A Complete Guide To Discovering Your Natural Hair Type — and How to Take Care of Each Texture
We got all the expert tips.
It’s a given that different types of natural hair will require different kinds of care.
Have you ever tried a product that your wavy-haired girlfriend raved about, only to be disappointed when it did nothing for your tight curls? Or maybe you didn’t realize that your specific natural hair type needs more moisture, or more frequent washing, or less protein-based treatments, while all of the above worked for someone else.
Though sometimes controversial, the natural hair type chart is one of the first tools naturalistas use to begin to understand their hair and how to best care for it. The alphanumeric chart lists hair types based on texture, from numbers 1 to 4, with subcategories of A, B, and C — meaning someone can be a 2B while another is a 4C. 1 is the straightest category, with texture increasing all the way to 4, which is the kinkiest curl.
No matter your hair type (they’re all beautiful!), you’ll want to know how to take care of your strands. That's why InStyle spoke with celebrity hairstylists Lacy Redway and Ursula Stephen to find out what you need to know about your unique strands.
Type 1 ranges from 1A (bone straight) to 1C (straight with a slight wave), and is notorious for not requiring heavy product. Stephen, who has worked with A-listers like Rihanna, Zendaya, Laverne Cox, and more, recommends lighter product usage for those with type 1 hair. "Finer hair doesn’t require as much moisture," she tells us. "I suggest washing your hair with Dove's Clarify & Hydrate Shampoo and Conditioner, as its charcoal-infused formula efficiently removes product build-up without stripping hair, leaving it hydrated and soft."
Redway, who works with Nexxus as a style and trends curator, agrees. “If you have type 1 hair but it’s also super fine, you want to stay away from products that will weigh it down,” she shares. "You also really want to follow the suggestion of putting conditioner on from mid-shaft to ends, instead of getting it on your scalp. This may weigh your strands down and make your hair look greasy fresh out of wash day."
Type 2 hair ranges from a beachy wave to loose curls, and tends to hold a curl longer than type 1 hair. For Redway, a salt spray or leave-in conditioner and bun gives you all the style options you need with this hair type. "I love to use salt spray like Ouai Wave Spray on this hair type as a styler to really give that beachy wave effect," the stylist explains. "I use a leave-in conditioner like Amika The Wizard Detanging Primer on damp hair and twirl the hair into a bun. Once the bun is let down, you will have some gorgeous waves to change up your look or keep your strands tamed."
However, if this is your first rodeo with a leave-in, Redway offers some wise shopping advice. "I always recommend buying a smaller quantity, almost like a sampler or travel size of a product to try it first," she suggests. "This way you're able to discover if it’s the right product for your hair type or not."
Type 3 hair brings us fully into the land of the curl, ranging from looser to tighter ringlets. That said, the most important tip for type 3s to remember is: moisture, moisture, moisture.
"For curly hair, I recommend staying away from products that will dry out your hair — anything with a lot of alcohol in it,” says Stephen. “Instead, opt for moisturizing products such as gels, mousses, and curl creams. I recommend using Dove’s Amplified Textures Detangling Conditioner. Not only does this coconut milk-infused conditioner add moisture to your curls, but it also provides maximum slip to comb through your hair with great ease, resulting in ready-to-style hair.”
Stephen is also a fan of co-washing for type 3s, which is a method of simply washing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. "This often leaves hair smoother, softer, and easier to manage."
Type 4 hair ranges from a tight ringlet to a kinky, coily texture — but this type requires some specific care. "Type 4 curls tend to be drier than most hair types, so I always recommend keeping your type 4 strands really moisturized and hydrated," Redway advises. "The Nexxus Keraphix Damage Healing Masque is such an inexpensive splurge because of the retail price and it adds proteins back into your hair strands. Creme of Nature’s Moisturizing Milk Masque Repairing Treatment is also good to help repair dryness or heat damage." Redway also offers another luxurious care tip for anyone with type 4 hair: steaming. "Giving your hair a good steam will allow the cuticles to open up and help product penetrate," she says. "The Q-Redew Hair Steamer is a great steamer designed to help enhance curls and coils while also detangling your strands."
On top of treatments, creating a washing schedule is also important for this hair type. "I recommend washing it once a week, rather than daily to ensure your hair is moisturized, clean, and healthy," Stephen says. "Wash your hair with Dove's Amplified Textures Hydrating Cleanse Shampoo. It's sulfate-free formula removes build-up, while restoring shine, moisture and volume to your curls.” For type 4s, Stephen is also a fan of washday styles that lock in moisture. "I suggest opting to do twist outs and double-strand twists as a form of protective styling, using Dove's Amplified Textures Twist in Moisture Shaping Butter Cream.”