by Jor-El of ManeManBlog
Hair typing is as controversial topic as any in the hair community and frankly its existence has been debated over and over again across natural hair sites and forums everywhere. There are a few typing systems out there, all of which you can read about if you do an internet search for “hair typing”. Today, I wanted to give you my personal take on the pros and cons of hair typing systems and how they might help you to better understand your hair.
Pro: Hair typing systems can give the otherwise uneducated consumer a wealth of information VERY quickly. For instance, I’ll totally pull my man card and say that I never thought about my hair “type” before reading these charts and within 10 minutes I had a basic understanding of what products my hair needed to flourish in style and health.
Con: Unfortunately, the systems generally focus mostly on understanding your curl pattern and not focusing on other arguably more important issues such as porosity.
Pro: Hair typing systems can help you not only understand what your hair type may be but it also gives you an opportunity to look into other types and compare your mane. This may help bring more clarity to your own understanding of the material and where to begin in your journey.
Con: In my personal experience, this breadth of information can also be confusing without further guidance. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at hair typing charts in an attempt to better understand my hair and walked away from the computer baffled. I’ve since discovered that I may have multiple hair types…go figure.
Pro: Some systems include a more holistic view of hair, which can help you understand how your texture, density and porosity affect how you use products to get your desired result.
Con: And this is a biggie, typing has become a “raced” way of looking at hair. By that I mean, that due to historical implications of various hair “types” we have this ongoing misconception that Black people can only have kinky hair while White people have straight hair AND that straight hair is somehow better than curly/kinky hair. To be honest, I even had to check some of my own biases in this area. There is the ongoing and inaccurate misconception that White people can’t understand curly and/or kinky hair because they don’t have it. Well, that’s just not true! Many guys and girls of all races/ethnic groups straighten and relax their hair and in my experience, I’ve met very few people who have straight hair naturally. It’s actually more common to be a wavy and beyond. This is a pretty unfortunate status quo, but can be helpful in examining deeper issues of stereotypes and prejudice if you think critically about the material being presented to you.
These are just some quick pros and cons that I’ve thought about over the past couple of days after reading some discussion on various sites and forums.
What’s your take?
I have 4b-c coils. My kinky-shrinky hair is 5 inches long with maximum shrinkage, medium texture, medium porosity and density.
Yes, I use hair typing. And I'm also a recovering product junkie.
For me, here are the PROS and CONS of hair typing.
I metasearch product reviews and take the 4C comments seriously because I've wasted so much money on products that do nothing to enhance my styling options or keep my hair soft, supple, and moisturized.
Just because someone says IT'S FOR KINKY HAIR, doesn't make it true! Kinky is in the eye of the beholder! For example, after reading the individual product reviews, I'm convinced that the CurlMart "Curlaccino" is NOT going to work on my 4b-c hair even though the collection is described as "A must for you" 4b hair types.
When people make comments to posters like "your hair isn't 4a, you're 4c"; it coud be received as "calling out", not unlike the old Jim Crow "you passing" accusations. Calling out was cruel and ignorant back then, and it's still as hurtful and hateful now in the 21st century.
Or "you have 3c hair, what are you complaining about about – if I had your hair texture, blah, blah blah"; this comment invalidates the individual's desire to have healthiner, more beautiful hair (which is what we all strive for) and makes their wants seem superficial and irrelevant.
In closing, hair typing is an effective method to identify effective products and techniques; but we have to stop using it to judge others who want to join the "natural hair meet-ups" and pilgrimage, because in the end, we are all pilgrims searching for the same thing, a healthy beautiful mane.
I think the Andre typing system is the most simple and widely used system. Most AA fall in the type 4 (kinky) category….with some falling in the type 3 (curly). I'm type 4a (kinky with defined curls/coils) and I can spot a fellow kinky hair person on the spot…its not rocket science. I think its unnecessary to asked a youtuber their hair type because they usually show you their hair before/during and after putting on products.
Hair typing is only useful(for me) when reading product reviews and forum comments of people I can't see. When a person identify their hair as type 4 or 4a….I know they are talking about my hair type and I may have a similiar experience. Product reviewers that I can't see that say they have type 4 hair….are normally type 4.
Also, I have seen a few youtubers with kinky hair claiming to be 3B or 3C….however, it doesn't matter their style technique or product review is still useful. I think that they are confused because their curls are looser or bigger in different areas….mine are looser on top, but my overall texture is unmistakenly kinky.
Let's see…hair typing. I don't know. I used to care for it when I was a newly natural because I thought it would assist me with finding the right products. And then I realized that it did NO such thing. So I don't care for it. I just have some thick arse kinky, curly when it feels like it, hair. And just listen to my hair and how it reacts to different things so that I know what will work best for me 🙂
Good article. I'll agree that GENERAL hair typing can may be helpful when trying to connect with others who have hair that APPEARS similar to yours if your goal is to obtain information on styles, maintenance, and such.
