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The Ultimate Guide to Natural Hair Textures and Curl Types

A cheat sheet on natural hair textures from loose waves to tight, corkscrew curls.
May 22, 2023

Curls come in many different shapes and sizes, from loose waves to bouncy ringlets to tight coils. Because of this, trying to figure out what type of hair you have can be a little tricky. Trust us when we say, deciphering your curl type is more than worth it because once you do, you can learn how to better care for your natural texture and what products work best to hydrate, shape and define your curls. 


To help you narrow down your curl type, we’re sharing what you need to know about different hair textures and curl patterns, plus curl-friendly hair products to make good hair days a constant in your routine.

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What Does It Mean to Have Textured Hair?

First things first, maybe you aren’t sure if you have textured hair. While everyone has a hair texture of some sort, textured hair refers to strands that have shape, especially tight or kinky curls. Textured hair is also often used synonymously with natural Black hair, although the two aren’t always the same. Ultimately, you can identify as having textured strands if your natural hair texture involves a curl pattern. 

What Is a Curl Pattern?

Your curl pattern is decided by the natural state of your hair after the wash process. Since your hair is free of dirt oil, and product buildup, your true curl pattern can be seen.There are three main natural textures: wavy, curly, and coily hair. If you're well versed in the natural hair world, you know to refer to these textures as type 2 (wavy), type 3 (curly), and type 4 (coily). Additionally, there are also sub-types lettered A through C, which label how loose or tight your curl pattern is. Here’s more information on each of the different curl patterns and sub-types.

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Type 2A

Do you notice that your hair flaunts a fine texture with a slight curl? If so, you're working with type 2A hair. This curl type is much closer to a straight texture, making it easy to flaunt sleek strands or a slightly tousled curl without the extra handiwork.

Type 2B

If you notice that your strands are pretty straight at the roots and form into waves toward the middle of your length, this is a clear indicator that you have type 2B hair. 

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Type 2C

If you have defined waves and ringlets, chances are, you're working with type 2C hair. This texture is much more coarse than other textures in the type 2 family. Keep in mind, this means you'll have to put in more work with the help of hairstyling products and heat tools if you want to achieve pin-straight strands.

Type 3A 

If you have large, bouncy curls, there is a good chance you have type 3A hair. This texture sports well-defined curls with a spiral or ringlet shape.

Type 3B

If you have a mane full of type 3B curls, your hair sports a springy and voluminous texture. A slight difference from type 3A curls, your strands have a smaller width, which in turn gives your mane a fuller appearance.

Type 3C

If your curls resemble tight corkscrews, then, you're more than likely dealing with a 3C hair type. Featuring thicker strands with a tighter curl pattern, this hair type often features lots of volume to give you tons of body and movement.

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Type 4A 

If you have 4A hair, then you have small and tight coils that resemble a zig-zag pattern. While other curl patterns may start mid-length, this coily texture begins at the scalp and continues through the ends.

Type 4B

The defined shape of 4B hair results in a 'Z' shaped pattern that tends to bend in sharp angles instead of curling. If you have 4B hair, you may deal with dryness and tangles.

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Type 4C

Sporting a super-tight zig-zag pattern, 4C hair boasts densely packed strands that are naturally prone to major shrinkage. Oftentimes, 4C hair does not retain moisture easily and is prone to breakage when it’s not properly cared for.

Keep in mind, while these are the main classifications used for curl types, experts have argued that there are even more curl types that we have yet to give clear identifiers. Additionally, your curl pattern can change throughout your head, so it’s a very real possibility that you have a mix of one or more curl type.

How Do You Identify Your Hair Texture?

If you’re wondering what type of naturally curly hair you have, it's actually super easy to figure out. Like we noted above, the key to identifying your curl type is to pay attention to your strands. Of course, you'll want to make sure that your hair is moisturized and healthy, so give your strands a cleansing session with the help of the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Plump Hydrating Shampoo, Paraben-Free and L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Plump Hydrating Conditioner, Paraben-Free. This duo is formulated with hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture and deeply re-plump dry strands (of all hair types and textures), add bounce, body and shine.

Once your mane is nice and clean, simply look at the shape of your damp strands in the mirror. If they have a wavy texture, you know that you're in type 2 territory. If you’re dealing with springy corkscrew curls, then, you're part of the type 3 family and if you have a mane full of small, tight zig-zag curls, you have type 4 hair.

Is It Possible to Have More Than One Curl Type?

Now that you're educated on different hair textures, you're probably wondering if it's possible to have more than one curl type? As we mentioned, the answer is a resounding yes, it's actually quite common for those with textured hair to have various textures at one time. While managing it can add more steps to your hair care routine, your strands will be in good shape as long as you care for each texture the right way.

What Products Should I Use to Care for My Curly Hair Texture?

Just as oily hair and damaged hair have their own products that work best for them, curly textures are no exception. Different products will suit different hair textures. Keep reading to learn about the best products for curly texture to maximize your hair care routine. 

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Moisture Seal Shampoo, L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Moisture Seal Conditioner

This duo is suitable for all types of curly hair and contains hyaluronic acid and castor oil to seal curls and waves with long-lasting moisture. This results in reduced frizz, enhanced shine and bouncy, defined curls without weigh-down. 

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Micellar Shampoo 

This water-to-foam, clarifying shampoo works best for those with a curly or coily hair texture. It effortlessly lathers to cleanse the hair and scalp of stubborn product build-up, dirt and oils. Use it as needed for a deep clean that revives your curls without stripping your hair of moisture.

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Refresh & Reshape Leave-In Spray

If your waves or curls feel limp and lifeless by day three, then you need to get your hands on this leave-in spray. Best for wavy to coily hair types, this treatment revives waves, curls and coils with moisture to lightly rehydrate and reshape curls with no sticky texture, crunch or residue. 

L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Non-Stop Dreamy Curls Leave-In Conditioner

This curl-enhancing leave-in moisturizes and defines curls without lingering greasy textures or crunch. Suitable for those with wavy, curly or coily hair, the hyaluronic acid and castor oil infused formula is nourishing without feeling heavy.

L’Oréal Paris Everpure Sulfate Free Simply Clean Curl Cocoon Creme

This hydrating cream moisturizes and defines your natural curl pattern with a gentle, caring formula free of synthetic fragrance, sulfates, parabens, dyes, silicones, DMDM hydantoin (a known carcinogen). This is important because these ingredients can dry out the hair and irritate the scalp, which can lead to lifeless curls, split ends and frizz.

L’Oréal Paris Everpure Sulfate Free Simply Clean Melting Jelly Mask

Curly hair is prone to dryness and dehydration because it’s difficult for the natural oils on your scalp to travel down the hair and add moisture. Because of this, we suggest this mask for those with wavy to coily hair because the jelly-to-cream texture melts into strands to instantly detangle and lock in hydration. Immediately after use, your curls are softer, more defined and bouncy.

Next: 10 Ways to Protect Your Hair While You Sleep

Photographer: Nelson Huang, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Producer: Becca Solovay, Beauty Content Director: Shalwah Evans, Visual Designer: Sarah Duvivier, Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi, Wardrobe Assistant: Jazmine Alzado, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Akihisa Yamaguchi, Digi Tech: Jacky Jiang, Photo Assistant: Tyler Andrews, Model: Erin Williams

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