What is My Hair Type?

Hollie Shirley / Hair & Skincare Editor

When it comes to addressing your hair concerns, being able to determine your hair type is essential to being able to fine tune what products will work best on your hair.


Curly, Straight, Big, Fine, Afro, the list goes on. Everyone has their own unique hair code embedded in the roots (100 percent pun intended), however, not all Afro hair is the same, just as not all Straight hair is the same. Understanding the specifics of your hair type will help you to learn to care for its unique qualities and say farewell to bad hair days (or at the very least, make their occurrence as little as possible). At SILKUP we recommend the Andre Walker hair typing system to help you determine yours.

Andre Walker system 

The Andre Walker Hair Typing System is the most widely used system to classify hair. The system was created by the hairstylist of Oprah Winfrey, Andre Walker. According to this system, there are four types of hair: straight, wavy, curly, kinky. 

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Type 1

Type 1 is straight hair, which reflects the most sheen and also the most resilient hair of all of the hair types. It is hard to damage and immensely difficult to curl this hair texture. Because the sebum easily spreads from the scalp to the ends without curls or kinks to interrupt its path, it is the oiliest hair texture of all. 

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Type 2

Type 2 is wavy hair, whose texture and sheen range somewhere between straight and curly hair. Wavy hair is also more likely to become frizzy than straight hair. While type A waves can easily alternate between straight and curly styles, type B and C Wavy hair is resistant to styling. 

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Type 3

Type 3 is curly hair known to have an S-shape. The curl pattern may resemble a lowercase “s”, uppercase “S”, or sometimes an uppercase “Z” or lowercase “z”. This hair type is usually voluminous, “climate dependent (humidity = frizz), and damage prone.” Lack of proper care causes less defined curls. 

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Type 4

Type 4 is kinky hair, which features a tightly coiled curl pattern (or no discernible curl pattern at all) that is often fragile with a very high density. This type of hair shrinks when wet and because it has fewer cuticle layers than other hair types it is more susceptible to damage.

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Here are a couple of pointers to help you determine what hair you have. 

 

Width (aka how big the strands are)

Different hair types are, unsurprisingly, different sizes, which is determined by our genetics. European hair is usually between 0.04 and 0.1mm ranging from thin to thick. By comparison, Asian hair is slightly thicker, with an average diameter between 0.08 and 0.12mm thick. The easiest way to see how wide your hair strands are it to take a few off your brush and hold them up to the light. If they are clearly visible, it’s safe to say it is thick, if it is more on the invisible side, it will be thin. If it’s somewhere in the middle, it will be moderate to medium thickness.  

Knowing the thickness of your hair will help you to better identify the type of products you should be leaning towards. Thick coarse hair which is more frizz-prone for example, will need more hydration, so you should be using products that offer deep moisturisation. Fine hair tends to need less moisture and can be more prone to oil build up, so a clarifying shampoo might be more up your street. 

 

Density (how much you have)

The density of your hair refers to how much you actually have on your head. Some people will have super fine hair but a heck of a lot of it, others will have thick strands but it will be quite sparse, again this is all down to genetics. I regularly curse my parents for both having super thin, dense, wiry curly hair. To find out how dense your hair is, take a front section of your hair and make a parting to one side. If you can see visibly the sections of your scalp underneath or through your hair, your hair is thinner. If you are struggling to see your scalp at all, your hair is thick. As with strand width, if you’re somewhere in the middle, you have medium density,  

Bear in mind that the width of your hair has nothing to do with the density of it, medium strand width does not mean medium density. Density is all down to the number of strands of hair you have on your head, not the size of them.  The average human head is home to about 100,000 follicles, which does not change over your lifetime, all that does is whether or not those follicles continue to produce hair strands. Again, thanks genetics.  

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Porous (its ability to take on moisture)

If you find that you have to wait hours for your hair to dry or feel like you are constantly fighting a never-ending battle with the frizz, this is usually down to how porous your hair is and how it is able to handle moisture. But what does this all mean? Well, if you have hair that is less porous, this indicates that your hair cuticle lays flat, so water has trouble getting inside the cuticle and doesn’t get absorbed. This means that it just sits outside the hair, and can make drying more of a laborious task. You might also find products don’t penetrate your hair, and it can lead to build up more frequently.  

 On the flipside, if your hair is super porous, this means your cuticle has gaps or tears that may be as a result of over coloring, heat styling, and our curlfriends are naturally super porous due to the structure of the hair strand. If you have this hair type, your hair is more prone to breakage, growth can be stunted, and you may find that your hair dries quicker but constantly feels dry.  

There is a sweet spot on the middle, where the hair lets moisture in and keeps water out.  To determine your hairs porous level, take a dry clean strand of hair and put it in a glass of water. If it sinks straight away it is highly porous, if it floats to the top it is low porous, and if it takes a while to sink, it’s medium. 

 

Shape (Curly or Straight?)

When we talk about the shape, we are referring to how your hair falls naturally. If you were to look at the follicle of straight hair, you would find it is perfectly round. The follicle of curly hair adopts an oval shape. The flatter the oval is, the curlier the hair will be.  Follicles of straight hair tunnel vertically down from the skin’s surface into the dermis. If the follicle angles into the dermis then the hair will curve as it grows causing it curl.

To find out your hair shape, take a clean strand of dry hair and hold it to examine this. If it goes down poker straight, then it is straight (duh). If it falls with a few S-shaped bends, it is wavy, if you see more tight curls, then it is curly, and if it falls in spirals or ringlets, tour hair is, well, super curly!

 

Once you have your hair’s full workup, you can be better informed when choosing your products. Still, don’t know which products you should be picking up? Just look at the label. Products often state on the packaging which hair type they are catering towards. Look for all of your key hair type terms on when shopping for products and you’ll always end up with a product that’s going to work for you. Still confused? Ask your hairstylist. They should be able to tell you what hair type you have and recommend products that will work for you. 

Your hair shape is determined by your genes and is about 85% hereditary. That means that your parent’s hair type is very likely to be carried down to you via DNA.  

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Hollie Shirley
Hair & Skincare Editor

Hollie Shirley is SILKUP’s hair and skincare editor. She’s obsessed with all things hair care and results-driven skincare, that is kind to the environment and your wallet. She has a weakness for limited edition eyeshadows and is always testing out the newest and greatest deep conditioners. Hollie has a passion for hair and is studying Trichology, working towards becoming a Member of the Association of Registered Trichologists.