Natural hair is a unique as a fingerprint, no two Naturalistas are exactly the same. Indeed, one of the most exciting aspects of natural hair is also simultaneously the most confusing. While there are a number of ways you can go about determining your hair type, there are a few things you need to know before you will be able to accurately assess your own tresses.
The Andre Walker System
The very foundation of which most ways of determining one’s natural hair type is built upon, the Andre Walker System is literally one of the most widely used rubrics by which to measure your own hair against in order to determine your hair type. Broken down into 4 sections with 3 separate subsets respectively, this system begins with 1a (super straight) and goes all the way to 4c (super kinky).
The common denominator for those who fall under Type 1 is that the hair is naturally straight.
Simply put, type 1a hair is completely devoid of a curl pattern. It is straight, shiny, fine hair that typically grows quickly and easily, is soft, oily, difficult to curl and/or cause significant damage to.
On the flip side, 1b hair is defined as hair that has a medium texture. Although it is still very shiny/ straight, it also has a lot of natural volume and body.
The final level 1 hair type, 1c hair is defined as hair that is both very shiny/ straight and very coarse. This category of hair is also very difficult to curl.
The common denominator amongst those who fall under this category is that their hair tends to be more coarse than those who fall under type 1. They also tend to have some variation of the “S” wave pattern.
Wavy, fine, thin, and mildly coarse, type 2a hair is marked by its distinctive “S” shaped pattern and is typically easy to style in a number of ways.
Wavy, medium/coarse, this hair tends to be naturally frizzy and gives little resistance in terms of styling.
Wavy, highly coarse and typically very frizzy, this hair type is often very resistant to styling efforts and is marked by its very thick wave pattern.
There are a number of common factors share by those who have type 3 hair. Firstly, the hair appears to be straight when wet but returns to curly once it is dry. Humidity has the tendency to make this hair type curlier and/or frizzier yet this hair also has a lot of body and sheen and is fairly easy to style. What’s more, these springy, vibrant curls are also fairly easy to straighten with a blow dryer or flat iron.
Defined by their loose curls, those with 3a hair tend to have shiny, thick, and lustrous, but they also often have a combination of textures. On the one hand, it can be thick and full with a definitive “S” pattern. On the other hand, it can also be marked by its frizziness. What’s more, the longer the hair is, the more defined the curls are.
Marked by its tight curls and also, often, a combination of textures, 3b hair has a fair level of sheen with a medium amount of curl to it.
Type 3c (Often skipped)
Defined by their tight corkscrew curls, those with 3c hair can have either kinky or very tightly curled coils. Furthermore, it is also imperative to note that this hair type is often skipped over when dealing with the Andre Walker system.
The last category of the Andre Walker system, those who have hair that fall under this section tend to have very kinky hair that is also very tightly curled. It is also typically wiry to the touch with the appearance of coarseness, however, it is fine, fragile, and easily damaged. Healthy 4 hair has a fair amount of sheen, is soft, silky, and has a good level of elasticity.
Those with 4a hair have soft, tightly coiled hair with well-defined curls.
Also very soft, fragile, and tightly coiled, those with 4b typically have less defined curls with a “Z” pattern shape.
Type 4c (Often Skipped)
Lastly, the 4c type is very similar to 4b but the curls are so tightly coiled that it almost appears to have no curl pattern at all. On the bright said, this hair type is perfect for afros, braiding, dreads, and many other styles.
L.O.I.S. Natural Hair Typing System
The second most popular system utilized to determine one’s hair type and texture, this system deals with straight, wavy, kinky, and “nappy” hair types. As compared to the Walker system, this system focuses more on strand thickness and the effect hair texture has on the categories. Key: L= Bend, O=Curl, I= Straight, S= Wave. Another element of this system is determining where your hair fits into these following categories:
Thready – Those with thready hair have low sheen/ high shine when the hair is held taut (as in a braid), with low frizz. Easy to wet, water dries out quickly.
Wiry – This hair type has a sparkly sheen, low shine and low frizz. Water tends to bead up or bounce off the hair strands. Hair never seems to be totally wet.
Cottony – Hair has a low level of sheen, a high shine if the hair is held taut but also is known to have high frizz. It also absorbs water quickly but does not get thoroughly wet quickly.
Spongy – Those with this hair type have a high sheen/ low shine with a compacted level of frizz. Absorbs water before it gets thoroughly wet.
Silky – Silky hair has a low sheen, a very high shine, in conjunction with a lot or low frizz. Easily wets in water.
Determining Your Texture
In order to find out what your hair type is according to either system, you must pluck a single strand of your freshly washed hair and use the rubrics provided. Study the curl pattern (or lack there of), take a good look at the thickness of the strand. A great way to gauge this is by comparing it to a piece of thread. It will either be less, the same, or thicker than the thread; this amounts to thin, medium, and thick, respectively.
Overall, there are a number of methods to go about determining your natural hair type. It is a simple, but vital process as different styles and products work best for different types of hair. No matter what your hair type is, just be well aware that there is an array of styles and products that will make your hair type pop!