Pho­to Source

Over the past few months sev­er­al read­ers have asked us to break down hair typ­ing. Whether or not you feel that hair typ­ing is impor­tant, the fact remains that it can be dif­fi­cult to fol­low along with online dis­cus­sions with­out know­ing the var­i­ous tex­ture ref­er­ences. After some search­ing we found’s hair typ­ing guide to be the most com­pre­hen­sive — although it does not include a type 4c cat­e­go­ry — so we’ve includ­ed excerpts here.

Type 4 — Kinky Hair

• Type 4 is kinky, or very tight­ly curled, with a clear­ly vis­i­ble curl pat­tern
• Cir­cum­fer­ence: Cro­chet nee­dle or even small­er
• The hair is very wiry, very tight­ly coiled and very, very frag­ile
• Type 4 hair can range from fine/thin to wiry/coarse with lots and lots of strands dense­ly packed togeth­er
• Type 4 hair has few­er cuti­cle lay­ers than any oth­er hair type, which means that it has less nat­ur­al pro­tec­tion from the dam­age you inflict by comb­ing, brush­ing, curl­ing, blow-dry­ing and straight­en­ing it
• Type 4 hair is known to shrink up to 75% of the actu­al hair length

There are two Type 4 sub­types:
•4b: Has a “Z” pat­tern, less of a defined curl pat­tern. Instead of curl­ing or coil­ing, the hair bends in sharp angles like the let­ter “Z”; has a cot­ton-like feel
•4b celebri­ties: Shin­gai Shoni­wa

Shin­gai Shoni­wa, 4b hair

•4a: Tight­ly coiled hair that, when stretched, has an “S” pat­tern, much like curly hair. It tends to have more mois­ture than 4b; has a def­i­nite curl pat­tern
•4a celebri­ties: Esper­an­za Spald­ing

Esper­an­za Spald­ing, 4a hair

• Use styling creams, but­ters and oils for type 4 hair
• This hair type needs extra mois­ture and ten­der-lov­ing care because it can be frag­ile
• Detan­gle hair with a lot of con­di­tion­er in your hair and use a comb or detan­gling brush
• Let hair air dry or use a hood dry­er
• Do not use a brush or comb on your dry curls
• Reduce tan­gles by sleep­ing on a satin pil­low­case or wrap hair in a satin cap

Type 3c — Curly Kinky Hair

Sub­type 3c is real­ly more than a sub­type. It’s a type Nat­u­ral­ly­Curly mem­bers devel­oped because the orig­i­nal sys­tem left out this hair type, which falls between 3b and 4a, hav­ing its own spe­cial char­ac­ter­is­tics.

• Type 3c hair has tight curls in corkscrews
• Cir­cum­fer­ence: Pen­cil or straw
• The curls can be either kinky, or very tight­ly curled, with lots and lots of strands dense­ly packed togeth­er
• Get­ting this type of hair to blow dry straight is more chal­leng­ing than for 3a or 3b, but it usu­al­ly can be done
• The very tight curls are usu­al­ly fine in tex­ture
• 3c celebri­ties: Ali­cia Keyes, Jada Pin­kett-Smith, Tracee Ellis Ross

Tracee Ellis Ross, 3c hair

• Use styling creams, but­ters and oils for type 3c hair
• This hair type needs extra mois­ture and ten­der-lov­ing care because it can be frag­ile
• Detan­gle hair with a lot of con­di­tion­er in your hair and use a comb or detan­gling brush
• Do not use a brush or comb on your dry curls
• Reduce tan­gles by sleep­ing on a satin pil­low­case or wrap hair in a satin cap

Type 3 — Curly Hair

• There is a def­i­nite loopy “S” pat­tern
• Curls are well-defined and springy
• Type 3 hair has a lot of body; it is eas­i­ly styled in its nat­ur­al state or straight­ened with a blow-dry­er
• It isn’t coarse, like many believe, but soft and very fine—there’s just a lot of it
• Com­bi­na­tions of Type 3a and 3b curls are com­mon

