Know Your Curl Type: The Ultimate Guide to Curl Patterns

Plus we review the best hair products for your curls


by Remy Farrell |
Updated on

We have all had our fair share of beauty hits and misses when it comes to product testing for our hair. The truth is, finding the right shampoo, conditioner, treatments or styling products depends on a number of factors, whether it be our hair porosity, thickness, or sensitivity, but just as important is our hair's curl pattern.

Naturally curly hair has unfairly garnered a reputation for being difficult and unruly but you can save yourself a lot of guess work (and money) by understanding the pattern your hair naturally follows and caring for it accordingly.

What Are The Different Curl Patterns?


The standard curl pattern guide breaks the different types of curl down by letters and numbers. The numbers denote the category of hair: 1 being poker straight to 4 being typically afro textured, and the letter from a to c determines how tightly wound the curl gets.

Curl Type 1 - Straight And Sleek

Type 1 is naturally straight hair, whether fine or thick, it tends to be shiny and smooth, but can be greasy without regular washing as sebum from the scalp makes its way from root to tip more easily. Check that any products you use aren't oil based to avoid adding more moisture than your hair needs.

Pro tip: Dry shampoos are your best friend between washes!

Curl Type 2 - Wonderful Waves

Type 2 hair be more prone to frizz as wavy hair becomes more defined. Although not a bouncy, coiled curl, these types do have a defined S shape that can be enhanced with the right products. Texturising sprays can encourage beachy waves, but be careful with heavy styling creams and products that risk weighing hair down.

Pro tip: Type 2 hair can be a little more porous, avoid over-processing and colouring to minimise frizz.

Curl Type 3 - Sublime Spirals

Type 3 curls have a defined spiral shape which creates volume, but are also more prone to dryness and need a little help from products like mousses to hold shape. Since retaining moisture is key, hair masks, balms and treatments are great for this hair type and will help to keep ringlets soft and healthy (we love Waterman's Masque Me 8 in 1 maskfor extreme nourishing and frizz control).

©Watermans, Mask Me Luxurious Hair Mask 8 In 1 Deep Treatment, £25

Pro tip: Use a diffuser on the end of your hairdryer to dry hair and maintain that beautiful definition.

Curl Type 4 - Captivating Coils

Type 4 curls are the most tightly coiled on the spectrum with the hair texture taking on zig zag shape from the root. Natural oils find it harder to permeate this shape making it the most prone to breakage, and the tight springs bounce back when wet, a process that is known as shrinkage. Heat damage, over processing and dryness are this natural hair type's nemesis, so keep type 4 curls healthy and nourished by locking in moisture with creams, deep conditioning and regular treatments.

Pro tip: Gently detangle hair with a leave in conditioner and wide toothed comb when damp. Sectioning off and loosely braiding will help to prevent shrinkage.

So now you've found your curly hair tribe, check out our reviews of some of the best products for curly and afro hair on the market.


The Best Products For Types 2, 3 and 4 Curly Hair: Reviewed

The Best Shampoos For Curly Hair1 of 11

Shea Moisture, Raw Shea & Cupuacu Frizz Defense Shampoo 384ml, £9.99

What is it? A sulphate-free shampoo that has been designed to hydrate thick, wavy and curly hair. Packed with natural ingredients such as Amazonian Cupuaçu Butter and Raw Shea Butter, this nourishing shampoo from Shea Moisture fights frizz and hydrates hair while protecting it from pollution and humidity.How does it work? Apply the product onto wet hair and massage into curls until the product begins to foam-up and then rinse off.How will my curl pattern look afterwards? My curls feel super squeaky clean after rinsing the foam off. I also noticed that my curls had formed into a uniform pattern, which means minimal styling was required.SCORE: 8/10****Best For: Types 2, 3 and 4

The Best Shampoos For Curly Hair2 of 11

ORS, Black Olive Oil Shampoo 370ml, £14.95

What is it? A creamy, hard-working shampoo that cleanses and moisturises the hair in preparation for conditioning treatments.How does it work? Apply a generous amount of ORS Black Olive Oil Shampoo onto wet hair and work the product into a rich lather. Rinse off and then towel dry.How will my curl pattern look afterwards? Hair feels soft to the touch soon after rinsing off the product. Although my curls feel super clean, my hair strands are lacking the curved definition that I was hoping for.SCORE: 6/10****Best For: Types 3a to 4

