July 6, 2016

Understanding Your Hair Texture: Width and Pattern


by Susan Walker of Earthtones Naturals

First things First – Hair Width

Regardless of if your hair is straight, wavy, curly or kinky we all have 3 basic widths: fine, medium and thick which can also be called coarse. Width is not how the hair feels but describes the thickness of each individual strand of hair. The comparison is typically to a piece of thread. If your hair is fine, it’s thinner than the thread, medium hair is usually the same width and thick or coarse strands are thicker than the piece of thread.

Characteristics of Each Hair Width

Fine Hair

Fine hair is the most fragile texture and can be easily damaged. Contrary to popular belief, people with finer hair tend to have more hair than people with thicker hair strands. Fine hair can tend to be oilier than other hair types. For those of you with fine hair you may find difficulty holding a style; your hair is light and can fall flat against your head. Volume is often desired but not often attained. Structurally fine hair has two hair layers – a cortex and a cuticle.

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Fine natural hair:
•Doesn’t hold styles well
•Can become weighed down with heavy products, causing the hair to look stringy
•Can look thin
•Can break easily because it’s fragile

Medium Hair

Medium hair is the most common hair type and often covers the scalp very well. This hair texture is not as fragile as fine hair and can be manipulated into styles easily. Structurally, medium textures usually have two layers – the cortex and cuticle – and may contain the medulla.

Medium natural hair:
• Holds styles fairly well
• Usually looks thick and covers the scalp well
• Is not as prone to breakage as fine hair

Thick or Coarse Hair

This hair texture is strong because structurally it contains all three hair layers – the cortex, cuticle and medulla. The medulla, the innermost layer of the hair shaft is pretty much a series of empty spaces.  It’s an area filled mostly with air and protein. This hair texture usually takes longer to dry than others, and can be resistant to various chemical treatments. It can tolerate heat well and resist breakage better than the fine or medium hair.

Thick natural hair:
• Appears full
• Holds styles well
• Can tolerate higher amounts of heat
• Can be resistant to hair colouring and chemical relaxers

Curl Pattern (or Hair Type)

In general there are 4 basic hair types: straight, wavy, curly, kinky curly. This classification is based on the shape of the hair fiber.

Wavy
Wavy hair has  s-shaped curls down its length or much of the hair can appear straight with slight bends towards the ends of the hair. Wavy hair can frizz fairly easily and requires care to achieve perfect waves.

Curly
Curly hair tends to do so down the entire length of the hair shaft. Strand thickness can range from fine to coarse but is most often fine. The greatest challenges for curly hair types are frizz, lack of curl definition, shrinkage and dryness, to a lesser extent.

Kinky-Curly
This hair type has the tightest curls ranging from fine to coarse with s-shaped and z-shaped curls with everything in between! It is the most fragile of the types. If curl definition is a challenge for curly hair types it’s almost an impossibility for kinky-curly hair. Additionally, shrinkage and dryness are two issues to constantly fight against.

Next: Want to read about hair porosity? Check out Hair Porosity: Does it Matter?

What is your curl pattern and width? What's the hardest thing to understand about them?

35 Weigh in!:

Davina W. said...

I have thick, kinky-curly hair. My best styles are twist-outs and braid-outs. I have mini-twist in now as a protective style.

MyNaturalCurlyLife said...

So I'm apparently Medium/Curly according to the definitions above. I'm really not one to define my hair, just go by what I feel my hair needs. But this does help to clarify for me a little bit of why braid outs & twist outs do not stay in my hair and unravel easily. Even with holding pomades & butters. Thank you for the Post.

CurlyNikki said...

I'm super duper fine and my hair generally refuses to hold a style, is prone to breakage and gets weighed down easily. Got me pegged. *sigh*

Nashira said...

I'm pretty sure I have fine hair, though my hair does hold styles well... maybe because it's so thick (thick as in density - lots of strands of hair on my head)? As for type I'm curly.

Erin B. said...

