by Susan Walker of Earthtones Naturals
look at some popular hair typing systems. These are used by textured
women to help identify their hair and communicate with other curlies or
product choice and hair care methods. Some of these systems are
simple, some more complex. In my opinion, I believe they should be used
as a general guide to better understand your hair, which products will
be beneficial for it, and how to take care of it.
Andre Walker’s Curl Typing System
Possibly the most popular and used by mainly curly girls is the Andre
Walker system. Many systems are based on this one. In 1997 he took the
standard hairdresser texture classes and expanded it into curl typing.
He classified hair into four main categories: Straight – Type 1, Wavy –
Type 2, Curly – Type 3 and Kinky – Type 4. Andre created and defined
subcategories – a, b, c – within the texture classes.
Type 1 is straight hair and is further subcategorized:
•Type 1a – Straight (Fine/Thin) – Hair tends to be very soft, shiny
and difficult to hold a curl. Hair also tends to be oily, and difficult
•Type 1b – Straight (Medium) – Hair has lots of volume & body.
•Type 1c – Straight (Coarse) – Hair is normally bone straight and
difficult to curl. Asian women usually fall into this category.
Type 2 is wavy and tends to be coarse, with a definite S pattern to it. There are three Type 2 subtypes defined below.
•Type 2a – Wavy (Fine/Thin) – Hair has a definite “S” pattern. Normally can accomplish various styles.
•Type 2b – Wavy (Medium) – Hair tends to be frizzy, and a little resistant to styling.
•Type 2c – Wavy (Coarse) – Hair is also resistant to styling and normally very frizzy; tends to have thicker waves.
When this type of hair is wet, it appears to be pretty straight. As it
dries, the hair goes back to its curly state. When curly hair is wet it
usually straightens out. As it dries, it absorbs the water and contracts
to its curliest state. Humidity tends to make this type of curly hair
even curlier, or frizzier. Type 3 hair has a lot of body and is easily
styled in its natural state, or it can be easily straightened with a
blow-dryer into a smoother style. Healthy Type 3 hair is shiny, with
soft, smooth curls and strong elasticity. The curls are well defined and
Andre defines two subtypes of curly hair. First, there is type 3a and
3b. The longer the hair is the more defined the curl. Then there is
type 3b hair, which has a medium amount of curl to tight corkscrews.
It’s not unusual to see a mixture of these types existing on the same
head. Curly hair usually consists of a combination of textures, with the
crown being the curliest part. Lastly there is a type 3c. This is a
hair type that is not in Andre Walker’s book. This type of hair can be
described as tight curls in corkscrews. The curls can be either kinky,
or very tightly curled, with a lot of strands densely packed together.
•Type 3a – Curly (Loose Curls) – Hair tends to be shiny and
there can be a combination of textures. It can be thick & full with
lots of body, with a definite “S” pattern. It also tends to be frizzy.
The longer the hair the more defined the curl becomes.
•Type 3b – Curly (Tight Curls) – Also tends to have a combination texture, with a medium amount of curl.
According to Andre Walker, if your hair falls into the Type 4 category,
then it is kinky, or very tightly curled. Generally, Type 4 hair is very
wiry, very tightly coiled and very fragile. Similar to Type 3 hair,
Type 4 hair appears to be coarse, but it is actually quite fine, with
lots and lots of these strands densely packed together. Healthy Type 4
hair typically has sheen rather than shine. It will be soft and silky to
the touch and have proper elasticity.
There are two subtypes of Type 4 hair: Type 4a, tightly coiled hair
that, when stretched, has an S pattern, much like curly hair; and Type
4b, which has a Z pattern, less of a defined curl pattern. The hair
bends in sharp angles like the letter Z. Type 4a tends to have more
moisture than Type 4b which will be wiry.
•Type 4a – Kinky (Soft) – Hair tends to be very fragile, tightly coiled, and has a more defined curly pattern.
•Type 4b – Kinky (Wiry) – Also very fragile and tightly coiled;
however with a less defined curly pattern -has more of a “Z” pattern
L.O.I.S. African American Natural Texture Typing System
This popular curly typing system basically deals with Straight, Wavy,
Curly, Kinky and Nappy categories. Compared to the Andre Walker system,
it also takes strand thickness into account and assesses how hair
texture (thin/fine, medium, thick, very thick) can impact the various
This system which is very comprehensive and somewhat complex is based
around the letters L. O. I. S. which stands for L = Bend, O = Curl, I =
Straight and S = Wave. In addition to Bend, Curl, Straight and Wave is
the texture or strand thickness, including the categories of
thin, medium and thick.
Additional detailed definitions of natural textured hair include –
Thready: low sheen, high shine, low frizz
Wiry : sparkly sheen, low shine, low frizz
Cottony: low sheen, low shine, high frizz
Spongy: high sheen, low shine, high frizz
Silky: low sheen, high shine, low frizz
Shine is defined as hair that reflects light along its surface. Sheen is a sparkle to the hair.
Textured hair is extremely difficult to classify due to the
complexities of this hair type in terms of texture and curl pattern.
Despite their limitations, hair typing systems do a great job at
giving a general idea of categorizing hair to help guide product choice
and hair care. One of the best examples of this is the Naturally Curly Hair Finder which
does an excellent job of expanding on the major hair typing systems,
providing images of these hair types and giving hair care tips to bring
out the best in each type.
What Type are You?
Select a single strand of the most common type of hair on your head.
Aim for the most common texture on your head if you have different hair
textures. The hair should be freshly washed without products applied to
it and rinsed in cold water. Place the hair on a piece of white paper.
To determine texture, compare your hair to a piece of thread. If you
hair is thinner than the thread it is fine. If it is the same thickness
then you have medium hair. If your hair is thicker than the thread then
you have thick hair.
Find Your Pattern
The bends, kinks and coils of your hair will resemble one of more of the letters L, O, I or S.
L – If the hair has all bends, right angles and folds with little to no curve then you are daughter L.
O – If the strand is rolled up into the shape of one or several zeros like a spiral, then you are
I – If the hair lies mostly flat with no distinctive curve or bend you are daughter I.
S – If the strand looks like a wavy line with hills and valleys then you are daughter S.
You may have a combination of the L,O,I,S letters, possibly with one dominant.
Determine if your hair is:
• Thready – Hair has a low sheen, with high shine if the
hair is held taut (as in a braid), with low frizz. Wets easily but water
dries out quickly.
•Wiry – Hair has a sparkly sheen, with low shine and low
frizz. Water beads up or bounces off the hair strands. Hair never seems
to get fully wet.
•Cottony – Hair has a low sheen, a high shine if the hair is
held taut and has high frizz. Absorbs water quickly but does not get
thoroughly wet very fast.
•Spongy – Hair has a high sheen with low shine with a compacted looking frizz. Absorbs water before it gets thoroughly wet.
•Silky – Hair has low sheen, a very high shine, with a lot or low frizz. Easily wets in water.
Are there similarities or differences among the various systems?