Natural hair info sharing, caring, styles & topics

The skinny on Hair Typing


While I’m not a big proponent of hair typing, many build their entire hair regimen around it & swear by it. I don’t personally subscribe to this theory because my hair literally changes like & with the weather and/or the time & effort I tend to care or not care for it. 

Anyway, here it is:

Hair Types

Hair Classification Systems:

The total hair classification does not lie just within one system. Instead there are other systems out there to help you navigate through your journey of hair type discovery. Depending on your hair texture, your hair type can also reach across the level of typing within each system. 

Regardless of the classification system used, listen to your hair when using products to determine which product is best for YOU. Your hair will tell you exactly what it needs. Everybody’s hair reacts differently to products. Bottom line – don’t get caught up on classification systems instead figure out which products work better for you.
Andre Walker Hair Typing System:
The most commonly used system to classify hair textures is a hair typing created and used by Oprah’s Hair Stylist, Andre Walker. He has classified hair into various hair types. It is always best to know your particular hair type before attempting to determine the best products to use for your hair.

TYPE 1: Straight – Hair that reflects the most sheen. It is also the most resilient hair of all of the hair types. It is hard to damage and next to impossible to curl this hair texture. Because the sebum (natural oil produced in the sebaceous glands of the scalp) gently works its way from the scalp to the ends without the interference of curls or kinks, it is the most oily hair texture of all.
Type 1a – Straight (Fine/Thin) – Hair tends to be very Soft, Shiny, difficult to hold a curl, hair also tends to be oily, and difficult to damage.
Type 1b– Straight (Medium) – Hair has lots of volume & body.

 Type 1c – Straight (Coarse) – Hair is normally bone straight and difficult to Curl. Asian women usually fall into this category.

TYPE 2: Wavy – Hair that lies somewhere between straight and curly hair. It also imparts sheen, more than curly hair, but less than straight hair. The further down the wavy spectrum you go the less sheen the hair will impart. Wavy hair is typically more prone to frizz. While type A waves can easily alternate between straight and curly styles, type B and C Wavy hair is resistant to styling.

Type 2a – Wavy (Fine/Thin) – Hair has a definite “S” pattern. This type normally can accomplish various styles.
Type 2b – Wavy (Medium) – Hair tends to be frizzy, and a little resistant to styling.

Type 2c – Wavy (Coarse) – Hair is also resistant to styling and normally very frizzy; tends to have thicker waves.

TYPE 3: Curly – Pulling a strand of a type 3 curly, you will notice it has a definite S shape. Granted, the S may be a lower case s or upper case S, or it may even resemble a Z on some occasions…however, there is a definite curl pattern in place, with our without products. This hair type is full bodied, climate dependent (humidity = frizz), and damage prone. Lack of proper care renders dull curls

Type 3a – Curly (Loose Curls) – Hair tends to have a combination texture. It can be thick & full with lots of body, with a definite “S” pattern. It also tends to be frizzy.
Type 3b – Curly (Tight Curls) – Also tends to have a combination texture, with a medium amount of curl.

Type 4: Kinky – Despite many misconceptions, this tightly coiled hair is quite fine and fragile. It is wiry, and delicate by nature. Each strand usually has a zig zag pattern. Kinky hair is the driest hair type, thus it is more prone to breakage and requires a gentle touch. A misconception exists that this hair type does not grow. Kinky hair grows at the same rate as other texture; however, if not treated properly it breaks more than other textures. Treat this hair type like a fine silk blouse – cleanse gently, detangle softly, and avoid harsh chemicals.

Type 4a – Kinky (Soft) – Hair tends to be very Fragile, tightly coiled, and has a more defined curly pattern.
Type 4b – Kinky (Wiry) – Also very fragile and tightly coiled; however with a less visible curl pattern

**Type 3c (tight curls or coils that looks like corkscrews) and Type 4c (“Z” pattern) were not included in the original Andre Walker System. Type 3c was created after the release of the Andre Walker System by a community member of NaturallyCurly.com. Type 4c might have also been created by NaturallyCurly.com.

L.O.I.S. Hair Typing System
The LOIS system defines the hair typing system by the letters L.O.I.S. This system incorporates all aspects of African American hair types, eliminates the need for a hierarchical system and breaks away from the “good hair” “bad hair”routine.

