Knowing how to care for textured hair can be a challenge, particularly if you do not know your hair type and what it needs in order to flourish. Before we dive right into it, let’s highlight how the cortex plays an important role in determining our hair type. Located between the cuticle and medulla, the cortex makes up about 80% of the hair strand.
The number of protein fibres within the cortex determines our hair strand’s natural curl pattern, texture, thickness, colour and elasticity. Now time to discuss the 3 hair types:
Type 2 Wavy Hair
Commonly known as wavy hair, the shape of Type 2 hair is determined by the protein structure in the cortex. Wavy hair has fewer numbers of protein fibres that help to create the waves. Wavy hair is relatively fine and has limited volume. Type 2 hair well-moisturised, looks and feel shiny to some extent because natural oil (sebum) from the scalp can travel far down to the hair strand, although it might be slightly challenging for it to reach all the way down to the tips. Consequently, Type 2 hair is prone to dryness and frizz towards the end of the hair, where the waves are concentrated. Not all Type 2 wavy hair are the same, there are three variations within it:
Type 2A hair has waves which are not highly visible and are shaped like an ‘S’. The hair overall is relatively fine and thin. Type 2B hair waves are still shaped like an ‘S’, but they are slightly noticeable. Type 2C waves has subtle ‘S’ pattern that almost look like a ringlet curl.
Food for thought: Finding the right products for wavy hair can be a dilema. On one hand you want to minimize the small frizz that it has and on the other hand, you need products that offer volume. But volumising products tend to cause build up and wavy hair cannot tolerate build up due to its fine texture. This is where those with wavy hair have to get the right product balance for frizz control and volume enhancing.
Type 3 Curly Hair
Type 3 hair is also determined by the number of protein fibres in the cortex. The medium to large number of protein fibres create the curls. Type 3 hair has hooks at the end of the follicle that makes it grow at an angle and give the hair body. This hair strand has a very distinctive ‘S’ shaped, ringlet-like, curl pattern, which varies from loose curls to tight curls through the three sub-types:
Type 3A hair consists of loose, ringlet curls that are fine to medium in texture. The diameter within the curls are wide enough fit a D cell battery. It is prone to minor frizz and dryness. Type 3B hair curls are well-defined, ringlet curls. The circumference of the ringlet curls can accommodate the width of a magic marker. The nature of the curls gives the overall hair the right amount of volume with a bounce. Prone to medium range of dryness and frizz. The curls of Type 3C hair have tight ringlets to corkscrew pattern. The diameter of the curls is shorter to the point that you can only fit up to the diameter of a pencil through them. The curls are coarser, thicker, dryer and more frizz prone than the other two Type 3s.
Food for thought: Type 3 curly hair requires less washing because it is dryer and can absorbs and disguise build up of sebum way better than wavy hair. Therefore, it doesn’t get super-greasy. In essence, curly hair can go do without frequent washing. However, let’s not forget that this hair type can get frizzy easily, especially when exposed to high humidity. Styling products that are not too heavy but at the same time rich enough for curls definition is a must-have.
Type 4 Coily Hair
Type 4 hair has larger number of protein fibres that produce the curls/kinks, which are extremely tight and coiled up. This hair for most part takes on a Z shape pattern with kinks (curves/ bends) on the coils. This is how it earned it alias kinky hair.
Due to bendy nature of this hair type, it is extremely difficulty for sebum go beyond roots of the hair and travel further down the hair strand and provide moisture. As a result of this challenge, Type 4 hair is generally the driest hair and coarsest both in feel and appearance, and it is also highly frizzy. As with the previous hair types, it also has its own sub-types:
Type 4A hair curl pattern resembles a tiny 'S'. However, if it is stretched it has the potential to look like a Type 3 curl. When wet, it can shrink to almost less than 50% of its actual length. Type 4B hair bends at sharp angles and 'Z' shaped kinks. When wet, it can shrink to up to 50% of its actual length. Type 4C hair has a distinct Z shaped pattern with visible zig-zags on the hair strands. Since there are so many of these zig zags within the hair, the overall shape of the hair starts to look homogenous and individual coils aren’t instantly obvious. The texture of the individual hair strand ranges from thin and fine to wiry and coarse. Type 4C hair can shrink up to 75% of its actual length when wet.
Food for thought: As challenging Type 4 hair can be, it is the most flexible to work with regards to styling. It can holds a variety of hairstyles and techniques well because of it robustness. Even though this hair type may look coarse, the hair strands are normally fine and fragile because it has less cuticle layers needed to protect hair strands from damage. Extra TLC and hydration is a must when it comes to looking after Type 4 hair.
Racial or ethnic background does play a part in determining our hair type. Type 4 hair, in particular 4C is common amongst people with African ancestry, while Type 1 hair is common amongst those with European ancestry. People with curly hair usually have multi racial/ethnic background.