Hair Care Tips & Styling Ideas

How to Identify Your Hair Texture and Curl Pattern

A curl is a curl is a curl, right? Of course, not all curls are the same, and for those with wavy, curly, and coily hair, getting those locks to behave can feel like a full-time job. Yet, understanding the needs of your specific hair type, how to style it, and the products to use is vital to make every day a good hair day.

It’s All in the Texture

New York City hairstylist Marshall Lin explains that hair should grow in uniform, but factors like combing, blow drying, haircuts, sleep, and the hair products we use can change its texture.

“It’s common to have one texture at the hairline and different ones at the top and bottom layers,” he adds. Plus, the shape of the hair follicle and the angle at which hair grows from the scalp can influence the curl pattern, too. Celebrity hairstylist and Mane Addicts stylist Sienree Du says hair types appear differently when looking at a single strand under a microscope. Straight hair appears cylindrical and spaghetti-like and curly hair appears flatter, like fettuccini. “The flatter the strand, the more ability there is for a curl or wave,” she adds.

Another distinguishing factor to determine texture is porosity, which is how much moisture the hair can absorb and retain. Anything from hair coloring to environmental and heat-based damage influences porosity. Du says the more porous the hair, the rougher or drier it may feel. “But sometimes, porosity is a win for styling curls or hair with texture,” she adds. Low-porosity hair has more difficulty absorbing moisture, but it can hold onto it, which gives it a silkier and shinier look.

Types of Hair

Fine hair

Fine hair lacks volume, but is relatively easy to style. Hairstylist and Virtue ambassador Kindale Godbee says there’s separation and frizz when fine hair lacks moisture, or when no product is present.

What to use: One of the easiest ways to swell the cuticle is with thickening ingredients that make the hair appear thick, like saw palmetto berry, which can be found in R + Co Dallas Biotin Thickening Shampoo. It’s also rich in pro-vitamin B5 for deep hydration, natural-looking shine, and volume.

Medium hair

Godbee says medium hair can be overwhelming to tame or style, but is more resistant to breakage. Lin also recommends taking extra good care of the cuticle so color doesn’t fade as quickly.

What to use: To maintain the health and color of medium hair, load up on serums that protect its color while lightly conditioning it—Color Wow Dream Coat Supernatural Spray is a favorite. Plus, it works wonders at repelling humidity.

Thick hair

Thick hair is hard to manage and comes with its own set of problems like snarls and tangles, constant frizz, and the fact that it takes forever to dry.

What to use: Thick hair experiences frizz, so a smoothing cream, like Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Smoothing Anti-Frizz Blowout Butter, is imperative. This product adds shine while keeping hair soft and manageable with camellia and avocado oils, so dryness is never an issue.

Coarse hair

Coarse hair loses moisture, rendering it dry and brittle. But, Du says coarse hair textures do well with smoothing creams, serums, and dry oils to tame rogue flyaways.

What to use: Different from a deep conditioner, Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Restructuring Bond Repair Leave-in Protein Cream infuses coarse hair with much-needed proteins and omega acids to increase hydration levels, elasticity, and shine.

Oily hair

Excess oil builds up at the roots making hair look and feel weighted and dirty and leading to dry scalp and dandruff. “Oily hair occurs due to pH imbalances on the scalp, but charcoal shampoos and conditioners can help control it,” Du says.

What to use: Charcoal is the star ingredient in Briogeo Scalp Revival Charcoal Coconut Oil Micro-Exfoliating Shampoo, alongside plant-based exfoliators, to remove follicle-clogging oil. Plus, less oil on the scalp means less irritation and itchiness.

Normal hair

With the right balance of oil and dryness, normal hair may have fewer requirements than other hair types, but it’s just as privy to environmental damage, which can wreak havoc on strands.

What to use: Protect hair from the elements with a weightless protecting mist, like Oribe Invisible Defense Universal Protection Spray. It leaves an invisible layer of defense on the hair to shield it from oxidative stress, photoaging, and the drying effects of weather, too.

Dry hair

Dry hair symptoms directly relate to the amount of it sustains. “In general, heat damage and dehydration cause dry hair, which is more prone to static and dead ends,” says Lin.

What to use: For a dose of deep hydration, reach for Virtue Healing Oil. This lightweight serum works within seconds to infuse dry hair with much-needed moisture and added shine without weighing it down.

Curly Cues

Straight hair is pretty much the same from one head to the next, although the hair’s thickness can differ drastically. Curls, on the other hand, are a different story. Curls can range from soft, loose waves to ringlets to kinky, super tight coils (that are so tight it’s akin to a workout to smooth them). Du says there are significant differences between wavy, curly, and coiled hair. “Curly hair makes a full 360-degree spiral, forming a complete circle where it twists, wavy hair is more of an S-shape that goes from side to side and coiled hair has tight curls in a zig-zag pattern from the scalp.”