My hair is super fine! lol It kind of reminds me of cotton candy when I wear it in an afro. I get lost on the whole hair type thing. Individual strands of my hair are in a corkscrew type shape not an S or Z. I guess that would mean I have curly hair?

dijah la garveyistaღ said...

Thank you for this! I've been battling with trying to identify my hair, not for any other reason than to understand how to actually care for it, so again, thank you. Now, growing up, people always said I have thick hair, and maybe I did, and maybe this is due to transitioning(?) but I now identify with medium texture, and a mixture of waves, curls and kinks. Whew!

abrunnin said...

My hair type is kinky curly. My best styles are bantu knots, twist outs and wash n'go. Right now, I've been sporting wash n' go more than any of the three because my edges on one side are close to none. I plan to purchase jamacian castor oil today during lunch. Based on my research this works! You guys have any suggestions? I've been massaging shea butter and started a multi vitamin for about two weeks now.

MyNaturalCurlyLife said...

I wish bantu knots would stay in my hair! What do you use to set the hair to get it to stay? But I've used & I've heard good things about Jamaican Castor oil. It has worked for my edges. I've recently started using Wild Growth Hair Oil & there is no big difference between that and the Jamaican Castor Oil. I seem to be getting the same amount of growth & results.

Kudos said...

Soo I have some fine hair and some medium hair...all of it is kinky-curly hair which apparently is why I get slim to NO definition...but is it possible to have loose s to z shaped curls?? Somebody knows what I'm talking about! Like the curl is definitely kinky but the ish is just LOOSE!
Btw - I LOVE my hair :-)

Bridget Daniels said...

My hair is mostly fine and curly. At the crown of my head, I have a patch of medium textured kinky-curly hair. My best styles are wash-and-gos, puffs and buns. I love the look of two strand twists on other naturals, however with my fine strands it just ends up looking rather "scalpy".

abrunnin said...

There's a cream I get here in TN to hold my bantu knots- a natural stylist here actually makes it (Metamorphosis Natural Hair Care Systems)
I wasnt able to find JCO during lunch in whole foods so I just purchased regular castor oil. It will probably work the same being that you're not seeing that big of a difference between wild growth hair oil & the jamaican castor oil.

samantha said...

My hair is medium and kinky curly. My hair looks great in twists. I have no definition but my hair is super soft.

Thetruthisoutthere said...

My hair is tighly coily "z-typed" (c-nappy). I have no curl definition. If I use a gel like KCCC/KCKT or EcoStyler, I will get thin coffee stirrer sized coils.

I get SSKs so horribly, and because my hair is so fine I'm plagued with needle-eye splits. Over time, the hair is so damaged I have to cut several inches which sets my growth back.
Right now, my regimen includes Terressentials Left coast Lemon and KCCC/KCKT in a WNG. I have determined that I need moisture and suppleness much more than I need length.

I haven't henna'ed in a while, I've ordered some henna and will mix it with coconut milk, since henna/indigo leaves my hair wretchedly dry. I got th coconut milk idea from Dawn Michelle's Minimalist Beauty blog.
So for my finke kinky hair type, hands off and moisture will be my goals. I've pared my regimen down to the 'bare bones" because my fine kinky coils just can't take "the bandwagons" anymore.

HTH

Esther Komolafe said...

I have kinky 4c hair and I think a have medium hair. My best styles are braids and twists.

MyNaturalCurlyLife said...

The back of my hair is like that. Its still kinky curly but it does not stay defined nor does it have a real curl pattern like a real S or Z. So I get it girl, lol

MyNaturalCurlyLife said...

When you say twists, do you mean twist outs or the "coiled" twists? And softness has always been major important to me. Over length actually. I love when my loved ones touch my hair and go "OMG it so soft"

Megan M said...

My hair is medium textured and my hair can hold styles for days even if I do not retwist or rebraid it. I looks thick but it is not so my hair does not get really big in humid climates I wanted it I like big hair.

