All 4 Hair Types & How to Style Them

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Frizz, piecey strands, dried ends, and hair that just isn't working — we've all been there. Not to mention, we've all spent a lot of time and money trying to find a haircare routine that works for our unique texture. In my own case, I declared my frizzy straight-ish hair to be impossible to my stylist, who responded that my hair was not, in fact, straight, but rather Type 2, and every single product I had been using since middle school was wrong and the root of all my hairstyling frustrations. 

That said, understanding your hair type is key to enhancing your natural texture and finding the perfect styling routine that you know will work for you. Yet as straightforward as "what's your hair type?" seems, it's not quite so simple, so we asked celebrity hairstylists to help us understand the four basic hair types and the tried-and-true universally flattering ways to style them.

The Basics 

"Hair type refers to your hair's curl pattern," explains celebrity hairstylist and natural hair YouTuber, Annagjid "Kee" Taylor, adding that they are categorized by numbers and letters. "The numbers — 1 to 4 — refer to curl families and the letters — A to C — indicate how tightly wound the actual curls are. So, type 1 is basically no curl/straight. Type 2 means waves, while 3s are spiraled curls and 4s are kinks and coils."

Hair type depends on the shape of the hair follicle on your scalp, and just like the rest of our bodies, come in different shapes and sizes, ranging from straight hair's round follicle to oval follicles creating wavy and curly hair. And because of this great diversity, "Many people don't fall neatly into one category," says the Kardashian's go-to stylist, Andrew Fitzsimons. "But it provides a fairly good frame of reference when discussing curl types." 

Type 1 Hair: Straight Shooter

What Is It?

"Type 1 hair is basically straight hair — no curls or natural waves," explains Fitzsimons. "Type 1 hair may be more prone to oiliness, so striking a delicate balance with your haircare is important." 

How to Style

Naturally straight hair often has a wispy fine texture that lacks volume, so for starters, aim for a cut that has lots of layers, says Fitzsimons, to "provide movement, body and versatility." 

The goal with styling straight hair is to avoid the dreaded flat-face, so to rev up the volume on the daily. "Choose lightweight oils and conditioners without adding too much weight," says Fitzsimons, who says the same goes for styling products, nixing products like waxes, creams and dense oils as "too much weight will take all the volume out of your hair." 

Tips and Tricks 

This hair type has the tendency to become greasy and shiny faster than other types because the natural oils from the follicle can travel down the straight strands more easily than textured hair. So the trick here is to avoid over-shampooing, says Fitzsimons, as it can "trigger your scalp to produce excess sebum," which will make your hair even more greasy and sticky. Make a good-smelling, volumizing dry shampoo, like Living Proof's Perfect hair Day, your best friend to extend the style for another day. Your future hair will thank you.

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Type 2 Hair: Loose + Wavy

What Is It?

"Hair type 2 is the lightest of textures," says stylist Larry Sims, the go-to stylist for Regina King and Gabrielle Union and. "In type 2 you'll see a slight disconnect from straight hair to a light, very loose curl. It'll start from a soft sort of beach, natural wave to almost a loose curl."

It's common for type 2 hair to have a stronger curl close to the head, while the body "tends to have a difficult time holding onto the definition of their curl pattern," Fitzsimons adds.

How to Style

Because type 2 isn't exactly straight and not quite curly, you can play around with a lot of different styles pretty easily. Sadly, this is a loaded blessing. 

The catch: because type 2 is neither here nor there, it carries the struggles of the types it bookends, so nailing that perfect product balance of controlling frizz (type 3) and not weighing down hair (type 1) can sometimes feel elusive. Less is more with type 2, so channel your inner minimalist and beware of heavy-handedness.

One of the most popular styles, and Fitzsimons' go-to is the model-off-duty vibe of effortless beachy waves. To make the styling actually effortless, layer a texturizing mousse, like Ouai's Dry Texture Foam, or a multi-tasking lightweight gel, like Briogeo's Curl Charisma Frizz Control Gel, to strands, avoiding the root because although it's not as prone to oiliness as type 1, it's not completely free of the struggle. To really nail the look, Fitzsimons cautions that "light manipulation" with styling tools may be necessary to help hold the natural curl.

