We feel you. Decoding your hair type can be confusing. You may have different types of textures on your beautiful head — which is totally normal. Perhaps a mix of coarse waves with fine curls (fabulous!). Maybe a smattering of coils and tight structures (gorg!). Or strick-straight hair that poofs and frizzes under the right conditions (gotta love that volume!). So as you can imagine there’s no universally correct hair product, routine, or really even classification system that applies to every hair type in the world.
That being said, Andre Walker, the father of hair-typing, has managed to break them down over the decades into four very broad, very general categories. We’re here to help give high-level descriptions of these categories and break down some traits and characteristics.
Your hair texture is determined by the shape of the follicle that your hair grows out of from your scalp. The flatter/oval-shaped the follicle, the curlier the hair. And the more circular the follicle, the straighter the hair. The best way to figure out where you are on the spectrum is to check out your hair after you wash it and let it air dry. If it dries straight without a bend or curl then you’re Type 1. If it dries with a slight curve or S-shape patterns then you’re Type 2. If it dries with defined curls or loop patterns, then you’re Type 3. And if it dries with tight curls, spirals or zig-zag patterns then you’re Type 4.
Summary: main categories are for hair texture; Type 1s are straight, Type 2s are wavy, Type 3s are curly, Type 4s are coily
Hair Strand Size
When we talk about hair structure or strand size, we’re specifically talking about the thickness of your strands which can affect how well your hair is able to hold styles and react with certain products. There are generally 3 categories: fine, medium, and coarse/thick. You can compare a strand to a sewing thread — is your hair thinner, the same width, or wider? You can also think about how well it holds style — fine hair doesn’t hold curls very well. Medium is relatively easy. Thicker can hold curls but can be difficult to style as its less supple.
Summary: sub-categories are for strand size; A’s are thin, Bs are medium, Cs are thick/coarse
Remember that “...most people with textured hair have more than one type of pattern on their heads so you can have a combination of kinky, coily, wavy and curly,” explains hairstylist Vernon Francois.
Straight hair can range from silky and thin to thick and poofy (who doesn't love a good poof?). But there is one thing in common — oil from your scalp can easily slip and slide down the lengths of your strands, which keeps your strands moisturized. But can also suffer from 'greasiness' so keeping your scalp clean and balanced is key.
1A: flattest, thinnest, and silkiest of the straight hair types; will be hard to keep a bobby-pin in.
1B: still straight but with some bends and a few coarser strands; can suffer from greasy roots.
1C: thicker and coarser, which means also prone to frizz, poofiness, and dryness.
Wavy hair tends to have multiple, wonderful bends from roots to tips. It has definitive S-patterns that lay closer to the head. It can range from beachy waves to larger, undefined waves. Wavy hair is able to hold product and styling pretty well.
2A: fine, barely-there touseled texture that’s very easy to straighten.
2B: hair lies flatter at the crown with defined S-shaped waves starting from the midlength. Strands are thicker in diameter.
2C: waves are thicker and more susceptible to frizzing. S-bends are well-defined and begin at the root.
Curly hair can range from loose, buoyant loops to tight, springy corkscrew-shaped curls. There is one main trait that most curly-haired people have — they are prone to frizz so sulfate-free products and moisture are key.
3A: large, loose curls that are the size of a piece of sidewalk chalk.
3B: spring ringlets similar to the circumference of a marker.
3C: tight corkscrews that range from a circumference of a straw to a pencil; densely packed together, giving way to lots of natural volume; frizziness can be a popular trait
Coily hair can be a mix of textures that range from tightly coils, spring-like S-patters, to zig-zag patterns (so many beautiful shapes!). Because of the hair shape angles, scalp oils can’t easily lubricate your hair making type 4 most fragile, dry, and damage-prone of all hair types. Sulfate-free products and super-duper moisturization are important.
4A: dense, spring S-patterned coils that are the circumference of a knitting needle.
4B: densely packed and can bend in sharp angles with Z-patterns.
4C: similar to 4B but the tightly coiled strands are more fragile and have a very tight zig-zag pattern; can experience the greatest amount of shrinkage than any other textures.