Why is Knowing Your Hair Type so Important?
Knowing your hair type is useful as this enables you to:
- Choose the most effective products for your hair type
- Choose styles which work better with your hair type
- Do regular hair checks to determine the health of your hair
- Care for your hair more effectively
How Do You Assess Your Hair Type?
When carrying out a hair assessment, these are the factors which may need to be considered:
- Hair density
- Hair texture
- Hair porosity
- Curl pattern
What is Hair Density? – this refers to the number of individual hairs on your scalp. Hair density is categorised into low, medium or high. If you have hair with high density (thick or dense hair), then you have more hairs per square inch on your head, than someone with low or medium density hair.
Why is hair density important?
This is an important factor to consider when styling as individuals with low density hair/thin hair may wish to consider styles that show less scalp and make the hair appear thicker. You may also wish to use light products that won’t weigh down your hair. If your hair density is high, then heavier products such as butters and creams may be more effective as they will help hold your thick curls together and keep their shape.
To Assess Your Hair’s Density:
- Start with dry hair & part a section of hair into one square inch (2.5 cm) of scalp.
- Look at the scalp at the parting
- Is the scalp easily seen through the hair (low density) or is it hard to see and completely covered (high density)?
What is Hair Texture? – Hair texture is not how the hair feels but rather refers to the thickness of each individual hair strand. There are three categories of hair texture. These are fine, medium or coarse. Some individuals may find that their hair texture varies across different parts of their head.
Fine hair strands – are the thinnest and also the most fragile and prone to breakage. These strands:
- May appear quite limp and do not hold styles well
- May look stringy and weighed down if heavy products such as crèmes are applied
- Are very easy to process but also very susceptible to over processing & damage.
- Have less protein than other textures, therefore may benefit from protein treatments, which could help strengthen the hair.
Medium hair strands – are medium width. They are the most common hair texture and are thought to pose the least amount of problems. They are the ideal thickness and do not pose any particular problems during styling. These strands:
- Are not as prone to breakage as other hair textures.
- Hold styles fairly well
- Usually look thick & healthy
Coarse hair strands – are the thickest and have the strongest structure. These strands:
- May be hard to process and penetrate with relaxers, colouring etc.
- Contain a lot of protein which can make them quite dry & brittle. Therefore avoidance of products with protein, which may increase the dryness is recommended.
- Can cope with thicker products such as creams and butters.
- Appear full and hold styles well.
To Assess Your Hair’s Texture:
- Take strands from different areas of the head and examine them under the light.
- If the strand looks really thin then this indicates a fine texture.
- If the strand is of similar size to a piece of thread, then the hair texture may be medium
- If the strand is thicker than a piece of thread, then this indicates that this texture is coarse
What is Hair Porosity? – It refers to the ability of the hair to absorb and retain moisture. If you experience problems when moisturising your hair then it is important for you to understand this concept. There are 3 levels of hair porosity, which are low, normal and high.
Hair with Low Porosity:
- Is considered resistant hair as it is difficult to get moisture into the hair.
- Products may build up on the hair rather than being absorbed
- Is more difficult to process as its more resistant to chemicals
- Does not allow moisture to leak out once it is absorbed. Therefore is good at retaining moisture it is able to absorb.
Hair with Normal (Medium) porosity:
- Easily absorbs and retains moisture and products
- Doesn’t usually present any issues when processing with chemicals
- Looks healthy and vital with good flexibility
Hair with High Porosity:
- Can absorb too much moisture
- Allows moisture too leak out easily, meaning that it has difficulty retaining its moisture.
- Is usually damaged and may be dry and fragile and may lack shine, due to inadequate moisture levels.
Why is Hair Porosity Important?
Porosity is a critically important factor in determining your hair care, especially if your hair suffers from: dryness, fizziness’ or puffiness. Moisture determines the health of black hair. This is more evident in wavy, curly, kinky or highly textured hair. This is because moisture defines and shapes the curls. The inability to absorb or keep moisture in the hair strand will undermine even the best efforts to maximise curl potential.
