As a natural woman, you should understand your hair type in depth. This knowledge is key in learning how to manipulate and care for your hair properly to keep it healthy and vibrant. You’ll also master the art of approaching styling in a proactive manner and learn to understand what does and doesn’t work for your hair. Let’s discuss the different hair types for natural hair and what they each entail.
How Many Natural Hair Types are there?
There are four hair types in general. They are grouped into categories 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each hair type has a sub category- a, b and c. Type 1 hair is straight, so natural hair types include types 2, 3 and 4. Type 2 is identified as wavy. Type 3 is curly. Type 4 is kinky. Some women may also have an in-between hair type, which we will discuss as well.
The way your hair is categorized by type is based on the shape of the hair follicle in its natural form. Curl patterns vary, from a wavy S pattern to an extremely curly and tight Z pattern. Your curl pattern can become damaged and even lost (the wave or curl straightens out and loses definition) over time. Losing your curl pattern can happen because of using hair products that contain harmful chemicals and aren’t protective for the hair. You can also experience curl pattern loss from heat damage and chemicals, including texturizers, relaxers and keratin protein treatments. Your curl pattern and overall health and vitality of your hair can also be affected by your diet and lifestyle, as well as stress, pregnancy and even some medications and diseases.
Each curl type will vary in porosity, coil size, density, shrinkage, looseness of the wave or curl and overall texture. Let’s explore further how these natural hair types and their subtypes differ, as well as how to identify your own hair type. We will also review tips on how to care for each natural hair type and how to figure out the porosity level of your hair.
Type 2 Natural Hair
Type 2 natural hair comes in a natural, wavy S shape. Your hair will be subtype a, b or c based on a looser to a tighter wave pattern. Some women with type 2 natural hair may struggle in classifying this particular hair type, since it falls midway between straight and curly. Type 2 natural hair is especially prone to dryness and becoming frizzy. Type 2 natural hair also tends to go flat when too much or too heavy of a hair product is used in it. This texture of hair waves up but hangs limp when it is soaking wet.
2A Natural Hair
2A natural hair is fine and easy to straighten, so manipulation of this texture is not usually a problem. Type 2A natural hair can become weighed down and appear lifeless easily. This usually occurs after applying the wrong styling products or heavy oils. The hair can also become limp when the hair is dirty.
2A naturalistas should look for products that moisturize but are lightweight. When wearing hair out in its most natural form, use natural ingredient-based products that offer volume and focus on getting volume from the roots. Avoid heavy conditioners and styling products for 2A natural hair. Feather-light products that are made from natural ingredients will be imperative for keeping this hair looking its best.
2B Natural Hair
2B gals tend to have hair that is a bit flat at the crown. The beginning of the wavy curl begins as an S wave shape in the middle of the hair follicle. This hair is notably thicker than 2A. Straightening is a bit more difficult for 2B natural hair. This is due to the volume and coarseness of the wave. 2B hair is prone to frizz in its natural form and frizz and flyaways with straight styles. 2B girls should avoid shampoos and cleansers with sulfate and always use lightweight natural oils and smoothers to ease flyaways and frizz. These products will help lock moisture into the hair follicle by sealing and protecting it. Keep the ends trimmed for the smoothest, healthiest hair.
2C Natural Hair
2C natural hair is the thickest texture of the 2 type. This hair tends to be the frizziest of the three. These coils are defined more than the other 2 type subcategories. This wave is curlier in nature and begins right at the root of the hair. 2C natural hair is prone to dryness, so keeping 2C natural hair hydrated will be essential to its health and vibrancy. Non-lathering and sulfate free shampoos and co-washes are preferred for cleansing 2C natural hair. Other cleansers will strip the hair of its natural oils.
Tips for Caring for Type 2 Natural Hair
- If you want more volume, blow your hair dry upside down on a cool setting, and use a diffuser on your hair dryer to volumize your roots and hair
- Always use natural oils like Jamaican black castor oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and aloe vera oils to hydrate and seal moisture into the hair follicle and cuticle
- Avoid shampoos and cleansers with sulfates
- Deep condition your hair bi-weekly to hydrate, protect and revitalize
- Avoid heavy conditioners and styling products- always opt for feather-light products
- Shampoo your hair at least once a week to get rid of buildup and oil, which will make your hair appear limp and lifeless
Type 3 Natural Hair
Type 3 hair is curly and has a defined S shape that bounces back when it’s pulled. The curl pattern is retained with or without water or hair products. The curl pattern can differ from a lower case to upper case S or Z. Type 3 hair curls in the form of spirals or ringlets and the gap in between the curl ranges in width. This hair is full in body and reacts sensitively to humidity and climate, which can make the curls fall flat. Type 3 natural hair is also prone to heat damage and breakage from dryness.
