With so many types of hair, and products touted as "ideal" for each one, it can be hard to navigate what's right for your locks. To aid in this, the A1 to 4C classification system was developed by hair expert Andre Walker. It divides hair types into four categories (straight, wavy, curly, kinky), and three subcategories (A, B, C).
Understanding the best treatments, products, routine, and style for your hair type can help improve the overall health of your locks.
This hair type is as straight as it gets. It often takes on a shiny appearance as the oils from the scalp travel unhindered along the entire strand. Because of the finer and less voluminous nature of this hair type, it can be difficult to add texture or style to 1A hair. Most experts recommend washing your hair daily to reduce oils and avoiding serums and butters that can weight it down. For best results, have lots of layers cut into your hair. This will add instant texture and body.
1B is 1A's thicker brother. With slightly more density, this style will show less oil, although it still retains a healthy shine and volume. To maintain the health and minimal volume this hair holds, be wary of products. Harsh shampoos can damage your tresses and heavy conditioners can add additional oil. Use conditioner sparingly — opt for a monthly deep conditioning treatment instead.
To add curls, use lightweight hairsprays and a curling iron for sexy, beachy waves.
Type 1C is the thickest of category one, making it far more manageable — it has the coarseness and body needed to hold styles. While this type is still straight, it tends to fall outwards in soft bends as it grows. Because this hair is easier to work with, those who grow it may be able to base haircuts and style on face shape and preference rather than hair type. Short, long, curled, or straight, 1C folks can rock it all.
Our second category falls into the wavy department. Those who are lucky enough to have type 2A can easily achieve beachy waves without frizz. Fine waves are possible with the proper care and products. Use anti-frizz creams as needed, weekly or bi-weekly oil treatments to maintain hydration, and gentle shampoos that won't strip your mane of nutrients. For styling, opt for light mousses and foams that will lift your curls rather than weigh them down.
Hair type 2B is wavy with a moderate S-shaped curl towards the bottom. 2B hair needs hydration and proper products as it can get finicky in dry or humid climates. Frizz in this hair type, however, can be easily managed. By reducing washes to two to three times per week and adding a deep conditioner once a week, you can reduce damage. Mousses and anti-frizz creams are ideal, especially when partnered with a diffuser.
This hair type settles somewhere in between wavy and curly, and is defined by plenty of frizz. While it may have lots of body and shape, this hair type can be resistant to styling and taming. Focus on moisture-rich conditioners and light shampoos, and avoid brushing your hair. Instead, finger comb it or use a wide-tooth comb to keep from breaking the waves down. Diffusers are a great tool for this hair type.
Category three takes those curls to a whole new level. Type 3A is categorized by large, loose curls that require little attention. This hair still maintains some shine without the oiliness associated with straighter hair. When shorter, it sits high on the head, while longer curls will settle. This hair type is fairly wash-and-wear, but to add bounce and definition, scrunch the hair with a curl cream or refresher and add a touch of anti-frizz cream if needed.
3B hair is characterized by Shirley Temple-esque ringlets with lots of bounce and life. While adorable, this type can come with lots of frizz as well. Avoid daily shampooing and opt for dry shampoos in between washes. With this style, a fun pixie cut can add lots of edge and whimsy to your look. Style with water-based gels, mousses, or foams for sleek curls.
These curls are substantially tighter (and dryer) than the others in their family, often times spiraling to a pencil width. While this group has loads of volume, it is prone to breakage and frizz. Like other Type 3 curls, concentrate on moisture-rich products, oils, and leave-in conditioners.
Kinks are tight coils without definition; this is the key characteristic of type 4A. This type can sometimes present in a zigzag pattern that makes it extremely difficult to keep moisturized. This can lead to damage and breakage, so be gentle with this hair type and focus on consistent hydration. Use creamy, sulfate-free shampoos and hydrating conditioners. Finish with rich styling creams high in natural oils.
4B hair can present in tangled, frizzy kinks if not managed properly — it is fragile and needs some specific care. Focus on moisturizing often with oils and creams. For added moisture, pre-poo your hair by detangling it with oil 15 to 30 minutes before shampooing. This will add an extra layer of protection. Follow the wash with a leave-in conditioner.
These z-patterned coils are similar to their little brothers in the 4B category but with tighter Zs and fewer cuticle layers (the part of the hair that holds moisture). Because of this, it's important to take moisture to a whole new level with butters, leave-in creams, and rich oils, to avoid too much frizz and keep your style explosive but sleek.