To keep your hair looking and feeling its best, it helps to know exactly what kind of hair you have. Knowing your hair type can guide you to better hair care routines, product purchases, and styling choices. If your hair falls somewhere on the hair type spectrum between straight (type 1) and curly (type 3), you likely have type 2, or wavy, hair. We’ll cover all there is to know about 2c hair in this article.
Wavy hair curves in an “S” shape while still laying flat against the scalp, rather than standing away from your head like truly curly hair does. This post helps you identify and understand your wavy hair, as well as offers suggestions on products, styles, and hair care routines that can help type 2c hair reach its full potential.
What Is 2c Hair?
In a classification system created by celebrity stylist Andre Walker, hair falls into four types from type 1 (straight) to type 4 (coily). The next level of this system identifies hair textures by assigning letters from a (more fine) to c (more coarse). Type 2c has the most tightly wound curls of all the wavy hair types, and may also be thicker and may be more challenging to style than other type 2 hair. Even though it borders on curly, 2c hair lacks the more defined curls of type 3 hair.
2c Hair vs. 3a Hair
Although located next to each other on the hair typing chart, 2c hair and 3a hair types have differences that distinguish them:
- Hair texture: Type 3a hair generally has more body and volume than type 2c hair.
- Curl pattern: Type 2c hair walks the line between wavy and curly. Whereas 3a has true spiral curls, think of 2c as a deep wave with a clear “S” pattern.
- External factors: Type 3a hair tends to be a little drier than 2c since oil from the scalp can’t move as easily down curlier strands.
2c Hair vs. 2b Hair
These two types of wavy hair share the following similarities and differences:
- Hair texture: Whereas 2c hair has waves starting at the roots, 2b tends to have straight hair at the top and curls forming further down your locks.
- Curl pattern: Type 2c hair has tighter curls than 2b, which have a looser “S” pattern.
- External factors: While 2c hair may need products to help with manageability, 2b hair often needs products to achieve uniform curls.
Challenges of 2c Hair
Whether curly and coarse or straight and fine, every hair type has unique needs based on texture, curl pattern, porosity, and elasticity. To make things even more interesting, a single person can have multiple hair textures. If you have noticed that you have one curl type at your roots and another at your ends, you may have something called curl variance.
If your hair — or some of it — falls into the 2c category, you could find yourself facing the following challenges:
- Waves with less-defined curl pattern: 2c hair may need a little assistance to achieve defined curls.
- Can be drier and frizzier than other types: 2c hair tends to be dry and prone to frizz, both of which can result in “poofy” hair with flyaway strands.
- Can lose volume and definition quickly: 2c hair needs special care to keep it looking beautiful all day long.
- Prone to scalp dryness from overwashing: Washing 2c hair too often can cause both dry hair and dry scalp.
- Can lose moisture quickly: 2c hair needs more hydration than most other hair types to maintain shape and bounce.
How to Care for 2c Hair
Knowing your type of hair makes caring for it that much easier. The best 2c hair care routines prioritize moisture, heat protection, and curl definition.
1. Use Hydrating Products to Wash, Condition, and Style Your Hair
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate — keeping 2c hair happy means using hydrating and moisturizing products in every step of your washing, conditioning, and styling regimen.
2. Don’t Wash Your Hair More Than Three Times a Week
Because 2c hair often has issues with dryness, you may want to limit your hair washing to two or three times a week. Washing it more often than that can deplete natural oils, leading to both dry scalp and frizzy hair.
3. Use Lightweight Styling Products That Help Set and Define Curls
“[One] of the challenges that come with 2c hair types,” according to celebrity stylist Danielle Keasling, “is that your curls are actually waves and you need products to better enhance the pattern.” She suggests using curl definition and leave-in conditioning treatments, but cautions against heavy products. “Lightweight yet highly moisturized styling will provide support for that beautiful wave without weighing heavy on the hair.”
4. Pre-Condition Your Hair if Your Texture Is Fine or Drier
A great way to hydrate dry or fine 2c hair without weighing it down involves pre-conditioning. This process flips the usual script and has you condition your hair first and shampoo it second. By washing away product buildup and residue, pre-conditioning locks moisture inside the hair without coating the outside and weighing it down.
5. Use Oils and Leave-In Conditioners to Tame Frizz
Many stylists recommend oils and leave-in conditioners to help people with 2c hair combat frizz. Hair expert Ghanima Abdullah suggests weekly coconut oil treatments prior to shampooing, conditioning, and using a leave-in conditioner. The oil “fills the spaces inside the hair shaft to help keep shampoo and too much water from entering the hair shaft. Shampoos can be corrosive to the inside of the hair, as they are all made of detergents.”
