Discover your curl type
Your beautiful head of natural curls craves additional moisture. Why? Because the natural oils produced by your scalp have to negotiate every pretty twist and turn of your locks and curls in order to travel all the way down the hair shaft and reach the ends. To keep the entire length of your gorgeous curls defined and shiny, just the way you love them, they need a powerful boost of extra moisture. Before we look at the best ways to boost moisture and care for your hair, let’s first determine your curl type. Once we know this, you can explore and enjoy diverse styling options.
What’s in your curl?
Ever wondered what determines your curl type? It’s the cross-section shape of the follicle that your hair grows from. Those of us with curly hair have more oval-shaped or flatter-shaped follicles, and people with slightly wavy or straight hair have more circular-shaped follicles. Your curl pattern is as unique as it is because it is also identified by the shape that your hair strands make. Do your strands wind into spirals, curve, or kink?
But wait… it gets trickier
Curly hair is fascinatingly complex in that it often boasts more than one type of curl pattern. Your hair could be an intricate combination of kinky, coily, wavy, and curly. The best time to identify your curl shape and pattern/s is when your hair is very wet, as this is when your natural curl shows most clearly.
Telling your type
There are several curl type charts online designed to help you identify your hair type, in this instance we’ve referenced the one most commonly used.
With so many combinations of hair patterns, the task of categorising hair into just four types seems almost impossible. Yet, simplistically done, these are: Coily – Type 4, Curly – Type 3, Wavy – Type 2, and Straight – Type 1.
Hair is then sub-classified even further, as either A, B, or C, and this is based on the width or diameter of your coil, curl, or wave pattern. In other words, Type 4 (coily) hair will also either be type A, which has a wider pattern, Type B, which is a medium pattern, or Type C, which is the smallest of the three. Studies show that genetic factors also play a major role in determining the texture and thickness of our individual hair strands. In much the same way you may have inherited your great grandad’s laugh, or your mother’s smile, the amount of curl you have depends on how many curly gene variations you inherit.
You’ll find many practical DIY tests online designed to help you determine which curl type and sub-class best describes your hair. You may also find that you do not fit exactly into one category or subcategory, but by closely identifying your unique curl type you are taking the first important step in curl care. Most of these tests refer to the below curl chart that is most commonly used to determine curl type.
Hair types defined
For your convenience, we’ve done a quick summary for defining the four hair types, kicking off with the curliest of curls, type 4.
Type 4 Coily
Coily hair is naturally porous, and while its texture may vary from coarse to fine, it’s thirsty by nature and requires a lot of moisture. Coily hair strands form very tight, small curls that create zig-zags starting from the scalp area.
The shrinkage or bounce back of these tight curls shows that your hair is healthy and full of elasticity, and has the ability to resist breakage.
We’re all for embracing this healthy shrinkage and respecting the natural kinks and coils of your hair. If you want to extend your style choices and show off a bit more length, remember that there are many gentle, heat-free ways to do it that will also reduce tangles and breakage, and leave your hair more manageable and easier to style. One brilliant tip is to loosely braid or twist your hair into sections before you wash it, as hair tends to shrink as soon as water hits it, and this will minimise that. Another tip is to remember that coily hair needs plenty of deep conditioning, so use butters and creams for added moisture. Read on for more great tips.
Type 4C - how to identify and style
4C textures have super tightly coiled strands with a zig-zag pattern that is so tight that it’s almost invisible to the naked eye. 4C hair tends to be the most fragile and thirsty of all curly hair types depending on its density and porosity, but we’ll talk more about that further on. 4C hair generally shrinks up to 75% more than the other textures. Shrinkage or bounce back is a great thing though, as it’s proof of your hair’s health, elasticity, and ability to resist breakage. 4C hair also lends itself perfectly to the most impressive and envy-inducing afro styles.
We simply adore the natural state of these pretty and delicate-looking coils, should you want to maximise their length to increase your styling options, we recommend a generous amount of Sofnfree Coconut & Jamaican Black Castor Oils: Curling Crème. Castor oil is a great hydrator and sealant for the naturally dry texture of this hair type. This Curling Crème will give 4C curls the moisture boost it needs to add body and bounce and restore natural shine.
Type 4B – how to identify and style
4B hair is made up of tightly coiled curls that can bend in sharp Z-like angles and look like perfect watch springs. They naturally drape themselves into drop-dead gorgeous styles and are very versatile when it comes to both up and down styles, and especially half-up-half-down styles. The texture of this hair type can range from fine to coarse, and it craves a lot of moisture.
