Hair Types: Mastering Care and Style for Your Unique Locks
Published by Aida Turner
Have you ever found yourself staring at a shelf full of hair products, feeling overwhelmed and unsure which one is best for your hair? Trust me, you’re not alone. My personal opinion as a hairdresser, the key to unlocking the perfect hair care routine lies in understanding your hair type. I have met for many years in my hair salon people who do not know their hair type therefore they can not choose the correct product for them.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of hair types, explore the secrets to caring for and styling your unique locks, and even learn how to determine your hair’s porosity and density. Let’s get started!
What are the types of hair?
Once upon a time, a celebrity hairstylist named Andre Walker came up with a hair typing system that would forever change the way we think about hair. He classified hair into four main types :
- Type 1: straight
- Type 2: wavy
- Type 3: curly
- Type 4: coily
Each type further divides into subcategories (A, B, and C) based on curl pattern and texture.
In addition to Andre Walker’s hair typing system, other classification methods have emerged, such as the FIA’s Hair Typing System which focuses on curl diameter and strand thickness. There is also the L.O.I.S. hair typing system, which takes hair strand shape, texture, and pattern into consideration. These additional methods allow for a more comprehensive understanding of hair types and individual needs.
Type 1: Straight Hair
Let’s begin with straight hair, the type you often see in shampoo commercials. Straight hair has no natural curl pattern and tends to be sleek, shiny, and sometimes slippery.
Straight hair subcategories:
- 1A: Fine, thin, and very soft. This hair type has delicate strands that are smooth to the touch, with minimal volume and a silky texture. It can often appear flat or limp without proper styling.
- 1B: Medium texture, with some volume. This hair type has a more substantial feel, with strands that are neither too fine nor too coarse. It has a natural body and can hold styles better than finer hair.
- 1C: Coarse, thick, and resistant to curling. This hair type has a strong, dense texture with considerable volume. It is less pliable and can be challenging to curl or style due to its natural resistance.
Caring for straight hair
- Use a clarifying shampoo and lightweight conditioner. A clarifying shampoo will effectively remove product buildup, while a lightweight conditioner will hydrate without weighing your hair down.
- Apply a heat protectant before heat styling. A heat protectant spray or serum will help shield your hair from the damaging effects of heat-styling tools like flat irons and blow dryers.
- Employ a volumizing mousse or spray for added lift. Volumizing products, applied to damp hair before blow-drying, can provide a boost of body and lift to otherwise flat and lifeless straight hair.
Pro styling tip for straight hair
As a hairstylist, let me give you a little tip if you’re dealing with straight hair that seems to fall flat. What you need is a fab root-lifting spray! Just spritz it on before blow-drying, and you’ll see an incredible lift and lasting volume in your hair. Trust me, and your hair will thank you for it!
Type 2: Wavy Hair
Wavy hair sits right between straight and curly, with a natural S-shaped pattern. It’s versatile and can easily be styled with a little help from the right products.
Wavy hair subcategories
- 2A: Loose, gentle waves with a fine texture. This hair type has a subtle, flowing wave pattern, creating a relaxed and effortless look. The hair strands are fine and may be prone to frizz in humid conditions.
- 2B: More defined waves, prone to frizz: This hair type has a more pronounced S-shaped wave pattern, giving it a beachy appearance. It is more susceptible to frizz and may require additional care to maintain its shape and texture.
- 2C: Thick, coarse waves with a slight curl at the ends. This hair type has a strong wave pattern, with strands that are more substantial and coarse. The ends may have a slight curl, adding dimension and character to the overall look.
Caring for wavy hair
- Choose a sulfate-free shampoo and lightweight conditioner. Sulfate-free shampoos are gentler on your hair and scalp, while lightweight conditioners provide the necessary moisture without weighing down your waves.
- Experiment with sea salt sprays or curl-enhancing mousses. Sea salt sprays and curl-enhancing mousses can help define your natural wave pattern and create a tousled, beachy look.
- Use a diffuser attachment when blow-drying for added volume and wave definition. A diffuser attachment on your hairdryer helps distribute heat evenly and minimizes frizz, allowing your natural waves to take shape and retain their definition.
