Beginner’s Guide to Discovering Your Hair Type

Hair Typing 101 (Part 1)

Hair Type Let’s face it. Hair typing gets a bad rep. A really bad rep.

It’s viewed as the categorization of “good” and “bad” hair textures. Women can be found online asking others to categorize them. Stereotypes ensue and then hair typing gets a bad name.

But if you think beyond the Andre Walker Typing System ( 3C, 4A, etc.), you will find that understanding all aspects of hair typing will make your hair journey much easier.

You don’t want to miss Part 2… Find Link Below

Have you ever wondered why someone’s hair may look just like yours, but the products they use don’t work for you? Or why some people are more susceptible to breakage? In this two part series, I’ll first break down hair typing terminology. In the second part, I will explain how you can use it to better understand your hair.

Before You Read This, Read The Description of Each Hair Type here

Black 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 has various curl patterns (3C, 4A, etc.), textures, density, porosity and elasticity. It may seem very complicated, but here is the breakdown:

Curl Pattern

The is the most common system used to describe curl pattern. Essentially, most Black women have curly (3) or kinky (4) hair. The A, B and C refer to the diameter of the curl. (Although some women refer to their hair has “G” or “Z” hair. There is no such thing. They are just using that to emphasize how “kinky” their hair is.) The typing system is helpful with 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 texture determines hair strength, which I will discuss next.

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

Read More on Hair Typing here

Texture

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, holds curls well, but it is less pliable than fine or medium hair.

Density

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

Porosity refers to how your hair strands retain moisture. If you are having issues moisturizing your hair, this is a very important concept to grasp. Low porosity hair is 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.) 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 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 take 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

Elasticity refers to the “stretchiness” of your hair, which is how much you 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.)

In the next installment, take things a step further. I’ll explain why hair typing is important and how you can use this to sort through the plethora of information available on the web.

But for now… How do you think you will use this information?

Read Part 2

Source:  Andre Talks Hair By: Andre Walker

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37 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide to Discovering Your Hair Type

  1. Nicki Woo

    HHHAAAAIIIIIIIRRRRR!!! Ufff. I have 4 girls and each one of them has different hair. We use a variety of products, depending on the child. This was great information, and I’ll def store it for future use. I just want my kiddos to love themselves and their hair, and to be super proud of it. You hair, btw, is super cute.

    Reply
    1. Naturalhairrules Post author

      Hi Nicki!!!

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you found the post helpful. We may have to chat more about your 4 girls and their hair.

      Reply
  2. sherry

    Great article. I am having problems with my hair and this article allow me to relaize my hair type and that I am low in porosity. Now only find out how to get the that porosity back.

    Reply
  3. miri

    wow this article helped a lot and i just found my hair type…is 3c and 4a. i have no idea why its not just one, but we are all somewhat different in unique ways. thanks

    Reply
  4. Katze

    Thank you so much for this information! I’m trying to learn as much as I can about my hair , so that it can be its healthiest! I have natural hair and love it. Best of hair luck and blessings to everyone! 🙂

    Reply
  5. Lindsey

    The troubled with the porosity test is we often put oils in our hair to seal it, and oil floats, therefore the hair could float for quite a long time without being low porosity. Or if you have dense or coarse strands they could quickly sink to the bottom not bc they are weighed down by the water they absorbed, but just bc the strands are heavy. Applying and retaining moisture seems it would be best found by trial and error. When and what does it take to make hair feel moisturized, not just how fast does it sink.

    Reply
  6. Joanne

    I believe I have some 3c, 4a and 4 b. I have coarse and fine, tightly coiled and weirdly frizzy impervious to anything hair all mixed in. It is dense in the front and thin at certain points in the crown. I have low and high porosity. So basically I have everything and am having trouble getting a uniform pattern. Even though my hair was professionally cut, the sides and top stick out more than the area above the eyebrows. What do I do about that??!

    Reply
  7. GISLENE ALVES DE OLIUVEIRA

    BOA TARDE,MEU NOME É GISLENE,PRECISO DE SUA OPINIÃO QUANTO AO CABELO.PARTE DELE É CRESPO(PARTE INFERIOR E SUPERIOR), MAS MINHA FRANJA ESTÁ LISA, DEVIDO A PINTURA DOS CABELOS BRANCOS.E ALÉM DO MAIS ELE ESTÁ BEM QUEBRADIÇO,CAINDO MUITO,ALÉM DO NORMAL.EU QUERO MANTÊ-LO TODO CACHEADO FORTALECIDO. O QUE FAZER?
    MUITO OBRIGADA PELA ATENÇÃO!

    Reply
  8. Claricia

    i have very thin hair, not straight and def not not too bad of a coarse strand, my problem is that i love the big frizzy bush and my hair just don’t seem to frizz at all, when wet it just hangs in long strands and when dry it does not curl at all. I am currently using the Dr. Miracle products for the last 3 years and my hair is nice and long, but i still want the natural Jill Scott look. Please help me as I don’t want to braid or put any unnecessary products on my hair that might cause damage

    Reply
    1. Tamara Post author

      Hi Michelle, are asking about products? You can use the search bar and search”locs” you will an article called “Dry Locs” that has tips about what products to uses and more

      Reply
  9. khadijah

    Hi. I recently did the BC. And I’m wondering what products can I use to find my texture because it’s still growing like it’s relaxed.

