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Curly Nikki

Sarah’s Thoughts on Hair Typing

By January 27th, 202118 Comments

Sarah's Thoughts on Hair Typing
Sarah of Wonderlust writes:

I think hair typing gets a bad rap.

When I started my natural journey, I knew very little about what it meant or what my hair would even look like. It wasn’t as though I started getting my hair straightened really young, but ponytails (two in the front, one in the back) ruled my life back then. In terms of relaxers, I was a stretcher and would notice some curls near my ear right before touch up time, but I never really knew my hair.

When I made the decision to stop straightening my hair, I adopted hair idols and perused hair mag sites for pictures, but it wasn’t until after my BC that I really started to do my research (and if I had, I never would have gotten highlights). It took about 2-3 weeks of being lost and shampooing my hair everyday until I stumbled upon Curly Nikki, Naturally Curly, and the hair typing system. I had found the Mecca. I learned about the CG/no-poo method, wash & goes vs. twist & braid outs, and that I was 3c/4a.

Sarah's Thoughts on Hair Typing

Even though I knew my hair was different,
Tracee Ellis Ross was my hair idol

I also learned that many naturals identified themselves as 3c/4a. But what did that really mean? And why was it that some recommendations from people with beautiful heads of hair of my same “hair type” fail horribly for me?

Enter the controversy. Attribute it to hair snobbery or insecurity, but some would have you believe that there is a world of difference between 3c and 4a and that being in the world of 3s means something totally different about yourself than being in the 4s. That 3 = beautiful, silky curls and 4 = dry, damage-prone coils. And there are other deep-seeded issues at hand. The old light-skinned with good hair debate is an old one, so I’ll leave that to Mixed Chicks to solve (side eye). But we all know this isn’t the truth, for the most beautiful head of hair I know belongs to Naptural85, who has the shiniest (4a) curls I’ve ever seen! So, there had to be more to it… even looking at my own hair, it had to be something more to my hair, or else it should have looked like every other head of hair I’ve seen.

Sarah's Thoughts on Hair Typing
Here is where I learned there was a difference between curl pattern and hair type. Don’t get it twisted… there is a difference! Curl pattern is only an attribute to one’s entire hair type. So, learning my curl pattern was only the first step, but I really started to make strides with my hair when I figured out its density, the strand thickness, and its porosity. It was wayyyy more important to know that my 3c/4a hair is a very dense mass of medium to thick strands with low porosity. Because, at the end of the day, thick hair is thick hair and dry hair is dry hair, whether the curl pattern is 3a or 4a.

Apparently there are some who get with the hair typing system and some who don’t. But really, no matter what you call you hair, whether it be by numberletter (slash another numberletter) or highly textured and coily, no matter what you call it, it is what it is!


  • sarah says:

    hey Jenifer. no need to get on the soapbox. i wasn't throwing 3c under the bus… i personally have lots of 3c curls in my head, so i would never throw shade at it, or any other curl pattern.

    what i meant was, in response to why some people hate curl typing, is that the bulk of the contention seems to reside on the border of the 3s and the 4s. some women i have talked to with type 4 hair have expressed that women with type 3 hair feel as if their hair is "better". some type 3 curlies i have talked to have said that this is just an insecurity amongst type 4 women. i don't understand why there is such divisiveness, and i am not even sure about the verisimilitude of these statements. but, my whole point is that is doesn't really matter because hair type is not about how tight the curl; it's about density, porosity, and strand thickness.

    in writing this, i wanted to take the emphasis off of curl pattern when dealing with hair type, because a beautiful head of hair is so much more than that.

    thanks to everyone for all of the comments!

  • Something New says:

    TIme for brutal honest, I HATED the part when you talked about 3c hair. I consider myself 3c not because of hair snobbery or because I dislike 4 hair. My hair is curly and tightly wound, it is not loose like a 3a or 3b but it is not as kinky as a 4 is identified as. I do not have severe shrinkage and my curls are not a tightly wound as a 4's is. No shade directed at any hair type all hair is beautiful. That does not make me a hair snob for believing I am a 3c. I know you said in the article some do this, but just for clarification, not all do this so please dont throw the category 3c under the bus because some use it in the wrong way….and im done….stepping off soap box…

  • Anonymous says:

    Amen sista – well said. I am just now figuring out its more important that I know the density, strand thickness and porosity of my hair. TracyJewel

  • metrocntry girl says:

    Naptural85 is my hair idol too! She has the most gorgeous head of hair. I am constantly watching and showing her youtube clips to my 10 y.o. daughter (who is enamored with straight hair) as an example of beautiful hair that's like her own. I'm working on following Naptural85's hair and healthy routines in hopes that both my and my daughter's hair will come halfway close.

  • The Fashionstar says:

    I agree the hair typing system was useful in that it gave me a sense of how my hair would look before I went natural. How the curls would form and if it would be shiny or if it would have more of a sheen. I do still use it when I read product reviews sometimes but other than that my hair which is a 4b/4a mix doesn't look exactly like most people's hair with that combo.

    My hair has low porosity and gets very dry. And it's extremely dense, but I also have lots of fine, normal, and coarse strands all over my head. I have to take all of these things into account when trying new hairstyles and also when trying different hair products because what works for every 4a-4b doesn't necessarily work for me. There's so many factors that go into any head of hair, and for sure a natural head. It's quite fascinating.

  • Unknown says:

    Great points…finally!

  • Latoya says:


    Can you do a follow up post that breaks down density, porosity, etc. etc.?

  • Favored says:

    I love love love your hair. OMG!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Love this! thanks!

  • Anonymous says:

    Nikki, when is the celeb interview with Tracee Ellis Ross coming?! She definitely was (and still is) my hair idol, even though we have drastically different textures…I just always loved the variety with which she rocked her natural curls!

  • Anonymous says:

    Tracee was my idol too. My hair in no way looks like that though.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks Sarah! my sentiments exactly!

  • Jeannette says:

    BTW…Tracee Ellis Ross was my hair idol too. In my opinion, she made being natural with curls very fashionable. I think in the 90's many Black Women took note of her hair and I must say, I appreciate her for that.

  • Jeannette says:

    Sarah…I also love Natural85's hair! She is also organic and she is a health conscious eater. I always knew my hair type as 4b but didn't appreciate my hair until I got older. I didn't realize that I have pretty hair! LOL Although, still have yet to learn about the density etc. I say the same thing as you. No matter what one's hair type is, it is what it is.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree! Naptural85's hair is absolutely the most gorgeous hair I have ever seen!

  • Anonymous says:

    Great points.

    I love Naptural85's hair and her personality. She really knows what she is doing and she is so positive.

  • BreukelensFinest says:

    hmm good points. I think I stay away from hair typing because my hair, and many people's hair, is often a combination of many textures. I try to buy products that react well to my hair, and not necessarily because they work for a specific type. Hair typing often refers to a curl pattern but not necessarily thickness or length. With so many variations, hair typing can get people tripped up. still a good post though! food for thought

  • Natural-ness (LV) says:

    Very nicely put! You make some great points. And the truth is – no matter what the type you still have to get to know your hair. Also, I wonder why the hair typing systems that stress things like density, strand thickness, and porosity don't get as much attention. It seems that this type of information is a lot more useful.

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