When you’re working with curly hair, it is helpful to be able to identify just what kind of hair you’re dealing with. Categories have been developed to give people general guidelines for dealing with the various types of hair.
An even more detailed description of hair types can be found in the book Andre Talks Hair
Type 1 is plain-jane straight hair, the kind people like me find deathly boring, and the kind many Black women would love to have. (Who knows why we can’t just decide to like what we have?) Type one hair can be fine or coarse.
Type 2 is wavy hair, with gently waved s-shaped curls. The hallmark that distinguishes type 2 from type 3 is the fact that type 2 will lie flat against the head. Type 2a is fine, 2b is medium-textured, and type 2c is coarse. Isabella Rosellini and Jennifer Aniston have type 2 hair.
Type 3 is where hair starts getting curly. Type 3 hair is shiny, with soft, smooth, well-defined curls and strong elasticity. Again, it is divided into sub-types. 3A is usually very shiny with big curls. Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts have type 3A.
3B is hair that ranges from bouncy Shirley-Temple ringlets to tight corkscrews. Curls are about the diameter of sidewalk chalk. Juliana Margulies has type 3B.
Type 3C is hair with tight curls in corkscrews about the circumference of a pencil or a straw. The curls can be either kinky, or very tightly curled, with lots and lots of strands densely packed together. Type 3C is where hair starts to get ‘big’. Rachel True is a good example of 3C hair.
Type 4 hair can range from fine and thin to wiry and coarse. 4a hair has a clearly visible curl and wave pattern that ranges from pen size curls to coffee-stirrer size s-shaped coils. 4b hair has a tighter wave pattern and kinks of various size. Instead of an s-shaped curl pattern, it will usually have a z-shaped pattern. Type 4 hair tends to be less shiny than type 3. Instead it has a sheen and a soft, cottony feel. In its unlocked/unbraided state, type 4 hair can shrink up to 75% of the actual hair length.
After reading all this, I’ve decided that my 2 year old has mostly 3C hair that is very shiny, somewhat coarse, and strong. My 4 year old has a mixture of 3C and 4A hair. Her hair is softer, finer, less shiny, and more delicate than my 2 year old’s.
I found most of this information at naturallycurly.com. There you’ll find good photos of the various types of hair. Here’s a good discussion of the way children’s hair changes over the years: Typing Kids Hair: Go With The Flow And finally, here are more pictures and product recommendations, although the classification system is a little different.