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

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I think there should be a three tier hair typing system. The first tier can keep the current alphanumeric system for curl or lack of curl size. The second tier should involve helping people figure out the width of an individual strand. Fine or coarse. “F or C” Then the third tier would be the density of strands thick or thin. “K or N” For example my hair would be 4aFK . So good advise for me would be that I need a lot of moisture as 4a hair tends to be dry. It shouldn’t be a heavy product that… Read more »

GREAT idea tabitha! made sense to me immediately:-)


I like this idea. Have you completed the texture typing survey on

If not, please do so they can make necessary adjustments to the system.


There already is one like that. I think it’s callled the fia system or something. There’s also the LOIS system that doesn’t use numbers at all but descriptions.

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… 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… 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… 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… 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… 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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