2A Hair-Care Tips That'll Bring Out the Best In Your Waves

If you have very loose waves (often referred to as type 2A hair), here's what you should keep in mind when building your hair-care routine.

Hair Health Hotline Loose Waves
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Hair Health Hotline is your direct access to dermatologists, trichologists, hairstylists, and other beauty pros. Each story in this series tackles a common hair or scalp concern and offers science-backed solutions to care for your strands.

If you have wavy hair, you've probably experienced at least one hair type identity crisis. Your stands don't form ringlets nor are they straight, so you might feel tempted to coax them toward one side or the other.

If you'd rather stay true to your waves, the key is to craft a hair-care routine that's tailored to your in-between texture. Here, hairstylist, curl expert, and T3 ambassador Nai'vasha Johnson shares exactly how to cater to your hair type.

Q: I have fine hair with loose waves and can't figure out which products to try. What should I use?

A: You want to select products that are suited for 2A hair. If you've explored curly hair forums, then you're already familiar with the term, but if not it stems from a classification system created by hairstylist Andre Walker, which sorts hair into categories from 1 to 4C. (Type 1 hair is straight, 2 is wavy, 3 is curly, and 4 is coily. Types 2-4 are each subdivided into A, B, and C categories, ranging from looser to tighter "S"-shaped waves or spirals. If you're more of a visual person, you can find an illustration of each here.)

If you have the 2A hair type, the thickness of your hair is probably fine, according to Johnson. (Note: Thicknessrefers to the diameter of each individual strand, while hair density relates to the number of strands sprouting from your scalp.) Additionally, you probably notice your scalp tends to become greasy soon after washing your hair. "People with the 2A hair type tend to create more sebum, which is more oil, on their scalp, which can add weight to the hair," says Johnson. So, ideally you'll nourish your hair without weighing it down.

Hair Health Hotline Question: How Should I Care for my Loose Waves?
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How to Care for 2A Wavy Hair

Here's the best approach for keeping your 2A hair healthy.

Make Use of the Best 2A Hair Products

If you have type 2A hair, plan on washing your hair twice per week, advises Johnson. You'll want to use a hydrating shampoo and conditioner and rinse your hair with cold water to smooth strands' cuticles and seal in moisture, she says.

Be sure to towel dry your hair thoroughly as soon as you're out of the shower. (Microfiber towels tend to be a more gentle option than the traditional bath towel.) Resist the urge to use the towel to "scrunch" your ends toward your head, which can actually end up disturbing your curl pattern and creating frizz, according to Johnson.

Finally, apply a leave-in conditioner. "A leave-in is paramount for all hair types," since the products provide an extra layer of protection against dryness, according to Johnson. At this point, you have the option to air dry your hair — 2A hair tends to look great after a wash-and-go, says Johnson — or you can use a diffuser with moderate heat to further accentuate your waves.

For intensive nourishment, plan to use a hair mask about twice per month, recommends Johnson. Bottom line, if you've been bombarding your 2A hair with loads of tools and products, you might just be overcomplicating matters. (

Prioritize Hydration

When choosing your products, you want to prioritize hydration, treating moisturization as a secondary focus, in order to fight frizz without weighing your hair down too much, says Johnson. (Refresher: hydrating ingredients increase hair's water content, moisturizing ingredients — e.g. oils — provide reinforcement to prevent water loss.) "I recommend being very careful with the amount of oil versus hydrating products that you use," she says. "Oil is very heavy." (Read: best used sparingly when you have fine hair and your scalp is overzealous in its oil production.)

Beyond looking for the word "hydrating" on the label, make sure you're choosing products that are "hefty with humectants" (i.e. ingredients that hydrate), says Johnson. For example, Johnson's favorite hair-care humectant is honey, and hyaluronic acid, a popular humectant in skin care, has become increasingly popular in hair products.

Remember That 'Less Is More'

For many people with 2A waves, the key to unlocking happy, healthy hair is simply using smaller amounts of product. "This is actually an easier curl to work with," says Johnson. "The main thing that I would stress with the hair type is to be delicate with the amount of product that you use. That's with any curl type, but especially 2A hair," she says. Chalk it up to your aforementioned excess oil production. "If you're adding a lot of product and your body is already creating an extra amount of oil, it could potentially be problematic," says Johnson. To give you an idea, a quarter-sized dollop of conditioner for your entire head of hair will suffice (and even less if you have short hair), according to Johnson.

Instead of always blow-drying your hair straight, consider allowing it to air dry and then styling from there if it feels necessary, suggests Johnson. "Once you really understand your texture you'll understand how to manage that curl type," she says. "It's really going to be about letting it air dry so you can see what it's going to do before styling. Over-styling is a common mistake among people in the type 2 hair family." (

And there you have it: You may find success with tweaking your hair washing routine and finding hydrating hair products — or just doing less.

Have a hair health question you want answered? Send your Q to hairhotline@shape.com for a chance to have it featured in a future installment of Hair Health Hotline.

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