Let’s talk about Natural Hair Types - What's the deal with them?

📷 RF._.studio

We all know that everybody’s hair is different. Chuck it up to genetics. It’s unclear why two sisters can look alike and have radically different hair. Over the years, different groups have created categories to help us navigate how to treat and style different hair types. You are probably familiar with the most common one which ranges from 1a to 4c. 

If you read our last article on the different things that can affect your hair, you know that curl type isn’t the only thing that matters, at least when you are trying to decide how to care for your hair. It does play a big part of course, but there are at least 4 other elements to look at, many of them related to the lifestyle you are aiming for. That being said. Let’s focus on hair type for a moment. 

Forest vs trees - How Curls interact

Before we get to the hair itself, let’s zoom out a bit and look at how hair strands interact with each other. If you know a little bit about wigs, you know that density is something that is taken into consideration when wigs are sold. Here is an image that shows how wig density can affect your look. 

📷: lavivid hair

Side note: wearing a wig with too much density must be the quickest way to have it look like a wig. This is entirely besides the point, but if you are looking to wear a wig and are aiming for a “natural-ish” look, pay attention to density!

Let’s get back to Natural hair: Why does density matter? It matters because it will affect the types of styles you can get away with. Some people just have more hair on their heads….it is what it is. Let’s keep that in mind as we choose styles, and especially as we get inspired by others.

If you happen to have sparse hair, frizz is actually your friend. One of the great properties of especially afro textured hair is that it frizzes up, which can make it look like you have more volume (ie density) than you do. 

Fun fact: There is a theory that says that curly hair evolved in this way to shield the scalp from the sun in 2 ways: 1) Curls create space for air to circulate near your scalp, keeping your scalp cool, like a fan, and 2) by growing away from your head, the hair creates a physical barrier, like a “hat” of sorts that can protect your scalp. How cool is that?

Back to hair types. All others things being equal. If you take a piece of hair, wash it clean then let it dry, you will see it adopt a natural shape which should correspond to one of the images below. This image was adapted from a study that was conducted in South Africa by Kwezikazi Mkentane and her team. The study aimed to better understand type differences because hair is used for drug testing, so it’s important to understand how the structure and makeup of someone’s hair might affect the results of a drug test. Fascinating stuff!

Categorizing hair by type is hard!

Even in the lab, these scientists found it difficult to accurately differentiate the last couple of curl types, so they recommended reducing the number of types from 8 it to 6, which could be more accurately measured. The image below shows some examples of the original 8 types, which were developed by de la Mettrie et. all in 2007. You might remember that our original hair type calculator is based on that study.

So what do we do with all of this?

The most important takeaway today is that your hair, like many other things in life, evolves over time. If the weather can affect your curls, then we have a couple of choices: Get mad about it, or accept it and work with our curls. If you get smart, you’ll be able to know and adapt as needed.

We put together this short quiz that should help you choose which product to use. Hope it helps, and no matter what, never forget that you are indeed incomparable and so are your curls!


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