The Best Shampoos For Curly Hair3 of 11

OGX, Quenching Coconut Curls Shampoo 385ml, £6.99

What is it? Made with a moisturising blend of coconut oil, sweet honey and a hint of citrus, OGX Quenching Coconut Curls shampoo promises to add shine, soften strands, tame frizz and boost curl definition.How does it work? Apply shampoo generously into wet hair, massaging the product from the root-to-tip until it starts to lather and then rinse-off.How will my curl pattern look afterwards? This shampoo instantly felt extremely lightweight and silky-soft as I applied it onto my hair. I could instantly see defined curls arising as I massaged the product into my mane.SCORE: 10/10****Best For: Types 2a to 4a

The Best CONDITIONERS For Curly Hair4 of 11
CREDIT: Photo by yip vick on Unsplash


It has been proven that curly hair looses moisture faster than straight strands, leaving our crowns more prone to breakage and spilt ends. That's why a good conditioner is a must and should be used on regular basis to keep curls strong, and retain a healthy texture and shape.

The Best Shampoos For Curly Hair5 of 11

Palmers, Olive Oil Replenishing Conditioner, £4.50

What is it? A shampoo that uses natural olive oil as the key ingredient to promote strong, shiny and soft curls that are frizz-free and bouncy.How does it work? Apply this product onto damp hair, and massage into curls, section by section for the best results.How will my curl pattern look afterwards? My curls felt super soft and lightweight after rinsing off the product. My curls looked defined but still had plenty of movement and bounce.SCORE: 8/10****Best For: Types 3 and 4

The Best Shampoos For Curly Hair6 of 11

Curls Unleashed, Shea Butter and Mango Leave-In Conditioner 335ml, £6.39

What is it? A leave-in conditioner that has been made with a blend of mango, shea butter and claims to make curls more manageable by softening strands.How does it work? Simply apply to damp hair, and don't rinse off as this is a leave-in formula.How will my curl pattern look afterwards? I applied this product onto my hair in-between washes as a quick curl-perfecting solution. My lacklustre curls instantly bounced back to life with one application and smelt delicious too.SCORE: 9/10****Best For: Types 3 and 4

The Best Shampoos For Curly Hair7 of 11

Phil Smith Be Gorgeous, Curl Perfecting Conditioner, £4.50

What is it? This nourishing formula claims to be a fix for out-of-control curls and frizz. With just one wash, curls are promised to look sleeker, shiner and more uniform.How does it work? Massage this conditioner through the hair, working from root to top. Leave the product on for two minutes, before rinsing and towel-dry.How will my curl pattern look afterwards? For how affordable this conditioner is, I was so impressed with how perfected my curls looks after rinsing. Minimal styling was needed after conditioning my crown with this miracle-worker.SCORE: 10/10****Best For: Types 2, 3 and 4

CREDIT: Photo by Claus Gru00fcnstu00e4udl on Unsplash


So, you've washed and conditioned your curls, but now it's time to lock in moisture and secure the shape of your spirals with styling products. For free-flowing curls, less is generally more, so use styling products sparingly and go for products that are lightweight and won't weigh down your hair.

The Best Shampoos For Curly Hair9 of 11

Twisted Sista, Dream Curl Gel 354ml, £5.89

What is it? Made with coconut, avocado and almond oils, Twisted Sista's Dream Curl Gel promises to eliminate shrinkage by elongating strands and locking in moisture with a strong hold.How does it work? Best used on wet hair, distribute the product from root to tip and then air-dry for crunch-free curls.How will my curl pattern look afterwards? My first impressions were that the formula was very sticky, however once applied to my curls I did love the instant definition I saw. I would recommend allowing your hair to dry to experience the true curl texture.SCORE: 7/10****Best For: Types 3 and 4

The Best Shampoos For Curly Hair10 of 11

Cantu, Natural Hair Moisturising Curl Activator Cream 355ml, £7.99

What is it? A cream formula that claims to detangle curls, eliminate frizz and leave hair feeling virtually weightless and soft to the touch.How does it work? Apply this product damp hair section by section. You can also re-apply the product to dry hair to re-active curls.How will my curl pattern look afterwards? My curls were super-soft and had detangled into separated spirals after applying this product to my crown. Very effortless and stays true to its claim.SCORE: 9/10****Best For: Type 4

The Best Shampoos For Curly Hair11 of 11

Smoothing Coconut Oil 443ml, £11.99, Jason, LookFantastic

What is it? A multi-purpose natural coconut oil that's rich in Vitamin E and antioxidants.How does it work? Coconut oil is every curly girl's best friend. Massage this product into your scalp all the way down to the tips of your hair for limitless shine and softness.How will my curl pattern look afterwards? My hair overall looks hydrated, healthy and conditioned. Meanwhile, my curl pattern looks effortlessly tight and supernatural.SCORE: 10/10

READ MORE: This At-Home Keratin Treatment Has Been Hailed As A Must-Have Cult-Favourite For Frizzy Hair

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