One of the best products to instantly hydrate kinks, coils, curls, and waves is Sofnfree Coconut & Jamaican Black Castor Oils: Curling Crème. Styling cremes work well for this hair type because they handle well with palm-rolling which is a great way to stretch out coils for an elongated look or clump them together for greater texture definition. This Curling Crème will help further define these beautiful curls and add body, bounce, and shine without weighing curls down. It also infuses curls with ample moisture to help restore natural shine, and tame split ends.
Type 4A – how to identify and style
People with hair type 4A have springy tight coils. Few hairstyles have the power to turn as many heads as a spectacular mane of 4A (and 3C) curls, straight cut at shoulder length.
To keep your coily texture popping with soft, pliable strands use Sofnfree Manuka Honey & Avocado: Leave-In Conditioner to seal in moisture, increase flexibility, enhance strand smoothness, and add shine.
Rub a small amount between your palms and then apply all over dry or damp hair, especially concentrating on the ends. Then use a wide-tooth comb or soft bristle brush to gently comb or brush the product through your hair. It helps prepare your natural hair for every style option from wavy, coily, and curly finger styles, to blow dry finishes and flat ironing silkening. Sofnfree Manuka Honey & Avocado Leave-in Conditioner also helps to reduce the appearance of split ends.
Type 3 Curly
Curly hair is a very broad category that includes everything from tighter, springy corkscrews, to looser, more bouyant loops.
Just as with type 4 curls, your natural scalp oils also have to negotiate all the natural twists and turns of your curls to reach right to the very tips of the hair shaft. It’s these natural oils that help ensure your curls bond together for a defined, high sheen look, while a lack of these oils could be the reason behind a dull-looking finish. The good news is that a generous moisture boost with the right Sofnfree product is all your hair needs to shine in all its natural glory.
For the most part, curly hair does not respond well to products with silicone and sulphates. Curly hair prefers leave-in conditioners, and should be left to air dry. Read on for more curl-specific advice.
Type 3C – how to identify and style
3C curls are tight corkscrews and their strands are packed together really closely. This is why 3C curls have an abundance of natural volume. These tight curls mean that natural scalp oils have a long way to travel to reach all the way down the hair shaft, which is why this curl type can be brittle and dull in appearance. Much like 4A curls, these dramatic curls truly come into their own when they’re well moisturised and conditioned and then worn ‘wild’ and free.
To quench these thirsty curls and turn up curl definition, use Sofnfree Coconut & Jamaican Black Castor Oils: Curling Crème, specially designed for this purpose. Moisture is exactly what is needed to help restore the natural shine of these attractive curls and add glorious body and bounce. Use generously on wet or dry hair. Gently massage in and work through hair from roots to ends. Finger-style hair into desired curls or waves, alternatively, massage into braids and twists.
Type 3B – how to identify and style
If you have springy ringlets your hair type is 3B. As with all curly hair types, natural scalp oils have a longer and windier road to travel to reach all the way down the hair shaft to deliver these essential oils. To infuse your hair with more moisture, reach for styling gels that have a lubricant in them that actually attracts moisture to strands. Worn naturally, and kept in peak condition, these romantic ringlets have a timeless elegance that is hard to beat.
Another tip is to apply Sofnfree Flaxseed Oil & Rose Water: Curl Elongating Gel to your hair while it is still wet, which will help you get maximum definition. For elongated curls apply to fingertips, section hair, and then apply generously to each section to finger curl your natural hair or to touch up between washes.
Type 3A – how to identify and style
3A strands are usually shiny with large, looser curls. To enhance the charm and classic beauty of this curl type, we recommend Sofnfree Flaxseed Oil & Rose Water: Curl Elongating Gel as it will help show off your curls with an ever so gently relaxed look and also maintain a moisturised, no-crunch shine.
Type 2 Wavy
If your hair is bendable, either fine or coarse, with a definitive S-pattern that lies quite close to your head, it’s Type 2. Type 2 hair will benefit from a light mousse or gel to define, but it’s a good idea to steer clear of heavier oils and creamy products. For more wave-specific suggestions, read on.
Type 2C – how to identify and style
2C waves are thicker than 2B waves and can be a little more unruly and fly away, which is why they deserve ample moisture and conditioning care to elevate their true beauty. Their natural S-bends are well defined and begin right at the roots, creating an ever so feminine and flattering frame for your face.
For this hair type, provided it is high-porosity hair, we recommend Sofnfree Cannabis & Baobab: Hydration Shampoo, followed by Sofnfree Cannabis & Moringa: Moisture Rich Conditioner.
