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Are the Letters on the Hair Typing Scale Really that Significant?

Avatar • Aug 21, 2014

by Tori

natural hair types

Let me preface by saying, that I have a love/hate relationship with the hair typing system. On one hand, I do believe the system can be beneficial to help individuals understand how their hair type typically operates. It can help in identifying hair techniques and products that will or won’t work with each hair type. However, I do believe the system can be quite divisive. Sometimes, certain levels within the system are portrayed as being more superior to another, which could potentially lead one to feel as if their hair type is inferior.

The hair typing system is based on numbers from 1 to 4, with subcategories from a to c. Generally speaking, type 1 hair is straight, type 2 is wavy, type 3 is curly and type 4 is kinky. The subcategories go into more detail about each level of ‘wavy-ness’, ‘curly-ness’, or ‘kinky-ness’. Recently I have been wondering: Are the subcategories (or letters) in the hair typing system really that significant? For instance, one person’s hair could be a little wavier than another’s, but wouldn’t they still both have wavy hair?

Let me explain a bit more why I think the subcategories may not be necessary.

First of all, the subcategories make hair typing even more complicated and divisive than it should be. It starts getting confusing when you have to determine which of the subcategories of type 4 hair you have, especially since many naturals have multiple hair types and textures all over their heads. I have type 4 hair, which, personally, for me this means I have all three subcategories mixed in all over my head. So, it would be hard for me to simply say that I am 4c, for instance, when I also have type 4a and 4b hair strands.

Also, since we are discussing type 4 hair, I can say from personal experience that all the subcategories of type 4 hair react in a similar way. Type 4 hair, regardless of the subcategory, is still kinky hair. It requires lots of moisture, attention, careful detangling, heavier creams/butters. It’s also prone to more tangles, knots and lots of shrinkage.

With that being said, I think if there is going to be a hair classification or typing system in effect, we could certainly eliminate the subcategories, thus making the system less complicated.

 

What are your thoughts about the hair typing system? Do you think the subcategories are really necessary? Share with us.

About Tori: I’m Tori, a Jamaican-born natural currently living in Texas. I was reunited with my natural texture in January 2012 when I big chopped, after transitioning for a year and a half. I am still learning about my natural hair, and hope to share the knowledge and experiences I gain as I continue on my natural hair journey. You can find me on Instagram @bonafidestyle.

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Karen J
Karen J
6 years ago

I prefer the LOIS system over Andre’s found at Green Beauty Channel on Youtube. It deals with curl pattern, texture, porosity, thickness and density. Less complicated and deals with things that matter.

silkynaps
silkynaps
6 years ago

Back in the 90’s, André Walker wrote a book that first described the hair chart. I purchased that book and, after reading it, I was left offended. I never thought much about it again until last year, when I learned ladies were doing natural hairstyles on YouTube. After reacquainting myself with the chart, I tried to figure out my hair type. Naturallycurly had built on André’s system. His typing was mostly about the size of the curl. Their typing went on to add various characteristics to each curl type and created an additional curl pattern. I have tiny, little curls… Read more »

CS
CS
6 years ago
Reply to  silkynaps

I remember seeing André Walker promoting his book on Oprah back in the 90s and I ran out and bought it, too. There was soooo little information about natural hair back then. That book was very disappointing in it’s coverage of type 4 hair and he didn’t seem to think much could be done with it in it’s natural state as I recall. I guess I don’t mind the hair typing system, but it does conflate curl diameter with kinkiness. There are a lot of people with loose kinky hair that doesn’t clump easily (think natural blowout) or small diameter… Read more »

Chanda
Chanda
6 years ago

Going by that chart alone my hair runs from 2c to 3c. I personally think that hair typing (especially with the letters) is unnecessary and silly. What’s the point? I love my thick curls and waves and have nothing to prove. Sorry but I just go by straight, wavy, curly and kinky. Thin or thick. Badda-bing badda-boom.

Candace
Candace
6 years ago
Reply to  Chanda

Well, for me, it helped to set realistic goals for my hair and ended a lot of the frustration that I was feeling because my hair didn’t look like Curly Nikki’s even though I had used the same products, techniques, etc. To go back a bit: I went natural in 2009 while living in South Africa. As a black American woman living in an “Indian” town in SA, I didn’t have people to talk to about the natural hair experience. When I told people that I needed to get my hair done, they would send me to a salon where… Read more »

Tia
Tia
6 years ago

I don’t think it’s important at all. I can’t use any of the products that are recommended for my 4b/4c hair. Not shea butter, not coconut oil nothing. It’s more divisive than anything else.

