Let’s talk hair typing. Let’s start with the basics. What is Hair Typing? Where did it come from? How Important is Hair Typing? And, Why do we need it? To answer these questions we must start with the history of hair typing. Andre Walker, the original creator of the hair typing chart, created the original hair typing system to help us better understand our texture, its needs, and why it may or may not respond to certain products. In essence, this chart was created to help us understand our hair and take better care of it.
While hair typing is very controversial in the natural hair community, it does seem to be a chart that most naturals refer to when choosing products and deciding what will work best for their hair. Some will argue the chart is not helpful and there are far too many factors in charting hair types. While both sides of this debate have very valid arguments, it appears the Hair Typing chart is here to stay.
Before we get into Hair Typing we must understand that no one head of curls is the same. There are four main Hair Types with subcategories ranging from A to C for each type. Along with hair types, there are several other factors, such as hair texture, curl pattern, density and porosity, which play a huge role in how certain products will work for your hair.
To understand your hair a little better let’s look at these factors that contribute to the hair typing world.
Hair texture refers to the thickness and diameter of one single strand of hair. The three types of hair textures are: Fine, Medium & Coarse.
Fine textured hair usually falls flat to your head and you may find it difficult for these strands to hold styles. This texture is easily damaged as it is the most fragile of the three. These strands typically have two hair layers- a cortex and a cuticle.
Medium textured hair is the most typical of the three textures and often covers the scalp very well. This texture is easy to style and is not as fragile as fine strands. These strands typically have two layers- a cortex and a cuticle, but sometimes can contain the medulla.
Coarse texture refers to how large a strand of hair is. This texture is larger than the other two textures because it typically contains all three layers – cortex, cuticle and medulla. Being the largest of the three textures, it can take longer to dry than others and can resist chemical treatments. The Pros of having Coarse hair is that it tolerates heat well and is resistant to breakage far better than fine and medium hairs.
If you are curious what type of texture you have try this quick test to find your texture:
Take one strand of hair between your fingers. If the strand feels non- existing, then you have fine hair. If you can feel the hair even slightly, then it's a medium texture. If you feel a strong strand between your fingers your texture is coarse.
Now that you know your hair texture let’s consider Curl Pattern.
Curl Pattern is determined by how evenly the two sides of a hair strand grow. Genetics play a huge role in curl pattern. Your Curl pattern can be straight, wavy, curly (S-shaped), or kinky/tightly coiled (very tight zig-zag shape). This is where our 4 curl types come from. There are subcategories A, B and C under each curl type to better describe each type of curl.
Density is best described as how many strands are in a square inch on a person’s scalp. Density is measured by low, medium and high. Below is a great chart showing the difference between the texture of your hair -vs the density of your hair. Looking at the image there are multiple texture and density combinations. For example, a person can have thin/fine textured hair and with thick/high density. This would be a person with a full head of fine textured hairs. Another example a person can have coarse textured hairs with thin/low density. This results in thin or low amount of coarse textured hairs.
Curious about your density? Try this quick trick:
After washing your hair, let it completely dry. Look in the mirror. Can you see your scalp? If you can see your scalp you have low density. If you can partially see your scalp, you have medium density and if you can’t see your scalp at all you have high density.
Porosity is the measure of how your hair will absorb and hold water. There are three levels of hair porosity: low, medium, and high. Below I will demonstrate how each level of porosity has its own characteristics and how knowing this information will aid you in your natural hair journey
In low porosity hair, the cuticles are compact. Hair with low porosity is resistant to water and is harder to absorb moisture. However, once it absorbs moisture it holds onto it. Low porosity strands resist absorption of hair color, chemicals and heat. This level of porosity tends to be the driest of the three types because its tightly packed cuticle makes it difficult for liquids to enter or remain in the hair strand. If you have low porosity hair, you should deep condition weekly and use products that will give you the most moisture such as leave in conditioners, coconut oil, and jojoba oil.
In medium porosity hair, the hair cuticle isn’t as densely packed. The hair is healthy and bouncy. This is considered the norm of porosity. If you have medium porosity hair, your strands will need moisture based shampoos and conditioners. Since this is the base line, you don’t have to do much to retain moisture.
In high porosity hair, the cuticles are raised. High Porosity hair absorbs moisture very quickly as it loves water. However, high porosity hair loses moisture just as quickly. These strands often have broken or missing cuticle layers. Although genetics play a key role, damage from heat and color also contribute to high porosity strands. If you have high porosity strands, you want to use more protein rich products. Try incorporating more glycerin, aloe vera juice, coconut and olive oils into your routine.
Other factors: You may notice change in your pattern during/after pregnancy, after use of certain medicines, with health and diet changes, with age, and with the use of different chemical treatments.
Below is the most current chart used for Hair Typing. This is the most widely used chart in the natural hair community to determine your hair needs and how to obtain the best styling results. Straight hair is shown as 1 type with no sub-categories. However, Hair Types 2, 3 and 4 are all shown to have 3 sub-categories.
Here you can take a look at each classification as each Hair Type has different styling requirements and care needs.
This type of hair is usually stick-straight and difficult to make in waves or curls. Where straight hair lacks curl, it makes up for it in shine, grows at a more rapid rate and is less prone to breakage.
Styling Tips: For straight hair, try the Natural Curl Club Natural Hair Rescue Paddle Wood Brush. The paddle brush covers a lot of strands for detangling purposes. These brushes are great for blow drying too, since they are vented and the flat surface is great for smoothing frizz and fighting static. The wide surface makes styling quicker and, with less brushing, there will be significantly less shedding.