On your wash days, we recommend Sofnfree Cannabis & Baobab Hydration Shampoo, followed by Sofnfree Cannabis & Moringa Moisture Rich Conditioner. The shampoo harnesses the powers of Moringa that nourishes hair and Antioxidants found in Cannabis Sativa Oil and Baobab Oil to help support, moisture, and nourish the scalp and hair shaft for flake-free softness and shine. The conditioner does the same and also with the addition of Zinc found in Moringa Oils to help protect and soothe the hair shaft for shinier, softer, and more manageable hair.
Type 2B – how to identify and style
2B hair lies flatter at your crown and will have defined S-shaped waves that start from around mid-length. Stylists go to great lengths to try and re-create the natural, informal beach wave beauty of this curl type, which comes completely naturally to you – lucky girl.
To enhance the beauty of your natural waves, we recommend Sofnfree Coconut & Jamaican Black Castor Oils Everyday Curl Refresh. Lightly spray onto your hair and work through hair from roots to ends for even distribution and to enhance curl definition. Apply as much as needed to create the desired style. Your curl type is fairly versatile too, and if you’re keen on a smoother and slicker style for a change, remember to use a protector before gently straightening your hair with a hairdryer or hot iron.
Type 2A – how to identify and style
Type 2A hair has a very gentle, pretty wave, and is one of the most versatile hair types when it comes to styling options. It straightens fairly easily using a hairdryer or hot iron, and when it comes to enhancing your curl, we recommend a little bit of Sofnfree for Natural Hair Curl Elongating Gel with Flaxseed Oil & Rosewater.
Type 1 hair is naturally straight with flatter cuticles (when it’s in a healthy condition), which would lend itself to a high-sheen finish. It’s not ideal to add oils to this hair type. If this is your hair type, you’ll find many online sources with detailed information on how to best care for your hair.
Determine yours by taking this float test. Take a couple of your hair strands from your brush or comb and drop them into a bowl of water. Wait for 2 to 4 minutes. If your hair sinks, you have high porosity hair, and if it floats, you have low porosity hair. It’s important to do this test so you can better understand the moisture and protein needs of your hair.
Finding the moisture/protein sweet spot
The building blocks of your hair is a protein called keratin, and it’s what gives hair its structure, shape, strength, and body. Protein also plays another important role in that it keeps your hair healthy and strong by balancing its moisture levels.
If your hair is brittle and dry, chances are that you have enough protein in your hair, but too little moisture. If your hair is weak and limp, you probably have too much moisture in your hair and not enough protein. When the latter is the case, a protein treatment is needed.
The important thing to take away here is that to maintain a healthy head of hair, you need just the right balance of both moisture and protein, and this is usually referred to as moisture/protein balance.
When to protein or not to protein
High porosity hair needs plenty of protein or oil to help seal in moisture. You’ll need to use conditioners that offer more protein, like keratin itself, or silk, or wheat. On the upside, because high porosity hair is also more prone to damage, its lifted surface cuticles allow it to accept more protein.
Because low porosity hair naturally contains high levels of keratin protein, using protein-rich shampoos and conditioners would worsen its condition. Unless of course, your low porosity hair is chemically treated, damaged, or dull, then a protein treatment could be what is needed.
More on low versus high porosity
To help you know and better understand your hair’s porosity, we referenced a great article found on www.healthline.com
Low-porosity curls do not easily allow moisture to be absorbed into the hair shaft due to their very compact cuticles. On the bright side, once moisture is absorbed, these compact cuticles mean your hair also won’t dry out as fast.
You may have low-porosity hair if:
- Hair products don’t absorb easily and tend to sit on your hair
- When washing your hair, water doesn’t really saturate your hair
- It takes a long time for your hair to dry
How to treat low-porosity hair
- Apply heat when you condition your hair and use a heat cap, steamer, or hooded hairdryer. If you don’t have these, apply a shower cap over your hair once you’ve applied conditioner.
- Apply conditioner to hair that is already wet.
- Look for products that contain honey rather than oils.
Medium-porosity curls mean the cuticles aren’t too close together but aren’t too open either. This allows moisture to get in easily, and it also retains moisture for a longer time.
You may have medium porosity hair if:
- Your hair styles more easily and hairstyles hold well
- Your hair takes colour well
- Your hair doesn’t seem to need much moisture
- Your hair air dries fairly quickly
High-porosity curls mean moisture can be absorbed into the hair shaft easily. However, it isn’t able to retain moisture for long, because the cuticles tend to have gaps or spaces between them.
You may have high porosity hair if:
- Your hair quickly absorbs water and moisturising products
- Your hair tends to break easily
- Your hair tends to be dry and dull
- Your hair air dries very quickly
How to treat low-porosity hair
- Look for shampoos and conditioners that have ingredients like butters and oils as they help to moisturise hair.