CurvyCurly said...

My head is like a mutt for real. The texture is fine but the hair texture is mostly kinky curly with curly sections at the nape of my neck. Having fine hair definitely presents challenges when it comes to certain styles as they don't look as full but having a mixture of hair textures affects wash n' gos because they don't look consistent throughout. I deal with though and have learned what styles work best for my hair.

Nika said...

Under thicker coarse hair I agree with all except for it being able to take higher amounts of heat. My hair is quite sensitive to heat and will lose it's pattern in a minute. I've seen others with similar hair to mine that have the same problem while many fine haired and looser textured naturals seem to have no problems. I think it is a total guessing game if your hair will have heat damage, no matter the texture, thickness or coarseness.

SavanahRae said...

I think my strands are medium and I definitely have mostly kinky curly hair. The strand thickness still confuses me somewhat but I no they're not fine.

Latanya Ivey said...

I have medium-fine, 3c/4a (Kinky-Curly) hair. My best styles are twist-outs and braid-outs.

hunnybun said...

my hair is fine fine fine ugghhhhh!!!!!!

Sharon D. Garlick said...

I have thick, coarse kinky hair. My edges and nape have curl definition but the rest of my hair has no definition - straight afro. My hair is also color treated. I suffer from extreme skrinkage and now 10 months natural I am starting to experience drynes.. Wash-n-go no longer work. In fact most products I previously used are not working. I am questioning why I gave up creamy crack! Help!!!

BlueCornmoon said...

What do you use in your henna to make it acidic? The first time I did henna/indigo my hair came out extremely dry & felt like straw because I'd used dilute lemon jiuce. I had to condition it like mad & use heavy moisturizers to get it back to normal. I've since used pure apple juice & have had no problems in the past.It has just the right amount of acid & my hair comes out nice & soft

Tracye Kately said...

My hair is insanely fine! I also have S shaped strands.

samantha said...

I mean 2 strand twists. I love the softness factor also. I don't really need length because I am style challenged.

Derika said...

I have a feeling that my hair is thick/coarse. It's also kinky-curly. I love twists and twist outs. I'm 5 months into my transition so I'm not sure if twist-outs will continue to be my best styles. So far I love them!

Alwina Oyewoleturner said...

Based on this article my hair is medium kinky-curly. I always knew it was medium coarse even when I had a relaxer and the hair stylist at the time said my hair was medium coarse. It meant that my hair straightens with ease and takes color with no issue. After seeing all this in action I am in total agreement. My hair is not uber-difficult to handle but can still pose a challenge at times. Finding the best techniques that work for you are most important. I prefer to wear my hair in mini twists and once in a blue moon, a twist or braid out. Wash n gos are still a work in progress...

Jessica Coletrain said...

I'm not sure what range I fall into, but like many have stated below I have super fine hair!

BlueCornmoon said...

My hair is fine kinkycurly. I can do great summer wash n goes with KinkyCurly/Knot Today. In cold weather I wear protective styles. My go to winter styles is to part my hair down middle & wear 2 fat cornrow braids. Haven't tried twist outs yet because I had to do the big chop plus many mini chops over past 2 years to get rid of post curly perm scab hair. First twist out attempt was disaster. Now iscab hair's all gone & I've got enough length to practice more styles

Jacqueline Randall said...

My hair is coarse and I would say it falls in the kinky-curly category. I love WNGs but I'm still trying to figure out if I need to stick with twist outs or braid outs. My hair gets really, really BIG throughout the course of the day.

Allyshia said...

I have 2B hair I believe :) It's medium-thick (perfect thickness!) and is wavy. It's short right now so it goes in loose ringlets :)

chichi said...

I have little circles what's my hair type

love those strands said...

I love my hair to def....it is 3c/4a and to the nape of my neck, also check out UrbanBushBabes on youtube because my hair is like Nikisha's but shorter! Also check out their amazing tips to guide you through your journey!!

Kelli said...

If only I had some thick hair

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