A Full Guide Explaining All Existing Hair Types and Hair Textures, and TLC They Need
Discovering your hair type is a step to understanding what care your strands need to stay healthy and how to improve their appearance with styling. A hair type guide will help you navigate all the fundamental aspects affecting the look of your tresses and make it much easier to choose optimal products for your beauty routine.
What Does Hair Type Mean?
Hair type is a characteristic that describes the shape, size, density, and porosity of hair fibers, which are the main features determining hair appearance and behavior. Actually, there is no exact definition of hair type, so our locks can be categorized in different ways based on one or several attributes. We all have heard of fine and thick hair, and we all know that straight strands differ from curls — ta-da, these are just the hair types systemized according to various traits.
In most cases, people refer to hair types meaning a combination of hair thickness and shape, as this approach covers the most essential differences. Both parameters are attributed to genetics, which defines whether we will have soft waves or a mane of straight strands according to the size and shape of the follicle. Surely, we can alter the gift of nature with the help of nutrition or hair processing, but let’s learn what we have to deal with before botching it up.
The Basic Hair Type Chart Explaining Different Types of Waves and Curls
Currently, the most popular hair categorization is the one constructed by Andre Walker, seven-time winner of Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling, and the list of hair types below illustrates this system.
Type 1: Straight Hair
This category includes three straight hair types that vary in thickness yet have one thing in common — no curls are allowed there. Thanks to the smooth surface of pin-straight hair, it delivers the best light reflection, while its resilience protects the strands against damage.
Type 1A Hair. It is completely straight, fine, and soft hair that is naturally glossy and not prone to frizz. However, styling this type is a challenge because it lacks volume and grip.
Type 1B Hair. Being somewhat thicker than the previous version, this type looks like straight hair with some texture and volume, making it easier to style.
Type 1C Hair. Although this sub-category is represented by straight hair with soft bends, its coarse texture isn’t curl-friendly, let alone its tendency toward dryness.
Type 2: Wavy Hair
All wavy hair types come with a built-in texture, but the scope of bends varies a lot from type A to C. Basically, wavy locks are the most versatile in styling, although their finer versions may suffer from flatness.
Type 2A Hair. This tousled hair lies rather flat at the roots and gains the curling power toward the lower part, which is typical of this sub-category.
Type 2B Hair. Here, we can see slightly better outlined S-shaped waves, which still require a styling product to hold the pattern.
Type 2C Hair. This style combines well-defined bends with a few curls of a looser shape to produce a fairly voluminous look, including a lift at the roots.
Type 3: Curly Hair
Curly hair types range from loose loops to tight ringlets, which can be more or less defined depending on the locks’ health and your styling efforts. Nevertheless, all the subtypes have the curl traveling the whole length of the shaft and shrink when transitioning from wet to dry.
3A Hair Type. This hair features large loose curls with plenty of shine and body, but their quite definite pattern can break easily when brushed too aggressively.
3B Hair Type. Despite some looser locks often seen in the front, the springy ringlets of this category are noticeably tighter if compared with the above type.
3C Hair Type. The tight corkscrews of this type can have an “S” or “Z” shape, and they are densely packed together to land a dimensional look.
Type 4: Kinky Coily Hair
This natural hair typing chart includes three subcategories of Afro-textured hair ranging from loose to tight coils and boasting remarkable density and volume. Regardless of the curl pattern and level of definition, coily hair is the most fragile, frizzy, and prone to dryness.
4A Hair Type. This voluminous hair is made of dense springy coils, which are very delicate and can wrap around themselves to result in even more shrinkage.
4B Hair Type. Here, we can see lush Z-shaped curls with some sharp angles and a lot of frizz that comes from the hair’s natural dryness and high porosity.
4C Hair Type. This category covers very tight and usually wiry coily and kinky hair with a poorly defined pattern but tons of volume to wear it bold and big.
Hair Texture and Density
Since the above hair typing chart revolves around distinguishing curl patterns, it may seem that your hair shape is the key factor defining your hair texture and the way you should treat your tresses in terms of care and styling. However, that’s not true, as there are a set of other aspects that determine how your strands look and behave in different scenarios, and they are hair structure, density, and porosity.
So, what is hair texture? This term usually refers to the thickness of the strands, which, in turn, depends on the follicle size and hair shaft structure. Namely, coarse or thick hair stems from follicles of a larger circumference and consists of three layers (medulla, cortex, and cuticle), while fine hair has only the two latter layers and features a small diameter of the strand. Consequently, everything that falls in between is categorized as medium hair thickness.