There are two Type 3 sub­types:
•3b: Medi­um amount of curl, from boun­cy ringlets to tight corkscrews.
Cir­cum­fer­ence: Sharpie size
•3b celebri­ties: Keri Rus­sell, Bernadette Peters, Meli­na Kankare­des

Keri Rus­sel, 3b hair

•3a: Curls are nat­u­ral­ly big, loose and usu­al­ly very shiny.
Cir­cum­fer­ence: side­walk-chalk size
•3a celebri­ties: Anna­Lynne McCord, Debra Mess­ing

Debra Mess­ing, 3a hair

• 3a’s: Use gels and creams that offer light mois­ture and curl def­i­n­i­tion
• 3b’s: Use gels and styling creams with extra mois­ture and seri­ous frizz con­trol
• Use duck­bill clips on the crown of your head to lift top curls
• Let hair air dry or use a dif­fuser
• Once your curls are dry, rub a lit­tle pomade into the palm of your hands and smooth over your hair gen­tly
• Do not use a brush or comb on your dry curls
• Reduce tan­gles by sleep­ing on a satin pil­low­case

Type 2 — Wavy Hair

• The wave or curl forms through­out the hair in the shape of the let­ter “S”
• Type 2 hair sticks close to the head; it won’t bounce up, even when lay­ered

There are three Type 2 sub­types:
•2c: Thick and coarse and more resis­tant to styling and will frizz eas­i­ly
•2c celebri­ties: Jen­nifer Net­tles, Daisy Fuentes, Brit­tany Snow
•2b: Medi­um-tex­tured and a lit­tle resis­tant to styling; has a ten­den­cy to frizz
•2b celebri­ties: Joss Stone, Nel­ly Fur­ta­do, Car­rie Under­wood
•2a: Fine, thin and very easy to han­dle; eas­i­ly straight­ened or curled
•2a celebri­ties: Scar­lett Johans­son, Nao­mi Watts, Cate Blanchett

• Use lighter prod­ucts such as mouss­es or gels that enhance curls, but don’t weigh them down
• Use duck­bill clips on the crown of your head to lift top curls
• Let hair air dry or use a dif­fuser
• Once your curls are dry, rub a lit­tle pomade into the palm of your hands and smooth over your hair gen­tly
• Do not use a brush or comb on your dry curls
• Reduce tan­gles by sleep­ing on a satin pil­low­case

Ladies, which hair type are you?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­liste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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478 Comments on "Natural Hair Type Guide: Which Type Are You?"

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I’m still pret­ty far from being able to type my hair, lol…I am pret­ty sure that my hair has all three of the first three types list­ed. I’m pret­ty sure I also have at least one patch that doesn’t fit any­thing I’ve ever seen I couldn’t even describe a pat­tern no z no coil no s just there doing it’s fluffy thing! So I’ve basi­cal­ly giv­en up on call­ing my hair any­thing oth­er than 4. But I don’t knock folks for try­ing because I cer­tain­ly do look for peo­ple whose hair has sim­i­lar char­ac­ter­is­tics to my own whether it be… Read more »

I wish you had used a pic­ture of Tracee when her hair was in a wash-n-go style, that is a rollerset/straw set. Here is a pic of her hair in a more nat­ur­al state. Over­all I don’t like hair typ­ing because I nev­er see one that real­ly seems like my hair.
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Also, I HATE the 4b descrip­tion! I have nev­er seen a z-shaped strand! I think that’s how Andre Walk­er described it because he has nev­er real­ly dealt with 4b hair. My 4b sec­tions are real­ly tight­ly com­pact­ed and they nev­er clump. But the pat­tern of the indi­vid­ual strands is like an irreg­u­lar s-shape with tight coils at the end. I will be so glad when there is an updat­ed def­i­n­i­tion for 4b hair! For those inter­est­ed, please take the tex­ture typ­ing sur­vey on They are work­ing on cre­at­ing a new curl typ­ing sys­tem, and I want to make sure there… Read more »
I have Z on about 1/2 my hand and 4a coils on the oth­er side and small­er 4aish coils in the back and a cot­ton can­dy patch in the back of my head(I’m not all that sure what it does but it is like cot­ton can­dy :-)or I guess someone’s idea of 4c). So I wouldn’t hate what they said for 4b because some of us real­l­ly do have Zs(which can be defined btw but it is hard­er for me to make the it stay that way I guess because coils which kin­da hold on to each oth­er while Z… Read more »

