When working with curly hair, understanding curl types is the first step to successfully caring for and curating your perfect curl. Finding your curl type is not as easy as one-two-three, and finding a great stylist or expert can often make the difference.
If you find yourself somewhere between waves and curls, chances are you might fall into the 2C category. Ahead, we dig deeper into defining the 2C curl, its characteristics, and how to properly care for it with help from hairstylists Marilisa Sears and Harry Josh.
Meet the Expert
What Is Type 2C Hair?
Typically, when identifying a curl pattern, experts will defer back to a chart and the curl's defining characteristics. Studies have led to details down to the micro-characterization of curls, noting their curvature focuses on the follicle, structural units of the shaft, their interrelationships, and multidimensional interactions. This is a fancy way of saying that the limit does not exist when differentiating curl patterns and their roots.
"Curl type is dependent on the shape and texture of each hair follicle," says Josh. "An overall rule of thumb to decide your curl number is to determine if your hair is coily (type 4), curly (type 3), wavy (type 2), or straight (type 1). The letters are based on how wide the curl of your hair is, so type A refers to a wide curl, while type C is a much tighter curl."
Sears shares the Marc Anthony chart that she refers back to with new clients to help them define their curl pattern. "Type 2C hair is considered a wave with attitude," says Sears. "It’s more than a wave but less than a fully formed curl. While type 2C hair doesn’t have the shape to be wrapped around the fingers, the wave pattern is strong, and with the right products, the hair can really pop."
While referring back to a chart can be helpful, curls are defined beyond just their shape, and understanding other characteristics of each type can lead to a better interpretation. "2C hair can also be more prone to frizz, so if you find yourself struggling to control your hair when it’s humid, it might be 2C," says Josh.
Differentiating Between Type 2C and 3A
Both experts agree that the 3A curl is the closest pattern to 2C. 3A curls typically show more of an "S" pattern, consistently looping down from the root to the end. This curl is generally well-defined and bouncy, with a width of around one inch. "Type 3A curls have loose, large spiral-like tendrils," says Sears. For size comparison, she notes, "the circumference is larger than a highlighter."
"To test between 2B and 2C hair, check if the wave starts at the root. If it does, it’s likely 2C," says Sears. "To differentiate between 2C and 3A hair, check if your hair is wavier or actually curled. If it’s more of a wave, it’s 2C, whereas if it’s more of a curl, it’s type 3."
It is important to note that you can be between two curl types, and for curly-haired people, it's actually quite typical to have different textures throughout your hair. Outside factors including the use of hot tools, coloring, and chemical treatments can often cause damage to the hair, impacting the curl and its characteristics.
How Should You Care for Type 2C Hair?
The experts agree: Washing daily is not beneficial for 2C hair. "You don’t need to wash your hair every day; if you do you’ll end up stripping essential moisture and nutrients that your hair needs," says Josh. "It’s important not to over wash to avoid having your scalp create extra oil," adds Sears.
Use Curl-Friendly Products
"It’s important to use curl enhancing products, as they help pop the wave," says Sears. "2C waves are well-formed, and I consider them part of the curl family. Curl products will add a bit of extra moisture, which will ultimately help with frizz. In addition, they have a bit of hold to help individuals achieve definition."
2C hair can get dehydrated, Sears also notes: "Make sure you’re using a hydrating product to nourish the curls and always make sure to use a heat protectant to protect the follicle as you style."
Style Your Curls
Styling your curls properly can be the key to success. "The less you fuss, the better the formation will be, so be sure to comb out your strands in the shower with conditioner prior to rinsing," says Sears. "Add styling products to the hair when wet, and then scrunch from ends to roots, and wrap the hair up—preferably in an old tee shirt—to remove some of the excess moisture. This also helps to form a better wave/curl pattern."
Sleep On a Silk Pillowcase
Sleeping on a silk pillowcase is beneficial for all hair types and can help keep your curls bouncy with less frizz. "A silk pillowcase is always the best to sleep on," Sears says. "If your hair is thick, tie your hair in a loose pineapple with a scrunchie. Adding a bit of leave-in conditioner using your palms, and gently scrunching it into your hair in the morning can wake up your wave/curl pattern as well."
The Best Hairstyles and Cuts for Type 2C Hair
When it comes to the best styles for 2C hair, the stylists agree that keeping your hair down and free is the best way to embrace your curls. "People with 2C hair can rock a ton of hairstyles, but ones that allow your hair to be long will be especially gorgeous," Josh says. "2C hair is what a lot of people picture when they think of long curls for a reason, so let your hair go."
If long hair isn't achievable or simply isn't your thing, Sears recommends layers. "Type 2C loves them," she says. "You will be able to achieve a variety of looks with layers. From the wolf to the octopus (we still call them shags behind your back), these cuts will bring out the best for this hair type."
The Best Products for Type 2C Hair
For drying and diffusing curly hair, Josh recommends his Harry Josh Pro Tools Pro Dryer 2000. This dryer is designed to minimize frizz while significantly reducing drying time and promoting softness and shine while ensuring a silky-smooth finish free of static. It also uses a specialized dual filtration system to reduce energy consumption.
"[I recommend] Marc Anthony Grow Long Super Fast Strength Leave-In Conditioner and Strictly Curls Curl Envy Leave-In Conditioner ($8)," says Sears. "These products are great for all hair types. Both products add the kind of moisture that doesn’t fade, so it remains in your hair until the next wash. They’re also good to use the next day if you put a spritz or two into your palms, blending well and gently scrunching through your hair to refresh."
Goldwell's StyleSign Curls & Waves Curl Control Moisturizing Curl Cream is formulated to provide "instant moisture for healthy-looking and defined curls," according to the brand, and Josh recommends it for nourishment.
For curl creams, Sears recommends the Marc Anthony Coconut Beach Waves Air Dry Texture Cream and Marc Anthony Strictly Curls Curl Envy Cream ($8). "These products are perfect for thicker hair types," Sears says. "Since 2C has a loose curl pattern, to avoid frizz, these products add rich moisture and a bit of hold."
For the perfect finish to help set and lock hair into place, Josh recommends Goldwell's StyleSign Curls & Waves Twist Around Styling Spray.
To style and nourish the hair, Sears also recommends Marc Anthony's Instantly Thick Biotin Styling Cream. "This product is perfect for fine hair types," she says. "Getting root lift and texture is the go-to for fine type 2C hair, so with scrunching and added heat, you’ll achieve thickness and wave-like patterns."