Hair types explained

When a new client books an appointment with you, you will only know their hair type once they are sat down in the salon chair. More often than not, clients have a basic understanding of their hair type, but they will also look to you for help in getting the best out of their tresses.

As a hair professional, you may have extensive experience working with many different hair types, or perhaps you specialise in one specific hair type, such as Afro or textured hair. Alternatively, you may just be starting out in your hairdressing career and looking for more information on correctly determining the different hair types. Here, we’ll look at the various hair types you will come across in the salon or as a mobile hairstylist.

How is hair type determined?

Let’s begin by explaining how hair type is determined. Your genetics predispose your hair type by influencing the shape of your hair follicles as one of 4 hair types. Straight, wavy, curly or coils.

Most people have the same hair type for life. However, the natural curl pattern of somebody’s hair can also change due to medications and hormones. Temporary treatments such as relaxing treatments and keratin treatments can also alter someone’s hair type. However, these treatments aren’t permanent, and the natural hair type will re-emerge over time. 

What are the different hair types?

The different hair types are numbered Types 1 through 4. The tightness, shape and looseness of somebody’s hair can also be further defined by the letters A, B and C.

  • Type 1 =Straight hair. (Type 1 also can be defined as Type 1A, Type 1B and Type 1C.)
  • Type 2 = Wavy hair. (Type 2 also can be defined as Type 2A, Type 2B and Type 2C).
  • Type 3 = Curly hair (Type 3 also can be defined as Type 3A, Type 3B and Type 3C).
  • Type 4 =Coils  (Type 4 also can be defined as Type 4A, Type 4B and Type 4C).

What is Type 1 Straight Hair?

Type 1 straight hair has no natural curl pattern such as a curl, wave or coil. This hair type can also range from fine and thin (Type 1A) to straight with a slight bend (Type 1B) and thick (Type 1C).

Straight hair is the most shine-prone hair type, thanks to a clear path for the hair’s natural oils to travel down from root to tip.  That said, Type 1 hair is also prone to becoming greasy more quickly and requires regular washing. 

Type 1 hair pairs best with non-cloying, lightweight products that will not weigh the hair down, making it look extra-lank and volumeless. Type 1 hair also responds well to volumising products to help give each strand extra oomph. 

We recommend Olaplex No.4D Clean Volume Detox Dry Shampoo

Olaplex No.4D Clean Volume Detox Dry Shampoo Product Shot



The Olaplex No.4D Clean Volume Detox Dry Shampoo is a light cleansing formula for the scalp and hair. It offers a clean, weightless finish and contains antioxidant-rich Rambutan Seed Extract to soothe the scalp and detoxify it while absorbing excess oil from the hair without leaving any residue.

Good to know: This dry shampoo is formulated with patented Olaplex Bond Building Technology.

Key benefits:

  • Detoxify the scalp and won’t clog pores.
  • No white powdery residue.
  • Repels odour and damaging pollutants.
  • All Olaplex products are vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic formulas that are free of Parabens, Sulfates, Phthalates and Phosphates.

What is Type 2 Wavy Hair?

Wavy hair has a visible curl but couldn’t be defined as curly or straight, and it sits in the middle. Wavy hair is more prone to frizz, but equally, it has plenty of volume. Hair colour techniques such as balayage look great on naturally wavy hair as the different colour tones have a chance to shine through.

Type 2 wavy hair tends to fall into three categories; Type 2A is more of a tousled wave. Type 2B consists of more of a curl than a wave, and finally, Type 2C is a defined wave that forms a tighter S shape wave and borders on Type 3, Curly hair.

We recommend the Redken Frizz Dismiss Range.

Focus on using anti-frizz products to help keep wavy hair looking glossy and defined. We recommend the Redken Frizz Dismiss Range. This fantastic frizz-fighting range from Redken includes a shampooconditioner, mask, and other intensive treatments. Use at the backwash or as a part of a salon retail opportunity for clients to treat their frizz-prone hair at home.



Key Features:

  • Tame rebellious frizzy locks for sleek, polished results.
  • Seals each and every strand’s cuticle to promote smoothness.
  • Nourishing and hydrating hair to leave it feeling softer.

Related: The Best Hair Care Essentials To Tame Your Client’s Winter Frizz

What is Type 3 Curly Hair?

Type 3 hair comprises of well-defined curls that start at the root. Curly hair tends to lean on the thicker side and can, like wavy hair, be very prone to frizz. Type 3 hair needs deep conditioning and regular treatments to keep it glossy, tangle-free and refined. Always use a comb to separate the curls while applying a conditioning treatment to curly hair for the best results. 

Like Type 2 hair, curly hair falls into multiple categories. Type 3A comprises loose S-shaped curls. Type 3B consists of more springy curls starting from the root and forming a defined spiral shape. Type 3C is the tightest and most springy curl akin to corkscrew curls. 

We recommend Matrix Total Results A Curl Can Dream Moisturising Cream.


Matrix Total Results A Curl Can Dream Moisturising Cream is a leave in cream that is easily distributed through the hair to provide moisture and enhance curl definition and add softness. It’s recommended to scrunch curls and follow with Light Hold Gel for definition.


Related: Colour Me Happy with Matrix Artists

What are Type 4 Coils? 

Coils are typically very dry and need plenty of moisture added back into the follicles with deeply nourishing oils and creams. Type 4A is a tight chopstick curl, while Type 4B is more of a zig-zag shape and denser than Type 4A. Finally, Type 4C are the tightest curls and the most prone to damage.

Coils shrink when wet and are more prone to damage and dryness when wet. Also, avoid direct heat from styling tools and conduct oil-based treatments regularly to ensure the best care.

You may also enjoy Spotlight on Afro and Textured hair

We recommend Curl Wow Snag Free Detangler.Curl Wow Snag Free Detangler



Color Wow recommends conditioning curly hair BEFORE shampooing to prevent matting, tangles and breakage. Snag-Free is distributed through wet hair (not massaged on the scalp). Key ingredients Pracaxi Oil and Coconut Oil moisturise create slip for easier shampooing, fresher results and reduced breakage.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About ‘Curl Wow’ by Colour Wow


When working with a hair type that is new to you, we recommend being upfront and transparent if you have no experience with a particular hair type. You don’t want to put your reputation on the line or end up doing more harm than good for the client’s hair. 

To avoid any awkward situation, always carry out a consultation before performing any treatments on a new client. If you’re looking for more advice, we’ve created this handy guide on achieving the perfect salon consultation for more information on what a best practice consultation should entail.

At Salons Direct, we believe all hair is beautiful, especially when it is treated with the correct products and styling approaches. 

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