Hair Typing - does it really matter?

'What hair type am I?'
'What is my curl pattern?'
 'Do I have a curl pattern?'
'I've heard about hair types and I don't understand'

Long ago when you didn't have relaxer in your hair, your hair was just plain 'natural' 'virgin' or 'kinky' - a few years ago though, Andre Walker, Oprah Winfrey's stylist created a hair typing system which categorizes the different textures into 4 main groups with each group having a few sub categories.

So if you've ever heard someone say ' my hair type is 4b or 4c' and you wondered what on earth they were on about; worry no more as I shall attempt to break it down as simply as possible.

The picture above is a pretty straightforward visual which will give you an idea of the different types of hair textures there are and what pattern you likely have.

Type 1 is straight hair - pretty much Caucasian or Asian hair that has no curl or wave pattern.
Type 2 is wavy hair which is further broken down into 'a' 'b' or 'c' depending on the depth of the wave. A light wave will be 2a, a slightly deeper wave 2b and the deepest wave 2c.

Type 3 is curly hair and this is also broken down further into 'a' 'b' or 'c' depending on the tightness of the curl.

Type 4 is Kinky hair and like the prior 2 hair types, is also broken down into 'a' 'b' and 'c' depending on the tightness of the curl/coil. 4c hair is so tightly coiled that there is seemingly no definition to the hair. (Type 4  is the most fragile even though it is the most tightly coiled of the hair types and this is why you should treat your hair very gently)

* Andre Walker's initial typing did not include 4c but over time, that subcategory has been added by naturals  to include hair that's more tightly coiled that the 4b.

As is said all the time, no 2 heads of hair are the same - and what works for one will not necessarily work for another person. One of the reasons this is true is because of the different textures of hair we all have. Some people (like myself) have 2 or even 3 different hair textures!

Now, apart from this system created by Andre, there is another system called the L.O.I.S system which a lot of naturals seem to prefer and are gravitating towards as it takes into account hair texture and not just curl pattern. It is premised on the fact that the bends, kinks and coils of your hair will resemble one (or more) of the letters L, O, I or S.

L - If your the hair has all bends, right angles and folds with little to no curve, then you're an L
O - If the strand rolls up into the shape of one or several zeros (much like a spiral) then you're an O
I - If the hair lies mostly flat with no distinctive curve or bend then you're an I
S - If your strands look like a wavy line with hills and valleys, then you're an S
The first strand is the 'L' (the purple bit shows the shape), the second strand is the 'O', the third is the 'I' and the fourth is the 'S'.

Furthermore within the L.O.I.S system, the following categories help determine the texture of the hair:
- Thready: Hair has low sheen but high shine when straight with low frizz
- Wiry: Hair has a sparkly sheen, low shine and low frizz.
- Cottony: Hair has a low sheen, high shine when straight and high frizz. Doesn't seem to get wet quickly.
- Spongy: Hair has a high sheen, low shine and will frizz in parts
- Silky: Hair has a low sheen and a very high shine with a low frizz - gets wet very easily.

*Shine is hair that reflects light along its surface while sheen is the natural 'sparkle' hair has.

To determine thickness - place a strand of hair on a white sheet of paper next to a piece of thread. If the strand is thinner than the thread, you have fine hair, if it is the same thickness you have medium hair and if it is thicker, you have thick hair!

Just like with the previous type - most people with have different textures (with one texture being dominant) so you can either be an LO, OS, IL, or even a LOS!

Now, does it really matter what hair type you have? I believe that to an extent it does - particularly when it comes to determining what products to use on your hair. Someone with 3c curls would probably need a lighter conditioner or moisturizer than that which someone with 4c curls would need. It's just that sometimes, we obsess unnecessarily over trying to fit ourselves and our hair into something - just so we can SAY we have a certain type of texture. I understand the curious excitement that comes with being natural but hey, it is what it is.

Hair textures are best determined on freshly washed hair that hasn't had any products applied so you can take a couple of shed hairs after you've just had a shampoo, place them on a bit of paper and compare to the chart to determine where your hair falls.

Hope that helped!


  1. Nice post girl! Ama proud naturalista

    1. Thank you girlie!! I'm a proud naturalista too!

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