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How to Determine Your Curly Hair Type and Pattern

How to Determine Your Hair Type and Curl Pattern

Understanding your curly hair type is key to unlocking the cuts, colors, styles and products that enhance your natural beauty.

There’s also the possibility that you thought you had one type of hair, but you actually have another. Your hair can change over time, including with age or via damage or environmental factors. Maybe you’re right in the sweet spot between 2C (strong wavy) and 3A (subtle curly) hair and need help figuring out how to bring your ringlets to life. Perhaps you’re looking for the right products to keep your coils hydrated or your waves defined, not frizzy, in humid weather. Whatever you’re looking for, knowing your curly hair type and texture can help you answer those questions.

Below, learn how to identify your curly hair type and curl pattern,

and learn about expert-curated product picks to bring out the best in your hair.

Hair chart

What to Know About Hair Types

Before we dive in, there are a few best practices for figuring out your hair type. Your curly hair type starts at the follicle. For example, oval follicles produce curly hair, which is why it’s structurally different from straight hair. Hair thickness matters too, as thicker strands come from thicker follicles.

To determine your curly hair type and pattern, many experts advise washing your hair and letting it air dry naturally with no products or cutting a few strands of wet hair and watching how they dry. You can also chat with your hairstylist for more insight, especially if your hair texture has recently changed and you’re not sure where to begin with styling.

Curly hair types and textures are separated into four different groups in the commonly used system created by hairstylist Andre Walker: Type 1 (straight), Type 2 (wavy), Type 3 (curly) and Type 4 (coily.) Each group is then separated into subgroups from A to C based on the diameter of the wave or curl. Once you know your exact curly hair type and pattern, you find the right Aveda products and styling routines that work best for you.

Type 1 Hair: Straight

Type 1 Hair: Straight

Model hair type: 1A

If your hair dries straight with absolutely zero bends, waves, or curls, it’s classified as Curly Type 1, straight.
There are no sub-groups for straight hair.

Type 2 Hair: Wavy

Type 2 Hair: Wavy

Wavy hair tends to follow an “S” shape and sits closer to your head than curls or coils.

Model hair type: 2B

2A Hair: Subtle waves with a slight S-shape. People with 2A wavy hair often have finer hair that is easily weighed down by styling products. This hair type is easy to straighten.
Product picks: Add volume and oomph to fine hair when styling with this fan favorite volumizing tonic spray.

2B Hair: Medium wavy with a consistent S-shape throughout the hair. If you’re a 2B wavy hair type, your waves will probably start around the mid-lengths versus the roots. This hair type responds well to beachy looks and texture sprays.
Product picks: texture tonic will give your hair grit and define those piece-y, beachy waves.

2C Hair: Strong waves that look more like curls than typical waves, with waves starting right at the root. People with 2C curly hair types frequently deal with frizz and dryness.
Product picks: Protect hair from frizz and enhance curl with be curly advanced curl enhancer, a favorite styling cream for waves and curls.

Type 3 Hair: Curly

Type 3 hair can be anything from loose, soft curls to full-on spirals. Frizz and dryness are two major pain points for curly hair types.

Model hair type: 3C

3A Hair: People with 3A hair have big, loose, loopy S-shaped curls that are about the circumference of sidewalk chalk. If you have 3A curls, give them a good scrunch when styling to help define and enhance their shape.
Product picks: nutriplenish leave-in conditioner doesn’t just condition, but also offers thermal protection up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re using hot tools.

3B Hair: These are springy, medium curls that can be prone to breakage. If you’re not already using a microfiber towel or T-shirt to dry your hair, it’s time to start! Fight dryness with hydrating products and humectants.
Product pick: Treat your curls while you sleep with nutriplenish overnight serum. (Don’t worry, it’s “pillow proof!”)

3C Hair: Strong curls that are typically voluminous, tight and corkscrew-shaped. This curl pattern craves moisture and products that nourish, strengthen and nurture the curl pattern. Our experts love using a combo of be curly advanced™ stylers for protected, defined curls.
Product picks: be curly advanced curl enhancer cream + coil definer gel for extra hold.

Type 4 Hair: Coily

Type 4 Hair: Coily

Coily hair is the tightest of the patterns and can range from fine to coarse. Coily hair starts right at the scalp and is often prone to dryness and breakage.

Model hair type: 4B

4A Hair: Subtle coils with a defined spiral pattern. These typically have the circumference of a crocheting needle. Be sure to use moisturizing shampoos and conditioners, and incorporate a rich, nourishing hair mask into your routine on a regular basis.
Product picks:  nutriplenish deep moisture treatment masque is packed with nutrients to deeply condition.

4B Hair: Medium coils with a combo of tiny spirals and Z-shaped coils with the circumference of a toothpick. 4B coily hair is more prone to breakage, so be extra gentle when styling.
Product picks: Show off your shape with be curly advanced coil definer gel, which was created with a curl-strengthening peptide to strengthen and fortify fragile strands.

4C Hair: Strong, tight coils with the circumference of a hair pin. 4C coils may require more moisture, so lavish them with nourishing products frequently. 4C hair types are also more prone to shrinkage because the coil is so tight.
Product picks: nutriplenish multi-use hair oil and daily moisturizing treatment are enriched with superfoods and lush plant butters for daily moisture when and where you need it.