Keeping your hair healthy starts by knowing what type of hair you have. Not only that, but it will help you find the right hairstyles and products. For the most part, hair typing isn’t commonly discussed because general care is similar across all types of hair. However, if you are going to make the most of naturally healthy, beautiful hair, you have to know its type so that you can give it all of the appropriate care that it deserves.
Hair types go well beyond basic descriptions like curly, wavy, or straight. There are actually 12 categories and subcategories that have a uniquely specific description. Although there are many systems for hair typing, Andre Walker’s method is much more well-known and discussed. For the sake of this chapter, we’ll be using that model to help explain the various types of hair and the care required for them.
Remember that pictures alone cannot tell you your hair type. You shouldn’t rule out one type or another solely based on the pictures shown. Instead, read the description of the types and figure out where your hair fits best. In addition to the chart, you have to look at the texture of your hair, which typically describes how thick it is and how it feels.
Hair Type Chart
It can be hard to visualize hair types based on a description alone. Since the information discussed is being based on the Andre Walker typing system, we have taken the time to include a graphic below that showcases what each different hair type looks like based on its classification.
As you can see in the chart above, there are four types of hair within this system. Types 2 through 4 have subcategories, as well. These 12 classifications do a fair job of covering all the possible types of hair based on the amount of curl in the strands and how tight those curls or kinks are wound. Straight and wavy hair might seem simple, but those also require special care and maintenance.
You can also find other hair type charts for the various typing systems, which all focus on their own methods of determining what type of hair a person has. Many of these systems are becoming obsolete with new systems developed often reflecting some variation of the Andre Walker system, which is the one pictured above and discussed within this ebook.
Natural Hair Types
Understanding your natural hair types have a large impact on how well you can care for it. There are a lot of factors that affect what type of hair you have, including the curl patterns depicted in the chart above. Other elements that determine your hair type include:
- Diameter: the width of the actual hair strands, which may also help determine texture.
- Porosity: how porous, or likely to absorb moisture, the hair is. Check out this explanation of hair porosity and how it affects your styling routine from L’oreal Paris.
- Greasiness: Some people, especially with fine or thin hair, have greasy or oily hair. Those with thicker hair usually have the opposite issue.
- Density: Also referred to as thickness, this is how much hair you actually have on your head. Some people have denser hair growth while others may have a sparser growth. This can also change over time with age-related thinning and male-pattern baldness.
- Elasticity: This is the durability of the hair, or how well it resists breakage. Typically, thicker hair will be less likely to break and split than thinner types.
Keep reading for more information about specific types of hair and what special care they may need.
Type 2 Hair
Type 2 hair is wavy hair, which also falls into different classifications based on the level or amount of wave. Strands of hair seem closer to the head, in most cases, than they might with curly hair. For many with Type 2 hair, creating definition and volume is their biggest concern or struggle. Mousse and blow-dry styles are common for those with wavy hair. Both options offer volume, and added definition and control.
Frizz is a common issue for wavy hair, as well. A weekly moisturizing mask can do wonders, and people with this hair should utilize products that are designed to add volume and control frizz. Remember to choose light products that won’t weigh down the curls that do exist or completely remove natural waves.
Curly Hair Types
Technically, any hair that isn’t Type 1 (straight) is going to be some variation of curly hair types. However, for the sake of hair typing, these are classified into the categories of Wavy, Curly, and Kinky (or Type 2, 3, and 4), respectively. For this section, we will focus on Type 3 curly hair.
This hair is usually straight(er) when wet and then curls up as it dries. Curly hair is defined by springy, obvious curls that are relatively easy to style. Moisture is always a concern for those with curly hair, which is why extra-moisturizing conditioners and moisturizing masks should be used frequently by those with curly hair.
Within this hair type, there are three different subcategories. Each has its own characteristics, flaws, and maintenance and care requirements.
3A Hair Type
Type 3A hair type has decently defined curls that offer a thick texture. These curls also feature plenty of shine but have a tendency to be frizzy. This hair could benefit from a quality moisturizing conditioner.
3B Hair Type
Type 3B curly hair is much tighter and usually features multiple textures. The curls may still have some shine, but frizz will also be a concern. A serum or leave-in conditioner can help these curls.
3C Hair Type
3C hair type is the tightest curly hair, according to this typing system. Hair that is classified as 3C will fit over a pencil, offering much tighter curls than 3A and 3B hair types. Tight curls often just need a scrunch spray and a good leave-in conditioner or oil.
4A Hair Type
Type 4 hair includes all kinky hairstyles. Subcategory 4A hair type refers to all hair that has well-defined kinks or curls. It also has a soft texture and tighter kinks than other styles. Kinky hair with this texture needs light products to hold its shape and prevent it from being weighed down.
4B Hair Type
4B hair type is kinky hair but also less defined. The tighter texture is much softer and more fragile. It is more likely to be damaged by heat and product. Therefore, you should utilize products for finer hair or choose shampoos and conditioners that reinforce and strengthen hair.
4C Hair Type
This style of kinky hair is most unique because the kinks are so tight that it might not even appear curly. It is also more sensitive to product and heat, and may have a softer texture. 4C hair type requires the most care when choosing styling products and hairstyles because of these considerations.
Different Hair Types
Texture also has to be considered when you are trying to determine your hair type. Knowing where it falls on the “straight-to-curly” scale is helpful, but that information doesn’t tell you all that you need to know to keep your hair healthy and strong. There are three different hair textures, which usually describe the feel or thickness.
The first type is fine hair. This fragile hair is often hard to style because it is so thin. It is also known for being greasy or oily, and is prone to being weighed down by styling products. People with fine hair often struggle with breakage and damage more than those with thicker hair. It is very rare for someone with curly or kinky hair to also have a fine texture. This is usually reserved for those with straight or wavy hair, and only consists of two layers: the cortex and cuticle.
The majority of people have medium hair, which is slightly thicker than fine hair. This hair consists of the cortex and cuticle, like fine hair, but may also contain a third layer. This layer is known as the medulla. This type of hair will hold style better, and is less prone to damage or breaking. It also is known to have more volume when compared to fine hair. People with straight and curly hair alike could have medium thickness.
Finally, there is coarse or thick hair. This hair contains all three layers, and provides a much fuller look than medium and fine hair. This hair is usually more durable. It will tolerate heat and product better than other textures. Thick hair also resists breakage and damage better, but can be notorious for frizz and difficulty in managing longer hairstyles without plenty of product.