Hair Typing 101 (Part 1)
by Latoya of Busy Life, Fab Hair
Let’s face it. Hair typing gets a bad rap. A really bad rap. It is 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.
READ Full Andre Walker Hair Classification System
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.
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:
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:
C = No curl pattern
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 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 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 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?