Knowing your curl type and how to care for it could be the make it or break it between good and bad hair days. We are much like little snow flakes and although they are all equal, no two heads of hair are the same. This is why an absolutely amazing product can work fabulously for one child and be completely useless on another. With that being said – here are a few basic tips to understanding your curl type and navigating the beauty isle of your local drugstore, beauty supply or favorite online curly product hangout.
The 3 Basic Types of Curl
The WalkerSystem of categorizing hair is well known, and sometimes a little controversial in the curl world, but for your sanity and hair success – it is well worth knowing. Just because you know it, it does not mean you have to refer to it constantly.
With that being said, however, many product sellers will refer to it a lot in order to get their market base to understand who exactly their product is for and how it should be used. (I generally do not refer to it in speech and opt for more neutral descriptive terms, but often refer to it in writing so that a fellow curly knows what on earth I am talking about, for real.)
There is a far more detailed description of the Walker hair typing system on the link in the paragraph above – but if you are short on time or attention ;) - here is a little primer for each hair category and what it needs without turning this into a science project:
Ranges from slightly to very wavy hair, possibly with really loose curls or ringlets. Here are some pictures of your compadres:
This hair type benefits from sulfate free shampoos, lighter conditioners for those with fine hair and thicker conditioners for those with thicker/ courser hair and ringlets. The best styling products for you would be lightweight mousses and gels that can define hair and minimize frizz without weighing your hair down or leaving it feeling greasy or crunchy.
Type 2 hair tends to lie flat to the head and is the easiest to blow dry straight or coax into curlier styles. Creating volume at the scalp and controlling frizz are the biggest challenges to this hair type.
This is a very obviously curly hair type characterized by fuller more defined curls. The curl pattern ranges from twirly, spirally hair and ringlets to tighter corkscrew and coily curls. A lot of biracial people with one or more parents with African, Middle-Eastern, Jewish or Latino descent fall into this category, as do many without multiple heritage.
Here are a few pictures showingtype 3 hair .
Again as with all curlies, sulfate-free cleansers are your friend. This type tends to benefit from less frequent washing, thick, rich, conditioners, leave in conditioners, and creams or gels for added definition and control. The thicker and tighter curl types also love butters and oils and protective styling (there is a blog dedicated to that too.)
The biggest challenges for this hair type are moisture retention, frizz control and curl definition.
Please note that this type of hair is very prone to changing texture from infancy, to toddlerhood and then on to adulthood. Type 4’s too. It is also common for mostly 3 and 4 children to have a range of curl patterns and hair textures in different sections of their hair. Even more fun. Check out our blog on dealing with multiple textures on one head of hair.
This hair type is definitively coily and is what first comes to mind when you think of natural African hair. It goes without saying that type 4’s are the best equipped curlies to rock afros and protective styles. It ranges from defined tight, springy curls to more of a zig zag curl pattern.
Here are some type 4 hair images for you.
Here are some type 4 hair images for you.
Because it has fewer cuticle layers than other types of hair, it is the most susceptible to damage from over-manipulation , including combing and especially brushing, direct heat (blow drying and flat irons) and chemical straightening.
Type 4’s benefit greatly from creamier shampoos and co-washing (washing with conditioners alone) that are super rich with lots of slip. This hair texture also loves pre-shampoo treatments, hot oil treatments, oil rinses and regular deep conditioning sessions. The best styling products for Type 4’s are hair butters, rich leave-in conditioners, heavy creams and hair milks. Protective styling is usually essential for the healthy maintenance of this hair type.
Protective styling will encourage growth/ length retention, help with creating curl definition and elongation and protect against frizz. Shrinkage (up to 75% is common) is characteristic of type 4 hair. Moisture retention and breakage are some of the more common challenges that are faced by caregivers of coily hair kiddos.
For specific product recommendations on your hair type, please visit Naturally Curly’s awesome website. They even have an online marketplace, Curlmart, exclusively dedicated to the needs of curly and coily people. I love it when we are not just a side bar in the hair aisle. Ingredients of all products sold are fully disclosed, and the reviewers often state what hair type they have, which gives a better idea of whether the product might work for you or not.
For Oggboo product recommendations specifically, visit the product guidance page on our website and subscribe to our newsletter for maintenance and styling tips, sale notifications, DIY tips and new product releases.