If you’re familiar with the curl patterns, you know what 1a, 2b, 3c, 4c, etc means. They are a few of the different hair types in the hair typing system created by Andre Walker – the guy who’s been doing Oprah’s hair for close to three decades. We thought that was a nice little tidbit to kick off this piece.
The hair typing system classifies hair textures based on the tightness of the curl patterns they have. One end of the spectrum is 1a hair characterized by straight, fine strands, while the other has 4c hair characterized by kinky, tightly-coiled strands. In between is a wide range of hair textures.
Suppose you wanted to change your hair texture from 1a to 4c, or vice versa. Is it possible? Can you change your curl pattern? Here’s everything you need to know.
Is It Possible to Change Your Curl Pattern?
The short answer is – it depends. Going from a tighter curl pattern to a looser one is possible using heat and chemical relaxers. These techniques, however, do not affect the curl pattern of the virgin hair growing out of your scalp. On the other hand, you can’t change your natural curl pattern from looser to tighter, but you can enhance it.
Hair texture is genetic. Your hair has a specific curl pattern that’s unique to you. You might notice some changes along your natural hair journey, depending on how long or short it is at any particular point in time. Here’s why.
As your hair gets longer, it naturally weighs more. This will cause your curls to stretch out and become looser compared to the way they look when your hair is shorter. There’s also no guarantee that your curl pattern will remain the same when your hair is at a specific hair length. Hormonal imbalances, pregnancy, diet, and even illness, can cause your hair texture to change.
If you like doing up your hair in stretching styles like braids and twist-outs, you’ll also notice a change in your curls since hair strands usually retain some memory. The more you wear your hair a certain way, the easier it will be for your strands to remember it.
As far as completely changing the natural curl pattern on your existing hair goes, it depends on which direction you’re going.
Why Would Someone Want to Change Their Curl Pattern?
Contrary to what you might think, natural hair isn’t just natural hair. Mixed-race individuals, for instance, have curly hair as opposed to what would be considered kinky textured hair, which is common among people of African descent.
It is not unusual to see someone with tighter or looser curl patterns than your own; fall in love with them (the curl patterns, not the person – although you can fall for the person as well); and want to have hair with defined curls just like theirs.
It’s important to keep in mind that two people could have the same hair type or curl type, but there can still be a world of differences between them.
For example, you might both have 3c hair, but yours might be denser, meaning you might not achieve the same styling results, even if you tried.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to change your curl pattern, you should learn to work with what you have instead of being fixated on changing it. You’ll understand why in the section below.
How to Enhance Your Curl Pattern
Enhancing your natural curl pattern has everything to do with improving your hair’s elasticity. If your hair has a hard time getting back to its natural state after stretching it when wet, it is likely because of low elasticity. There needs to be a perfect balance between protein and moisture to give it the ability to bounce back with ease.
You want to alternate between a deep moisturizing conditioner and protein treatment every week. Check for products with ingredients like hydrolyzed silk protein, hydrolyzed keratin, and hydrolyzed wheat protein. These will restore moisture and elasticity to your hair, making your curl pattern more defined (read, bouncy).
While you’re at it, steer clear of heat and harmful chemicals. If you must use heat on your hair, always apply a generous amount of heat protectant first.
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The Bottom Line
Can you change your curl pattern? Yes, using heat and chemical relaxers to transition from tighter to looser curly hair. These, however, won’t have any effect on the natural hair pattern of new hair growth.
On the other hand, there’s nothing you can do to make a looser curl a tight curl. You can, however, enhance your curl type to improve its natural elasticity and overall appearance. Use the tips we’ve outlined in this guide to make your curls pop and achieve your desired curl definition.