    Reply
    1. Tamara Post author

      There are no products that will help you find your texture. Just give it some time. You’ll see more and more of your natural texture.

      Reply
  10. Toni Michel

    Thank you so much!! This is a great article I now know my hair type and the elasticity it has. I have been natural for years but I used to straighten my hair often because it was just to hard to manage curly. But I love it now. It took about 4 months for my curls to really come back but now I can have it super curly and silky or frizzy and wild, and when I pick it out.. I love my Afro! Natural hair really rocks and thank you I can’t wait to read part two. 🙂

    Reply
  11. Toni Michel

    I do have one question though. I have been allowing my hair to grow. I love my hair curly. It’s like a 3b or 3c type. The problem is I hardly ever wear it in that state. Because it is much shorter length like past my ears maybe. But when I twist it and let it dry it is much much longer. How can I get the same length when it’s really curly and my natural curl. As I do when I twist it and allow it to dry that way. I love my hair and would like it both ways.

    Reply
    1. Skyler

      Hi, I have type 4A hair and my hair shrinks as well (horribly). After washing/co-washing I put my hair in about 4 ponytails and let them dry until its no longer heavy (maybe an hour and a half) and then take them out and style. I hope that works for you!

      Reply
  12. T

    Hey, I have fine, thin and high porosity hair with heat damage at the front. What can I do to grow and retain length? I really don’t want protective styles that involve weave, extensions etc. just all natural. Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Nycole fuentes

    Ok so I believe Im a 3c ..now I go with my hair wet during the summer and love it . My question is with the hard winters in Pa what can I do instead of pulling into a ponytail for the next 3 to 4 months?

    Reply
  14. Eleanor De Gourville

    I have just found our what type of hair I have. However I’ve seen other people only having two types but I have 3. 3b 3c 4a. I also have locs. My hair is fine with medium porosity and elasticity. I’m constantly on a wild goose chase to find products for my hair.

    Reply
    1. delann

      Good morning like you I have been looking for products for my thin hair Just a suggestion but mist your hair with a little water peppermint and rosemary essential oil. Put in a spray bottle then try shea butter and black castor oil just a point finger and quarter size black castor oil rub hand together and massage you should feel a difference

      Reply
  15. Symone'

    According to other articles I have 4c hair, but according to this one I’m somewhere between 3c and 4a. I have very defined coils that are somewhere in between the diameter of a pencil and a needle. I am thoroughly confused…

    Reply
    1. Tamara Post author

      I apologize for the confusion. This post is based off of the Hair Type creator, Andre Walker which is the original hair type classification system. He didn’t recognize 4c as having a texture. But different sources on the internet have defined 4c differently. No need to be confused, though. Hair type is not as important as knowing your porosity. You may find that this post shades more light on hair typing.

      Reply
  16. Neriviya J.

    Hi! I have somewhere between type 4a and 4b hair and I’m really trying to figure out how to care for it, define my curls, and help it grow. I am mixed with Ugandan, Antiguan, & Indian, so I’m not really sure if that plays any part in the way I care for my hair. I also do not use grease, because I’ve found that lighter hair products work best on my hair (I use oil and it’s fantastic). But, what should I do to my hair overall on a daily/weekly basis?

    Reply
    1. BecsB

      Actually, your hair type does not have to do with ethnicity at all. It is the different alleles in your body that make up the hair type you have. Although different ethnicities tend to have the same hair type in them, it is the similar genes these ethnicities tend to carry that make it possible, but it the rules of having similar hair type does not apply to everyone of the same ethnicity.

      Reply
      1. June

        A person’s alleles are determined by ethnicity so stop the BS. Her mention of ethnicity makes perfect sense.

  17. Crystal Fox

    I really like this site. You are correct about the hair textures. My hair is soft and in the 2c; 3a & 3b category. I have been natural since 2008 and rocks the curl out hairstyle and love my hair. My hair is fine…The products I use for hair keeps it moisturize, soft and wavey. Friends always ask me what I use and I tell them what I use might not work for their hair.

    Reply
  18. Cheryl Cherry

    It’s very very annoying to have a floating advertisment going across the screen when you are trying to read…Your Advertisement says: We focus on every detail…terribly annoying

    Reply
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  21. Brenda

    I did the porosity test before and after I moisturized. Before I applied my products my hair floated, but after I applied my products my hair sank is that normal and what’s my porosity? On top of that, everytime I run my fingers through my hair I have strains on my hands is this normal? I need a way to combat my daily dry and brittle hair. Please help 🙂 thank you

    Reply
    1. Jazmyne

      Brenda, I’ve always read that you’re supposed to do it on clean hair. When you do it after you use product its not your hair that is reacting its the product that’s making your hair react. I don’t know you but from what you said it would seem as though you have low porosity. I’m not sure when you said it floated if it floated on the top or sank to the middle then floated. If it floated on the top then it would be low if it went to the middle then floated it would be normal porosity. If you are running your finger through dry hair then there will more than likely always be strands that come out. You shouldn’t run your fingers through dry hair. Hope this helped.

      Reply
  22. Olusola arowolo

    is it possible to have 4a,4b, and 4c hair….my edges seem to be 4c my middle hair pattern is s like and z shaped and the back of my hair from the middle down coils and my nap is like 4c

    Reply

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