Unravelling Hair Types

November 27th, 2023

November 27th, 2023

If you’ve not noticed that the curly hair market has exploded in recent years, where have you been?  Driven by social media hashtags such as #curlygirlmethod, its rapid growth has brought an increasing variety of products and styling techniques which help define, volumise, strengthen and hydrate beautiful curls.  But what if you are at the beginning of the curly hair journey, or just looking to take extra good care of your clients’ curls this year, where do you start?   Warpaint does the hard work for you.

curly hair

The Hair-Typing System

Back in the 1990s, US hair stylist and salon owner – and multiple Emmy-winning and personal to Oprah and Halle Berry – Andre Walker created a new, four category hair-typing system to identify different curl patterns and promote his products.  This grew in popularity and is now widely used to better understand hair and figure out which products to use for individual hair types – and which to avoid.

Debate has long raged as to whether this system is too definitive and restricting.  As everyone has a different head of hair, you can never fully encompass all types of hair into four categories.  We guide you through the process of classification so that you can recognise what you’re seeing.

Walker’s Four Hair Types

1 – Straight – Naturally dries straight with no texture.

2 – Wavy – Loose, yet definitive, S-pattern.

3 – Curly –  Springy, defined curls in the shape of a spiral.

4 – Kinky/ Coily – Textured with tight coils and high shrinkage.

Each is divided into three smaller categories: A, B and C.  Across all types, As usually have looser curl patterns and Cs are often tighter and smaller.

curly hair

Type 2B

2A – fine, tousled hair which can easily be manipulated using heat.

2B – slightly thicker with s-shaped waves that begin in the middle.

2C – thick hair with well-defined s-shaped waves starting at the roots.

curly hair

Type 3C

3A – fine hair with big, loose curls, roughly the diameter of ‘pavement chalk’.

3B – slightly thicker with tighter curls which form springy ringlets, the diameter of a Sharpie.

3C – thick with densely packed corkscrew curls, the diameter of a pencil.

Type 4A

4A – irregular and well-defined coils, around the diameter of a crochet needle.

4B – less defined, denser z-shaped coils which bend at sharp angles.

4C- tightly coiled with no defined curl pattern and a lot of shrinkage.

Top Concerns

Once identified, this is the fun part!  Alter the hair regime using products that are specifically beneficial.  By tailoring the routine, you will be able to create the desired curls quicker and build a healthy head of hair.  We ask the hair pros for their advice.

Type 2 – Wavy

The main concerns are frizz, lack of volume and curl definition.  Volume is lost if it’s weighed down by heavy products like oils and butters so, instead, use lightweight alternatives like gels and mousses.  Elinor Davies-Farn, Founder of Olew, suggests Hair Pineappling.  “To prevent friction and frizz while sleeping, gather curls into a loose, high ponytail or bun on top of your head before bed.  You can also use a silk or satin pillowcase to reduce friction,” she explains.

curly hair

Elinor Davies-Farn

Type 3 – Curly

Prone to dryness and frizz, focus on hydrating and defining curls.  Founder of curl specialists, Bouclème, Michele Scott-Lynch, explains.  “Curls need weightless moisture to give them bounce and to retain their natural pattern.  Water-based products with a good balance of humectants (which draw moisture into hair) and emollients (oils and butters) deliver this best.”  She also advises, “Leaving some, or all, of the conditioner in will help transform dry frizzy hair into beautifully defined curls.”