3A Natural Hair
3A natural hair has a well-defined loop curl pattern that is prone to frizz and dryness. Lightweight products- conditioner, stylers and washes- are essential for caring for 3A hair. Avoid washing your hair daily as it will dry out and harsh cleansers with sulfates or silicone. Co-washing or washing with conditioner is a great way to retain this hair type’s vibrancy. Focus on styling products that offer moisture and hold for 3A natural hair. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
3B Natural Hair
3B curls are very defined and have little space in between each bend. This hair is curlier, denser and coarser than 3A natural hair. Avoiding too much heat styling on this type of hair will help the hair be healthy and look its best. Deep conditioners and co-washing are recommended in caring for 3B natural hair. Avoid sulfates and silicone-based products.
3C Natural Hair
3C natural hair is the curliest, corkscrew-type shape with defined bounce and shape that forms in spirals or ringlets. This hair is exceptionally prone to dryness, so requires constant hydration. The key to keeping this hair looking its best is finding the balance in keeping your hair hydrated without weighing it down. This will help keep it protected from potential damage from breaking or shedding from being too dry.
Tips for Caring for Type 3 Natural Hair
- Avoid heat styling as much as possible
- Keep the scalp healthy and the hair hydrated to keep the hair vibrant and curls defined
- Avoid shampoos and cleansers with sulfates
- Manipulate your hair through stretching and twisting to lessen shrinkage
- Use protective styles like twists, buns and style with rods and curlers
- Deep condition your hair weekly to hydrate, protect and revitalize your natural curls
- Avoid heavy conditioners and styling products- always opt for feather-light products that moisturize and seal moisture in the hair
- Use co-wash or conditioners to cleanse your hair and avoid silicon and sulfates in your products, cleansers and conditioners
- Cleanse and condition, then moisturize and detangle your hair while the hair is still damp to avoid breakage
Type 4 Natural Hair
Type 4 natural hair has the tightest curl and coil and the hair forms a zigzag. The size of the coil or zigzag varies on the hair’s subtype. This hair shrinks easily, so it appears the shortest length in its natural form. Type 4 natural hair is prone to dryness and tangling, which can lead to breakage. This hair dries out easily, so requires constant moisture with a gentle touch.
4A Natural Hair
4A natural girls find themselves with coils that are thirsty for moisture. Only natural ingredients should be used in the styling products that touch type 4 natural hair and all its subcategories. Sulfates and silicon should be avoided at all costs. Wash and go styles are fantastic for a 4A girl. Do use hydrating emollients and butters to hydrate those curly tresses but avoid mineral oils and petroleum. Type 4A is thirsty for moisture but retains its moisture well when hydrated properly. 4A is also great for holding styles as it manipulates well via twisting and coiling.
4B Natural Hair
4B natural hair is fluffy and billowy in appearance with a Z shape curl pattern that is not as defined as 4A natural hair. Because of its many bends and twists, this hair is susceptible to breakage from lack of moisture. 4B hair has a very high rate of shrinkage. Women with his hair type can experience up to 70% of shrinkage in their curls. Styles that don’t tug or damage the hair like buns, twists and buns are great for 4B natural hair types.
Avoid heat styling and opt for rollers and roller sets, twist outs, puffs and other protective styles for natural hair. This will keep your hair protected and vibrant. Moisture and deep conditioning regularly are important tips for caring for 4B natural hair.
4C Natural Hair
4C natural hair is the most tightly coiled of all the hair types. Its curl pattern is undefined in its natural and dry state and must be manipulated through curling and coiling. This type of natural hair shrinks 75% and more. Puffs and fros with body and bounce are easy to achieve in 4C natural hair. Keep this hair fully hydrated – especially the tips of the hair- and the scalp healthy and clean at all times.
What Should I Know about my Type 4 Hair?
