This is a guide to Curly Hair Types, a guide that is essential for those men with wavy, coiled, curly, kinky and afro-textured hair. Curly hair is expressed in a spectrum of curl types, hence the need to categorize and know what type of curly hair you have so as to be able to make the most out of it!
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO TYPES OF CURLY HAIR FOR MEN
There are two main hair textures that you can have on your head: straight or curly. If your hair is not straight, it is curly, albeit curly hair is expressed in a spectrum of types. From wavy hair that can look straight when it is very short to super tight coils that puff out in the wildest of manners, most curly men walk around without knowing what type of curly hair they have. If you want to have good looking hair, you must know your curly hair type as, depending on what you are growing atop your head, you may need to change different things in your hair grooming and hair care routines. Most of the advice that you will find at Manly Curls is applicable to curly hair as a generic term and all to all curl types, but there are some tidbits that need to be emphasized more or less according to one’s curl type.
Since my experience is in curly hair and because curly hair is a pain in the derriere to manage, I have created this guide for wavy, coiled and kinky haired men so that they can identify what specific type of curly hair they may have. This guide is specific to such expressions of hair and excludes straight hair, not because I have anything against straight hair but because straight hair doesn’t have any sub-types of expressions, unlike curly hair. Thus, if you don’t identity your hair type with what is to follow, you will have at least found out that you have straight hair. For all that matters, straight hair can be paired with wavy hair (Type I hair) when it comes to knowing all about it and managing it, so I invite you to apply this guide even if you have straight hair.
As I have said, there are two hair textures, straight and curly, and curly hair in men comes in different expressions, which I have put into types. As a definition, curly hair is hair that grows in a non-straight manner, thus curly hair grows, right from the very beginning, in a curled or curved pattern. The pattern in which curly hair grows differs between individuals (regardless of gender) and may differ slightly even between areas of the scalp, but, overall, curly hair can be classified into five types: I, II, III, IV and V. Please be aware that I refer to these 5 types of expressions of curly hair as curl types, curly hair types or may simply call them hair types. Likewise, I use Roman numerals (I-V) for this guide and classification, and I encourage you to use Roman numbers when talking about my curly hair type guide so as to avoid confusion.
Curly hair comes in a variety of types from wavy to coiled to kinky to afro-textured!
And below is the book where it is all explained in depth; the essential hair manual for curly men!
(click the book’s link above to see/read more about my book)
The lowdown on curly hair for men
Curly hair type is more difficult to identify in men than in women simply because men tend to have shorter hair, which many times masks the true hair type of a male. Depending on your curl type, its curling/curving shape may take up to three inches of length to manifest a full curl, and, since most curly haired men prefer to keep their curls short, it then means that most curly folks are unaware of what their true curly hair type is.
As stated, curly hair grows in a curved pattern, meaning that curly hair is composed throughout its length of curls. A “curl” is the hair section ranging from when the hair is curving in one direction and then starts curving in the opposite direction: the distance between the initial start of the curve until the point where the curve changes direction is a curl.
As hair grows and a curl develops, the curved growth of the hair will lead into the formation of another curl and an “S” pattern will be visible (as depicted above in both pictures). Now, hair grows in 3 dimensions thus the “S” pattern is not always noticeable. Rather, if we were to put a lock of curly hair flat against a surface, we would see that, in reality, the joining of the two curls does form an S. In both pictures above of curly locks, you can see the different S forms taking place as each curl leads into the next throughout the length of the lock of hair.
In term of noticing the curl pattern of your hair, this is not always an easy task. Hair that takes 3 inches to manifest a curl, as is the case of Type I or wavy hair, may look straight at a length of 1 inch despite it is already curling, only that the curved shape is too mild to be noticed at that length. On the other hand, Type V hair, otherwise known as kinky hair, has a distinct curled shape apparent from 1/8 of an inch and the hair can be seen curling at even near shaved length. The commonality with all types of curly hair is that they will all curl, with the only difference being at what length a full curl will become apparent. The latter then dictates the hair type one has and which you will be able to identify in this guide.
How to identify your curly hair type
Before jumping into the curly hair types of this guide, you should first examine you hair. For this, you will need a mirror and a ruler. Go in front of the mirror and pick a lock of hair from the top center of your head, ensuring that you do not pull or extend the lock; it should remain in its natural shape. This area is the one on your scalp which is exposed the less to daily wear and tear, such as constant friction with a bed pillow during sleep, so the hair on this area yields the closest image of what your natural curl type/shape is.
Aerial view of scalp with area to examine
Once you grab the lock of hair, place the ruler alongside it and measure when your hair forms a curl. If your hair is less than 6 inches, perform the measurement starting from the scalp (i.e place the ruler on the scalp) whereas if the hair lock is longer than 6 inches, you should perform the measurement starting from the tip (end) of the lock. Repeat the measurement another 2 times for a total of 3 times and work out the mean average of how long it takes for your hair to form a curl. You now have one of the most important details of getting to manage your curls in the awesome way we promote here at Manly Curls.