In contrast with the size of individual strands, hair density deals with the number of hairs on your head, which can vary from about 80,000 fibers for thin hair to twice the amount for thick manes. Obviously, the entire volume of hair will depend on both the thickness and density, but you really should know the difference between the two since tons of small-diameter strands may look much fuller than a handful of coarse hairs.
Now, what is hair porosity? The porosity level describes how your hair absorbs moisture and, regretfully, releases it. This ability is determined by the cuticle condition, as the tighter it is sealed, the less moisture it takes and gives. Hair porosity is initially linked to hair types because coarse strands tend to have a more open cuticle compared to fine or medium locks, and curly hair types are more likely to be highly porous due to the bends that shape the hair and prevent the cuticle scales from lying snugly. However, gaps and holes in the cuticle structure can result from chemical, heat, or other types of damage caused by bleaching, hot tool styling, sun exposure, or harsh products.
The cuticle of less porous strands is tightly locked and thus resists moisture regardless of its source. Despite losing less moisture, low-porosity hair can suffer from dryness and a lack of useful substances since it resists water, oils, and other hair care products penetrating the shaft. In addition, the hair develops product buildup easily, as a part of styling and conditioning products remains unabsorbed. On the brighter side, the closed cuticle ensures more shine and less frizz unless the hair gets dull and weighed down from buildup.
This hair type is welcoming to both environmental humidity and hair care products, which would be a plus if it weren’t for the frizz, tangles, and lack of shine that come with the raised cuticle. Although it’s a piece of cake to deposit moisture into high-porosity hair, the strands lose it no less readily, leaving the tresses dry and prone to breakage.
How to Care for Straight Hair
Since nothing prevents sebum from traveling down straight locks, they become greasy quickly, which requires frequent washing. A sulfate-free cleanser accompanied by a conditioner is the safest choice for regular use, but applying a clarifying shampoo once in a while is also recommended to remove oil buildup. Use dry shampoo in between to avoid overwashing, and make sure to comb the strands with a paddle brush, which reduces static.
How to Care for Wavy Hair
Waves can happen in different types of hair, so you need to find a mild shampoo addressing your specific area of concern, for example, frizz in coarse strands or excessive grease in fine tresses. Anyway, look for a formula maintaining a proper level of pH and complement it with a conditioner and a wave-defining leave-in product.
How to Care for Curly Hair
Here are basic tips applicable to all types of hair with curls, either loose or tight. Wash your locks only when they really need it using warm water and a moisturizing shampoo formulated specifically for curly hair. Always condition the curls by applying a thick product from top to bottom, and add an oil or leave-in conditioner after this step.
How to Care for Thin Hair
Unfortunately, you cannot increase the number of hair strands on your head, as it depends mostly on genetics, so your hair care routine should be focused on retaining what you have. You can reduce hair loss by shampooing less often and using gentle formulas, giving preference to volumizing products, which can make your tresses look fuller.
How to Care for Fine Hair
Although we now know that fine and thin locks fall into different hair types, they share such volume-boosting tips as using volumizing products and avoiding heavy formulas that weigh the hair down. Fine strands are also fragile and prone to breakage, so choosing gentle shampoos is the best way to go, followed by conditioning the mids and ends and applying strengthening masks.
How to Care for Thick Hair
Thick hair is often difficult to tame, but serums and oils designed to reduce frizz can tackle the problem. It will also benefit from thicker creams and butters, which will add shine and control, while deep conditioning treatments will keep the strands moisturized and make them feel softer. In addition, invest in a flat or round brush with ample space between the bristles to minimize damage when combing.
How to Find Out Your Hair Type?
The simplest way to determine your hair type is by examining your strands immediately after they are washed and air-dried. Basically, you can see whether your strands are straight or tightly coiled without magnification, but you may need to pull out a single strand and put it on a sheet of white paper to get a good look at the pattern.
Also, women who are not sure if their straight locs are actually straight can opt for curly hair care and then finally decide what hair type they have. Sometimes it occurs that their straight hair is the 2 type with some wave in it.
Having Different Curl Patterns on Different Parts of Your Head
Can you have different curl patterns on different parts of your head? Yes, and, moreover, it is quite common to have several types of curls mixed on one head. The pattern may vary from the crown to the temples or from the roots to the ends, so you should explore your hair carefully and understand what care each part needs.
Now that you’ve got acquainted with Andre Walker’s hair typing system, it won’t be difficult to find your curl pattern type and choose hair care products that address its specific problem areas. This will save your time and money while ensuring better results – and we hope you’ll see them soon.