Part 1: Hair Texture
We love systems don’t we? Systems often take complex ideas or processes and simplify them for people to use and get a desired result. The great thing about systems is their simplicity; however this can also be a weakness. In life things are rarely simple. They are rarely straightforward and often contain complexities that cannot be systematically addressed.
There have been several attempts to systematically type hair and texture into easy-to-use-and-understand categories. While they are meant to give a general idea of how to classify hair I find that for some naturals they are used as gospel. Some systems may do more harm than good by typing hair as “good” and “bad”. Now I know what the common mantras are – healthy hair is good hair, all curly hair is good hair, etc. However not everyone really believes or accepts that. I’ve written about this in a previous post, but it can take a while for someone to really come to terms with their hair types and texture and truly love being natural and love their hair.
I was consulting a woman last week and had my hair in a twist out. My hair is extremely thick and kinky curly, while hers is fine with a wavy curl pattern. She was admiring my hair and stated that she wished her hair were like mine. I thought the same thing about hers due to the ability of her hair to be styled quickly and easily. Since my hair tangles very easily and is so thick my cleansing regimen is pretty extensive. Additionally, I rarely wear my hair in wash n’ go styles anymore because of this. Furthermore regarding many hair-typing systems all kinky, curly and coily hair tends to be lumped into one big category with a few variations. So, how useful is that? Considering everyone’s hair is slightly different and people can even have different textures and types of hair emerging from their scalp, categorizing hair is a difficult proposition at best. So should we do away with hair-typing and classification systems? Not necessarily. Where I find hair typing most useful is in assisting with product choice.
For the next few posts I’ll be discussing some popular hair typing systems. One, two or all of them can be used in a comprehensive way to guide you in the types of products that would be best for your hair. However, first I’ll give an overview of hair texture and type.
First things First – Hair Texture
Regardless of if your hair is straight, wavy, curly or kinky we all have 3 basic textures: fine, medium and thick which can also be called coarse. Texture 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 Texture
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.
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 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
In general there are 4 basic hair types: straight, wavy, curly, kinky curly. This classification is based on the shape of the hair fiber.
Naturally straight hair is the strongest of the types and reflects light to the eye the best giving it a glossy appearance. One challenge of curly hair is that it’s resistant to curling and usually requires the use of chemicals for this to be done permanently.
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 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.
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.
Join me next week as I begin discussing popular hair typing systems!