TNND: Hair Typing

What is your natural hair type? What is your hair’s density, thickness, porosity and curl pattern? Find out here!

‘Natural hair’ is generally used to describe the unaltered hair texture and type of individuals with African heritage.
But, as you know, Africa is a big-ass continent with a ton of different indigenous ethnicities running around it. Also, bio-diversity within ethnic groups is REAL. Ahem. Black people have a lot of different hair types, is what I’m saying here. 
The key to looking after your hair properly is knowing its type—and I don’t just mean curly or kinky.
Hair typing has been used to enforce a kind of natural hair tyranny, wherein type 3 naturals are held up as ‘good’ naturals while type 4s are ignored, vilified, or encouraged to alter their texture—which obviously defeats the point of the natural hair movement.
The natural movement is to empower and educate black people after centuries of being discriminated against for our (frankly amazing) hair. So figure out your curl pattern, if it helps you, but don’t ever let anyone act like it makes you better or worse than anyone else.
Ahem. End rant.

While this guide will include how to figure out your curl pattern, it isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.  You also need to know your hair’s density, porosity, and thickness.
All of this information adds up to your hair’s profile, and will help you figure out what your hair needs. So check out the guidelines below and figure out your hair’s unique combination of properties.

Curl Pattern

I have put curl pattern first on the list for one very important reason: IT DOESN’T MATTER. And yes, I know I’ve already said that, but I reeeeally needed to let you guys know. So, er… On with the guide.

What It Is 

You’ve probably heard what sounds like algebraic formulae being thrown around on various natural hair sites, but what the hell does it mean?!
Basically, those number & letter combinations (such as 4c) denote a particular curl pattern. The scale starts at 1, which is bone straight hair. From there, things get a little wavier until we reach the land of killer curls, coils and kinks: type 3 and 4 hair. Below is an example of each!
You might not have only one curl pattern. I, for example, have predominantly 3c hair with 4a and 3b sections randomly placed on my head, just to add a bit of spice to my life, you know?

Why You Need To Know

To find good YouTube tutorials, basically. Ha, no, I joke… Well, actually, not really. Knowing your curl pattern can help you when it comes to finding advice.
For example, those with 4b/4c hair are likely to experience more tangling due to having a tighter texture, and also have more fragile hair—so finding a Naturalista with similarly kinky hair might help when it comes to advice on that.


What Is It?

The thickness of your hair, not to be confused with the density, refers to the width of each of your strands. Taking a look under a microscope probably isn’t an option, so your best test here is to take a strand and compare it to a fine thread.
If your hair is thinner than the thread, you have fine hair. If it’s thicker than the thread, you have (surprise!) thick hair. If it’s about the same, you’re right in the middle.

Why You Need To Know

Thicker hair can generally handle heavier products without getting weighed down, while fine hair needs lighter products.
For example, if you have fine hair and try to seal with JBCO, you will uh… You’ll likely have some problems with that. Of course having fine hair doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have A LOT of hair…


What Is It?

Density refers to the amount of hair you have on your head. You could figure this out by counting the number of strands per square inch on your scalp, and I could give up chocolate—but, realistically, neither of those things are going to happen.
An easier way is to put your hair up in a pony tail, or, if you have short hair, pull it back tightly in the front.
If you can see some scalp showing through, you have thin hair; if things are looking pretty regular, you’re in the middle. If you struggle to put your hair up/look like you’re wearing an enormous furry hat/break the hair tie and your fifth brush this year, you have thick hair—but you probably already knew that. 

Why You Need To Know

The density of your hair is another factor that determines how light or heavy a product you can handle without weighing down your strands.
Also, knowing your density helps you know how best to deal with caring for your hair. Those with thinner hair can style and detangle more straightforwardly, but need to be delicate.
However, if your hair is very dense, you’ll probably need to detangle in sections (like… Lots of sections) and use products with more hold in your updos, or while setting your hair in twists/braids/rollers/etc.


What Is It?

Porosity refers to how porous (or not, as the case may be) your hair is.
Your hair shaft is made up of cuticles that lay overlapping each other, kind of like roof tiles.
Warmth opens them up a little, which is why applying gentle heat helps your conditioner penetrate the hair shaft.
On the other hand, coldness closes your cuticles up—which is why rinsing conditioner with cold water seals the moisture in a bit better.
Why You Need to Know 
High porosity hair has cuticles that are already very open, which means moisture enters easily—however, it also means that moisture exists easily too. If your hair gobbles up moisturiser happily, only to dry out a day later, you could have high porosity hair.
You have to be very careful not to let too much moisture escape your hair–the LOC method is perfect for you, as are thick butters and heavy sealants.
Medium porosity hair is generally the easiest kind to have: not too open, not too closed, Goldilocks-esque… Y’know, just right?
But be careful–you could upset that nice balance you have by over-processing your hair, such as by bleaching and colouring.
Finally, low porosity hair has naturally more closed cuticles, so your moisture won’t go disappearing on you that easily—however, you might find it hard to moisturise in the first place!
You’ll need to use lighter moisturisers that won’t sit on top of your hair shaft, as well as products with humectants, which draw moisture from the air towards your hair.
To figure out how porous your hair is, take a strand from the front, middle and back—because porosity can differ in different areas of your head.
Place the hairs in a glass of water and leave them for a little while. If your hair floats, you have low porosity. If it sinks, you have high porosity.

So there it is!

Another lesson from TNND; hopefully you’ll know more about your hair now, as well as what products and methods might work best for you.
Stay tuned for the next TNND post: the basics of natural hair care!
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