Match your worked-out curl length with the following curly hair types by length:
The curly hair types
- Type I: 2 to 3 inches to form a curl
- Type II: 1 to 2 inches to form a curl
- Type III: 0.5 to 1 inch to form a curl
- Type IV: 0.125 to 0.5 inch to form a curl
- Type V: up to 0.125 inch to form a curl
If your hair takes over 3 inches of length to form a curl, you have straight hair, not curly hair. You can know more about these 5 curly hair types below:
Type I curly hair
Type I curly hair requires up to 3 inches to form one curl. If your hair is shorter than 3 inches, you will be able to visibly notice your Type I curls curving at the 1.5-inch mark. If your hair is shorter than 1.5 inches, I recommend that you look at pictures of yourself with longer hair or ask a family member, since at a very-short length your hair may, in fact, look straight. Looking at the hair of both parents is not reliable because hair genetics is more complicated than inheriting the hair type of any of the two parents. However, they should be able to tell you who in the family line has hair similar to yours.
With hair shorter than 1.5 inches, Type I hair looks straight at first sight hence the need to carefully examine the hair so as not to confuse it with straight hair. Type I curly hair is colloquially known as wavy and famous curly men with such hair include Hugh Grant, George Clooney and Antonio Banderas. Remember, what is known colloquially as wavy hair falls under the category/texture of curly!
Recommended hair products for Type I curly hair are:
- THIS hair gel: keeps the waves smooth and not sticky.
- THIS pomade: for any side sweeping or slicking back of your waves.
- THIS hair wax: for keeping your hair styled up and secured in place. All day control if you’re into shaping your hair into different styles. A good product to have as part of your hair-product arsenal.
- THIS hair dryer: if you want to add extra volume to your Type-I mane, then blow dry your curls with this hair dryer.
Hugh Grant displaying typical Type I curls
Type II curly hair
Type II curls are the crunched version of Type I, and the length required to form a full curl is shorter: 1 to 2 inches. If your hair is shorter than 1 inch, you should be able to view a curved pattern already at the 0.5-inch mark. If your hair is shorter than 0.5 inches, the same family reference recommendation applies as to Type I curly hair. Type II curls will look straight only at lengths less than 0.5 inches, yet, from longer lengths onwards, Type II curly hair will express a visible curved pattern.
Type II curls are colloquially known as wavy, loose curls or tight waves, and celebrities such as Adrian Grenier or Nick Jonas have these curls. Type II can still be mistaken for straight hair when very short, so keep this in mind if your hair is short and you are typing your curly hair.
Recommended hair products for Type II curly hair are:
- THIS hair gel: will keep a good hold of the curls while yielding a natural gloss.
- THIS hair mousse: will give a natural look with less hold than the hair gel. Perfect for dangling or loosely-styled curls. Also for long curly hair.
- THIS hair fiber: to tame frizz while shaping hairstyles with a medium hold.
- Hair dryer: see the hair dryer recommended for Type I curls above. If you want bigger hair (i.e. more hair volume), that’s your hair dryer (use concomitantly with the recommended hair mousse).
Adrian Grenier with classic Type II curls
Type III curly hair
Type III curly hair takes 0.5 inches to 1 inch to form a full curl. Because Type III curly hair curls at a much shorter length than Type I and Type II, Type III curly hair will start forming in a coiled pattern and will look like a cursive capital “e” (E) when viewed under normal conditions. This “cursive E” coiled effect is typically exemplified in Type III and Type IV curly hair; it looks something like the E below:
Type III is known colloquially as ringlets, coils or coiled and is most commonly the curl type that people have in mind when they think of curly hair. Curly male celebrities with Type III curls include Will Ferrell, Justin Timberlake and John Turturro.
Great hairstyles for Type III curly hair include the Ivy League hairstyle and the Faux Hawk, and you can also have a look at military haircuts for short hairstyles that suit men with curly hair (you can sport any of the military haircuts regardless of your curl type too).
Recommended hair products for Type 3 curly hair are:
- THIS hair gel: if you want to use hair gel, then go with this one specifically.
- THIS styling cream: great for taming frizz and keeping your coils looking natural at medium to long lengths of curly hair (can also be used for short curls too).
- THIS hair wax: for a matte effect on your curls while keeping them in place. Great for short curly hair and medium-length curly hair (up to 6 inches in length).
- THIS hair spray: to keep your curls looking like those of Justin Timberlake below. Style your hair with the linked hair gel, styling cream or hair wax, and then finish off by spraying your hair with this recommended hair spray in the link.
- Hair dryer: if you want to use a hair dryer, then get the one recommended earlier for Type I curly hair (THIS one) and only use the hair dryer 4 days per week as a maximum.