Although the texture of type 4 hair can be very dense and has been referred to as kinky and tough, this hair is actually extremely fine and fragile. Thus, although it may be thick and often difficult to manage, this hair has a much higher propensity to breakage and damage from styling. The drier this grade of hair, the most prone it is to damage, so constant hydration for type 4 natural hair is a must.
The key to properly caring for type 4 natural hair is to be gentle as you manage your hair. Type 4 natural hair requires a tender touch in styling and proper detangling to avoid breaking the hair. Because it is highly prone to breakage, keeping the scalp healthy and keeping the hair hydrated, detangled and avoiding any harsh manipulation or products in the hair will help your natural hair to perform its best.
Tips for Styling Type 4 Natural Hair
- Avoid over-washing your hair since it’s prone to dryness. Use co-washes and conditioners and avoid harsh ingredients in styling and cleansing products
- Always avoid sulfates and silicon in your hair styling products
- Avoid heat styling as often as possible
- Keep your hair moisturized at all costs to avoid breakage
- Get rid of damaged ends immediately to keep natural hair healthy
- Deep condition your hair 1-2 times per week to retain moisture and protect your hair from damage
What if I have More than One Hair Type?
It’s not uncommon to have a hair type that falls between one and the other. If this is the case, simply bear in mind the types of techniques and care that is applicable to both hair types. You may have a blend of 3C and 4A natural hair, so you want to meet somewhere in the middle in deciding what your hair care regimen should look like.
How Can I Keep my Natural Hair Vibrant and Healthy?
Remember that with beauty and health, what you put in your body is what you will get out of it. Therefore, the healthier your lifestyle, the healthier your skin, hair and nails will be overall. Healthy living is a must to keep your natural hair healthy, shiny and replenished.
- Minimize heat styling and opt for twisting, rods and protective styling techniques for your natural hair
- Use protective styles and don’t consistently use tight braids or other styles that pull the hair tight from the roots
- Avoid harsh chemicals and hair dyes and use products that contain natural ingredients and are made specifically for natural hair
- Hydrate from the inside out- drink lots of water
- Up your intake of vegetables and fruits and minimize processed foods in your diet
- Use natural remedies and treatments for your hair, like avocado oil, tea tree oil, aloe vera and aloe vera oil, avocado, coconut oil and Jamaican black castor oil to replenish hair and seal in moisture
- Take vitamins that encourage hair growth and health
- Don’t smoke
- Keep an eye on the side effects of any medications you are taking that may affect your natural hair in making it shed, fall out or become drier than normal
Natural Hair Health and Maintenance- Tips for Each Natural Hair Type
No matter the type of natural hair you have, there are some common styling and care tips to help your natural hair be its healthiest and retain moisture, while avoiding frizz and damage. Since each grade of natural hair is prone to frizz, these tips should come in handy.
Keep your Natural hair Hydrated, Always- No matter your natural hair texture, your wavy and curly tresses require moisture. The type of moisture you should use will vary- i.e. heavier oils and emollients for type 4 natural hair vs. lightweight creams and oils for type 2 and type 3 natural hair. However, moisture remains a major essential for all types of natural hair.
Towel Drying is a No-no for Natural Wavy and Curly Hair- You may have been taught to use a towel to dry your hair after you wash it, but as a naturalista, that’s the worst thing you can do for your hair. A terry towel absorbs too much moisture from your natural hair and the rubbing and wringing action can cause breakage and immediate frizz. Therefore, if you’re going to use a towel, make sure it’s made from microfiber, or use a t-shirt to dry your hair after you wash it. Don’t ever rub your hair to dry it, as that will summon the frizz gods.
Hair Can Break from Styling, Brushing and Combing- You must be gentle with your natural hair to avoid excessive tangling, breakage and shredding. Also, make sure you aren’t constantly touching your hair out of bad habit. You can cause your hair to break off and become damaged simply from toying with your hair too frequently. Always use detangling combs and brushes and don’t brush your hair when it’s dry or when it’s soaking wet, which can cause shedding and breakage as the hair is in its most vulnerable state.
Once you have gained a full understanding for your type of natural hair and how to care for it properly, you can find a newfound love and appreciation for your hair. Whether you are wavy or kinky curly, your natural hair rocks! Let your black magic shine on, naturalistas!