I get real­ly annoyed when peo­ple say z shapes don’t exist — I have them too! SOME OF MY HAIR CLUMPS INTO CRIMPED SHAPED Z’S SO PEOPLE NEED TO STOP SAYING THEY DON’T EXIST


What exact­ly is a “crimped shaped Z”? Would you care to post a pic­ture?

For years on hair boards “Z” meant “zigzag” — lit­er­al­ly like a Z — and I have yet to see any­one with zigzag hair grow­ing out of their scalp. Tech­ni­cal­ly a true zigzag would rep­re­sent a reg­u­lar pat­tern…

My hair is in a pro­tec­tive style now — trust­ed wig and canerow under­neath, but when I take it out to wsah it I would glad­ly post a pic. Do you have an email or a blog or some­thing. The hair on cer­tain sec­tion of my hair clumps into an actu­al z shape. I call it a kinky wave. Where­as a ‘normal’wave is s-shpaed mine actu­al­ly clumps into a z shape. I looks like the 80’s look when peo­ple would crimp their hair, — only a very small one. Those parts of my hair do form a reg­u­lar pat­tern —… Read more »

“looks like the 80?s look when peo­ple would crimp their hair, – only a very small one.” 

Excel­lent descrip­tion!! I have 4c as well with sev­er­al oth­er types mixed in, but when I do ben­tonite clay wash­es that “crimp­ing” pat­tern is clear­ly defined. Very pret­ty if I may so so myself…very.

Me nei­ther and I’ve been nat­ur­al since before Andre’s book came out… I have yet to see a true Z-shaped strand any­where on any­body. Now in terms of a strand hav­ing irreg­u­lar bends (as opposed to reg­u­lar sym­met­ri­cal turns as in curly or coily hair), absolute­ly. No zigza­gs, though. I remem­ber when Nat­u­ral­ly­Curly folks coined the 3c des­ig­na­tion. It’s hard to say exact­ly where 4c came from but at one point Napp­tural­i­ty mem­bers were using the term CNapp (where C = cot­ton or cloud) to describe that tex­ture. There’s even a board, CNap­py­MeNow, that focus­es on that tex­ture. For the record,… Read more »

Good point — I total­ly agree with you about the irreg­u­lar bends as opposed to z-shaped. Be sure to take the tex­ture typ­ing sur­vey on if you haven’t. I want as many kinky-coily types to par­tic­i­pate so they can have a bet­ter idea of how to clas­si­fy and/or describe our hair.

African Violet

Thank you! Because I swear, I’ve looked at my strands when fin­ger detan­gling, and I have yet to find a z-pat­tern. Accord­ing to what Nat­u­ral­ly­Curly has, I’m pre­dom­i­nant­ly 4b with patch­es of 4a at the nape of my neck and parts in the mid­dle of my head. But even still, they’re odd­ly shaped Ss (as in S-shaped and back­ward S-shaped, a cou­ple C-shapes), not sharp Zs.


Oh wow! I thought I was the only one! When I first went nat­ur­al I was con­stant­ly look­ing for z-shaped strands lol!


When­ev­er I think of z shapes I think of crimped hair lol I always con­sid­ered 4 type hair to just be real­ly tight curls!


I think I am the only one that I know with actu­al Z-shaped strands! My hair looks crimped + frizz. They do clump when they feel like it. And the crimps are tight in the back and sides and loose in the front and mid­dle. So I have to agree with the above ladies, this is not a com­mon thing.


I have patch­es of z strands. While most of my hair makes coily corkscrews, some def­i­nite­ly don’t. They look like frizzy jagged waves. In the pic­ture you can kind of make out some of them… and the sweet­ie pie is my Zoe. :-)
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Awwww.…Love, love love!! Wan­na pinch her cheeks =) You two are beau­ti­ful!