Before you begin, please keep in mind that a healthy, undamaged, virgin hair strand, meaning one that is not processed, relaxed or colored, is needed.
Examine Your Hair Strand:
Select a single strand of the most common type of hair on your head.
Aim for the most common texture on your head if you have different hair textures.

The hair should be freshly washed without products applied to it and rinsed in cold water. Or, gently rinse a single hair with a little dish detergent and rinse in cold water.

Allow the hair to dry on a bit of paper towel so that you can look at the pattern without touching it.

Find Your Pattern:

The bends, kinks and coils of your hair will resemble one of more of the letters L, O, I or S.
L – If the hair has all bends, right angles and folds with little to no curve then you are daughter L.
O – If the strand is rolled up into the shape of one or several zeros like a spiral, then you are daughter O.

I – If the hair lies mostly flat with no distinctive curve or bend you are daughter I.

S – If the strand looks like a wavy line with hills and valleys then you are daughter S.

You may have a combination of the L,O,I,S letters, possibly with one dominant. If you cannot see one letter over the others, then combine the letters. Example: LO or IL or OS.

Find Your Strand Size:

A strand of frayed thread is about the thickness of a medium sized strand of human hair. If your strand is larger than this, then your hair is thick. If your strand is smaller than this, hair is thin, or fine.
Find Your Texture:

Shine is a sharp reflection of light – while Sheen is a dull reflection of light.
Thready – Hair as a low sheen, with high shine if the hair is held taut (as in a braid), with low frizz. Wets easily but water dries out quickly.
Wiry – Hair has a sparkly sheen, with low shine and low frizz. Water beads up or bounces off the hair strands. Hair never seems to get fully wet.

Cottony – Hair has a low sheen, a high shine if the hair is held taunt and has high frizz. Absorbs water quickly but does not get thoroughly wet very fast.

Spongy – Hair has a high sheen with low shine with a compacted looking frizz. Absorbs water before it gets thoroughly wet.

Silky – Hair has low sheen, a very high shine, with a lot or low frizz. Easily wets in water.

 F.I.A. Hair Typing System:

FIRST CLASSIFIER – Your curliness

The straight ones
1a – stick straight

1b – straight but with a slight body wave, just enough to add some volume, doesn’t look wavy

1c – straight with body wave and one or two visible S-waves (e.g. nape of neck or temples)

The wavy ones
2a – loose, stretched out S-waves throughout the hair

2b – shorter, more distinct S-waves (similar to waves from braiding damp hair)

2c – distinct S-waves and the odd spiral curl forming here and there

The curly ones
3a – big, loose spiral curls

3b – bouncy ringlets

3c – tight corkscrews

The really curly ones
4a – tightly coiled S-curls

4b – tightly coiled hair bending in sharp angles (Z-pattern)

SECOND CLASSIFIER – What (most of) your individual strands look like:
F – Fine
Thin strands that sometimes are almost translucent when held up to the light. Shed strands can be hard to see even against a contrasting background. Similar to hair found on many people of Scandinavian descent.

You can also try rolling a strand between your thumb and index finger. Fine hair is difficult to feel or it feels like an ultra-fine strand of silk
M – Medium
Strands are neither fine nor coarse. Similar to hair found on many Caucasians.

You can also try rolling a strand between your thumb and index finger. Medium hair feels like a cotton thread. You can feel it, but it isn’t stiff or rough. It is neither fine or coarse.
C – Coarse
Thick strands that where shed strands usually are easily identified against most backgrounds. Similar to hair found on many people of Asian or native American descent.

You can also try rolling a strand between your thumb and index finger. Coarse hair feels hard and wiry. As you roll it back and forth, you may actually hear it.
THIRD CLASSIFIER – Your overall volume of hair:
Put your hair in a ponytail with as much hair as possible in it. Don’t bother with the way it looks – the goal is to have most/all of your hair in there. If it means it sits smack dab on top of your head, put it there.
Measure the circumference of the ponytail. If you have bangs and/or you can’t get all of your hair in there adjust according to how much of your hair you have measured.
i – thin (less than 2 inches/5 centimeters)
ii – normal (between 2-4 inches or 5-10 centimeters)

iii – thick (more than 4 inches/10 centimeters)

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