Pro styling tip for wavy hair
I give that secret advice to many of my guests who have wavy hair. Just use a diffuser on your hairdryer! First, scrunch in a curl-enhancing product while your hair’s still damp. Then, grab that diffuser attachment and dry your hair. It’ll help keep your natural waves looking fabulous and frizz-free. Give it a try, and you’ll see a world of difference!
Type 3: Curly Hair
Curly hair is full of life, with a definite curl pattern that forms ringlets or corkscrews. Its versatility and volume are enviable, but it does require some extra love and care.
Curly hair subcategories
- 3A: Large, loose curls. This hair type has voluminous, bouncy curls that are larger and more open. The curls create a playful, flowing appearance and are relatively easy to manage compared to tighter curl patterns.
- 3B: Medium, springy curls. This hair type has tighter, more defined curls with a spring-like shape. The curls are smaller and more compact, giving the hair a lively, energetic appearance.
- 3C: Tight, corkscrew curls. This hair type has small, tightly-coiled curls that resemble a corkscrew pattern. These curls are dense and compact, creating a voluminous and textured look that can be more challenging to manage.
Caring for curly hair
- Opt for a sulfate-free shampoo and deep conditioner. Curly hair can be prone to dryness, so using a sulfate-free shampoo and a nourishing deep conditioner will help keep your curls hydrated and healthy.
- Use a wide-tooth comb or fingers to detangle hair gently. To prevent breakage and damage, avoid using a brush on curly hair. Instead, use a wide-tooth comb or your fingers to gently work through any tangles.
- Apply a curl-defining cream or gel to damp hair, scrunching or twisting to enhance curls. Curl-defining products, applied to damp hair, will help hold your curls’ shape and reduce frizz. Scrunch or twist your curls as you apply the product for added definition and bounce.
Pro styling tip for curly hair
I also have a fabulous tip for you if you have curly hair to keep it looking its best. Trust me on this one, invest in a silk or satin pillowcase, alright? It’s a total game-changer! You see, these pillowcases help reduce frizz and breakage while you catch your beauty sleep. And guess what? Your curls will be so much easier to manage and style the next day. Give it a try, and you’ll thank me later!
Type 4: Coily Hair
Coily hair, also known as kinky hair, boasts tight zigzag patterns that give it a unique texture. It’s often delicate and prone to breakage, so it needs gentle handling and lots of moisture.
Coily hair subcategories
- 4A: Soft, tightly-coiled curls. This hair type has a soft, plush feel and a tight curl pattern that forms well-defined coils. The curls are closely packed, giving the hair a dense, full appearance.
- 4B: Z-shaped coils with less defined curl pattern. This hair type has a distinct Z-shaped pattern, with coils that are less uniform and defined. The hair has a unique, intricate texture that can be more difficult to manage and style.
- 4C: Extremely tight, densely-packed coils with little to no curl definition. This hair type has incredibly tight, closely-packed coils that often lack a clearly defined curl pattern. The hair is dense, full, and can be challenging to detangle and maintain
Caring for coily hair
- Moisturize with a sulfate-free shampoo and rich conditioner. Coily hair requires extra moisture to stay healthy and manageable. Opt for a sulfate-free shampoo and a rich, creamy conditioner to nourish your strands.
- Apply a leave-in conditioner and seal with an oil or butter. A leave-in conditioner will provide additional hydration, while sealing with an oil or butter will lock in moisture and help prevent breakage.
- Employ protective styles, like braids or twists, to minimize breakage. Protective styles, such as braids, twists, or updos, can help reduce tension on your hair strands and protect them from environmental damage and breakage.
Pro styling tip for coily hair
I learned a lot of years ago from my hairdresser master the “praying hands” method which I gladly recommend to my guests for coily hair. So easy: to ensure your hair products are evenly distributed, apply them using the ‘praying hands’ technique. This involves smoothing the product onto your hair by gently pressing your hands together, as if in prayer. It helps maintain your hair’s natural curl pattern and prevents tangles.
Additional Factors Influencing Hair Type
While curl pattern is important, factors like hair porosity, density, texture and elasticity also play a crucial role in gaining insight into your hair type.
