Is hair typing worthwhile?

Something came up in one of the hair boards I frequent yesterday that I want to address. On natural hair boards, the subject of hair typing comes up all the time. They serve to describe hair based on the size of the curl. There are several hair typing systems, but the one used most widely is the one developed by Andre Walker, Oprah’s hair stylist. In his system, hair is described on a spectrum of 1-4. Type 1 is straight hair, Type 2 is wavy hair and it broken down further into subcatogories 2a, 2b and 2c, which simply further describe the size of the wave. Type 3 is curly hair and that is broken down further into subcategories 3a and 3b. Then there is Type 4, which is kinky (highly textured) hair, which again is further broken down into subcategories 4a and 4b. Supposedly, 4a hair has a curl pattern in the shape of tight o’s and 4b hair has hardly any curl pattern and most likely the hair resembles the shape of the letter z. If you were to really pin me down and force me to describe my hair, according to Walker’s system, I would be a type 4. However, I stopped subscribing to typing systems awhile ago because they’re useless. A lot of people don’t subscribe to them either. They’re vague and many people’s hair can fall through the cracks as their hair doesn’t fall neatly into the categories developed by the person who invented it. Most people with curly/highly textured hair have more than one curl pattern and texture on their heads. It’s not unusual for someone to have 2b waves and 3a curls on her head, so hair typing systems are a fail just on that score. Also, a number of black naturals feel hair typing systems perpetuate the “good hair/bad hair” mentality that a number of our people still cling to and are akin to the paper bag test, where, decades ago, if your skin color was darker than a paper bag, you were denied access to certain establishments, jobs and so forth.

One category that Andre Walker did not develop is the 3c category, yet it’s described widely on hair boards. Some people felt that their curl pattern was too tightly curly to fit into 3a or 3b but not tightly curly enough for Type 4 so they decided to call their hair 3c. Personally, I think this action came about because even within the natural hair community, some folks still cling to the “good hair/bad hair” mindset in that straight hair or a loose curl =good hair and tight kinks=bad hair. Our people were taught for centuries to despise our natural hair, hence one reason why so many black women use relaxers and BKT to alter their texture. It’s unrealistic to expect such an ingrained thought to disappear immediately now that more of us have decided to embrace our God given natural hair. If the 3c category wasn’t enough, now there are a few people calling for a 3d category. It would be comical if I didn’t understand the social and political history behind our hair since colonialism and the slave trade. It’s human nature to want to  label things and put them in boxes. Our minds tend to process information easier if we group things into different categories. But our hair is too unique to adhere to one standard. Many naturals stepped outside a box to go natural. It’s a little disheartening that some people want to go through such lengths to put themselves back into one

There are folks who swear that hair typing systems help them in choosing the kinds of products to use in their hair. Frankly, your curl size means absolutely nothing when it comes to product selection. I may have the same curl pattern as another natural standing next to me but the types of products we need for the optimal health of our hair may be totally different. Your hair porosity and density are far more important in determining product selection than curl size. Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to retain moisture. A highly porous head of hair means that it absorbs moisture easily but it also loses moisture easily. A head of hair that has low porosity has trouble absorbing moisture. Normal porosity is hair that is in between these two extremes. Density refers to how many strands of hair you have on one square inch of your head. I happen to have low density hair. And texture refers to how thick your strand of hair is. If you take a strand of your hair and if it can barely be seen, it’s fine. That’s my hair in a nutshell. So products that someone with thick, coarse, low porous hair would use won’t work for me. Fine and highly porous hair tend to lack protein, which strengthens strands, so I have to make sure my products contain it in some form. I’ve also started doing home protein treatments for a boost. It’s also said that people with my hair properties can’t use products that are too thick as they can weigh it down, but that’s not true in my case all the time. There’s no way I can use a watery leave in or styler in the winter as it wouldn’t be moisturizing enough. My hair would feel like straw within hours. A thick, creamy leave in and/or styler in the winter is a necessity as I live in a cold climate.  This article explains this a little more in depth.

So, is hair typing worthwhile? In my opinion, if you want to understand all of the different curl patterns and curl sizes, it’s fine, since a lot of people think everyone’s curls are the same size and pattern and they aren’t. Otherwise, it’s bogus.

For those into hair porn (not that my hair is that sensational), here are the styles I’ve been wearing the last week or so. They’re basically flat twist outs, which mainly put my hair in a spiral curl pattern and elongate them. I have other pictures which show my curl pattern that’s not elongated, which is the beauty of my hair.

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