There Are 12 Different Hair Types. Here’s How to Know Which One You Have

Welcome to Hair 101

You might be thinking there are only a handful of hair types—like straight or curly—but did you know that there are actually 12 different hair types? OK, technically there are four main types with three subcategories for each of them, but still, that brings us to a total of 12, which is a lot more than we ever considered.

Not to worry, with the help of our panel of hair experts, we’ll break everything down for you ahead, including tips for determining your hair type, so you can figure out which haircuts work best for you and the products that'll help you make the most of your natural texture.

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Meet the Experts

  • Dave Stanwell is a celebrity hair stylist, groomer and expert for House of Frieda based in Los Angeles. After training with L’Oréal and Toni & Guy for coloring and cutting, he began building his celebrity clientele, which includes Camila Mendes, Lucy Hale and Laura Dern. His work has been featured in major publications around the world, including L’uomo Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar.
  • Sabrina Ahmed is an Aveda Institute-trained hairstylist with over ten years of experience. Her passion for curly hair stems from years of practice on her own hair after having difficulty finding someone well-versed in natural hair care in her home state of Minnesota. With clients that range from the everyday curly girl to celebrities like H.E.R, Ahmed has created a niche in the Los Angeles market. She is now one of the go-to stylists for curly girls looking to embrace their natural curls and optimize their curl patterns.   
  • Mariel Falla is a cosmetology educator for the Aveda Arts & Sciences Institutes New York. Prior to Aveda, she worked as a stylist at Rob Peetoom Salon in Brooklyn, NY, and Asanda Spa in TK city, where she cut and colored hair.
hair types chart: an illustrated chart depicting the different hair types
Art4stock/Getty Images

What Are the Different Hair Types?

“There are four main hair types—straight, wavy, curly and coily [or kinky],” explains Falla. She adds, “Within those four types, you have a variation in textures,” which is what will determine your exact hair type.

Appreciate a bulleted list as much as we do? Here’s a clear breakdown of the four main hair types and their subcategories, courtesy of Ahmed:

1. Type 1 - Straight: 
   - 1A - Fine and thin
   - 1B - Medium and textured
   - 1C - Coarse and thick

2. Type 2 - Wavy: 
   - 2A - Loose waves
   - 2B - Slight waves with more texture
   - 2C - Defined waves with a bit of frizz

3. Type 3 - Curly: 
   - 3A - Loose curls with a well-defined S shape
   - 3B - Medium curls with more volume
   - 3C - Tight curls with a lot of volume and texture

4. Type 4 - Kinky: 
   - 4A - Tightly coiled curls with a defined S pattern
   - 4B - Z-shaped curls with less defined coils
   - 4C - Tight coils with no defined curl pattern

How Do I Figure Out My Hair Type?

“This can be tricky sometimes,” concedes Stanwell, but “a rule of thumb is to let your hair dry naturally and individually feel out each strand to see if it’s coarse or thin when you touch it.” That’s a starting point for you at home, but don’t be afraid to enlist your stylist’s help if you’re still uncertain.

“As stylists, we’re exposed to a wide range of hair types on a daily basis and are able to categorize where someone might fall,” assures Falla. “Sometimes people even have a combination of multiple hair types on different areas of their head,” she adds.

Hoping for another easy-to-follow list? We’ve got you. Ahmed shares her best tips for figuring out your hair type below.

First, observe the curl pattern: After washing your hair, let it air dry without using any styling products. Take a close look at the shape of your strands. 

  • If your hair is mostly straight with no noticeable curl or wave, you have Type 1 straight hair.
  • If your hair has a slight wave or loose curls, you have Type 2 wavy hair.
  • If your hair has well-defined curls that form an "S" shape, you have Type 3 curly hair.
  • If your hair has tight coils or kinky curls, you have Type 4 kinky hair.

Next, look at the texture: Determine the texture of your hair by assessing its thickness and diameter.

