picture of 2 black women with natural hair types

Understanding Different Natural Hair Types: A Quick Guide

Understanding different natural hair types and how your texture is classified is the most important step in having healthy natural hair.

If you like wearing your hair in it’s natural texture. And you have a bathroom full of products that don’t seem to work on your hair.

Then you’ll definitely want to read this post.

What are the Different Types of Natural Hair?

Now, you may have heard the terms 1A, 4C, or 3B being tossed around the natural hair community. But what does this actually mean?

In the 1990s, hair stylist Andre Walker created a hair typing system to market his new hair care line. This system classified natural hair types from straight hair to afro hair. It was based on the look, feel and common behaviours of each hair type.

Since then, the system has been widely adopted. And while it’s important to note that your hair may cross over into more than one category, once you gain a full understanding of your natural hair type, you can create the perfect hair routine that works best for you!

black woman with curly natural hair types sitting in field

Namely, the hair types go from 1-4 with different sub-classifications ranging from A-C. Each classification has its own characteristics.

Here’s a Simple Breakdown of Natural Hair Types

  • Type 1 hair is straight
  • Type 2 hair is wavy
  • Type 3 hair is curly
  • Type 4 hair is coily

The sub-classifications of A to C are based on the width or diameter of your natural hair pattern. Which can be either curly, coily, or wavy.

So, if you have a wide pattern size, then you’re a Type A. You’re a Type B, if your natural hair has a medium pattern size. And you’re a Type C, if your hair has a small pattern size.

illustration of different natural hair types

Straight Hair -Type 1

Straight natural hair types can be thin and fragile or coarse and thick.

1A – is fine / thin hair that is very shiny and tends to get oily. As a matter of fact, this type of hair has a noticeable shine to the hair and finds it hard to hold a curl.

1B – is a thicker texture than type A with a very slight open wave and a fuller body.

1C – is the most resistant to curly styles and the coarsest texture of type 1 hair category. Asian women often fall into this category.

Taking Care of Your Type 1 Hair:

Type 1 hair tends to get oily and greasy quickly. So you will want to keep it clean by washing it more often.

Recommended Products: 

  • Shampoo– volumizing shampoo
  • Conditioner– volumizing conditioner
  • Styling– light hold creams, gels, light styling creams
  • Avoid-products that are too heavy like oils & silicone serums
red head woman with natural wavy hair

Wavy Hair – Type 2

Wavy natural hair types aren’t overly oily or dry. The idea is that this hair type is in between type 1 and type 2, so it has a wave or very loose curl.

2A – is fine and thin. It sticks close to the head and forms an ‘S’ shape wave and can look a little ‘flyaway’ or frizzy.

2B – has a clear wave to the hair but can be resistant to styling. Parts of the hair may be wavier than others but can look more frizzy if styling products aren’t used.

2C – has thick waves that feel coarser but may also appear are large, loose ringlets. 2C hair will feel heavier than 2A / 2B and may be able to hold styling creams better.

Taking Care of Your Type 2 Hair:

Type 2 hair tends to frizz. You’ll need to balance moisturizing it without weighing down your natural curl pattern.

Recommended Products: 

  • Shampoo – moisturizing shampoo
  • Conditioner – moisturizing conditioner
  • Styling -light creams, mousse, wave enhancing creams
  • Avoid– using too much heat on it, alcohol based gels
picture of different natural hair types
Picture courtesy of sheamoisture

Curly Hair – Type 3

Textures spanning from large curls to smaller, tighter ringlets. This hair type has movement but can get dry quickly. Type 3 is commonly seen on those of mixed heritage or afro Caribbean backgrounds.

3A – has tighter curls than 2C, 3A curls are thick with lots of body but still the loosest of the type 3 category. It can have a combination texture with a shiny look.

3B – is usually formed as medium corkscrew curls or bouncy ringlets, this hair type is of medium density. In changing weather 3B curls may react quickly to humidity and thrive on moisture.

3C – not an official category in the Andre Walker system, but many people associate this hair type to those with tightly packed curls.

Taking Care of Your Type 3 Hair:

Type 3 hair tends to frizz, so you’ll want to focus on products that will lock in moisture.

Recommended Products: 

  • Shampoo -moisturizing shampoo
  • Conditioner – moisturizing conditioner
  • Styling – light hair oils, leave-in conditioners, gels and mousse
  • Avoid – products that contain mineral oil, are alcohol based or are heavy

Kinky Hair – Type 4

Kinky hair is highly textured with curls that form ‘Z’ and ‘O’ patterns. If this is your hair type, then it tends to grow up and out as opposed to falling. And although it seems robust it’s actually the most fragile hair texture of them all as it has the fewest cuticle layers to protect it from dryness.

4A – this hair type often has the same corkscrew look as 3B / 3C hair but is smaller and very densely packed together. It is the softest hair type of category 4.

4B – rather than curling, 4B hair zig-zags into small coils that have an ‘afro-like’ appearance. Some people describe it as ‘wiry’ rather than curly as the pattern bends in sharp angles.

4C – another classification not included in the system, but is usually associated with curls that have very little definition i.e afro hair.

Taking Care of Your Type 4 Hair:

Type 4 hair needs lots of moisture. Hence, depending on the length and wave pattern of your hair, you may need to mix different products to determine what works best for you.

Recommended Products: 

  • Shampoo– use products designed for curly hair
  • Conditioner – heavy moisturizing conditioner
  • Styling – hair oils, leave in moisturizers and creams, light pomades
  • Avoid– using blow-dryers, type 4 hair tends to do best when you let it air-dry, alcohol based gels & dry shampoos
woman with natural hair looking at phone confused

How to Determine Your Hair Pattern

  • Wash your hair & let it air dry.
  • Pull out a strand of your dry hair.
  • Place your hair strand and a piece thread side by side on a sheet of white paper.
  • Now compare your hair to the thread.
  • Thin– If your hair strand is thinner than the thread piece, you have thin hair.
  • Medium– If your hair strand is about the same thickness as the thread, you have medium hair texture.
  • Thick– If your hair strand is thicker than the piece of thread, you have thick hair.
hair porosity test for natural hair types

Why Your Hair Density and Porosity Matter

Here’s the thing, knowing your hair porosity and density plays a crucial role in your natural hair care routine. Hence, having this understanding, arms you with the power to chose the right products and better take care of your mane.

Now Back to You

As you can see, understanding your natural hair type is the key to kickstarting your hair journey and keeping your natural hair beautiful and healthy.

Remember, your hair is as unique as you are. So, you may have different wave patterns on different parts of your head. Therefore, you’ll need to experiment with different products to determine what works best for you.

But by coupling the right products with a good routine, you’ll be rocking your dream natural hairstyle in no time!

to your healthiest beautiful version