Justin Timberlake with a mane full of Type III curls
Type IV curly hair
Type IV curly hair is the crunched version of the coils and cursive Es formed in Type III. By now, curls are formed between 0.125 inches and 0.5 inches, forming tight E-shaped curls. If the hair is shorter than 0.125 inches, the hair is curved at any length, and the curving pattern is easy to notice unless the hair is at a near-shaved length.
Type IV hair is colloquially known as curly-kinky, kinky and coiled, and examples of celebrities with such curl type include youngsters Corbin Bleu and Jaden Smith as well as NFL player Troy Polamalu.
Recommended hair products for Type IV curly hair are:
- THIS styling cream: will keep your tight coils looking shapely. If it isn’t available, then you can also go with the styling cream recommended above for Type III curls.
- THIS leave-in conditioner: an excellent styling product if you want to just let your curls sit and look their part; the leave-in conditioner will improve the aesthetics of your curls. Use if your Type-IV curls are longer than 4 inches.
- THIS pomade: only use if you want a high-shine effect and your curls are shorter than 4 inches.
- THIS hair mousse: an excellent product to have around for when you’re bored from the rest of your styling products.
- Hair dryer: the same applies as with Type III curls.
Corbin Bleu with some very elegant Type IV curls
Type V curly hair
Type V curly hair exhibits a peculiar shape resembling a “Z” instead of the coiled cursive E shape from Type III and Type IV curly hair; that is, Type V curly hair is so tightly coiled that the curls in this curl type do not have enough length to express a visible curve, and, at first sight, their shape resemble what looks like Z-shaped hair strands. Curls are formed in less than 0.125 inches, hence their curled shape is apparent even at a near-shaved length.
Type V curly hair is colloquially known as kinky, kinks, afro-textured and, in some circles, as nappy, and it is the curl type of popular curly men such as Cuba Gooding Jr or Will Smith.
Recommended hair products for Type V curly hair are:
- THIS leave-in conditioner: a must-have product if your curls are 6 inches or longer.
- THIS curl cream: if your curls are shorter than 6 inches, style your kinky-curly mane with the linked curl cream. This curl cream will help a lot with any frizz that you may have, especially if you’re growing your kinky curls long and they start to look too frizzy.
- THIS coconut butter: if you’re into natural products and want your kinky curls to look shapely and frizz free, then use one or two dabs of the linked coconut butter to coat your Type-V curls with. It’s imperative that you do this when your curls are damp (e.g. after drying your hair when you shower).
- Styling cream: if you want some added natural gloss for your curls, then use any of the styling creams recommended for Type III or Type IV curls too.
- Hair dryer: the same applies as with Type III and Type IV curls.
Will Smith demonstrates how Type V curls can be sported stylish and manly without the need of a buzz cut
Conclusion to the Curly Hair Type Guide
Curly hair can be puffy, coarse, dry and much more, but one thing remains, curly hair will form a curl at a given particular length as genetically determined, which is why this guide is your starting point to identify and learn to manage your hair. This guide, together with the Guide to Identify your Hair Length and the rest of the content on this site, will have you making the most out of your curls as a 21st-century modern male.
You may also find that you have two curl types on your head; this is perfectly normal, and you should go with the area of the scalp that I recommend to take your measurement from. If you have two curl types (I do, for example), you will find that they are the curl types that follow or precede one another in the guide. That is, you may have Type III curly hair on the top of your head and may also have Type IV on the nape and sides of your head. You will never have, however, highly discrepant curly hair types on your head (e.g Type I and Type IV). As mentioned in this guide, always remember that the area on the top of your head is the closest representation of what your natural curl type is.
Finally, I approach this Essential Guide to Types of Curly Hair from a reductionist point of view even though curls are formed, like anything else in nature, in three dimensions, not two. However, I believe that creating this typing guide with a two-dimensional mindset offers more pros than cons because, as modern males, we want convenience and results without getting “too girly”. Moreover, I have found it to be a quick and reliable method to identify a person’s curl type without getting too technical or creating confusion. In the case that you are unsure about what your curly hair type is even after taking your measurements, then refer to the illustrated examples of popular curly men for a good feel of what your curly hair type is.
That is it, although I recommend you have a read through the hairstyles posted for each of the hairstyles and I also recommend you to read this other epic guide of mine on curly hairstyles for men. In any case, this Essential Guide to Types of Curly Hair is a starting point for those men who want to know more about their curls and make the most out of their manes. Because curly hair is not a hairstyle, it’s a lifestyle!
All the best,
Guide Last Updated: 25th October 2018
Did you enjoy this article? Well, I’ve written a book entirely about looking after your curly hair as a modern male! If you want to learn how to have a great-looking head of waves, coils or kinks, then grab my book and join our ranks of dudes with curls, comrade!
USA and all over the world (except UK), you can grab/read/see The Curly Hair Book in Amazon via this link.
UK folks, you can grab/read/see The Curly Hair Book in Amazon UK via this link.