The 4 Types of Hair & How to Know Which Type You Have

The 4 Types of Hair & How to Know Which Type You Have

There are four main types of hair, and almost all of these have sub-types that make them a bit more unique. The type of hair you have is genetic, and your genetics also play a vital role in how thick or thin your hair will be, as well as hair issues you may face. (source)  Each hair type has advantages and disadvantages to styling and health.

Curly hair for example is more prone to breakage, but also makes it harder for sebum to run from the root of your hair to the tip. With less natural oils coating each strand, your hair will look less greasy and healthier for longer periods of time. This also means you may need to wash your hair less often than people with straight hair.  

And straight hair has advantages over curly and coil hair types with styling. If you want to do a braided ponytail, hair that starts out straight is easier to pull back and create the ponytail and braid.  And that’s what this guide to hair types will teach.  Below you’ll find the advantages and obstacles by type of hair, and how to change your hair type to match the style and look you’re going for.

The Four Hair Types Are:

  • Straight
  • Wavy
  • Curly
  • Coily

In the beginning we mentioned there are subtypes of each hair category.  These subtypes were created and made famous by Andre Walker via the Oprah Winfrey show where he classified them by numbers 1 through 4, as well as letters to determine the subtype like 1a for straight and fine, and 3c for curly corkscrews.  The subtypes play a vital role in hair care because they help you determine which products are best based on the type of hair you have, and the steps you take in order to style it.

Type 4c hair for example is more prone to breakage, so it needs to be moisturized more often for strength, but it is ideal for stunning bantu knots. (source)  And Bantu knots are the perfect alternative to space buns for a fun night out or music festival, and elegant formal events.  By knowing the type of hair you or the person you’re helping with their hair has, you’ll be able to pick out the right products, styles, and tools much more easily.  So let’s jump into each.  But first, here's a helpful diagram featuring the types of hair.

the types of hair chart

Straight Hair - Type 1

type 1 hair straight

The lower the letter on Type 1 hair, the finer it is.  Most people have Type 1b which is a bit thicker and can hold a curl or wave with styling products as opposed to Type 1a which may not be able to because of how fine it is.  Because Type 1 hair is straight, sebum and other natural oils will travel more easily along the locks making the hair look greasy or dirty more quickly.

This means you’ll likely need to wash your hair a bit more frequently than other hair types if you don’t want your hair to have an oily and dirty look.  Because Type 1 Hair is more fine than others, it is important to use tools that are less damaging.  This includes spiral hair ties that are covered like TELETIES instead of elastic as elastic is more prone to fray your hair and holds tighter at the base pulling on the follicles and roots. Covered hair ties are even recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology Association here to prevent damage.

And for adding curls and waves, always try to go with heatless curls first as heat can damage your hair.  And choose a lightweight hairspray or finishing spray to keep them intact as heavier ones pull harder, and gravity is what releases the look.  And you’ll find that volumizing shampoos and conditioners will be your friend as they are designed specifically for thinner hair.

For brushes, go with pronged brushes as they can slide through your fine hair more easily without pulling.  And the same goes for hair styles. Tight braids and looks that pull on your hair too hard will fracture or break thin hair more easily because the diameters are smaller.  That’s why coil ties that are covered are better, and if you go with TELETIES hair ties we have a rubber stopper that will keep the tie in place so you won’t have to worry about slipping.

And if you do have to use heat because your hair won’t hold a curl, make sure to moisturize and use heat protective products to help reduce the amount of damage the heat does to your locks.

Wavy Hair - Type 2 

type 2 hair wavy

Just like the straight hair types, wavy hair changes based on diameter and fragility.  The lower the letter after the number 2, the finer the hair diameter, and also the wavier the strand of hair is. This is because of where the wave starts.

For 2a, the top of the hair is straighter, and with 2b you see the waves starting a bit lower.  Hair type 2c has waves from top to tip, and this hair type tends to appear more voluminous and thick.  Wavy hair, unlike curly and coily hair, takes on an S shape rather than circular. It is also one of the most in demand and timeless looks. Not sure if you have wavy hair, first check to see if it shrinks when wet, if yes, that’s the first sign.  The lower the letter, the more shrinkage you’ll have, but don’t worry, it lengthens back out once dry.

