Hey Natural Hair Ladies. Do You Know Which Hair Type You Have? Gather Around.

Hey Naturalistas! New week, new hair do and new hair problems (ugh!) but we’re still your weekly source of hope in dealing with the stress of being a naturalista. Well, last week we spoke about how to transition smoothly. Missed out on that article? Click here.  This week, we are going to talk about how to determine your hair type.

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Yup! There are different hair types and knowing which one you have can help you figure out how to handle, cut and style your hair more effectively. This particular topic can be seen from 2 different perspectives.

  • Understanding the different qualities of your hair, including density, texture, porosity (your hair’s ability to hold moisture), elasticity, and curl pattern.
  • Knowing your actual hair type… Be it kinky (usually 4a, 4b, 4c) or curly (usually 3a, 3b. and 3c)

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In this article, we will be concentrating on the second perspective. It’s important to know your hair type so that you can determine the best hairstyles, colors, and styling products for your hair.

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Natural hair is diverse in texture and curl pattern. A chart developed by Andre Walker shows that natural hair can be classified into 4 categories/types with each category having subcategories apart from the first hair type or TYPE 1 hair which is just straight hair.

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Black people generally tend to be in the type four categories and sometimes type three too. Now we know that even with this chart, you might still find it difficult to determine your hair type but don’t fret. It’s pretty easy. Just wash your hair and air dry it without adding any product to it. Pull out a strand of your hair (try not to break it in the middle) and compare it with the image above.

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4a Hair 

It has a defined curl pattern almost like an “s” shape. Their curls are looser, springier and more defined. Generally speaking, it retains moisture fairly well, but as with most curly hair types can still be prone to dryness. Being that this hair type has a naturally defined curl pattern wash n’ go styles may be a great option as it can be easily achieved with the right product and technique. Gentle sulfate free shampoos, conditioners, and rich creamy products or butter will be helpful for keeping hair moisturized.

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4b Hair

It has a “z” shape pattern and has a more fluffy cottony appearance. Due to the bends and curves in the hair strand, it is highly susceptible to dryness and breakage. This hair type shrinks but not as much as 4c hair. Naturals with this hair type will benefit from protective (buns, twists, braids)  and low manipulation styles (ponytail puffs, twist outs) to protect the hair from damage. A lot of moisture, gentle cleansers and frequent deep conditioning will be helpful for naturals with 4b hair.

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4c Hair

It looks similar to 4b hair type only it is more tightly coiled. In its raw state (no products added and freshly washed) it does not have a defined curl pattern. Coils have to be defined by either twisting, braiding, or shingling through the strands. Many 4c naturals have shrinkage up to 70% or more. So while your hair may be 10 inches long it may appear like you only have 3 inches of hair if you do not stretch your hair out. It is the most fragile hair type, so if you desire to grow your hair long protective styles like twists, braids, or buns should be your go-to style choice. These styles do not require daily manipulation (combing/brushing) giving hair fewer chances to break off.  You can then wear your hair out for a couple of days in a low manipulation style (puffs, roller sets, twist outs) and then repeat the cycle for a balanced routine.

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Curly Hair Types (Type 3 Hair Types)

3a Hair

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They have well defined loopy curls. It may be prone to frizz, so it is best to use light products that will give you a nice hold. To avoid dryness for daily cleansing of the hair try cleansing your hair with conditioner only. But keep your hands (or brush or comb, for that matter) from touching your curls afterward, or you run the risk of having a halo full of frizz.

3b Hair

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Their curls are well defined with less space between each bend and curve than 3a hair. The texture may be coarse and dense. To prevent buildup use light products and use cleansers that are sulfate free and silicone free. This hair texture can get dry, so look for styling gels that have humectants in them to attract moisture to strands.

3c Hair

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They have a defined corkscrew shape and has the smallest space between the bends in the hair strand of all the type 3 hair types. Yara Shahidi is a great example for 3Cs. Strands are densely packed together, giving way to lots of natural volume. Avoid heat use when possible by instead using stretching techniques: braids, twists or bunning your hair. Cleanse and deep condition once per week and moisturize often with light botanical gels free from harsh ingredients.

You Can Have More Than One Hair Type…

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Yes, you can. Your edges may be 4b while the majority of your hair is 4a type. Or you may have 4a hair with some 3c strands for example. It’s perfectly normal. No 2 hair strands are the same. Hair type systems are good for learning about what could be best for your hair but they are by no means an absolute standard; they should rather be used as a guide. What you should do is to learn from the hair type system and always go by what you know works best for your hair.


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