Marissa Allen
6 years ago

I agree, the letters are a bit obsolete. I could go wash my hair right now and pretty much be able to classify my hair in any of those categories. With a little product i’m a 3C, with a little less product I am a 3A and I guess my heat damage is a 1. I’m not necessarily offended by the system but depending on how you word things, people can get touchy. I have been working on being less offended by the small stuff especially when we have HUGE offenses being committed against us daily that we over look. I… Read more »

mimi
mimi
6 years ago

I agree with the numbers alone category, as for me I have three or more different textures on my head, three or more strand thicknesses and about three densities.… Hair typing is so not for me. I’ll be there for years describing my hair when someone asks me about my hair type.

Queen
Queen
6 years ago

Acknowledging differences is NOT divisiveness. Read that again, acknowledging differences is NOT divisiveness.

S.
S.
6 years ago

The system is misleading b/c it makes people think that they have to care for their hair based on how it looks. Knowing hair properties is more important. Texture, porosity, elasticity & density should be stressed. Looking at people w/ similar hair is good for inspiration & hair style ideas. That’s it.

Veronica
Veronica
6 years ago
Reply to  S.

What’s more important than my hair type is my personal experience with my hair. I guess mine and my daughter’s hair is 3c or 4a, perhaps like a combo between Jess (Mahogany Curls) and Whitney (Naptural85) from YouTube. However, when I’ve tried some of their hair tutorials for my daughter and I, they’ve been epic fails for us even though our hair type is similar. Not all of the time but some. My hair is more fragile than Whitney’s and Jess’, also less dense than Whitney’s. My daughter’s hair is also less dense and takes more than 24 hours to… Read more »

lexi
lexi
6 years ago

I agree with Chanda.
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/image-23.jpg[/img]

iamnotasian
iamnotasian
6 years ago
Reply to  lexi

lovely 🙂

Jacky
Jacky
6 years ago

I don’t want to play the devils advocate here… but I value the hair typing system simply because it makes things easier for me. In my three year natural hair journey, I’ve found only 3 naturals whose hair and regimens seem identical to mine in a number of aspects… So I turn to those naturals to get answers, information, learn from their regimens and hairstyles and know what to expect( how a style may turn out on my natural hair ). Natural hair comes in SOOOOO many different curl patterns, densities, textures, etc that it’s easy to get lost but not always… Read more »

Jacky
Jacky
6 years ago
Reply to  Jacky

Sorry, I put a smiley in my previous comment but it changed to four question marks. I guess I should have done it the normal way( 🙂 ). I’ll try to do that next time.

Anon87
Anon87
6 years ago

I don’t see anything wrong with typing because it helps when it comes to STYLING. Knowing what your hair is most likely to do/not do and also what products are more effective for your texture (for styling). The Somali girls back in school used to use this gel to “slick” their 3c hair. Didn’t work on my hair and it was relaxed! If I want a “defined” twist out, I think what Ms 4c uses is more important than 3a (because I have 4c hair also). Similarly if I want to create an afro, what techniques did Ms 4c use?… Read more »

mixbag
mixbag
6 years ago

For some the typing system is helpful, for others not so much. By category am a 4, however my hair response far better if I treat/use products for type 3c. I personally think texture and porosity is more helpful in determining what you can do and how your hair will respond to products and techniques.

Delia
6 years ago

I like the subcategories . I have a mix of 3c and 4a so it helps when some products work and why others won’t help at all. Even having a 4‑type on my head, the hair is fine so I can’t do butters. This is why I think the subcategories are necessary: even if we were lumped into just wavy or just kinky categories the differences are what makes one girl’s wash-n-go another’s Wash-n-OH HECK NO!!! lol

Napturally Kia
Napturally Kia
6 years ago

the system CAN be useful to a certain extent (technique, finding a hair twin for inspiration) but at the same time it can get confusing when you have multiple textures…or in my case when a curl is too tight to be this but too loose to be that…or when some guru say only 4c hair has no curl pattern =/ no ma’am my crown has no curl patern and its def not 4c. theres so many more textures that are excluded from the AW system IMO. i use the the LOIS system now

Cherise
Cherise
6 years ago

In my personal opinion there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the hair typing system. The issue lies in the good hair/ bad hair mentality which has been attached to it. The “good hair” mentality was around long before the hair typing system. That’s the real problem and until we get rid of that, nothing will be fixed.

