Have you ever wondered why someone’s hair may look just like yours, but the products they use don’t work for you? Or why some people are more likely to encounter breakage?

Knowing your hair type will provide you with a starting point for understanding the best care styles and types of products that will give you the best results. Different hairs have different curl patterns, textures, density, porosity and elasticity. These properties in turn determines the behavior of different hair types.

Curl Patterns

Most black women have curly i.e. type 3 or kinky i.e. type 4 hair, hair type. The A,B and C only refer to the diameter/intensity of the curl. The system is helpful with understanding how your hair may look if you copy a particular style. You can also say that a kinkier hair will be drier because the tighter curl pattern makes it more difficult for hair sebum to reach the ends of the hair, but do not say that kinkier hair is stronger. This is false because hair texture determines hair strength and not the curl pattern. The following the characteristics of the African curly hair types

3a Hair

The 3a hair type is curly and twirly. It has well defined loopy curls. It may be prone to frizz, so it is best to use light products that will give you a nice hold. To avoid dryness for daily cleansing of the hair try cleansing your hair with conditioner only.

3b Hair

Curls are well defined with less space between each bend and curve than 3a hair. The texture may be coarse and dense. To prevent buildup use light products and use cleansers that are sulfate and silicon free.

3c Hair

Has a defined corkscrew shape and has the smallest space between the bends in the hair strand of all the type 3 hair types. Avoid heat use when possible, instead use stretching techniques such as: braids, twists or bunning. Cleanse and deep condition once per week and moisturize often with light botanical gels free from harsh ingredients.

4a Hair

Has a defined curl pattern almost like a “s” shape. Generally speaking it retains moisture fairly well, but as with most curly hair types can still be prone to dryness. Being that this hair type has a naturally defined curl pattern wash and go styles may be a great option as it can be easily achieved with the right product and technique. Gentle sulfate free shampoos, conditioners and rich creamy products or butters will be helpful for keeping hair moisturized.

4b Hair

Has a “z” shape pattern and has a more fluffy cottony appearance. Due to the bends and curves in the hair strand it is highly susceptible to dryness and breakage. This hair type shrinks up to 70% so without stretching out the hair it will appear shorter than it actually is. Naturals with this hair type will benefit from protective (buns, twists, braids) and low manipulation styles (roller sets, ponytail puffs, twist outs) to protect the hair from damage. A lot of moisture, gentle cleansers and frequent deep conditioning will be helpful for naturals with 4b hair.

4c Hair

Looks similar to 4b hair type only it is more tightly coiled. In its raw state (no products added and freshly washed) it does not have a defined curl pattern. Coils have to be defined by either twisting, braiding, or shingling through the strands. Many 4c naturals have shrinkage up to 70% or more. So while your hair may be 10 inches long it may appear like you only have 3 inches of hair if you do not stretch your hair out. It is the most fragile hair type, so if you desire to grow your hair long protective styles like twists, braids, or buns should be your go to style choice. These styles do not require daily manipulation (combing/brushing) giving hair less chances to break off. You can then wear your hair out for a couple of days in a low manipulation style (puffs, roller sets, twist outs) and then repeat the cycle for a balanced routine.

More than one hair type?

It’s quite common for us to have more than one texture in our hair. Your edges may be 4b while the majority of your hair is 4a type. Or you may have 4a hair with some 3c strands for example. Remember no two heads of hair are alike. Hair type systems are good for learning about your hair or what could potentially be best for it, but they are by no means an absolute standard. Use it as guidance and always go by what you know works best for your hair.



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