finally, you have type 4 hair if the kinks are more visible after washing and get poofy once dry.

For the record, having several curl types at once is possible. You can have 2C curls at the base and 3A near the tips. The various combinations can be due to heat styling and genetics. Don’t fret, though! You can always (if that’s what you want!) with styling gel or techniques like plopping. 

Other Factors to Consider

Everyone’s hair is unique! Aside from patterns, curly hair has many other characteristics that can affect how products work and how your tresses behave.

Follicle shape can affect sebum distribution.

Straight hair has round follicles that spread sebum from your scalp evenly across the strands, making it prone to . It is not all bad though, since the right amount of oil means a healthy sheen and increased softness. 

Meanwhile, wavy or curly hair has elliptical- or oval-shaped follicles. The bendy shapes create desirable volume but make the strands .

Hair porosity determines frizziness. 

Hair porosity refers to how fast your strands can absorb liquid. Dip your locks in a cup of water and see if the hair floats or sinks. If it's the former, your hair has low porosity and needs products with a thick consistency to get the job done. It doesn’t mean your hair is damaged. Low-porosity hair is a sign that your hair resists water and can get frizzy fast. On the other hand, high-porosity hair that sinks in water would do well with water-based, lightweight products.

Hair elasticity prevents breakage.

Yes, like a rubber band, hair can be stretched and (should, ideally) return to its original shape. Lack of elasticity can make your strands brittle and prone to breakage. To test your hair elasticity, wet a strand of hair and stretch it to its limit. Hold it from the middle section to keep it from falling out. Low-elasticity hair will break almost instantly because it lacks moisture.

How to Care for Different Curl Types

Here comes the exciting part! You’re in a better position to care for your locks after inspecting them and studying curl types. Follow these tips and invest in curl-appropriate products to make day a breeze.

Tame frizz on type 2 curls.

Taming frizz should be your top priority since type 2 curls usually have medium to low porosity. Moreover, the bottom part of the hair may look full, yet the roots appear flat.

Use a hydrating shampoo to make the hair smoother and easy to style. Go for Sunsilk Smooth & Manageable Shampoo with Activ-Infusion – a blend of five floral oils, vitamins, collagen, and proteins to soften and moisturize your locks. Apply a leave-in conditioner to set your natural waves.

On days when you want to steal the spotlight with your natural wave pattern, spritz some texturizing mist when your hair is still damp. Prepping your hair with volumizing mousse before heat-styling can add extra oomph to your surfer babe hairdo.

Smooth and volumize type 3 curls.

To maintain your luscious curls, you need products that boost volume and smoothness without relaxing the texture. Type 3 hair can have an uneven curl distribution that makes it appear unkempt.

You can use a gentle shampoo like Dove Oxygen and Nourishment Shampoo to cleanse product build-up from your scalp and volumize the coils. It nourishes the hair and gives it 95% more volume with a lightweight consistency suitable for type 3, high-porosity hair. Complete your curly hair treatment with Dove Oxygen and Nourishment Conditioner for a bouncy and frizz-free finish.

Remember, less is more when it comes to type 3 curls! After washing your hair, twirl your locks with your fingers to define the ringlets. You can also use a hair diffuser to make the spirals tighter.

Give type 4 curls some TLC with LOC.

Type 4 curls are more than the other two curl types. Because of its high porosity, retaining moisture is a challenge. Therefore, avoid harsh chemicals like because they can strip natural oils from the scalp and leave your hair dry and prone to breakage. Instead, use a co-wash to cleanse and a pre-shampoo treatment to detangle kinks.

Let your hair air-dry and do the plopping technique to re-shape the coils. Once dry, layer on some leave-in conditioner, hair oil, and hair cream – also known as the LOC method, proven to seal moisture and improve hair elasticity.

Curly hair is not fussy – it's a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Getting to know curl types and their specific needs is part of the fun. Once you have that down, you can flaunt your locks any way you want, whether it's embracing your curls, creating soft waves, or going for a sleek bun.