What’s up with hair typing?

I’ve heard so much about hair typing, curl type, etc. It can lead to misunderstanding and confusion. 3c, 4b, 4lmnop, 2ymcmb??? When I tell you that I am confused, you don’t know the half of it. I understand that hair typing can be helpful, especially when you first start your hair journey. Typing can help you find a ‘hair twin’ who has a well-established regimen. This information can also help in choosing hair styles and products that may work for you. However, it is important to remember that every head of hair is unique. You can be from the same family and have totally different types of hair.

If you read many hair blogs or join hair forums, you have likely heard about the Andre Walker hair typing system (3c, 4b, etc). Naturally Curly has a more complete version of the curl types.  This version hair-types-andre-walkerof hair typing is limited to the type of curl pattern one has. It does not take into account other factors such as strand thickness, porosity, and texture. I have noticed many people only consider this version of hair type. Two people can have the same curl pattern but different strand thickness or texture. This can affect how each person will treat the hair.

Green Beauty Channel  has a three-part series on how to determine your hair type using a more robust method. The first video addresses the flaws with the current typing system while the third part discusses “Good & Bad Hair”. The second part (below) addresses the various components for finding your complete hair type.



A note about the porosity test: Many hair enthusiasts have used a widely known porosity test. With this test, one places a strand of hair in a container of water and allows it to stay for some time. If the strand floats, the hair has low porosity. If the stand sinks, the hair has high porosity. The logic behind this is if the hair is porous, it has more open spaces. These open spaces allow more liquid to enter and the additional liquid makes the strand heavier. A heavier strand will make the hair sink to the bottom of the container. JC of  Natural Haven debunks this theory with her post, Junk Science – Hair Porosity Tests / Float or Sink. It states many reasons for invalidating the theory of the porosity tests. One that struck me was:

Hair in general will almost always float in water.

Many of you doing this test will note that your hair will float for ages and it may take some prodding to make it sink if it does at all. This is because hair is generally covered in oil. This oil is naturally produced sebum and any extra that you may use in your hair care routine will have an added impact. Now oil will always float on water, so your hair floating does not mean that it has low porosity. It does mean that your hair is light (which it is) and has a coating of oil that repels water (which it does).

This makes total sense to me. The article goes on to mention a scientific test for porosity but it seems quite expensive for the average person to use. There were no suggestions on at home porosity tests. Audrey Davis-Sivasothy suggests the following method in her book, “The Science of Black Hair”.

Using clean hair, gently grasp a clump of hair between your index finger and thumb and slowly slide your finger along the length of the strand, from the tips up toward the scalp. If you feel “bumps” or an overall uneven texture as you proceed up the shaft, your cuticles are not flat and your hair is slightly porous. [Chapter 2, page 48]

Armed with this information, you can make better choices for your hair. I determined my hair type using this method. Here’s what I found:

Curl: O, S (new growth), and I (relaxed/texlaxed)

Thickness: medium to fine

Porosity: normal to high

Density: medium to low

Texture: ??

When I want to make informed decisions about my hair, I look to this data. For example, my hair strands have a medium to fine thickness so I can’t use heavy sealants on my hair, like shea butter. They will just weigh my hair down. However, since my porosity is a bit high, I need a product that will help seal in the moisture and keep my cuticles flat.

I hope you find this information useful and it helps you on your healthy hair journey.

Disclaimer: I am not a hair scientist, cosmetologist, or anything of that sort. I have just done some research on this topic and wanted to share it with you.





Image sources: I Love my Satin Bonnet and ColourBox