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Beyond Type 3 and Type 4: 6 Important Ways to Categorize Natural Hair

Avatar • Apr 2, 2013

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By Domineque (pictured above) of LongHairDontCare2011

Let’s face it, just as our hues vary vastly, so does our hair and the outside factors influencing our hair. Here I have a simple, yet eye opening list that will help unscramble the puzzle that black hair can be. I decided to create this list as a first year cosmetology student and as someone who had a great deal to figure out about my own hair care. I went from ear length to hip length and despite how easy it may have seemed to those on the outside looking in, there were days that I just wanted a clue, a time or two! To learn how to individualize your own hair regimen whether you’ve just started your natural hair journey or have paid your dues in time but just aren’t seeing the results you desire, read on. I’ll tell you what you need to pay attention to to get your hair behaving predictably and to obtain the best growth.

1. Density
Density is the amount of hair on the scalp per square inch. Use density to decide whether you’d like to use thicker butters or waxes or if you’d be better off with thinner products, oils and butters. Also, feel your hair to determine its texture. People confuse hair type with hair texture. Here we are focusing on the feel and size of the strands and not if the strands are straight, curly, wavy or kinky. Do your actual strands feel rough? Silky? Wiry? Woolly? Cottony? Once you know this you will learn how to better choose products for your hair. And all chemical treatments play a role in how your hair will feel and behave.

2. Elasticity
How elastic is your hair? Complete this test to find out:
· Begin by pulling a strand of hair from your head near your ear (if you’re against losing a strand, as a last resort you can try this on already shed hair.)
· Pull the strand with your nails and hold it taut for ten seconds
· Release.
Results:
If the strand holds the spiral curl once released and doesn’t snap, then your hair is assumed to be in good condition. This is best tested on virgin hair (meaning no relaxers or permanent color) but anyone can try it. FYI dry hair stretches 20% of its length and wet hair 40–50% of its length.

3. Climate
Consider your climate. I grew up in NYC and recently moved to LA. Needless to say a regimen change was in order. NYC is more humid during the daytime. In LA, I noticed dew on the cars in the early morning or late at night but those are not my normal hours of operation, so my hair doesn’t receive the benefit of dew or moisture. Instead, the sun is constantly beating on my head when I’m out and about in the late morning and afternoon.

Here is an observation I made to decide when to switch up my hair regimen that you can follow too. If your skin is more tan than usual and you haven’t gone to the beach or a vacation, chances are you and your hair are receiving more sun and you may want to change your routine so it doesn’t get fried or dried out. In humid regions where the hair becomes overwhelmed with moisture, protein conditioners are more beneficial to balance the hair and in dry arid regions moisturizing conditioners are most important.

4. Scalp Flakiness
I know that most everyone’s scalp has flaked on them at once. Our skin cells are going through steps daily in preparation to shed, so if you see a flake here or there don’t fret! But if your scalp flakes off in thick crusty patches and you have psoriasis on your body, then it is possible that you have psoriasis on your scalp as well and you should see a dermatologist.

There is also what I call ‘Casper dandruff’ that isn’t immediately visible, but manifests if you brush or comb your hair. And dandruff that is thick, oily, and yellowish in color. If you’ve ruled out psoriasis as the cause of your flakes, try products with pyrithione zinc or selenium disulfide to relieve flaking. Natural options are manual flake lifting (scalp scratching) — using a fine tooth comb to gently lift flakes — and the use of essential oils on the scalp such as lemon, clary sage or lavender mixed with a carrier oil or distilled in water. (For every 1 oz. of carrier oil or distilled water, use 7 to 25 drops of essential oil.)

5. Hard or Soft Water
Do you know if the water in your country, state or region is hard or soft? This information matters. Soft water is treated water or rain water. Hard water contains dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium that deposit on the hair and scalp and can make the scalp dry and itchy and the hair dry and lifeless. It’s also hard to get a good lather with your shampoos and takes longer for a conditioner to take effect on the hair. If you use sulfate free shampoo, them you may not notice much about the lather because they tend to lather less or not at all. Water softening shower heads can be purchased online, as well as information on the water near you.

6. Porosity
Lets talk about porosity for a minute. Porosity is the ability for the hair to absorb what’s placed on it, be it a chemical treatment such as, shampoo, creams, conditioners etc.. There are three porosity levels; resistant porosity, average and extreme. Hair that is resistant doesn’t absorb moisture easily which is considered a good thing if you are relaxed/wear your hair in a straight style. Average porosity is consider normal hair and extremely porous hair needs TLC and should never have chemical services performed on it because it would be very damaging. (Resistant porosity hair has cuticle scales that are tightly closed while extremely porous hair has cuticles that are widely open). It is possible to have more than one type of porosity level on one head, so it’s important to choose products to target the area of most concern. In general, the more damaged the hair, the more products it takes for the hair to achieve a healthy look.

Ladies, what factors do you consider when assessing and dealing with your hair?

And be sure to check out Domineque’s YouTube Channel: LongHairDontCare2011

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Nappyfu
7 years ago

Very True. I love this article. Great job.

Tracy
Tracy
7 years ago

This is a great list, density is key imo. I am so happy that you mentioned it because I always thought that my hair was thick, which the strands are not. But, my hair is VERY dense…tons of strands and I find that I have to have heavy creams or heavy butters or pomades in my routine in order to maintain/lock in moisture!

