If you’ve ever heard the terms “4C” and “3B” used to describe hair and had no idea what they meant, you’re not alone.
Many online beauty blogs and videos refer to hair types using these terms because it helps differentiate between different kinds of hair. Hairstylist Andre Walker created the system that uses terms like “4C” and “3B” to describe textures and patterns in the hair so that stylists and especially people of color can better work through their hair type.
Here’s the breakdown:
Hair types are broken into 4 different categories (Type 1-4), with each category having sub-classifications (letters A-C). The further down you go in number and letter, the tighter the curl.
Type 1 — Straight
Type 1s are those with naturally straight hair. Type1A would refer to hair that fine, thin, and shiny. Type 1B hair is medium-textured, with a little more body than Type 1A hair. Lastly, Type 1C is hair that is a bit coarser than the previous two, and is notably most resistant to curly styling.
Type 2 — Wavy
As expected, Type 2s are in between straight and curly. Type 2A refers to hair that is fine, thin, and can be easily styled. Type 2B hair is straight at the roots, with more S-shaped waves. If you’ve got frizz-prone hair, you might be Type 2C. This type is coarser than the previous two and is noticeably thicker.
Type 3 — Curly
Now we’re getting into the real curls. Type 3A hair refers to hair with large, shiny, and loose curls. They’re springy and light, and shouldn’t be brushed through. For Type 3B hair, you’ll see some big volume and ringlet-like curls. Type 3C has the tightest type of curls this category, resembling corkscrews. This kind of hair is very prone to dryness and frizz, so style accordingly.
Type 4 — Coily
Prepare to see some really tight curls! Type4A hair is dense and springy, with S-shaped curls you can wrap around a chopstick. If you see zig-zags, that’s Type 4B hair. This kind of hair is even more densely packed and can be shaped in many different ways. Type 4C are what you’ll see on afros. This is the tightest and most fragile type of “curly” hair, so be careful with brushing and combing.
Now, it’s obvious that we can’t really classify all hair is being one specific type. In reality, most people are probably combination types, just like how people have a combination of oily and dry skin.
We acknowledge that this hair system isn’t inclusive to all hair types, but it does help a lot for women of color or those with especially curly hair. It’s important to know what kind of hair you have so that you can care for it properly with the right tools, methods, and products.
And while this typing system may not apply to you, at least you’ll know what terms like “2A” or “3C” mean the next time you hear them!