To Assess Your Hair’s Porosity:
- On Clean & conditioned hair, take a single strand; place it into a bowl of tap water.
- Let the strand sit in the bowl for one to two minutes
- Observe your hair to see if it floats. If you hair does float, you have low porosity. If your hair sinks, this means you have high porosity.
What is Hair Elasticity? – It refers to the ability of the hair to be stretched and then return to its original length without breaking. Hair elasticity is usually considered to be low, medium or high.
Hair with Low Elasticity:
- Is brittle and breaks easily
- Will stretch up to one third of its length and will often break during this process
- Will be hard to curl and it will not perm easily
Hair with Medium Elasticity:
- Will stretch up to a third of its length. It may also break in the process
Hair with High Elasticity
- Is flexible
- Will curl easily and maintain its curl
- Will stretch up to double its length, and then spring back to its original length
To Assess Your Hair’s Elasticity:
- Select an individual hair strand from four different areas on your head
- Wet the hair strands one at a time
- If the hairs do not break while stretching and return to their original length, then they may have normal elasticity.
- If the hair breaks easily or doesn’t return to its original length, it may have low elasticity.
The final assessment is to determine your curl pattern (size & shape of your curls). One of the most popular systems referred to is Andre Walker’s Curl Typing System. He classified hair into four main categories: Straight – Type 1, Wavy – Type 2, Curly – Type 3 and Kinky – Type 4 and then he created further subcategories – a, b, c. However, this has been amended over the years to include extra subcategories as can be seen below.
Type 4: Kinky Hair – Most Commonly Found Amongst Black Women
Individuals with kinky hair types have very tight clearly defined curls. This type of hair is the most fragile, despite it appearing very thick. It may also appear dull and wiry. This is due to the inability of the natural oils from the scalp to travel up the hair strand. Therefore extreme care must be taken when drying, combing, brushing or exposing to heat. Individuals with Type 4b may see less of a coil or curl and the hair will have sharper angles like the letter ‘Z’. It will grow at the same rates as other hair types, but it is more prone to breakage.
There are 3 Type 4 subtypes:
- 4a: This hair type is tightly coiled and when stretched, it has an “S” pattern. Its moisture levels tend to be better than type 4b hair. It also has a definite curl pattern.
- 4b: With a less defined curl, this hair type has more of a “Z” pattern. Rather than curling or coiling, it bends in sharp angles like the letter “Z”. Type 4b hair does not hold curls very well and often looks frizzy.
- 4c: is not one of the types created by Andre Walker; however it has become widely used. This is very much like Type 4a except that 4c curls are extremely tightly coiled and very small in size
Hair Type 3: Curly
Individuals with Type 3 hair will have tight curls, which appear as an ‘S’ shape. The hair may appear fuller and may sometimes be frizzy. Type 3b hair looks more like ringlets. This type of hair has a lot of body and it is easy to style in its natural state. There are three Type 3 categories:
- 3a: Curls are big, loose and usually quite shiny.
- 3b: Has a Medium curl, and may range from springy ringlets to tight corkscrews.
- 3c: Curls are tight with a corkscrew appearance. They may be kinky, or very tight curls, which are densely packed together.
Hair Type 2: Wavy
Individuals with wavy hair, will find that when their hair is wet, it forms a loosely shaped ‘S’. There are three Type 2 categories:
- 2a: Thin, quite fine and easy to handle and style
- 2b: This hair type may appear slightly frizzy and individuals may have difficulty while styling
- 2c: This hair type frizzes easily, is more difficult to style and is thick and coarse
Hair Type 1: Straight
This hair type is generally shiny and difficult to damage, although it struggles to hold any curls. This type of hair is often oily, primarily because the natural oils from the scalp are easily able to travel down the straight strands. The oil that gives it, its shine can also make the hair look greasy if it isn’t washed regularly.
How to Assess Your Curl Pattern:
Some length is necessary to assess your true curl pattern. If your hair appears long enough, wash it to ensure it is clean and free of product. Then examine it closely to determine which curl pattern it matches.