If I tried to seal with oils only, my hair just laughs and asks for more.

shelikes
shelikes
7 years ago

from my experience, elasticity increases with good care. also hair’s ability to absorb vitamins proteins etc increases with good care and with getting rid of dead ends on a regular basis. in other words, porosity and elasticity get better with time and good care.

Lolo
Lolo
7 years ago

Good article, but it would have been great to add info on what type of products is best for each hair category. For example, it said “Use density to decide whether you’d like to use thicker butters or waxes or if you’d be better off with thinner products, oils and butters.”, but does not say what product type is best for what density type.

GodMadeUSALLPerfect
GodMadeUSALLPerfect
7 years ago

Great article. Density and porosity are big deals for all hair.

And can we just completely abandon the Hair Typing system now created by Mr. Walker?.…it places us last, like our hair is “sub” something. I hate that.

Nooni
Nooni
7 years ago

I completely disagree with that. Even if afro hair was classifed as number 1 and straight hair number 4, would that suddenly take away from the stigma that some people attach to it?

The problem is not the numbering but about how people view kinky textured hair, especially hair without a defined curl pattern. If type4 was actually called super amazing awesomeness is an official typing system, would people’s feelings about it suddenly change?

AC
AC
7 years ago
Reply to  Nooni

I completely agree, a lot of people are indifferent to the hair typing system or some even like it, all of us with curlier/kinky hair don’t hate it I think it’s just what you associate it with in your mind… I don’t think that 3s and 4s are the worst because they are higher in number.. if anything that makes them better to me. It’s all in how you interpret it. If straight hair was number 4, people would be like “why does it have a greater numerical value? It isn’t better than our 1whatever type hair, oh so he… Read more »

Nooni
Nooni
7 years ago
Reply to  AC

You have summed up exactly how I feel! You could easily interpret 4 and better because its higher. It is more about how you associate it in your mind.

People take it to seriously. The hair typing system is only a tool. WHat you do with it depends on the state of mind of the person. If you are mean, you’ll use it to denigrate others. If you are nice, you’ll see it for what it is — a useful way to classify hair.

Antrelise
7 years ago
Reply to  Nooni

I agree completely. I think we have to stop “defending” our hair so much. There’s nothing to defend. When we are so defensive it shows insecurity. I know the historical implications of our kinker hair texture, but we are currently redefining that. Everyday you leave your house with your textured, moisturized, healthy hair you are proving them wrong (without saying a word). So don’t defend.…REPRESENT!! 🙂

gapch
gapch
7 years ago

not a fair of hair typing but you are placing yourself last. no one said 1 is better than 4. you think you hair isnt as good as those with a 1 so you are doing it to yourself.… whenever someone says this it shows what he/ she really thinks of him/herself

Jacquel
Jacquel
6 years ago

I don’t really have an opinion on the hair typing. I’m certainly not offended by it. But the question is does it actually serve a purpose beyond being a simple descriptor?
Is there something gained by knowing that my hair is 4b? It seems as though both science and anecdotal evidence can’t prove that my hair type is best with product F verses D.
*shrug*

Jacky
Jacky
7 years ago

Great article,i loved reading it and learning more about my hair,thank you.

Gillian
Gillian
7 years ago

Very good article.. i really wish this was brought out before the hair typing system.. which by the way i dont mind too much but as my ladies mentioned its all down to interprutation.. I have thick strands and very dense hair.. so i would have appreciated the info on recomendation of products..
There is alot to learn.. and i enjoy all the info and tips.. cause if i be honest.. i dont always get it right. Thanks LHDC2011!

Adrienne
Adrienne
7 years ago

@LHDC
I thought you were studying to be a dentist at some point. Or am I confusing you wig someone else?

Lola
Lola
7 years ago
Reply to  Adrienne

wig”?
I’ve never seen someone confuse with and wig before lol

cb
cb
7 years ago
Reply to  Lola

Lola, you wrong..lol…now you see on the keyboard the g, h and t are very close

jungfrau1010
jungfrau1010
7 years ago

A very informative article. Thanks for these insightful tips.

au napptural
au napptural
7 years ago

Does anyone know where I can find a tutorial for the above hairstyle? It is gorgeous!

jemjt
jemjt
7 years ago
Reply to  au napptural

Hi if you check out her channel she has a few flat twists videos that look similar to the one she’s rockin in this picture

jungfrau1010
jungfrau1010
7 years ago
Reply to  au napptural

The tutorial for that particular style is on her channel

gigi
gigi
7 years ago

Well said Domin!! and good luck with school… <3

Ugonna Wosu
Ugonna Wosu
7 years ago

Density, Porosity, Elasticity and TextureI(diameter, thickness of each strand). That’s it that’s all. Curl Pattern doesn’t matter a lick when it comes to products, maybe a little when it comes to how you handle your hair, but its really not as high on the list as many naturals make it. It is about one’s individual head of hair. I go to naturallycurly.com and there are many black and white women using EXACTLY THE SAME products. It ain’t about curl type. Forget Andre Walker.

jasmine
jasmine
7 years ago

yes, so many times we get caught up in “hair type” instead of “hair texture”..
Thanks for sharing!

S. Amy L.
S. Amy L.
7 years ago

Very informative article I’ve just read for the 1st time. I’ll definately be referring back to this one again and again till it sinks in.
I have fine stands and average density and as Im still transitioning, Im still getting to know what my hair likes but Im very keen on getting as much info as may help my journey be a great one.

Allison
Allison
6 years ago

RIP Domineque

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