Hair Typing: How to determine Hair Type

Hair typing is a constant topic online when speaking about natural afro hair. People often ask for help to determine their hair type in order to figure out how to best care for their hair. Using numbers 1 to 4, the hair typing system is said to be created by celebrity stylist Andre Walker. This system grades hair from 1 (straight hair), 2 (wavy hair), 3 (curly hair) and 4 (kinky hair). This system has evolved into different variations of one number for an example 3b hair or 4c hair. Read more here []. One person may have several different curl patterns on their head e.g. someone may have 4a on the top of their head and 3b at the back.

Andre Walker hair typing system
Andre Walker hair typing system

Some use this hair typing system to determine which products to use in their hair. This, in my opinion, isn’t very useful as the curl pattern itself doesn’t determine how moisturized your hair is or how it retains moisture. However knowing how tightly your hair is curled may be useful when choosing a styling method e.g. someone with a 4 hair type will have a very defined twist out from wearing two strand twists and a person with a 3 hair type may not. However someone with type 3 hair will have great success with a wash and go whereas type 4 hair usually shrinks a lot with one.

The best way to figure out what your hair needs is to look at it more holistically [] by looking at curl pattern, density, porosity, length and width. Hair porosity is important to know because it tells you how your hair will best be moisturized. If you have low porosity hair your hair takes a while to get wet in the shower and the drops of water kind of sit on top of your hair. This can also happen if you use a lot of oil in your hair or have a lot of build up so pay attention to not confuse the two. If you have high porosity hair then your hair will absorb water quickly but it will also get dry very quickly due to being so poros.

Density is how close together your hair strands grow next to each other. There seems to be this misconception that all afro hair is extremely thick (meaning dense). This is not always true; it’s usually the curl pattern adding volume to the hair that makes the hair look more dense than it is.

Hair width describes how thick the individual hair strand is. This can affect your length retention.

Length means how long the individual hair strands are from scalp to the end of the hair.

If you combine this knowledge of your hair you will better understand it and be able to choose products that are suitable for your hair. Of course choosing products is a lot of trial and error and not as easy as asking your friend with the same curl pattern as you what she uses. This is why I advocate knowing more about your hair than just the curl pattern.