At the start of my natural hair journey, I was extremely fascinated with my hair type (or curl pattern). I was excited to find out how my hair compared to other curl patterns. Based on the most widespread curl-typing system out there, which was developed by Andre Walker, I have type 3C/4A curls. But is it enough to know your curl pattern? Will information about your curl pattern help to create a hair care routine that nourishes your hair properly? Let’s examine natural hair curl patterns and whether they matter.
The terms “curl patterns”, “hair types”, and “curl types” will be used interchangeably throughout this post.
Type 2 – Wavy
Type 2 hair is wavy. It is easier to straighten than types 3 and 4. It is not exactly curly, but it isn’t straight either. The strands fall close to the scalp and usually get wavier towards the ends of the hair. Subtypes 2A, 2B, and 2C help to describe the intensity of the hair’s waviness, with 2A being least wavy and 2C being the waviest.
This hair type does not usually dry out easily, being that natural scalp oils can travel relatively easily down the strands.
Type 3 – Curly
Type 3 hair is curly. It is usually comprised of either spiral curls or s-shaped curls. It is not wavy, but it is also not coily or kinky. This hair type is more prone to dryness because scalp oils can’t travel easily down the hair shaft. Light to moderate moisturizers and oils will likely be necessary for people with this curl type.
Subtypes 3A, 3B, and 3C help to classify the different degrees of curly, with 3A being the least curly and 3C being the curliest.
Type 4 – Coily or Kinky
Type 4 hair is generally the coiliest and kinkiest of all of the hair types. The coils and kinks are so pronounced that hair oils have the most difficult time traveling down the hair shaft. It is believed that heavier moisturizers, oils, and creams are often needed for people with type 4 hair.
Just like with the other hair types, subtypes 4A, 4B, and 4C denote degrees of the hair’s coil or kink, with 4A being the least coily or kinky and 4C being the most coily or kinky.
What Curl Patterns Tell You
Curl patterns don’t really tell you much. You can craft a basic hair regimen. However, this regimen may or may not work for you because descriptions of curl patterns do not consider the internal structure of the hair.
Knowing your hair type might enable you to speak with someone about your hair. Having a number and letter to give to someone can help them get an idea of the kind of hair that you are working with.
Also, having a system of hair types encourages people with similar looking hair to interact with each other and share tips and ideas. On the other hand, hair typing has been used in a divisive way as well. People with certain curl patterns often discriminate or talk down to others with other curl patterns. But that’s for another post! Moving on!
Why We Need More Information
Why shouldn’t we rely on hair typing alone?
Simply because there is much more to our hair than how it appears on the outside. We should be exploring both the outer and inner attributes of our hair. This way we can learn how our hair behaves and treat it accordingly.
Curl patterns are simply visual classifications of hair, meaning that the insight gained by knowing your curl pattern is superficial at best.
For example, the claim that type 2 hair is better able to hold onto moisture might be true for some people with type 2 hair and not for others with Type 2 hair. The same goes for any claims for other hair types. So, recommendations for the types of products that work better for a certain hair type should be taken with a grain of salt.
Also, hair generally changes over time based on biological processes (the aging process) and what we do to our hair as far as treatments and chemical processes. These things are not accounted for in the hair typing system.
There are other curly hair attributes that should be known and factored into your regimen. Things like porosity, the thickness of your strands, and your hair’s elasticity. These are more important than your curl pattern and will help you to make decisions about your hair care that are guaranteed to work. I like guarantees!
Step Outside Your Curl Pattern
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Your Hair’s Porosity
The hair’s porosity is defined as how porous your hair is. More specifically, it’s a measure of how well your hair is able to absorb and retain moisture. Low porosity hair is not able to easily absorb moisture or anything else, as it’s outer structure is tightly bound together.
Low porosity hair is more prone to product buildup which tends to dry out the hair. It also needs some help with letting in moisture- meaning that when doing a conditioning treatment, it would be wise to use steam or heat to open up the hair’s cuticle and let the moisture in.
In high porosity hair, usually seen in those who use heat or chemically process their hair, the hair cuticle is already raised and not bound together very tightly. High porosity hair more easily absorbs moisture, but it also releases that moisture too easily, leading to dry, fragile hair. High porosity hair often benefits from more frequent protein treatments, and conditioners that are designed to last.
Medium porosity hair lies somewhere in between low and high porosity hair. It receives moisture with minimal problems and also releases it at a moderate rate, leaving little to wonder about as far as moisture and treatments are concerned. Just moisturize your hair at normal intervals and try products aimed at normal hair (rather than dry, oily, or problem hair).
Thickness of Your Individual Strands
Knowing the thickness of your individual strands also helps when trying to create a hair regimen. Your hair is either classified as fine, normal, or thick. Fine hair would be weighed down easily by heavy products or oils. In addition, fine strands are more susceptible to snapping in two with rough handling.
Thick individual strands are usually stronger than normal or fine strands and they are not as easily weighed down by products and oils.
Your Hair’s Elasticity
The elasticity of your hair is defined as how stretchy your hair is. Furthermore, it is a measure of how far your hair can stretch before it becomes damaged or broken and whether it can revert back to its normal curly state.
Hair with low elasticity is not able to stretch far and may not go back to its original curly state after the hair is released. It is rigid, easily broken, and in need of extra TLC. Hair that has normal elasticity will stretch a little bit and then go back to its normal curly state. Hair with high elasticity stretches far and can go back to its normal state after released. It is resilient and not easily broken.
High elasticity is often thought to be an indicator of good hair health.
Hair Knowledge is Power
So, for all of you who made it to this point, knowing your curl pattern is just the beginning. There is just so much more to curls than how they twist and turn. Do yourself and your hair a favor and seek out more in-depth information about how your hair is internally composed. This will make it easier to care for your hair, no doubt.
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Thanks for reading!