Candace
Candace
6 years ago
Reply to  Cherise

I agree. When I hear people say things like “grade of hair” it reminds me that there are still deep-seeded issues with the “good hair” mentality. I think one thing the natural movement can finally help us accept that no matter the texture we can all have “good hair” once we learn to stop fighting its nature and treat what we have with care because we understand it’s beauty and strength. There’s nothing wrong with saying that one person’s hair has loose curls while noting that my hair has tight curls or zig zags. The issue comes in when someone… Read more »

Twinkle
Twinkle
6 years ago

I personally don’t like it .I know I might sound silly but hair typing is just another way to label, divide us..I believe that the point of our natural hair journey is to get to know and appreciate own individual hair, not some hair type on a chart

Dorothy
Dorothy
6 years ago

In my opinion the hair tying system was not created by someone who knew how to care for or appreciated the beauty of natural hair. Due to this, I fail to see it’s relevance to the natural hair community. Straight, wavy, curly, and kinky just about covers it for me. These are things you can see and if someone has a looser curl than you that is something that is readily seen too. We do not need a system for that.

Now, porosity, density, and thickness are things that have more of an impact on hair care in my opinion.

Tanyfaye
Tanyfaye
6 years ago

Another article about hair typing?

In the comment sections, there are always people who like it, don’t like it, tolerate it or just don’t care.

Next.…

Naturelie
Naturelie
6 years ago

I don’t like the hair typing system. For me hair care is all about trying and finding what works for your own hair (I’m natural from my birth 25 years ago — I’ve never relaxed — and still don’t know what is my hair type according to this system and my hair is fine cause I’ve tried things and now I know how to handle it…it’s nothing more than that ^^).

Lee
Lee
6 years ago

Greetings all. Just for the record, Type 4 hair should be noted as “Coily” not kinky. ‘Kinky’ is an archaic term coined centuries ago by those who attempted to denigrate, shame and throw shade on a ‘stolen’ people. Today we are knowledgeable in who we are and from whence we came. And so, this day, let us set the parameters and decide to use the correct terminology to describe our being …and every hair on our head. Let’s start using correct terminology …coily, for Type 4 hair. Sorry for the passion, but I’ve been down this road before. (Had to’school’ several… Read more »

Edens Sahara
Edens Sahara
6 years ago

@Lee I enjoyed reading your comment. I also refer to African hair as coily. The word ‘kinky’ is indeed offensive and derogatory… aka kinky sex. The term ‘nappy’ is also off-putting. In the US, our unique textured hair is likened to the naps found in cloth! In the UK ‘nappy’ is the word for ‘diaper’ and so ‘nappy hair’ translates to ‘diaper hair’ a very unflattering terminology! I do wish we would STOP and THINK about the words we use to describe ourselves, because the words ‘kinky’ and ‘nappy’ are not beautiful words and we beautiful people. As for hair… Read more »

Candace
Candace
6 years ago
Reply to  Edens Sahara

Stringy” is as offensive as “nappy.”

No need to put down others in order to be proud of what you have. It comes across as though you feel inferior and need to make other people feel bad in order for you to feel good.

The word you’re looking for is “straight.”

Edens Sahara
Edens Sahara
6 years ago
Reply to  Candace


Stringy is offensive to whom?

Lee
Lee
6 years ago
Reply to  Edens Sahara

@Edens Sahara

True that!!! Loving the way you put the science on it! We are kindred spirits on this
subject 😉

Edens Sahara
Edens Sahara
6 years ago
Reply to  Lee

Back at ya Sis 🙂

Thalie
Thalie
6 years ago

Personally, I prefer the LOIS rather than the Andre Walker’s (explained above) hair typing system for several reasons: 1) I find it derogatory 2) For me, it doesn’t properly explain what are the strengths and weaknesses of my hair type 3) According to this system, I would be a 2a, 3a,b,c, and 4a. Now, what does that mean??? It is more meaningful to know that my hair is coarse; meaning that it has natural sheen when put in a bun, it is thick in diameter therefore more resistant to breakage and that it is very low in porosity. As to the shape… Read more »

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