Curly hair

Michele Scott-Lynch

Type 4 – Kinky/Coily

Coily hair is the most fragile type and needs careful handling, alongside products designed for strengthening.  Anabel Kingsley, Brand President and Consultant Trichologist at Philip Kingsley, highlights the importance of hydration: “Curly or coiled textures are the most fragile of hair textures and therefore more susceptible to breakage.  This is due to the curl structure which forms weak points in the hair, think of it like a bend in a straw.”  Because of this, she advises to keep curls nourished and hydrated to “retain their spring and bounce.”  Hydrating hair products can also benefit the overall appearance by avoiding dullness and encouraging shine so curls can look happier and healthier.

curly hair

Anabel Kingsley

Top Tips

“Focus on conditioning,” suggests Jonathan Andrew, Global Brand Ambassador for Fudge Professional.  “Curly hair is far more susceptible to being dry because natural oils can’t get from root to tip, so making sure you are supplementing products to support it.  Health and condition will always lead to it looking stronger and more defined.  A good shampoo and conditioner, such as Fudge Professional Damage Rewind Shampoo and Conditioner (£13.50) and some Blow Dry Aqua Primer (£15.50) really locks in condition.”

Jonathan Andrew

“Factors like texture and porosity also need to be considered, as fine textures can be easily weighed down so need less moisture, and highly porous hair loses moisture quickly,” Michele Scott-Lynch explains.  Porosity can determine how you apply products – “If hair is porous, layer products on top of one another; this will help trap moisture into hair for longer.”  A top pro tip is the LOC (Liquid/Leave-in, Oil and Cream) method for high porous hair and the LCO (Liquid/Leave-in, Cream and Oil) method for low porous hair.

As a trichologist, Anabel Kingsley emphasises the importance of maintaining a healthy and clean scalp: “Hair health is intrinsically linked to scalp health, and for balanced, optimal scalp environment your scalp needs to be clean in order to be healthy and flourish.”  She explains how the build-up of oils on your scalp can “harbour a breeding ground for bacteria” which could cause dandruff and irritation, possibly leading to hair loss.  Therefore, “frequent shampooing is essential, try not to go longer than three days.”

Remember that curl pattern and hair health can change drastically, and for example, menopause can cause dryness, changes in texture and even increase curliness and waviness.

Top Ingredients

Always read the ingredients list of the products you are buying, counsels Elinor Davies-Farn, so you can identify any specific chemicals to avoid.  “Parabens are preservatives used in many cosmetics, including hair products,” she explains.  “They have been linked to hormone disruption and should be avoided when possible.”  She also recommends avoiding shampoos that include sulfates, as they are known to cause dryness by stripping away the hair’s natural oils.  When shopping for hair smoothening and straightening treatments, you should check ingredients lists for ‘formaldehyde, methylene glycol, or quaternium-15.’  This is because, “They can release toxic fumes when heated, posing health risks.”

Top Products

To combat damage and dryness long term, try Phillip Kinglsey’s Moisture Extreme Shampoo & Conditioner duo (£48.00).  This hydrating shampoo and conditioning system uses a blend of nourishing oils to cleanse and strengthen fragile hair and prevent breakage.  It restores moisture and smooths rough cuticles, helping tame even the toughest frizz.

curly hair

To tackle frizz and boost natural volume check out Fudge Professional Curl Revolution Mist (£11.60) a hydrating and curl-enhancing mist.  Jonathan adds, “It works on all curl types but if you need a bit more hold in it then mix in some Fudge Professional Xpander Foam (£14.00) for the perfect curly finish.”

curly hair

For a good, all-round product to minimise frizz and define curls, take a look at Olew Curl Cream (£15.95).  The blend of jojoba, avocado and aloe nourishes and moisturises curly hair textures, whilst protecting it from sun damage and humidity, all without leaving a heavy feel after application.  This is great addition to your kit and is a game changer for all hair types.  Watch out – it’s very popular and sells out fast!

Michele Scott-Lynch recommends Bouclème’s Intensive Moisture Treatment (£29), a super versatile product that hydrates, strengthens and defines all curl types and textures.  She explains, “It can be used as a pre-shampoo treatment to counteract the drying effects of detergents in shampoos or as a deep conditioning treatment or leave-in after cleansing.”

For further professional advice, many of the hair care brands that offer online curly consultations to help provide personalised advice.



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By Eve Ingle

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