- Use leave-in conditioners and sealers.
- Use a heat protectant product on your hair.
- Use lukewarm water to wash and rinse.
The science behind the curl
There are four key reasons why the curls of 4C, 3C, and 2C hair require greater moisture care.
- The tighter coil of the hair shaft causes the top layer of cuticle scales to lift more and release more moisture.
- The tighter curl along with the raised cuticle scales hamper the distribution of the scalp’s natural oils through the hair, however, once it absorbs oils and moisture, it retains it well.
- High-porosity curls easily absorb water, but require a lot of product as they can look and feel dry and dull.
- Low-porosity curls mean the hair has very compact cuticles and needs more moisture to be absorbed into the hair shaft.
Zero to hero
Adding specially selected ingredients to bring out the best in your curly hair is just part of what we do. Of equal importance, is removing those ingredients that many feel, do curly hair zero favours. You asked us for these options, and we heard you.
- 0% Ingredients
- 0% Alcohol
- 0% Colourants
- 0% Mineral Oil
- 0% Parabens
- 0% Petrolatum
- 0% Sulphates
5-Step Curly Hair Routine
We can’t claim this routine we borrowed from www.johnfrieda.com as our own, but we can highly recommend it. The 5-step Curly Hair Routine is a tried and tested method used by curly heads the world over to improve the condition and enhance the natural beauty of curls.
Step 1: Shampoo for Curly Hair
Curly hair needs maximum moisture and many shampoos actually strip your hair of the natural oils it needs to stay hydrated and healthy. To help your curls retain as much moisture as possible, wash with Sofnfree Cannabis & Baobab: Hydration Shampoo.
Step 2: Let Your Conditioner Sit in Your Hair for Several Minutes
Curly hair is thirsty hair, so drench it in Sofnfree Cannabis & Moringa: Moisture Rich Conditioner coating each curl liberally and milking it into every hair strand. While the conditioner is still in your hair, use a wide-toothed comb to gently work out tangles, working from the ends to the roots. Leave the conditioner in your hair for a few more minutes to do its work before rinsing it out.
Step 3: Gently Squeeze Out Excess Moisture
Wrap your wet hair in a microfibre towel or soft cotton t-shirt, and gently squeeze your hair to remove excess moisture. Don’t use a regular towel, and don’t rub as friction damages your delicate strands and leads to frizz. If there are stubborn snarls to detangle, smooth on some Sofn’free Manuka Honey & Avocado: Leave-In Conditioner and then gently work through with a wide-toothed comb.
Step 4: Start Styling When Hair Is Still Wet
Thicker styling gels or creams offer the best definition and hold for thicker, tighter, kinkier coils. For extra frizz protection, while your hair is still sopping wet, prime your curls with Sofn’free Coconut & Jamaican Black Castor Oils: Curling Crème. Apply a generous amount to wet or dry hair. Gently massage in and work through hair from roots to ends. Finger-style your hair into the curls or waves you want. For more elongated curls or to touch up your curls between washes, apply Sofn’free Flaxseed Oil & Rose Water: Curl Elongating Gel to fingertips, section your hair, and then apply generously to each section while you finger-curl your hair.
Step 5: Separate and Define
To dry your hair quicker without adding frizz, use your hairdryer on its lowest setting, and attach a diffuser. Gently rest your curls on the nozzle of the diffuser, and as they dry, continue to scrunch, separate, and define each curl. Use Sofn’free Coconut & Jamaican Black Castor Oils’ Everyday Curl Refresh to fight frizz and fly-aways, so your curls look perfect all day long and to help protect them from the breakage that comes with everyday styling. It also gives your hair a quick infusion of moisture to help revive your style.
LOC vs LCO
LOC is an acronym for Liquid, Oil, and Cream, while LCO stands for Liquid, Cream, and Oil.
These two similar product layering techniques are trusted by curly girls the world over to help sealing moisture into the hair shaft and keep thirsty hair hydrated for longer.
LOC and LCO refer to the order in which product is layered onto the hair, and the difference between the two, (as well as the amount of product you use and how long you keep the product in your hair before washing it out again), is very much down to personal preference.
With LOC you apply water to hydrate your hair, then oil to lock in the water, and finally cream to seal in the oil. With LCO you also apply water to hydrate your hair first, but then cream to lock in the water, and finally oil to seal in the cream.
You go curl-Googling!
We had a lot of fun compiling this tab for you and in doing so we cross-referenced a wealth of online curl information. If you’re keen to discover even more fascinating curl facts, tips, and styling ideas, feel free to follow some of the links we came across below. Happy reading.