Understanding your hair type

Hair Type

Knowing your hair type provides you with a better understanding on what products and styles work best for your hair and gives you an idea of the correct care. Knowing your hair types provide you with a guideline, however no two heads are the same and some hair textures can obtain more than one type! I decided to focus on the curly hair types which are type 3 and 4.

Note: It is important to remember that you may not fit perfectly in one category or subcategory. You could possibly have several hair types, which is completely normal.

Type 4 is kinky coily hair with a zig zag pattern that has no definitive curl pattern. This hair type can shrink up to 75% and is the most fine and fragile due to the tight wiry curls. Kinky hair is the driest hair type which makes it more prone to breakage, therefore a gentle touch is needed. A common misconception is that this hair type does not grow, however this hair texture does grow at the same as other textures although if not cared for properly will brake more than the other textures.

4a –

Has a defined curl pattern shaped in an ‘S’ pattern. Generally it retains moisture well but like all curly hair types it can be prone to dryness.

Wash n go's are a great style option for this hair type as it can be easily achieved.

4b –

Has a ‘Z’ shape pattern with a less defined curl appearance that look more 'fluffy'. Due to the tighter coils the hair strands are more prone to dryness and breakage. This hair type can shrink up to 70% therefore if a method of stretching the strands is not carried out the hair will appear shorter.

Protective and low manipulation styles such as buns, twits, braids and puffs will be more beneficial for naturals with this hair type to protect the strands from becoming damaged.

4c –

Looks very similar to 4b only that the curl pattern is more tightly coiled. On freshly washed, product free strands this hair type does not have a defined curl pattern, however coils can be defined by twists or braids. Similarly to 4b this hair type has shrinkage up to 70% or more! So your hair will definitely appear a lot shorter if the hair is not stretched out.

4c is the most fragile hair type of them all, therefore protective styles are needed in order for growth to occur and to prevent breakage.

Type 3 is curly hair with an 'S' shape curl. There is a uniform curl pattern with or without products. This hair type has a lot of body, can be prone to the climate such as humidity and frizz and is prone to damage.

3a –

Has defined loose curls as is prone to fizz so its best to use light weight products to give hold.

3b –

Has well defined curls with space between each curve in the hair strand. This hair type texture may be more coarse and dense.


Has a corkscrew shape curl pattern and has the smallest spaces between each curve in the hair strand of type 3. Heat should be avoided and stretching methods used instead.

Hair Porosity

Hair porosity is the hairs ability to absorb and retain moisture. Having a better understanding of your hair porosity can help with picking better suited hair products. There are three different types; low, medium and high. Porosity is genetic however environmental factors such as heat an chemical processing can affect the cuticle layer.

You can test your hair porosity by assessing freshly washed, product free hair in a glass of water. This is known as the float test. The float test involves a hair strand being placed into a glass of water for 5 minutes to see whether the strand sinks suggesting that it is high porosity or floats suggesting low porosity.

The slide test can also determine porosity. This involves running your fingers along the hair strand shaft to feel any bumps along the cuticle. If the cuticle is lifted that means you have high porosity if it is smooth it means you have low porosity.

The use of general observation can also help you determine your hair porosity by assessing how quickly the hair absorbs water and how long it takes to dry.

High porosity can either be inherent or as a result of damage from chemical processing, environmental damage or rough handling. The hair cuticle has gaps and is raised which allows too much moisture to come in and can also dry out just as quickly, leading to damage and breakage. The gaps in the cuticles leave the hair prone to frizz and tangling in humid weather. The use of anti-humectants in humid climates will seal the damaged cuticle, preventing excess moisture.

Heavy butters and oils are better suited for this hair type to act as a protective barrier to retain moisture. Regularly protein treatments are needed to help with repairing the broken areas.

(coconut oil, shea butter, castor oil) the LOC method can be beneficial and protect the hair from losing too much moisture.

Medium porosity is in between and requires the least amount of maintenance. This hair type has no issues with retaining or absorbing moisture as the cuticle layer is looser. Hair types with medium/normal porosity holds styles well and can within chemical processing better. Occasional deep conditioning treatments with protein can be beneficial but proteins should not be in your daily products.

Low porosity hair strands have a tightly bound cuticle layer with overlapping scales that lay flat. Low porosity hair strands take a long time to absorb moisture as it just sits on the hair shaft. If you was to twist your hair for the night after washing it would still be wet in the morning.

Products that should be used should be light and easily absorbed to prevent product build up, which this hair type is prone to. It is also typical for this hair type to be protein sensitive therefore it is important to only apply protein when the hair really needs it in order to prevent it from becoming dry and brittle.

Clarify often (apple cider vinegar), use light oils (jojoba, sweet almond and argan oil), use humectants (aleo vera, honey, vegetable glycerine) and use protein free daily conditioners with humectants like glycerine or honey are more beneficial. Heat conditioning treatments will help to open up the tightly bound cuticle and allow moisture to penetrate the hair shaft.

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