Wavy hair has a S-shaped curl. Much of the hair can appear straight with slight bends towards the ends of the hair. Wavy hair can frizz very easily and can require a bit of work to achieve the perfect wave.
2A is a slight S shaped wave. This hair type usually lacks volume and definition.
2B is an “S” shaped wave. This wave has slightly more definition than 2A; however, it still tends to have loose curl definition.
2C is considered a super defined wave.
Styling Tips:For hold and definition it is suggested to use gel products. The level of gel hold needed for each wave will vary depending on the pattern. For the best curl definition, scrunch upwards while diffusing. To add volume, try diffusing with the head titled or upside down. Those who aren’t a fan of diffusing, use a volumizing shampoo or conditioner to give the perfect, full head of curls. Although this pattern is more of a wave, it still needs to be properly detangled. Try Natural Curl Girls Curl Rescue Wooden Short Tooth Comb which is perfect for detangling and conditioned curls. This comb is great for the 2a to 2b range curls and is sure to significantly eliminate shedding, help to increase blood flow to the scalp and glides seamlessly through the hair making detangling a breeze.
Curly hair can range from slightly curly to a more defined curl. These strands are most often fine and be easily styled in its naturally curly state or easily straightened with heat. The challenge with most curly hair types is fighting frizz and loss of definition.
3A curls are a loop “S” curl that is big and loose.
3B have more springer curls that range from ringlets to corkscrews. These curls tend to be a more spiral shaped curl
3C have a combination of curly and coily strands that are tightly coiled. They are described as a tight corkscrew shaped curl with super definition that are voluminous and both tightly coiled
Styling Tips: For best results try light weight custards, pomades, gels and jelly stylers. Try air drying or diffusing while using these products on damp hair for great results. Use products like edge control and gels to lay down any fly-away hairs. To brush any front edge areas into place, use the Natural Curl Girls Anti-Static Wood Edge Brush. This wooden brush has the perfect size bristles to capture all those small hairs and put every one of them in place.
Type 3 curls can be easily maintained overnight using the 100% Silk Curl Protecting Pillow Case. Skip the wrap/bonnet and sleep peacefully on the 100% Silk Pillowcase knowing your curls are protected. This silk pillow case reduces frizz and prevents snags and bunches. In the morning, just fluff and go.
Want to try a festival looking updo or like to wear pretty headbands? Want to rock an updo but don’t want the damage from bands and pins? For a unique and festive look, grab a Natural Curl Girls Extra Large 100% Pure Silk Hair Wrap, fold in half forming a triangle, wrap around the head with the largest side at the base of the neck, and tie around the head. Tuck the flap down to reveal a beautifully decorated headbanded updo. These silk wraps come in 3 different sizes,11 beautiful color choices and are perfect for any size curls.
This hair type has the tightest curls ranging from fine to coarse in s-shaped and z-shaped patterns. Curl definition is especially challenging and shrinkage and dryness are two constant issues found with this texture. These strands are the most fragile of the hair types.
4A is described as a tight and coarse curl pattern.
4B is described as a zig zag shaped curl mostly referred to as a kinky curl.
4C is described as a more afro state where curls are so tight they appear non- existent.
Styling Tips: For best results, use more creams, butters or products that are of a thick consistency. This texture will require more moisture, as it is prone to breakage and shrinkage. You will need to carefully detangle each section and twist them away, working around to each side of the head. Try detangling with the Natural Hair Rescue Wooden Extra Wide Tooth Comb. This comb is made from sandalwood and has many benefits that will have you ditching those old plastic combs in a hurry. Its wide tooth structure makes detangling a breeze with no static. It eliminates hair shedding and conditions as you detangle preventing snagging and breakage.
Deep conditioners and heated treatments help to combat problem areas like breakage and lack of moisture retention with Type 4 hair. After detangling, follow up with Natural Curl Girls deep conditioning curl treatment cap. This cap allows mobility during deep conditioning session and still gives all the benefits of sitting under that dreaded, hooded dryer. This cap gives off the proper amount of moist heat to open those hair cuticles and allow deep conditioners and oils to penetrate the hair shaft for optimum moisturized strands.
When ready to style, try rocking a twist out, braid out or wash and go. Type 4 hair can be air dried or dried with any heat source. Type 4 textures often comment on how short their strands look vs the long they really are. While shrinkage is the evidence of a healthy head of curls, it is one of the biggest complaints amongst the type 4 hair community. To get more bounce and body, try using the Natural Curl Girls Antic Static Wooden Pik Comb. This Pik is great for creating volume while styling. Simply insert at the roots and pick upwards for more volume.
When you have determined your hair type (fine, medium coarse, high porosity, low porosity kinky, curly or wavy) you will be better equipped to find products that fit your curls and give you the results you like. Something to keep in mind is that no one head is like the other. Although charts like this are very helpful, it is not a cookie cutter/one size fits all. Most individuals will have more than one curl pattern and will require the need to use one or more products and at times more than one technique to obtain the desired look. The best way to find what will work for you is to try different products and different styles. YouTube is a great source of information and you can find hair care forums all over the web.
Once you find what works for you, work it. Develop a routine around your hair needs and remember to love on your curls as much as possible. The key is, once you find what works for you, work it. Develop a routine around your hair needs and remember to love on your curls as much as possible. Now you are set. Use what you know and add it.
Happy Curl Day!