Hair porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. It’s determined by the structure of your hair cuticles, which can be low, medium, or high porosity.
- Low porosity: Cuticles lie flat and tight, making it difficult for moisture to enter or escape. Learn more about low porosity hair!
- Medium porosity: Cuticles are slightly raised, allowing a balanced flow of moisture. Learn more about medium porosity hair!
- High porosity: Cuticles are highly raised or damaged, causing moisture to be easily absorbed but also quickly lost. Learn more about high porosity hair!
To determine your hair’s porosity, try one of the hair porosity tests.
Get to know everything about hair porosity from this article: Hair Porosity: What to Know and Why Is it Important?
Hair density is all about the headcount of individual hair strands hanging out on your scalp. Your hair can be low, medium, or high-density.
- Low density: Scalp is easily visible, with hair strands spread out
- Medium density: Scalp visibility is moderate, with a decent amount of hair covering it
- High density: Scalp is barely visible, with a lush head of hair
To figure out your hair density, take a good look at your scalp while your hair is dry and rocking its natural style. If your scalp is easily visible, you have low-density hair. If it’s playing hard-to-get, you have high-density hair. And if it’s somewhere in between, you have medium-density hair.
Hair texture deals with how thick or thin each of your hair strands is. It can be classified into three categories:
- Fine: Thin and delicate strands that can be easily weighed down by heavy products
- Medium: Strands with a balanced thickness, providing more versatility in styling
- Coarse: Thick and sturdy strands that can handle more heat and heavier products
Understanding your hair texture can help you choose the right products and styling techniques to avoid damage and maintain your hair’s overall health.
Hair elasticity measures the ability of your hair strands to stretch and return to their original shape without breaking. Healthy hair has good elasticity, while damaged hair is more prone to breakage. There are three levels of hair elasticity:
- Low elasticity: Hair easily breaks when stretched and does not return to its original shape.
- Medium elasticity: Hair stretches slightly and returns to its original shape, but may still be prone to breakage.
- High elasticity: Hair stretches easily and returns to its original shape without breaking.
To test your hair’s elasticity, take a strand of wet hair and gently stretch it. If it breaks easily, you have low elasticity hair; if it stretches and returns to its original shape, you have high elasticity hair. Medium elasticity hair will stretch but may not fully return to its original shape.
By taking hair texture and elasticity into account, along with porosity and density, you can create a more tailored hair care routine that caters to your hair’s unique needs.
How to Determine Your Hair Type
Now that you understand the basics of hair types let’s dive into determining your unique hair type. Follow these simple steps:
- Wash and condition your hair, avoiding any styling products
- Allow your hair to air dry without touching or manipulating it
- Observe the curl pattern, texture, and overall appearance of your hair
- Compare your hair to the descriptions and subcategories provided earlier
- Perform the float test to determine your hair porosity
- Assess your hair density by examining your scalp
With this information, you can now make informed decisions about the best hair care products and techniques for your specific hair type.
Embracing and Enhancing Your Natural Hair
Grasping the nature of your hair is just the beginning. Embracing your natural hair and learning to care for and enhance it is a journey that can lead to healthier, happier hair. Follow these tips for maintaining your unique locks:
- Be patient and give your hair time to adjust to a new routine
- Keep heat styling to a minimum to avoid damage
- Get regular trims to maintain your hair’s health and shape
Deciphering your hair’s characteristics is the first step to unlocking the perfect hair care routine. Embrace your unique locks, experiment with products and techniques, and watch as your hair transforms into its healthiest, most beautiful state. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to hair care; it’s all about finding what works best for your individual hair type. So go ahead, explore the world of hair types and embark on a journey to discover the secrets to your best hair yet!
Author of this article: Aida Turner
Founder & Hair Care Consultant
Aida is a cosmetologist and hair care consultant with over 7 years of experience in the beauty industry. Aida has worked with various top salons and smaller hair care brands, offering her product development, formulation, and testing expertise.
Her extensive knowledge of hair care ingredients and their effects on hair health enables her to provide thorough, well-researched, and unbiased reviews on a wide range of shampoos and hair care products. In her spare time, Aida enjoys experimenting with new hair care routines, blogging about her experiences, and helping others achieve their hair goals.