I personally have both 4a and 3c textures throughout so I find it difficult to relate and find styles based on women with straight or loose wavy hair in the 2s. I gravitate toward videos and photos of women whose hair APPEARS to be more like mine when it comes to styles.
More importantly though, which I think is not stressed enough, density and porosity should be considered in the typing so curlies will have a better understanding of individualizing their care, styling, and maintenance. As many ladies have already mentioned, most of us have several types throughout our heads anyway; knowing your porosity and working with your individual density challenges are more important.
I think the last point is the one that most turns me off to hair typing because it is such a prevalent. I see a lot of people with "type 4" hair arguing endlessly that they have "thype 3" hair because of the stigma associated with kinkier textured hair. Also mu hair is all over the place and so this hair typing stuff has NEVER been beneficial to me. In fact when I first started wearing my hair in its natural state I thought something was wrong with me because my hair didn't fit in a specific type. I hacked off all my hair in front because it was straight, I thought heat damage, NOPE-just straight. smh lol, but in the end I say to each his/her own; if it works for you use it.
I don't care for the typing system. Years later and I still don't have a clue what the type is…do you determine by wet hair? dry hair? I have been told both. Porosity, strand diameter/thickness, etc. I have found are WAY more important than curly type.
i pretty much agree on everything u said exceept for what u said abt white ppl understanding black peoples hair. in all honesty i have yet to meet a white person who does understand it. when i used to go to a school that was majority white the girls used to ask me wierd questions about my hair. lets be honest. the great majority dont get it. and thats perfectly fine because they wont be styling it.
I have been lurking behind the scenes on CN.com for the past 4 months, when I began my transition. Although I have gathered a wealth of great info from reading the articles and forums, along with visiting the site daily to drool over Nikkis fab curls…nothing has peaked my interest enough to join, except for when I came on this morning to see this article. As previously mentioned I am in my fourth month of transitioning, and by far the dumbest and most segregatory thing I have seen in the natural hair care world is hair typing, although I am only familiar with 2, the andre and the lois one, I think it is of no significance. NO TWO HEADS ARE ALIKE!!! Even if you think someone has hair that looks like yours, it not yours! It may have a different density, or a different porosity level which I think is WAY more important!…and as someone previously pointed out some just use it as an ego boost in my opinion.
I say that my hair type is just that-my type.
As unique as I am.
on top of that most people have 3 or more textures in their hair…so am i supposed to know the hair types of these multiple textures and use different products for these different textured areas…it's confusing and the reward of knowing (or guesstimating) your hair type is purely aesthatic and for some people an ego boost. It's pretty much the least important hair trait that a person needs to know if they want to come up with a successful regimen for their hair!
I'll never understand why almost every natural who just big chops HAS to know their hair type ((especially if they are involved in the online natural hair community)…not their hair density or porosity, no WHAT'S MY HAIR TYPE…it's just to know.
It was confusing till I accepted the fact that I have multiple hair types everywhere from 3c to 4b. Hell I even have a small batch of 2a wavy hair at my sides. I'm locing my hair now and I know have to come to terms that my loced hair will not look end up looking like Chescaleigh's locs.
According to the stuff I've read I have three or four types on my head. Now I know why one section reacts differently to the same products and techniques than some of the other sections. Before learning about the various types, I wasn't sure why this was happening or why the front of my hair ALWAYS looked longer than the back. (Tighter curl pattern in the back.) So in this way the typing has been helpful providing insight.
I still don't know my hair type after all these yrs, blog site visits, and such..and I must tell you, i'm sometimes ok with it. Yes, when I see some youtube vids, i'm like dang, why she couldn't tell her hair type so I know if that's for me or not, and then sometimes i'm like, naahhh i'm good. For example: Kinky Curly Curling Custard…type 3 hair raves about it and some type 4s too, but i've tried it and STILL can't get it right, so that's where i'm like you know what, this hair type thing is not necessarily important because it's either gonna work for you or it won't.
Hair typing has always and always will…..CONFUSE me! My hair is so off-patterned, there is no way for me to figure out the real texture! While I thought it was a 3c, i realized that my hair is more wavy than curly, so maybe its more of a 3b. See, I am confused already lol.
Yet another excellent article. I find hair typing confusing and useless to ME – I am one of the many naturals with more than one hair type. For those who can take advantage of it, I say more power to you. I found the last con to be poignant … I RARELY see/hear of a natural who claims her 4c hair … many, not all, will claim 4a, 4a and even 3c. I don't get why it matters so much … for I feel that no matter what you decide to label your hair – it is what it's going to be. Again, for those who find hair typing suitable, I think it's cool … but for me … not so much. *Shrug*
~NeeC1 and her 4F hair type! 🙂