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When it comes to addressing your hair concerns, being able to determine your hair type is essential to fine tuning 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.
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.
Type 1 is straight hair, which is considered the most sheen and resilient hair of all the hair types. It features a fine and fragile texture and is extremely difficult to curl. 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.
Find out more about type 1 hair.
Type 2 is wavy hair; this is a very common hair type where the hair curls are in a loose ‘S’ pattern. The sheen ranges somewhere between straight and curly hair and the texture can vary from thin to thick. Wavy hair is also more likely to become frizzy than type 1 hair.
More information on type 2 hair.
Type 3 is curly hair ranging from loose to corkscrew curls and are typically defined as a ‘round S’. They are more likely to get frizzy and highly damage prone. Lack of proper care for type 3 hair can cause less defined curls and appear frizzier. Curly hair can look coarse but is usually soft and smooth.
Read more on type 3 hair.
Type 4 is kinky or afro hair, which features tightly coiled, wiry curls (or no visible curl pattern at all). It is very fragile with a high density. It has a ‘Z’ pattern and typically the hair bends at sharp angles rather than gentle curls seen in type 2 or 3 hair. Type 4 hair often shrinks when wet and because it has fewer cuticle layers than other hair types and is more susceptible to damage.
Find out more about type 4 hair.
Here are a couple of pointers to help you determine what hair you have.
Different hair types are, unsurprisingly, different sizes, and this 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.
The density of your hair refers to how much you actually have on your head. Some people will have super fine hair but a of a lot of it. Others will have thick strands, but it will be quite sparse; again, this is all down to genetics. To find out how dense your hair is, take the 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 change is whether those follicles continue to produce hair strands or not. Again, thanks genetics.
Do you find that you are waiting 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? If you have hair that is less porous, this indicates your hair cuticle lay flat, so water has trouble getting inside the cuticle and doesn’t get absorbed. Rather, the water sits just outside the hair, and can make drying more of a laborious task. You may 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 a result of over colouring or heat styling. For our type 3 and 4 curly friends your hair is typically naturally super porous due to the structure of the hair strands. 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.
Read our article on high vs low porosity hair and discover more about how to determine your hairs porosity.
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 hair 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 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.