You can gauge the degree of curl pattern in your hair by looking at its formation. Straight hair is type 1, wavy hair in a loose “S” pattern is considered type 2, type 3 curly hair is a loop or spiral pattern and type 4 hair is a compressed “S” or “Z” pattern, according to Godbee. From there, the diameter of the hair comes into play—the wider the hair, the looser the curl. The classification scale for curl thickness consists of type A, a wide pattern; type B, which is medium; and type C, which is the smallest of the three.

Now that you know what you’re working with, it’s time to use the right products for your curls. Using the wrong products can render the hair flat, too oily, or unmanageable. Here, a roundup of the best hair products for every hair type under the sun.

Credit: Briogeo

Curl Types on Celebrities

Type 2: Wavy

Celebrity: Hailey Bieber
Type: 2A

There’s a slight wave to this curl pattern, and frizz can be an issue, which is why hydrating products are best.

Product Pick: Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil nourishes hair with a blend of botanical oils, keeping frizz and dryness away.

Celebrity: Tori Kelly

Type: 2B

This curl resembles a more defined beach wave. It, too, is prone to frizzing and can lack volume at the root.

Product Pick: For a bit of added bounce, incorporate a volumizing shampoo such as Living Proof Full Shampoo into your routine—this one doesn’t dry out hair either, making it a win-win.

 Celebrity: Lorde
Type: 2C

With more curl than other type 2 hair but not as tight as type 3 curls, this in-between curl pattern has a strong “S” shape that starts at the root and often needs a little help in the frizz and smoothing departments.

Product Pick: Seen Curly Crème is a must for waves that easily and quickly turn frizzy. This one, which a Harvard-trained dermatologist designed, leaves hair soft and smooth since its formula is loaded with clean ingredients.

Type 3: Curly

Celebrity: Sarah Jessica Parker
Type: 3A

This configuration presents itself as a shiny, loosely defined spiral curl. To maintain the curl’s health, don’t over-wash the hair, which can strip away its natural oils.

Product Pick: On no-wash days, opt for an aerosol dry shampoo like Sachajuan Dry Powder Shampoo to absorb oil at the root and give a fresh feeling.

Celebrity: Mariah Carey

Type: 3B

These curls are springy and recoil when stretched out. Due to their tighter nature, an arsenal of styling products is necessary, including shaping and curling creams.

Product Pick: Defining the curls is the name of the game here, and Rahua Control Cream Curl Styler leaves hair feeling soft to the touch and never crunchy.

Celebrity: Tracee Ellis Ross
Type: 3C

3C curl patterns are a voluminous mix of spiral curls and tight corkscrew curls. Because these curls tend to be dry, Du says that hair hydration is a must.

Product Pick: Washing with an oil-rich shampoo, like Charlotte Mensah Manketti Oil Shampoo, allows for proper hydration without stripping the hair while still leaving it manageable yet feeling clean as a whistle.

TYPE 4: Coils

Celebrity: Issa Rae
Type: 4A

A denser curl, type 4A features a tight S-pattern curl that isn’t too wide. Keep strands pliable with a good leave-in curl cream that lends a dose of moisture, too.

Product Pick: Ouidad VitalCurl Define Shine Curl Styling Gel-Cream provides perfect curl definition while hydrating them, too, with a special botanical Omega 3-, 6-, and -9 complex.

Celebrity: Willow Smith
Type: 4B

Du says that moisture retention with moisture-focused masks and serums is important for this curl pattern, which is dense yet shapeable.

Product Pick: Perfect for dry and damaged chemically-treated hair, Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask reinstates lost moisture to bring life back to curly and coily strands.

Celebrity: Lupita Nyong’o
Type: 4C

Prone to shrinkage and dehydration, this curl craves serious hydration. “Some oils only coat the cuticle and don’t penetrate the core of the hair, so you have to add moisture first and lock it in with an oil,” Du recommends. “If you only use oil, you may only be sealing in the dryness, which is not the goal.”

Product Pick: Rahua Legendary Amazon Oil smooth is loaded with several oils sourced from the Amazon that hydrate, nourish and strengthen the hair without any greasy residue.

Elise Minton Tabin

Elise Minton Tabin is an award-winning beauty journalist, editor, and beauty expert with more than 16 years of experience. She previously held the title of Executive Beauty Editor at NewBeauty magazine, where she reported on beauty, plastic surgery, anti-aging, health and wellness. She was also instrumental in the launch of the beauty supplement brand Hush & Hush. A self-professed beauty junkie and retinol and sunscreen pusher, Elise knows what’s new, what works and who’s the best to go for every procedure under the sun. Follow Elise on Facebook, Instagram, and on her beauty blog,