Your hair type is as unique as you are, and understanding your hair type, curl pattern, subtype and the other components of the hair typing system can be the the first step of understanding your unique head of hair.
Most People Get Their Hair Type Wrong
Hair Typing is a system of classifying hair created by Andre Walker it comprises of curl pattern, hair texture, density, and porosity.
Most only focus on the ABCs and 123s of the hair classification system which only describes the physical appearance of hair or curly type and its subtype. You know… I’m 4b/4c for example.
But there are some things you consider when it comes to your hair type:
1.) One head of hair can have multiple hair types. You may have noticed that your curl pattern is looser in the front. Or maybe it’s tighter in the crown or center of your head. This really isn’t uncommon. Many people have noticed the differences in their hair.
2.) Knowing your curl pattern can leave you in the dark about your hair’s needs and physical makeup or composition. Honestly, it doesn’t provide any information about your hair’s physical makeup. In addition to curl pattern, identifying your hair’s texture, density, and porosity will provide a colorful view of the uniqueness of your head of hair.
Curly hair is very complex. No two heads of hair are alike. In fact, hairs on one head may not act alike. That is what makes us unique. But that also can be a challenge to fully understand our hair. Hair has various curl patterns (3C, 4A, etc.), textures, density, porosity and elasticity. It may seem very complicated, but here is the breakdown:
What is Hair Type
Hair Type consists of these 5 components:
- Curl Pattern
What is Curl Pattern or Curl Type
The is the most common system used to describe curl pattern.
The hair typing system is helpful in understanding how your hair may look if you copy a particular style. You can also infer that hair that is kinkier will be drier, because the tighter curl pattern makes it more difficult for natural hair sebum to reach the ends of the hair. You should not infer that kinkier hair is stronger. This is false.
Hair types are typically categorized into four major categories or curl patterns: straight, wavy, curly, and coily.
Each of these categories can be further divided into subtypes of a, b, or c.
Here’s a brief overview of each curl pattern:
- Straight Hair (Type 1): This hair type is generally smooth and straight, lacking a noticeable curl or wave.
- Wavy Hair (Type 2): Hair with a gentle “S” shape or loose waves falls into this category. It’s often easy to style.
- Curly Hair (Type 3): Curly hair features well-defined curls or ringlets, from loose to tight spirals.
- Coily Hair (Type 4): This hair type has tight, springy curls or coils that range from fine to coarse.
Here’s Subtype of Curl Pattern
You subtype describes the largest distance of your curls or the diameter of your curl, kink, or coil.
A: Well-defined curls or spirals.
B: Looser, less defined curls.
C: Very tight, small curls or coils.
In addition to curl pattern, here’s a breakdown of the other three components of the hair type system: texture, density, and porosity.
Hair Texture refers to the thickness or diameter of the hair strand. Your hair can be fine, medium (normal), or thick (coarse). Fine hair is delicate –with less protein structure — and doesn’t hold curls well. Fine hair is more prone to breakage, especially if it is also prone to dryness. Medium (normal) has more protein structure than fine hair, but it is more pliable than coarse hair. Coarse hair is a thicker hair strand, that holds curls well, but it is less pliable than fine or medium hair.
Density refers to the number of strands on your head. Those with low-density hair are more likely to have issues with scalpy twists. High density means you have a lot of hair strands. When you refer to someone’s hair as “thick”, it is normally in reference to density.
Porosity refers to how your hair strands retain moisture. If you are having issues moisturizing your hair, this is a crucial concept to grasp. Low porosity hair makes it difficult to get moisture into the hair. Normal (Medium) porosity hair is fairly easy to get moisture into the hair shaft and retain that moisture. High porosity hair has a very difficult time retaining moisture because water enters and leaves the shaft easily. (NOTE: Overly porous hair is normally due to chemical and mechanical damage and is even more difficult to moisturize.)
How to Test Your Hair Porosity
To test your hair porosity, place a shed hair in water and follow the guide below. It is also important to note that hair porosity can change over time due to the use of chemicals, heat, and age of hair.
Quick and Easy Guide to Porosity
Low Porosity = Closed Cuticle = Hair floats in water during hair porosity test = Difficult to get moisture into hair
Normal Porosity = Cuticle layer opens enough to allow moisture = Hair takes a long time to sink = Easy to moisturize and retain that moisture
High Porosity = Raised cuticle layer = Hair quickly sinks to the bottom = Absorbs water easily
Elasticity refers to the “stretchiness” of your hair, which is how much your hair will stretch and then return to its normal state. If your hair is healthy, when wet, it should stretch 50% or more and return to its normal state. Unhealthy hair may only stretch about 20% when wet. Hair that is not elastic is more prone to breakage. It is also harder to curl with rollers or heat-styling tools. To test for elasticity, pull strands from at least four areas of your head. Determine how much it springs break, how quickly it springs break, and whether your hair breaks.
So there you have it! The simple breakdown of “hair typing”. As you can see, it is much more than 1, 2, 3, and A, B, C. [Sorry I couldn’t resist the rhyme.] It is also important to note, that you can have any combination of these characteristics. (So although you think your hair looks like “Ebony” when you watch her video… it’s not.)
Identifying Your Hair Type:
Determining your hair type is a straightforward process. After washing and allowing your hair to air dry, take a close look at your strands. Pay attention to factors like curl pattern, thickness, and frizz.
You can use these observations to identify your hair type and subtype.
Is your hair straight, wavy, curly, or kinky? Assign your hair the corresponding hair type (Type 3 or Type 4). It’s worth noting, that most Black women have curly (3) or kinky (4) hair in its natural or non-relaxed state.
To identify your subtype look at the diameter of your textured hair.
Note that you are identifying the dominant hair type.
The Quick and Easy Curl Pattern Guide:
1 = Straight Hair
2 = Wavy Hair
3 = Curly Hair
A = Curl diameter of sidewalk chalk
B = Curl diameter of a sharpie
C = Curl diameter of a pencil
4 = Kinky Hair
A = Curl diameter of a needle
B = Zigzag curl pattern
C = No curl pattern
How Do You Use Your Hair Type
Hair Care for Different Hair Types
Now that you know your hair type, how do you put this information to use?
The easiest way to explain this is to use myself as an example.
Like so many I was completely confused and a little overwhelmed when I first went natural. Everyone was throwing around terms, products I had to try, and declaring curl types left and right. Needless to say, I purchased product after product…that didn’t work for my hair type.
That is when I started to take the time to truly understand my hair. You can say I built a relationship with my hair. And not just the Andre Walker Typing System, which is limited in utility. I learned about various aspects of hair typing so I could better understand how to moisturize and style my hair. And that is when I had my major breakthrough.