6. Gently Use A Wide-Toothed Comb or Brush on Wet Hair
Treat your hair right by using wide-toothed combs and brushes after washing. Wet hair tends to be particularly prone to breakage, so use the proper tools to rid your hair of tangles — and proceed gently — to avoid damaging it.
7. Use Heat Protectant on Hair When Using a Blow Dryer
While heat can damage any kind of hair right down to the follicles, people with 2c hair need to take extra care when blow drying. Using a heat protectant product and a diffuser attachment can help lock in moisture for your hair, which is already prone to dryness and frizz. You may also want to consider using an ionic dryer, which seals in moisture and smooths the cuticle, allowing you to dry your hair without overdrying.
8. Try Deep-Conditioning Masks or Pre-Shampoo Treatments 1-2 Times Monthly
Products with hydrating properties tend to be good for 2c hair. Consider using a deep conditioner — such as a mask or oil treatment — once a week or every other week, depending on your hair’s needs to enhance manageability and moisture.
9. Find a Haircut and Style That Suits Your Waves
A great haircut helps you highlight your natural waves as well as avoid typical 2c challenges like frizz and poofy hair. “For loose curls and open waves, the best shape is medium to long layers or ‘stacking’,” says Strength X Beauty Founder and CEO Lisa Abbey, “which is just layering the ends to avoid looking bottom-heavy and [to] add more volume to the crown and around the face.”
Wash Day Routine for 2c Hair
If you have 2c hair, a few important considerations can help you hone your wash-day routine. Keep in mind, however, that while these suggestions may hold true for many people with 2c hair, your specific needs may differ. Your actual washing requirements can vary by climate, season, activity level, sleep habits, and your unique hair characteristics.
1. Wash Hair Using a Hydrating, Sulfate-Free Shampoo
The right shampoo for 2c hair does not contain sulfates. A common ingredient in cleansers, sulfates clean hair but may also strip it of essential moisture. That’s why stylists often recommend that those with 2c hair look for a shampoo with moisturizing properties — and without drying sulfates.
2. Condition Before and After Shampooing, Let It Set, and Distribute Evenly
To give your conditioner a chance to penetrate your strands, use a wide-tooth comb to distribute it and leave it there while you finish your shower before rinsing. If you want the benefits of a conditioner without the added weight, consider reverse hair washing (or pre-conditioning), where you condition first and shampoo second. You may even choose to condition multiple times in one day: using a deep moisturizing treatment before shampooing, a rinse-out conditioner next, and a leave-in conditioner last.
3. Detangle Your Hair with a Special Brush
Specially designed brushes can help you detangle hair and distribute conditioner more evenly in the shower. Be sure to apply conditioner to wet hair before brushing gently to avoid damaging your 2c curls.
4. Rinse Out Conditioner
A moisturizing rinse-out conditioner can add much-needed hydration to your 2c waves. To prevent your conditioner from sliding right off your strands, try applying it when your hair is damp rather than dripping wet. You can gently squeeze out excess moisture by hand or with a microfiber towel prior to applying the conditioner.
5. Apply Styling Products to Sopping Wet Hair
If you have tighter curls and less porous hair, you may try applying styling cream or leave-in conditioner to dripping wet hair. These products coat your hair as it dries, keeping unwanted volume and frizziness at bay. Apply moisturizing hair products by gently raking your fingertips through your strands, scrunching the ends of your tresses, and then squeezing the excess water out with a microfiber towel. These techniques can have extra impact when you choose to air-dry your hair instead of blow-drying it.
6. Gently Scrunch and Pat Hair Dry From Tips to Roots
Stylists often recommend that people with 2c hair ditch the terrycloth in favor of a microfiber towel, satin pillowcase, or even a t-shirt. Gently scrunching your hair from tips to roots with a microfiber towel, rather than rubbing it with a cotton towel, can help you avoid frizz and breakage of fragile, wet hair.
7. Allow Hair to Air Dry Whenever Possible
Allowing your hair to air dry requires less effort and helps avoid the dangers of heat styling. After applying your leave-in conditioner and curl enhancer, let your hair dry naturally or “plop” it into a wrap or t-shirt for 30 minutes. If you do decide to use a blow dryer, don’t forget the heat protectant and diffuser attachment.