  • If your hair feels fine and thin, you have fine texture.
  • If your hair feels medium in thickness, you have medium texture.
  • If your hair feels thick and coarse, you have coarse texture.

By understanding both your curl pattern and hair texture, you can determine your hair type more accurately. Keep in mind that hair types can vary, and you may have a combination of different hair types, which is why it’s always helpful to consult with a hairstylist as well. 

OK, Let’s Get into More Details for Each of the Hair Types

hair types straight: a photo of actress gwyneth paltrow
Dominic Lipinski/Getty Images

Type 1 – Straight

  • Characteristics: Straight hair is generally smooth and doesn’t have a wave or curl. It can be fine, medium or coarse in texture. When styling with hot tools, this hair type can sometimes be extremely resistant to holding a curl or wave.
  • Recommendations: Straight hair looks sleek and shiny. It’s versatile and can be styled in various ways. When considering which haircut to get, you can try a blunt bob, a layered cut or a classic long and straight style. This hair type tends to lack volume and lose it quickly, so a texturizing spray or root boosting product would be good to have in your arsenal.
hair types wavy: a photo of model chrissy teigen
Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images

Type 2 – Wavy

  • Characteristics: Wavy hair has natural waves that can range from loose to more defined. It tends to be thicker and have more texture than straight hair.
  • Recommendations: Wavy hair has a beachy and effortless look to it. Styles like loose waves, tousled updos or half-up half-down hairstyles complement this hair type best. Wavy hair will typically need a combination of products that give it moisture and a level of hold, as this hair type can naturally appear frizzy without any assistance.
hair types curly: a photo of actress sandra oh
Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

Type 3 – Curly

  • Characteristics: Curly hair has well-defined curls that range from loose to tight. It is often prone to frizz and can be medium to thick in texture.
  • Recommendations: Curly hair naturally tends to look voluminous and has a bouncy texture. Styles like curly ponytails, twist-outs or layered cuts work well in curly hair. For fine to medium curls, Falla suggests using a lightweight leave-in conditioner, whereas for higher density/coarse curls, you’ll need products that have a bit more weight to them, like a styling cream or a gel.
hair types coily: a photo of actress lupita nyong'o
John Lamparski/Getty Images

Type 4 – Coily or Kinky

  • Characteristics: Coily hair will appear to be super tiny spirals or sometimes come in a zig zag formation. It is the most fragile and prone to dryness among the hair types.
  • Recommendations: Coily hair can be styled in various ways, such as afros, braids or twist-outs. Because of its tendency toward dryness, coily hair needs all the moisture, which is why Falla recommends using a leave-in spray, or styling cream with a gel.

Any Other Considerations to Note Regarding Hair Types?

“In addition to the curl pattern and texture, there are a few more considerations to take note of that can help you better understand and care for your specific hair type,” shares Ahmed.

1. Porosity: Hair porosity refers to how well your hair can absorb and retain moisture. It can be categorized into three types:

  • Low Porosity: Hair with low porosity has tightly closed cuticles, making it more resistant to moisture absorption. It may take longer for products to penetrate the hair shaft.
  • Medium Porosity: Hair with medium porosity has a balanced ability to absorb and retain moisture.
  • High Porosity: Hair with high porosity has open cuticles, allowing moisture to be absorbed quickly but also making it prone to losing moisture easily.

2. Density: Hair density refers to the number of hair strands on your head. It can be categorized into three types:

  • Low Density: Hair with low density has fewer strands per square inch, giving a thinner appearance.
  • Medium Density: Hair with medium density has an average number of strands per square inch.
  • High Density: Hair with high density has a higher number of strands per square inch, giving a fuller appearance.

3. Elasticity: Hair elasticity refers to how well your hair stretches and returns to its original shape without breaking. It can indicate the health and strength of your hair. Healthy hair has good elasticity, while damaged hair may have reduced elasticity.

Understanding these additional factors can help you choose the right products, styling techniques and treatments to maintain and enhance the health and appearance of your hair.

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...