*blush­ing* thank you, Anas­ta­sia! That’s my Zoe<3


3 months post relax­er & 3 weeks post big chop, rock­ing a twa & I have no idea what hair type(s) I’ve got. All I know is that my hair loves shea but­ter & olive oil applied when slighty damp, hates heat & being pulled, is soft & healthy. Couldn’t care less about hair typ­ing, for now at least.


Hmmm.…I think of Tracee Ellis-Ross as more a 3b (at least in the pic shown). Aren’t 3c curls sup­posed to be sharpie-sized?


I always read that they were straw sized. To me Tracee Ellis-Ross’s hair def­i­nite­ly is not pen­cil sized those curls are larg­er. I’m not big on hair typ­ing because the descrip­tions nev­er match the icons they show rep­re­sent­ing that hair type.

natural dancer/candice

I real­ly don’t know what my coils are.…all I know is I LOVE them! I describe my curls as tight, coily, spi­raly, frizzy & FUN!
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I like your coils too, reminds me of my mother’s but she can’t bear to grow out her hair, she keeps chop­ping off and prefers it short. But my sis­ter and I (when we were lit­tle) used to play in it alot, ’cause it felt soft like down.


You’re 4A hon­ey.


4, that’s all I care to know LOL.

lol same here, I’m a type 4 over­all, that’s where i stop car­ing. My hair and every­one else’s is too unique to start com­pil­ing heads into A,B,C’s espe­cial­ly when every­one has mul­ti­ple tex­tures! When you go beyond the gen­er­al types peo­ple start get­ting touchy and upset because they don’t see their hair type includ­ed or they can’t fig­ure it out.…it’s just not that seri­ous. Learn­ing your hair type bare­ly scratch­es the sur­face of know­ing what it takes to take care of your own head of indi­vid­ual hair. IDK I think overdefin­ing hair types is just anoth­er way to make this… Read more »

I agree. I don’t even know if some of the curls I have fall into the a, b or c cat­e­go­ry, so I stopped car­ing as such. 

”Learn­ing your hair type bare­ly scratch­es the sur­face of know­ing what it takes to take care of your own head of indi­vid­ual hair” — that is very true!



liberian lady

“TYPE” real­ly, in 2012? plaese don’t make me laugh.


Hon­est­ly, I dont even care!






What is the point/benefits of hair typ­ing? To me it brings out the fact that we are not tru­ly hap­py with our nat­ur­al hair.
Does know­ing the hair “type” help one to care for their hair bet­ter?
Whats the obses­sion with curl pat­tern? I think styles like twist out’s came about as a result of peo­ple with­out any curl pat­tern try­ing to have some sort of curl pat­tern in their hair.
I think all nat­ur­al hair is great, whether straight, curly, kinky etc.

i feel the exact same way as you! for years i’d nev­er heard of such a sys­tem and i con­tin­ue to fail to see the point of why it is rel­e­vant at all. except just anoth­er means of divid­ing peo­ple into cat­e­gories, the way i see it. when some­one says “my hair is 4c” or “my hair is 3b!” i’m just like…well good for you, but you still haven’t told me much about your hair. curl pat­tern, in my expe­ri­ence, doesn’t have a whole lot to do with much of any­thing as relates to hair care. two peo­ple can have… Read more »
I’m so con­fused by hair typ­ing. I’ve always had nat­ur­al hair so I was real­ly intrigued when I learned about this but I have yet to find any­one with hair like mine. 3C describes it best but my hair doesn’t look like any­one I’ve ever seen pic­tured with it. My curls are big and corkscrewy, but my hair is not fine in the slight­est. It’s course to the max, and it puffs from the mid­dle. I could nev­er wear my hair down and it’d lay down and swoosh like Tra­cy Ellis Ross! Lol.  I dun­no. I wish I had a sea­soned… Read more »

My grands hair is like that and braid outs work nice on her hair.


Try using the L.O.I.S hair typ­ing sys­tem just google it and click on a web­site it goes in depth.about hair.