8. Try Root Clipping to Add Volume to Your Roots
To prevent your 2c volume from flattening the top of your hair, consider root clipping. After applying styling products and letting hair partially dry, use claw clips on your crown to lift small batches of hair at the roots. Then allow your hair to dry completely before removing the clips.
Best Hairstyles for 2c Hair
The best styles for 2c curls work with your natural hair rather than against it. Whether you want to go long, short, or somewhere in between, you can find a style that meets both your hair needs and your personal style.
1. Scarves and Accessory Accents
Make your natural wave pattern pop with scarves, twists, barrettes, and other simple accessories. Roll up a pretty scarf and wear it as a headband, twirl a few curls into a rope twist and fasten them with clips, or smooth down some strands in front and add some cute barrettes.
2. Layered Bobs
The right haircut can give you a headstart on preventing typical 2c challenges, such as excessive frizziness, fluffiness, and flatness at the crown. To maintain volume and bounce, curly hairstyles look best with layers. You may opt for a shaggy lob, a Deva cut, an angled bob, or long romantic waves, but don’t forget to ask for layers!
3. Long Face Framing Cuts
If you don’t want to go short all over, you can keep volume where it counts with a face-framing haircut. Adding layers around the face accentuates your features and can keep even long hairstyles feeling light and bouncy.
Best Products for 2c Hair
The right products for 2c curly hair types go a long way towards achieving your best hair.
1. Sulfate-Free and Paraben-Free Shampoos
Common hair care ingredients like parabens and sulfates can dry out the hair. This makes for a particularly bad combination with 2c hair, which already tends towards dryness. So make sure to read bottles carefully and choose products without these harmful chemicals.
2. Ultra-Hydrating Conditioners, Masks, and Oils
Give your 2c hair the moisture it craves by choosing ultra-hydrating conditioning products, including rinse-out conditioners, leave-in conditioners, and deep-conditioning hair masks. Many stylists swear by oil treatments as well, including such nourishing options as argan oil, coconut oil, and almond oil.
3. Smoothing Balms and Defining Creams for Styling
The best styling products for 2c hair help you fight frizz, tame flyaways, and increase curl definition. Raking hydrating creams and styling balms through wet strands with your fingers and then scrunching from the ends towards the roots can help you achieve a curlier look.
4. Gels and Mousse for Styling
While the choice of styling product depends on the look you want to achieve, gels and mousses can help define and hold 2c curls. After gently squeezing out excess water with a microfiber towel, scrunch the product into your curls from the tips. Choose lightweight products with low amounts of alcohol to avoid weighing down or drying out your hair when choosing gel or mousse for styling.
Do’s and Don’ts for 2c Hair
To keep your 2c hair in tip-top shape, follow these do’s and don’ts:
Do: Sleep on a Satin Pillowcase or Wrap Hair at Night
While you toss and turn at night, your hair can pay the price. Stylists recommend people with 2c hair guard against friction by sleeping on satin pillowcases or using a bedtime silk wrap to prevent frizz, flyaways, static electricity, and breakage.
Do: Use Hyaluronic Acid For Increased Moisture Absorption
Known for its skin-hydrating properties, hyaluronic acid can do wonders for dry hair as well. Products containing this ingredient can help hydrate your scalp, add moisture to your locks, and improve your hair’s overall texture. While almost anyone can use hyaluronic acid, you may find it particularly beneficial if you have very dry, brittle, or frizzy hair.
Do: Refresh Your Waves Between Wash Days
Because you know better than to wash your 2c tresses too often, you may find your hair needs a little boost between shampoo days. Try using a light leave-in moisturizer or conditioner on dry hair to refresh your style and redefine your curls.
Don’t: Use Alcohol-Based Styling Products
Just like parabens and sulfates, alcohol can strip much-needed moisture from your hair. So to prevent frizz and breakage, look for products with high amounts of moisturizing ingredients and low amounts of drying alcohols.
Don’t: Be Aggressive When Towel-Drying Hair
Rule #1 for 2c types: Take it easy on your hair! While air-drying methods (including towel-drying) can avoid the dangers of heat-drying methods (including hair dryers), you should still proceed with caution. Gently squeeze water out of wet hair with your fingers, then pat the roots and scrunch the ends with a microfiber towel or even a t-shirt. Roughly running a cotton towel over your tresses may reduce drying time, but it can also cause major frizz and even breakage.
With proper care and styling, 2c hair gives you the best of both worlds: movement and volume with control and manageability. The suggestions in this article can help you care for your unique hair type at home. When it comes time to visit a professional, StyleSeat can help you book a stylist who understands the right treatments, products, and haircuts to make the most of your unique 2c waves.