Curly Hair Types: Identifying Curl Patterns

Whether they're softly spiraled or coily and voluminous, curls are undeniably beautiful. But not all curly hair is the same. Every texture behaves differently—and understanding your client's unique curl pattern is the first step to keeping their hair healthy and strong.

All curly hair has natural arcs and angles that expose openings in the cuticle layer, allowing natural moisture and nutrients to escape. Unlike straight hair, scalp oils can’t travel down the curly hair shaft, which leaves curls prone to dryness. That’s why curls crave nourishing, hydrating products. And different types of curls need different types of care to look their best.

Ouidad, the world-renowned stylist who opened the first ever curly hair salon, identified the four different curl types — Loose, Classic, Tight, and Coily curls — and developed a signature line of products that complement each type. Because every curl needs the regimen that treats it right. 

Loose Curl Pattern & Behavior (Types 2a & 2b)

A wavy, relaxed “S” shape curl pattern. This curl type may be non-uniform—straighter at the crown, wavy in the middle, and drier on the ends, for example. Dehydration, damage, and heavy styling products can “straighten” out these curls. Loose curls need lightweight, curl-amplifying moisture and hold.

Classic Curl Pattern & Behavior (Types 2c & 3a)

A consistent and defined “S” shape curl pattern. This curl type tends to be uniform, with a coiling shape that extends from roots to ends. When dehydrated or damaged, these curls can become frizzy and lose definition. Classic curls need gentle care and balanced moisture.

Tight Curl Pattern & Behavior (Types 3b & 3c)

A small corkscrew-like curl pattern throughout the hair. These tight ringlets tend to be finer and lighter in weight. Without proper moisture, the hair shaft tends to expand and can lose its shape, causing curls to appear dense and unmanageable. Tight curls need deep hydration for maximum softness and strength.

Coily Curl Pattern & Behavior (Types 4a, 4b 4c)

An angular, “Z” type zig-zag from roots to end. The Z pattern is so tightly coiled that it can cause curls to shrink up to 75% of the hair’s actual length. Because this curl type is most often fine and delicate, it can be susceptible to breakage if not cared for properly. Coily curls need protective moisture.

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