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Curly Hair 101: Identifying and Styling Different Curl Patterns

15 of March, 2022
Curly Hair 101: Identifying and Styling Different Curl Patterns

For years it seemed as though women with natural hair couldn’t catch a break. All we all saw were models and actresses on film and on the red-carpet with sleek, straightened hair. Well, those days are gone.

Famously fabulously curly

The OG of supermodels Naomi Campbell recently appeared on the cover of British Vogue proudly rocking a full head of natural curls. And we’re already blessed with Beyonce wearing her curly hair proudly on display, while Lupita Nyong'o rocks her natural 4c texture on the red carpet, and Mariah Carey regularly embraces bouncy spiral curls. Let’s not forget Yara Shahidi frequently representing coily hair as being drop dead chic and adorable. Thankfully, the A-list of those showing off their natural curl pattern goes on.  You should too.

If you’re still not sure about whether you should use curl cream, hair gel or hair mousse on your own curls, read on. We asked curl expert Paola Torres of New Jersey’s Utopia Hair and Day Spa for some of her best tips on how to pamper your curls. But first, you have to understand them.

Understand, don’t change your curly hair.

Torres said “curly hair differs from other textures in such a big way.” But for a long time, people didn’t really understand curly hair, “so instead of trying to understand and learn how to handle and maintain their natural hair they decided to either relax their hair or straighten it all the time. In the past two years or so Torres said she’s noticed so many people with “not only the confidence but the motivation to tackle transitioning back to their natural curls.”

Know your curl types.  Torres explained that curl types are very easy to find and that the lower the defining letter, A-C, the looser the curls are.

  • Type 2 hair: 2A, 2B, 2C are looser curls or waves that form a slight S pattern
  • Type 3 hair: 3A, 3B, 3C are tight ringlet curls or tighter S shaped curls that get tighter.
  • Type 4 hair: 4A, 4B, 4C usually have a more zigzag shape because of how tight they are. Coils might also fit into this category.

And in case you’re wondering, you’re not imagining it if you have giant bouncy curls in one place and tiny corkscrews someplace else. Torres said “it’s also possible to have different type of curls in one head.”

Curl Chart

Curly hair is different on every head of hair. This one really surprised us, but Torres explained that your hair is unique to you. More than that, “knowing what your hair needs is key.” Even better, Torres said that with curly hair, you can feel when your hair needs a bit more. “It’s a lot of trial and error to find the products you need to get those curls nice and juicy.” 

Know your porosity level. In a nutshell, porosity is your hair’s ability to absorb and hold onto moisture. That’s the reason some curls tend to frizz instead of flow. Torres said that knowing your porosity level and then making sure that you have a balance is key for great curly hair.

There are three levels of porosity.

  • High porosity – when your hair absorbs moisture but doesn’t hold onto it.
  • Medium porosity – when your hair both absorbs and maintains its moisture level.
  • Low porosity – your hair has a hard time absorbing moisture but once it does manages to hold onto it.

Once you find your porosity level, Torres said to make sure of two things. Use products to help your hair type and take your time styling. “You don’t rush when you’re styling,” Torres said. “This can be time consuming but if you take the time and really go section by section this will help with defining those curls as well as making sure you aren’t overusing product.”  

Up next: Find out more about your porosity.

Consistency is key. Torres said when you find the products and routine that works for you, you should stick to it. Interestingly enough, unlike other hair textures which might need a product switch from time to time, Torres said curly hair will respond best to consistent use of the right products for your hair. “Now that I have a consistent routine I get consistent results,” she added.

Quick styling tips. You can use a hair diffuser – that round blow dryer attachment with fingers – to really play up and define your curls. Work your hair into small sections and then scrunch each section to create defined curls.

If tools aren’t your thing, after washing and adding product, gently scrunch or roll individual curls to create springy individual curls.

Curls look adorable in ponytails and incredible in updos. And if you only want to show off a few key curls, wrap your hair in a bun and pull a few out near your temples or ears.

Curl Talk Hard Hold Gel Application

Remember to clarify. Curly hair needs regular deep cleansing. Torres said “a lot of people don’t know how to apply products correctly.” Sometimes people with curls think their hair is so used to a product that it’s stopped working, but Torres said that’s not the case. “It’s really that they need to clarify their hair at least once a month for a clean slate and especially when trying out new products.”  Look for sulfate surfactant free, paraben free, and silicone free products to keep curls shiny and clean. Torres added “A clean scalp is a healthy scalp.” 

We recommend our Activated Bamboo Charcoal & Purple Moonstone Shampoo to deep clean the hair and scalp.  If you’re needing an even deeper clean, trying using our Curl Talk™ Scalp Cleansing Oil or Exfoliating Scalp Scrub as a pre-shampoo treatment!

Ready to try out some styling products created just for your curls? These are a few of our favorites that work for all curl types:
  • Curl Talk™ Leave-In Conditioner: We created this curly hair leave-in conditioner, because it’s nearly impossible to have bouncy looking curls if they’re all tangled. Bonus- it boosts your curl’s softness, protects hair from heat treatments and is safe for color-treated hair.  Pro tip: If your curls and coils need extra TLC, try using our Curl Talk™ 3-in-1 Conditioner as a leave-in conditioner!
  • Curl Talk™ Frizz Control Sculpting Gel: If you hate the way most gels flake, you’ve just found the gel of your dreams. Our gel for curly hair allows you to scrunch or comb without any flaky bits. Start with a small amount and add more product only if needed. This gel is perfect for adding hold and controlling frizz on wavy to curly hair.
  • Curl Talk™ Defining Cream: Curly girls know that the struggle to create clearly defined curls is real. Our drying alcohol free formula will add shine and seal in moisture all while controlling your frizz. All curl types can benefit from this curl cream.  Pro tip: Try cocktailing with our Curl Talk Sculpting Gel for the ultimate curl defining duo!
  • Curl Talk™ Activating Mousse: If you’ve long wondered how to use mousse for curly hair, it’s actually quite simple. Shake product and then dispense a dollop of mousse into your palm. Start close to the roots for maximum volume and work through your curls. Be patient, since you don’t want to tame your curls, you want to enhance them and show them off! The lightweight, touchable hold makes this perfect for fine or wavy hair!
  • Curl Talk™ Hard Hold Gel: Humid weather or rainy days can wreak havoc on curly hair. For the times you need a bit extra glow up, try this gel with a stronger hold. Very curly, coily, and kinky curl types can all benefit from using a stronger hold gel!  If you’re not sure how to use gel, apply a small amount in your palm and work through hair in sections. It’s always easier to add more than to comb through an overzealous gel application!
  • Curl Talk™ Scalp & Hair Treatment Oil: This lightweight treatment oil is vegan and nourishes even parched curls. Use as a treatment to nourish the scalp or scrunch into the ends of hair for when you need to soften your curls after styling. And don’t forget a little goes a long way! We recommend starting with a small amount and using more based on your hair’s thickness.

Oh, and just a reminder.  Our entire Curl Talk™ line is sulfate surfactant free, paraben free, silicone free, and drying alcohol free.  Now let’s start your curl journey!

Curly Hair 101: Identifying and Styling Different Curl Patterns

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Curly Hair 101: Identifying and Styling Different Curl Patterns