That is the one flaw with the hair typ­ing sys­tem. It stereo­types visu­al aes­thet­ics with phys­i­cal attrib­ut­es. It deosnt men­tion how no mat­ter how big or small your curls are your strands can be fine or coarse and your hair den­si­ty can be thick or thin.


…and of course, to be “polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect”, 4c was left off. Nobody wants to be con­sid­ered 4c, which I think it ridicu­lous. Your hair is your hair, what­ev­er type it may be. Due to what is sit­ting on top of my head right now, I KNOW that hair gets kinki­er than that, haha! My def­i­n­i­tion of 4c hair?…well, it would be sim­i­lar (con­sid­er­ing the descrip­tion above is very broad) but it would be a lit­tle more extreme espe­cial­ly con­cern­ing fragili­ty and “curl” pat­tern.

…my 2 cents


ICAM! 4c gets no love not even from 4c head­ed peo­ple ;-(


Napp­tur­ol­o­gy 101 (

She’s been (on hia­tus) for a year now, but right there is some love for what she calls “c napps”. She’s got 2–3 years worth of entries and a c napps forum.


Not true Bar­bara,

I love my 4c hair. I have dis­cov­ered by trail and error what my hair loves and when I treat it well I can do rock some won­der­ful styles. I put my hair into plait exten­sions from Jan to begin­ning of March and I missed my hair so much, nev­er again, I love the feel of my 4c hair.


0_0 read­ing too much into it…


I am real­ly sur­prised that they tell type 4bs to put a lot of con­di­tion­er in their hair while detan­gling…

When I did that (As a new nat­ur­al) my hair broke like gang busters. I am a 4c all the way hon­ey, and I only use cipriana’s olive and cas­tor oil mix to detan­gle on damp, but most­ly dry (not wet!) hair

my hair is less water logged and does­nt break as easily…lubricated but not weak­ened by the water reten­tion, this as real­ly saved my strands and the full­ness and length reten­tion is much bet­ter.


I am also a 4c and only detan­gle after DCing my hair, I think every­one is dif­fer­ent. For exam­ple I tried the Kim­may leave in con­di­tion­er and my hair was dry and brit­tle even though I tried var­i­ous con­di­tion­ers and oils.


Ladies, I was think­ing the same thing. My mind went: Red alert, Red Alert, major mal­func­tion, at least for me and my 4bc hair. Ladies, if you don’t know who Ms. Cipri­ana is and you are blessed with 4b/c hair get on over to urban bush babes. EVERY thing she sug­gests has worked for me. No mat­ter what I try, I always go back, this time, I stayed!


I see that “some” of 4bs like to “dry” detan­gle. I’m in the camp of 4b/4c’s that must detan­gle on damp, con­di­tion­er-soaked hair. “Dry” detan­gling used to work when my hair was short­er, but does lit­tle for me now. As a mat­ter of fact, I think this is more of a fine vs. coarse and high den­si­ty vs low den­si­ty char­ac­ter­is­tic than a hair type char­ac­ter­is­tic. :o)

The Natural Haven
I agree with Leila. 10 years ago my hair fell into the def­i­n­i­tion of 4a because it had a curl as oppossed to z strands. Fast for­ward to 2011 and many peo­ple would have been con­sid­ered 3b are now 3c and those in 3c are now 4a which means 4as have moved to being 4cs. So I actu­al­ly think sum­maris­ing as type 4 is a bet­ter alter­na­tive. Even bet­ter would be a sys­tem which classed hair by things that make a real dif­fer­ence — curly or kinky or kinky curly, fine or medi­um or thick strands, easy to wet or… Read more »
The Natural Haven
Total­ly post­ed that com­ment on the wrong sec­tion. I did want to chime in on this con­ver­sa­tion too. I dry detan­gle with coconut oil because it works for me. I do spray my hair with water though to give it some flex­i­bil­i­ty in the process but it is not wet. I can actu­al­ly also detan­gle with con­di­tion­er too but my hair has a mil­lion per­cent shrink­age which I am not pre­pared to deal with.  I agree with Loo, I do think that peo­ple with fine and very kinky hair may find that dry detan­gling works. Peo­ple with medi­um sized to thick… Read more »

So glad that you put in ur 2 pence. Just yes­ter­day I was look­ing for def­i­n­i­tions to sep­a­rate kinky vs coily vs curly. Your blog just cov­ered kinky and curly. Is there real­ly a coily? How dif­fer­ent is it from the oth­ers?

