Trying to figure out which of the black hair types you have?
Learning more about your unique hair type helps guide you to the products, tools and techniques that work best for your hair.
The first time I came across the hair type theory I was reading a book written by Oprah's stylist - 'Andre Talks Hair' by Andre Walker.
The chapter entitled 'To Thine Own Self Be True: What's Your Type?' is completely dedicated to the topic.
Mr. Walker said that before you do anything to your hair you should know exactly what you're working with so you can make the best choices for styling and treatment.
I totally agree with him.
Until that point, I'd wasted a lot of time and money trying techniques and products that I wouldn't have if I'd had this information before.
By the way, have you seen Oprah's hair? I think this guy knows what he's talking about.
It's been a long time since the book came out but it's still the gold standard for hair typing.
The online hair care community made changes to include more black hair types, but in the original version there are 4 major hair types.
Most African American and black hair types fall under type 3 and 4 with a minority being type 2. Here is a chart that lists the different hair types used in Andre's hair book along with the descriptions of each.
Here's my take on Andre Walkers hair typing chart.
This hair is bone straight and not typical of black people or those with mixed African ancestry. The only way to achieve this look is by having a relaxer, pressing your hair straight or wearing a weave with straight hair.
This type has soft, deep waves with little to no curl. The hair tends to be coarse, stays close to the scalp in long 'S' shaped curves and doesn't usually have a lot of body.
This texture is unique in that it's fine and soft with a 'Q' shaped pattern. This hair doesn't tend to have a lot of sheen but has tons of body. It tends to look straight when wet but curls as it dries.
This group is the most highly textured of all the black hair types. It's very tightly curled and tends to be wiry. Some 4's have a looser coil with spiral shaped strands while others have a tighter kink with a zig zag letter 'Z' formation. The curl pattern makes this the driest and most fragile of all the hair types.
Here's another hair typing chart from Mizani called a 'Curl Key'.
Have you looked at the characteristics of the black hair types and figured out which one you have? Hair typing is about natural black hair types, so if you're relaxed only take new growth into consideration before you decide.
I'm a type 4 according to Andre Walker and a VII according to the curl key.
Here's a close up of my texture and what it looks like stretched out.
The shape of your hair follicles is what determines how much or how little curl your hair has. The rounder the follicle, the straighter hair grows; while the flatter the follicle, the curlier hair grows.
A single head can have several different textures in it. Always use tips and products designed for the dominant texture you have.
I've learned a lot about caring for black hair types and what stands out to me the most is the fact that all of them don't thrive on the same things. A product that works well for one hair type might be the downfall of another.
After years of reading what black women have said about what does and doesn't work for them, here's a summary of top tips I've seen for each category and how you can use them to care for each of the black hair types.
On the surface Type 2 hair seems easy to handle and care for but it comes with its own set of issues.
A good friend of mine has this texture and her biggest complaint is puffy, frizzy and flyaway hair. She has other issues too like the dull look and coarse feeling her hair gets sometimes.
The remedy she found that really works is to hydrate each strand properly and manipulate her hair as little as possible. If you have wavy hair these tips should work for you too.
Styling Tips for Wavy Hair
Get trims regularly because split and damaged ends prevent wave patterns from forming properly.
A healthy head full of big soft curls just screams fun to me, but based on what I've observed firsthand it can be a real challenge.
My teenaged niece has this hair type and she's always upset about dryness, breakage and problems with humidity puffing her hair out after she's spent an hour straightening it.
In my opinion, she's committing the number one sin for Type 3's which is constantly fighting her natural curl pattern. She likes to wear it sleek and smooth, so she straightens it regularly and stays away from water to keep it from reverting. The combination of heat and infrequent washes and deep conditioning is a big no-no for curly heads.
Curly hair has a tendency to grow 'up and out', and if you're not careful will turn into a huge poofy afro. Nothing's wrong with that unless it's not exactly the look you're going for.
Products for Curly Hair Control
The key to taming your curls is going heavy on the moisture.
Hair puddings, custards, butters, crèmes and gels work wonders for this hair type (and sound delicious if you ask me).
These products not only hydrate the hair making it smooth, shiny and soft, but it also help to weigh it down so that it hangs and stretches instead of puffing up.
Styling Curly Black Hair
If you're a lady with curls use these tips will revive those soft pretty ringlets.
Even with the variation in this group there are certain shared features as well as tools, products and styling tips all of them can benefit from.
Type 4 textures tend to be dull with very low sheen and can amazingly shrink up to 80% of its true length. It's notoriously known for being the driest and most delicate of all hair types.
A common myth is that this hair type can't grow very long. Well, I'm here to tell you that it not only is it possible, it's actually not hard to do.
How do I know? I'm a 4 and I've grown my hair to mid-back before.
Still don't believe me? Check video sharing sites like Youtube to see and hear hundreds of black women who are doing it right now.
Hair Products for Type 4's
This texture tends to be on the dry side, so focus on infusing and retaining moisture.
Moisturizing shampoos, deep conditioners and leave-ins aren't only good but essential for this type. Any product that hydrates and seals the hair is a must have. Hair butters, natural oils and moisturizing hair gels are popular for maintenance and styling.
Hair Tools and Styling Techniques
This hair is easily damaged by rough handling, heat and chemical applications. It might look like it can stand up to anything but one wrong move can set you back months or even years from damage.
A few invaluable tools for caring for this hair type are seamless combs, a soft boar brushes and a satin bonnets and pillowcases.
When it comes to styling this hair type less is always more.
A question I see a lot is "Can I change my hair type?"
If you've been wondering the same thing the answer is no. Hair type is a genetic trait and your DNA is something that can't be changed.
That's the reason why when you get a relaxer you have to get touch ups every so often. You can change and alter the hair that's already grown out as much as you want but it always grows back the way your DNA programs it to.
Now that you know which category you fall under, you can start focusing on the products and techniques that are tried and true for your hair type and design the best regimen for your hair's special needs.
Join the conversation at the Black Women Beauty Central Online Community to talk about black hair types and find out which products, tools and techniques would work for you.