Curls Explained: What Kind Of Locks You Have And Why It Matters

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Think about someone you just met recently for a brief amount of time. If I ask you to describe him or her, chances are you’ll tell me physical signs: “She has long eyelashes.” “He has thick eyebrows.” “She has curly hair.” While I can probably picture the first two examples, saying that someone has ‘curly hair’ is not as specific. I might be thinking of someone with frizzy ringlets, while the person you’re describing has long, smooth beach waves.

If you’ve ever researched different types of curls, you’ll know that hair is divided into four types, ranging from Type 1 hair (straight) to Type 4 hair (kinky). Each of these types besides for Type 1 is divided into sub-categories (Type 2a, Type 2b etc.).

Let’s start with the first type of curly hair – Type 2.

2a Curls: Slight Waves

Woman with blonde, wavy hair.

Type 2a hair: slight waves.

2a curly hair is finer hair, whose curls shape the letter S. Some call Type 2a hair ‘wavy’ because it’s between curly and straight, but it could really go either way. Because it’s so fine, it’s the easiest type of hair to style, which is probably the best part about this hair type. You can blow it straight without too much of a struggle, and it co-operates well when you style it with curls.

2b Curls: Soft Waves

2b curly hair looks similar to 2a, but the hair is thicker and the waves are slightly more defined. Both 2a and 2b have straighter hair at the roots, with their curls/waves starting at around ear-length. Thicker hair can be nicer, but it’s also more prone to frizzing than 2a.

2c Curls: Defined Waves

2c curly hair is often a mixture of both tighter curls and waves. Unlike its older siblings, a and b, 2c starts its curls right from the roots. It’s generally thick with a decent amount of volume, and that’s the good part – but unfortunately, it’s the most prone to frizzing of all hair types (yup, that’s me!) I also find my hair to be more-than-slightly bi-polar – it can literally look different every morning of the week.

Then there’s Type 3, which is your classic curly-hair stereotype.

3a Curls: Loose Curls

3a curly hair is often confused with 2c, but unlike 2c, the hair will have volume throughout, even on the top of the head – whereas Type 2 hair will stay flatter at the top of the head. Type 3a curls are big and loose – the kind of curls people pay to have styled in their hair. Like all curly hair, 3a’s are prone to frizzing, so keep your hair well-conditioned and use a good oil to keep your curls smooth and defined.

3B Curls: Springy Curls

Woman with blonde, springy curls.

Type 3B hair.

3b curly hair has loads of bounce. The hair is curly throughout, with thinner, more lively curls. Unfortunately, this type of hair does not absorb moisture as easily as other kinds might, so it can get dry and frizzy. But with proper care, 3b’s can enjoy gorgeous, voluminous curls with a lot of personality.

3C Curls: Tight Curls

If you have 3c curly hair, you may have a mixture of both defined curls and kinky curls. Your hair has tons of volume because the curls are densely packed. The curls themselves are fine, although people may not realize this because of the volume those densely packed curls create.

Type 4 is considered kinky hair. If you’re a woman of color, you probably have Type 4 hair (either 4a, 4b, or 4c).

Related: Discover our DIY Shampoo For Curly Hair!

4A Curls: Kinky Curls

4a curly hair is similar to 3c in the fact that the curls follow an ‘S’ pattern. The hair is fine, and because it has less cuticle protection, it’s quite fragile and prone to breakage. 4a holds moisture better than any other 4 hair type.

WOman wearing glasses with black kinky-curly hair.

Type 4B hair.

4B Curls: Kinky Hair With Medium Definition

4b curly hair follows a ‘Z’ pattern and instead of defined curls, the hair has what looks like sharp angles (hence the name ‘Z’ pattern). Afros look great with this hair type, but the downside is that it’s very porous (it absorbs a lot of water which can lead to breakage). Because it’s so fragile, it’s important to keep the hair well-conditioned.

Take care of your curls with our DIY Serum For Frizzy Hair.

4C Curls: Kinky Hair Without Definition

4c curly haired people have super-kinky hair, but their curls can often have little or no definition. If not treated properly, it can become hard to manage. This type of hair is extremely prone to shrinkage – meaning, it can look waaay shorter than it actually is, which can make for some fun hairdos, but can also be annoying when you don’t want your hair to look half its actual length.


Many people don’t realize just how many types of curly hair there are! But it’s important to know what kind of hair you have, because every hair type needs different treatment than others. You might think that because your hair has loads of volume, it must be really durable – when in reality, it may be very fragile and need quite a bit more TLC.

Regardless of what kind of curls (or kinks) you may have, there are loads of styles you can do with your curly hair, whether you choose to keep it natural or go all out. It can take a little more work in the morning than your straight-haired friend’s quick pony, but let’s be real: curls are often so much cuter and prettier. And with a bit of effort and the right treatment and hair products, you can enjoy your curls in all their glory.