"What's great about type 2 is that you have the versatility of being able to go from straight to curly without really damaging the integrity of the natural curl," explains Sims. "It's a looser curl to begin with, so the less you have to fight to get it straight, but definitely use a heat protectant spray if you're going to blow it out."

Tips and Tricks

Type 2 can be temperamental when it comes to frizz, so be sure to check the weather before you invest time blowing it out.

Or, as Sims simply suggests: lean into your natural hair. 

"Going with the hair's natural texture, a lot of times, looks fuller and healthier. And just to enhance that, I would go with sea salt sprays and a leave-in to give that definition without being overly-textured." 

Type 3 Hair: Curly and Springy

What Is It?

"Type 3 is a super defined, clean curl, a very definitive "S" pattern but it has the range," says Sims. "It can go from the looser end, like a medium ringlet curl, to a tighter 'S,' but it still has a softness and manageability that is really nice, and type 3 tends to be a bit thicker too, especially at the root."

How to Style

From the looser loops to the tighter corkscrews, type 3 casts a wide net of curls, but a hallmark of type 3 is its frizzy nature, especially if you're on the lighter side of type 3.

"There are so many different ways for a 3 to style," says Sims. "I would just do a leave-in conditioner and a curl cream. Type 3 texture is where you go into your heavier cream products because it's going to be a little more absorbent than types 1 and 2." 

Sims's favorite styling technique is the scrunch-and-go, meaning you put the product into your palms and scrunch the product into your hair starting at the bottom and working your way up. 

"The best way to keep the curls intact is to let it air dry, but obviously it's winter, so if you don't want wet hair, I suggest diffusing from the bottom up and not using your fingers are much as possible," he cautions. "The more you touch your hair, the frizzier it becomes and the more disrupted the definition."

Those with tight corkscrew curls need "a bit more oomph" in their products, explains Taylor. "Those curls tend to be much more dense and coarse, and be sure to deep condition once a week to maintain the hair's moisture and elasticity," she says.

And when in doubt, follow Sims's rule of thumb: The curlier the hair, the drier it becomes, and the more moisture you need to add, especially if your hair is damaged.

Tips and Tricks

"With 3, I think you definitely have to make sure you have moisture in your hair and be careful with detangling," says Sims. "Brushing from the root down breaks the hair and creates split ends. Instead you should use a leave-in and brush from the tips up to the root in sections if you're trying to detangle."

Type 4 Hair: Coily and Voluminous

What Is It?

"Type 4 is the 'kinky' hair family and tends to be very delicate," says Taylor. Within the type 4 hair family, she describes the lightest curl variation as "tightly coiled with a clear curl pattern" while the stronger type 4 hair is "still tightly coiled but very dense with less definition in the curl."

How to Style

"You're going to want thicker leave-in formulas that work to minimize frizz, retain moisture and hold your curl definition," says Taylor, who adds that heavy oils and waxes should be avoided.

"The thing about 4 hair is it becomes a lifestyle," says Sims, regardless of whether you rock what you were born with or you wash and set your hair. "To me, type 4 hair is the most versatile because it can morph into this really big, voluminous, afro-y sort of look as the days go." 

To go the wash-and-set route, Sims recommends starting with clean hair and shampooing on your wash day, followed by setting wet hair with twists or rollers and sitting under the dryer. Once dry, pull the rollers out with oil for a super defined curl, and from there. "It's really just maintaining the set by sleeping in a bonnet at night and applying a light oil — Flawless makes a great one — on the hair to enhance it as the days go on."

Alternatively, many type 4 hair types love to go completely au naturel with their texture. "If you're someone like a Lupita and you have super coily hair and you just don't deal with the sets and all of that, then the styling move is a curl refresher spray, and then just for softness, a bit of water and leave-in conditioner on a daily basis," suggests Sims.

Tricks to Tame

"You'll get many more levels of different looks from it if you just allow it to do its thing and continue to add oil on the daily," says Sims. "A lot of people — for the longest — tried to fight what they were born with. Lean in favor of the versatility, run your fingers through it more and just allow it to be."

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