And even though wavy hair is a #hairgoal for many, it comes with its own set of obstacles.  Wavy hair tends to be frizz prone due to textured hair being naturally prone to dryness and natural oils taking longer to reach the tip of the strand. And dry hair is the main cause of frizz.  

The frizz in wavy hair is typically a result of the strands leaving the curl and being exposed to the air and elements that dry it out more quickly.  And if you use heated tools or products with alcohol in them to create waves, you’re dehydrating your hair making the situation worse.  People with Type 2 hair are going to need to moisturize regularly and use products to prevent frizz and keep flyaways at bay.

Gels and mousses work fantastic with wavy hair.  They add thickness if you’re type 2a, hold locks together so they don’t separate from the curl, and can add volume.  And there are a ton of always in-demand styles for people with type 2 hair.

Fishtail braids are always popular, and you have the twist back for a boho and festival showstopper.  Almost any half-up half-down hairstyle will work perfect for your locks, and messy beach waves are perfect for casual events, or even a chill appearance for date night.  

Curly Hair - Type 3

type 3 hair curly

Type 3 hair is where we go from a wave to a curl, and as the subtypes go from a to c the curl gets tighter.  The biggest change between type 2 and type 3 hair is that the strands form a full circle instead of an s shaped wave, and the curls aren’t tight like a type 4 coil.

Something interesting about Type 3 hair is that the hair type can actually change from the top to the bottom.  You may have curls and coils on the same person.  The easiest way to tell the difference between a curl and a wave is that hair type 3 will bounce back into its curl shape and a wave won’t retract. 

The most common way to straighten curls is to use heat, but heat is damaging to hair so you’ll want to moisture and use heat protection products before and after.  Good news, if you don’t want to use heat to straighten curly hair, you don’t always have to.

The first step is to use straightening hair cleaning products like shampoos and conditioners.  Next you can wrap your hair with curlers and use cold air to blow dry it.  Then take a brush and brush it out.  Ogle School has a great guide to straightening curly hair without heat that you can find here.  But heat is sometimes a necessary evil, so if you use a flat iron make sure to start from the roots of your hair to the end and hold it tight.  This way you can have more tension and help to ensure smooth and consistent strokes. 

Bonus tip: If you have Type 3 or Type 4 hair, invest in a silk or satin pillowcase instead of cotton.  Silk and satin allow your hair to slide safely across the surface without as many snags and damage as cotton since it is smoother.

And curly hair styles are abundant!  Twisted and braided buns are a fun look that keeps your locks off your face, and braided top knots are always good for formal events, the workplace, or school.  Looking to go out and party, space buns look fantastic with curls, and if you’re lucky enough to have curly hair, balayage highlighting looks incredible!

Coily Hair - Type 4

type 4 hair coil

Also known as afro-hair or kinky, you can identify type 4 hair by the tight coils that retract back into place as well as the dryer looking textures.  But don’t let the sometimes dry appearance fool you, type 4 hair can be soft and fluffy, as well as coarse.  The curl patterns here range from tight s shapes to very tight z shapes, and the further from a to c, the tighter the shape of the coil.

Just like Type 3, moisture is the key to healthy hair with Type 4.  Add moisturizing sprays and do not wash your hair as often as someone with hair type 1.  This is because hair cleaning products strip away the natural oils that lock in moisture.  Because type 4 hair tends to be more dry and brittle, it is more prone to breakage, which is what moisture protects hair against.

People with hair type 4 should look for leave in moisturizers during the day with cocoa and shea butters, and avoid using heated tools when possible. And avoid sulfates in your hair care products at all costs.  Sulfates strip away the natural oils that lock in moisture (source). 

Outside of the afro and pom pom styles, people with type 4 hair have fashion advantages over others. If you’re lucky enough to be blessed with type 4, you can mix and match textures with half-up half-down styles, create fun and fluffy buns (including space buns), as well as bantu knots.  The world is your oyster as your hair can be styled straight, curly, coiled and any combination of the four hair types.

Now you know the types of hair, how to identify which one you have, and some fun styles to inspire your next look.  If you’d like more hair tips like this one, subscribe to the TELETIMES blog below!

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