The Natural Haven
Thanks Nat­u­rally­b­lessed I appre­ci­ate the com­pli­ment on my work. I do not post pho­tos of myself or fam­i­ly on the net, it is just a pri­va­cy thing for me.  Car­ribean­curl — I think that coils are sim­ply very tiny curls. In the same way peo­ple talk about fin­ger sized curls, pen­cil sized curls, straw sized curls etc — I think coils are essen­tial­ly very small diam­e­ter curls. Coily hair is def­i­nite­ly curly but could also be kinky too. If I wet my hair com­plete­ly and allowed it to shrink it would form coils in parts (I already put up high mag­ni­fi­ca­tion… Read more »


Thanks for shar­ing and always offer­ing great advice both here and on the nat­ur­al haven blog. Can we see your pic­ture one of thses days as it would be nice to put a face to “JC”.

Stay blessed.


Exact­ly how I feel as a type 4a. Our hair is said to be the most frag­ile, and Jc of the Nat­ur­al Haven showed that hair is weak­est when it is wet. So what is with the only detan­gle while loaded with con­di­tion­er and soak­ing wet non­sense. Every­time I did that, I lost a lot of hair. I mean a lot of hair. But with dry/damp detan­gling, the amount of lost hair is very min­i­mal.


I’m most­ly 4b with some 4a curls and I have to detan­gle on damp hair loaded with con­di­tion­er and oil. Detan­gling my hair dry…well let’s just day i might as well get some scis­sors and give myself a hair cut. LOL. Fun­ny, i actu­al­ly find the 4b hair some­times eas­i­er to detan­gle than the 4a sec­tions because those sec­tions actu­al­ly hair thick­er strands.


yeah everyone’s head of hair is dif­fer­ent. this is why hair typ­ing can be a bust, peo­ple some­times use it to to gen­er­al­ize what will work for peo­ple.


That’s inter­est­ing because with me it is the exact opp­po­site. When my hair is dry I can liter­raly hair the strands rub­bing up against eaach oth­er, they more eas­i­ly tan­gle with each oth­er rusult­ing in knots, spilts and oth­er nat­ur­al dis­as­ter. Just goes to show how even among sim­i­lair hair types you real­ly need to fig­ure out what works for you.:


Very use­ful information.…Im 7 months post relax­er looks like I 4a hair.…
S/N Vlog­ger Nap­tural85 describes her hair as 4a but IMO from this arti­cle she is a 3c


She’s a 4a like she says. Leave her hair alone.


I agree Nap­tural85 is not a type 4 at all, her curls are so defined, even when she had a TWA she has love­ly curls, I know they say that 4c hair if mois­turised turns into 3c/4a but I use the LOC method which real­ly mois­turis­es my hair and it isn’t like Naptural85’s.
I would say I am a 4b/c, if I put gel in my hair then I get defined curls with loads of shrink­age but when I wash my hair oh yes, 100% 4b/c.

I always find hair typ­ing help­ful. For instance, if I’m look­ing for advice on youtube, it’s help­ful to know if the per­son has sim­i­lar tex­ture hair to mine to give me a bet­ter idea if the advice will work. Hav­ing 4A hair, if I watch 3c videos, my results will more than like­ly not match their results. It also helps when form­ing “hair crush­es” and hav­ing hair aspi­ra­tions. Cov­et­ing a tex­ture you don’t have will just leave you feel­ing depressed and think­ing the grass is green­er else­where and that YOUR hair isn’t good enough. Look­ing at peo­ple with gor­geous locs… Read more »

So what about 4c then?


I would love a good descrip­tion for 4c.…anybody?

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