How to determine your hair type - A complete guide

23 June, 2020


When you think of the different types of hair, the first thing that probably pops into your mind would be the simplest hair terms of either straight or curly. However, did you know that hair types can be broken up into four main categories, and a dozen different subcategories each differentiated with distinct characteristics? 

While you may have thought that using generic types of products like shampoos and conditioners were sufficient to care and wash your hair, you have gotten it all wrong. Not every product will work for every hair type, so understanding and knowing your hair type is the key to determine the best routine to take care of your hair. 

Read on to learn more about each hair type and their characteristics, and try to correctly identify your own!

12 Types Of Hair


1 (Straight)

2 (Wavy)

3 (Curly)

4 (Coiled/Kinky) 


Fine, Thin hair, Prone to oil

Fine (Has S shape)

Fine, Loose curls

Tight, Springy coils


Medium, Some volume

Medium (Has S shape with some frizz)

Medium or Tight curls

Z Coils


Coarse, Thick, Won’t hold curls

Coarse (Has S shape & prone to frizz)

Tight, Thick curls

Very tight, Coarse coils


Curl Patterns of Each Hair Type

Type 1: Straight Hair

Straight hair, also known as a Type 1 are hairs that lie flat, or straight on the scalp. As the hair’s natural oils are able to travel from the scalp to the ends, Type 1 hairs reflect the most sheen. There are three subcategories for straight hair:

  • Type 1A hair is very straight and fine, with no hint of wave or curl. As it is so straight and fine, when the natural oils travel to the ends, it tends to cause it to look like oily hair. It is the rarest hair type and is common among women of Asian descent.

  • Type 1B hair is straight, but has more volume than Type 1A. Its medium texture can generally hold curls giving the hair more texture and movement. 

  • Type 1C hair is straight and is usually coarse and thick, which can result in frizzy hair depending on the environment or climate. When air-dried, this hair type can achieve a tousled look, while still lying flat on the scalp. 

Type 2: Wavy Hair

Wavy hair, also known as a Type 2 hair type are hairs that are naturally wavy and form an “S” shape. It is thicker than Type 1 hair, and can be considered a medium between straight and curly hair. Because of its slight texture and shape, it is not as oily as Type 1. There are three subcategories for wavy hair:

  • Type 2A hair is fine and thin with individual strands forming an “S” shape when dry. It is easy to use styling products to curl or straighten Type 2A hair.

  • Type 2B hair is wavy and slightly frizzier than Type 2A hair. When dry, individual strands create an “S” shape with some frizz. 

  • Type 2C hair waves start from the scalp and are thicker than other Type 2 subcategories. This coarse hair type is the most prone to frizz and forms an “S” shape when dry.

Type 3: Curly Hair

Curly hair, also known as a Type 3 hair type are hairs that are naturally curly and are classified as spiral curls. Type 3 hairs form ringlets that are naturally defined and are prone to dryness, tangles, frizz and breakage. As the follicle does not lay flat, this hair type tends to be dry. There are three subcategories for curly hair:

  • Type 3A hair is fine and shiny with loose curls. This type of curly thick hair is easily defined without the use of styling products and is prone to slight frizz. 

  • Type 3B hair has curls that are medium to tight springy curls. Similar to Type 3A, it is prone to frizz.

  • Type 3C hair has tight and thick curls. The curls of this hair type normally have a lot of texture. 

Type 4: Coiled/Kinky Hair

Type 4 hair types are commonly known as coiled or kinky hair. Unlike Type 3 hair, this hair type is tightly curled with defined ringlets (coils) and maintains its hair shape whether it is dry or wet. 

This hair type tends to be fairly coarse in texture, and is prone to damage by heated hair styling products. Due to the shape of individual hair strands, natural hair oils are unable to travel far down the hair shaft causing hair of this type to be dry. Type 4 hair types are most common among African Americans.

  • Type 4A hair is usually in tight and springy coils. Hair strands of this type typically shrink down to half its length when dry. This type of hair has the most definitive curl pattern of the Type 4 hair category.

  • Type 4B hair has tight curls in a Z coil (crimpy) pattern. Although it is less defined than Type 4A curls, it is clearer as compared to Type 4C hair. 

  • Type 4C hair is densely packed and coarse. The curl pattern of this hair type is not defined and has a lot of shrinkage. 

Hair Porosity

Although identifying your hair type is a fundamental part of understanding how your hair works, if you have a lack of understanding of what hair porosity is, only half of the battle has been won.

Hair porosity is essentially your hair’s ability to retain and absorb moisture and products. There are three levels of hair porosity: high, medium and low. To determine your hair’s level of porosity, why not try out a float test!

The Float Test

After running your fingers through your hair or brushing, remove a single strand of hair. Fill up a bowl of water or a cup with room-temperature water and place the strand inside.

How to determine your hair’s level of porosity: 

  • High Level of Porosity: If your strand sinks to the bottom quickly.
  • Medium Level of Porosity: If your strand sinks to the bottom slowly.
  • Low Level of Porosity: If your strand floats. 

If you know and understand your hair type and your hair porosity, then you will be able to craft a fitting routine to best meet your hair needs.