Natural Hair: How To Care For Your Specific Hair Type

Regardless of whether you have natural or relaxed hair, knowing and understanding your hair type is an imperative step in figuring out what’s right for your hair. Moreover, you’ll also be saving a lot of money and time that would have other been wasted on products not suitable to your hair type. Hair type can be influenced by a number of factors that include curl pattern, thickness and porosity.

Curl pattern

Curl pattern (or type) is determined by the shape of the follicle that the hair grows out of from the scalp. If the follicle is oval shaped, then there is a strong possibility
that your hair will be curly whilst perfectly round follicles usually produce straight hair. As a result of different curl patterns, hair has been categorized into four distinctive types.

Type 1 is straight hair with no natural curls, type 2 is wavy hair, type 3 is curly hair with the curls resembling the letter s, whereas type 4 (which is my curl pattern) is kinky hair with the curls resembling the letter z. It is common to have more than one curl pattern on your head. Once curl patterns have been identified, they are then further classified based on the width or diameter of the curl pattern, from A to C. A’s have wider patterns and more relaxed curls, B’s have medium patterns with tighter curls, whereas C’s are the smallest of the three, having less defined curls.

Texture

Hair texture refers to the thickness of the hair strand with the texture either being fine, medium/normal, or thick/coarse. Fine hair has less protein structure, making it more delicate and prone to breakage. Medium/normal has more protein structure than fine hair and it’s easier to comb when compared to coarse hair. Coarse hair is the thickest hair texture, it holds curls well but it’s much less pliable than fine or medium hair. Hair texture is often used interchangeably with hair density, which refers to the number of hair strands on your head.

Porosity

Porosity is one of the most important factors when it comes to deciphering which products are right for your hair type. It refers to how easily your hair can retain moisture. Those with low porosity hair (such as myself) have difficulty retaining moisture due to tight hair cuticles that are resistant to receiving water and moisture. Normal porosity levels translate to hair that retains moisture well. In the case of high porosity, the hair easily absorbs water and hair products but it loses the moisture quickly due to water entering and leaving the hair shaft so easily. To determine the porosity of your hair, simply place a few strands of natural hair into a cup of water. If your hair floats, it’s low porosity. If it takes a while for the hair strand to sink, then you you have normal porosity which means the hair is easy to moisturize. If the hair quickly sinks to the bottom, then this translate to high porosity which means your locks will need lighter, water-based products.

It is also important to highlight the fact that hair porosity can change over time as a result of chemicals and heat use.

Elasticity

Elasticity refers to how much the hair will stretch and then return to its normal state. Healthy hair has high levels of elasticity, which provides it with volume and
bounce. Hair with low elasticity is very fragile and prone to breakage whereas hair with medium elasticity doesn’t break easily and it’s much easier to style. Hair with high elasticity, on the other hand, is much stronger. To test your hair’s elasticity, simply hold a strand of wet hair, stretch and release it. If the strand returns back to its original shape it hashigh elasticity, if it returns back to its shape after a while it has medium elasticity and if it breaks and doesn’t return to its shape, it has low elasticity.

Now that you’re aware of what influence hair type, let’s find out how to maintain the different hair types. For the purpose of this article, the hair types that will be discussed range from 3b hair to 4c hair.

Type 3 hair

As mentioned, type 3 hair is typically more wavy, with coil patterns resembling the letter s. The most fragile points of this hair type is within the bend. 3b hair curls are well defined and the texture is often coarse and dense. It’s important to use light products (free of sulphates and silicones) in order to prevent buildup. As 3b
hair curls are so tight and defined, those will this hair type are most likely to battle with shrinkage. This type of hair is also prone to dryness. This means moisture is your best friend, as it will prevent your coils from becoming to frizzy. The best products for this type of hair are those that moisturize without weighing the hair down. Be sure to incorporate oils such as avocado oil and jojoba oil. 3c hairis the curliest and most textured in the type 3 hair category. The hair is high in
density with the curls being extremely fine. They also shrink more than 3b curls and they’re also the driest, requiring the most moisture. Be sure to stay away from sulphates when washing your hair as well as daily moisturizing and regularly conditioning your curls.

Type 4 hair

Type 4 hair does not have defined curl patterns- it usually has zig-zag patters and is extremely high in density. It’s also (in my personal experience) one of the most
overwhelming hair types in the world. 4a hair has a curl pattern resembling the letter s and fine texture which makes it more prone to breakage. Also, although it can retain moisture well, it is prone to dryness. It’s important to keep your curls moisturized through the use of leave-in conditioners, coconut oil, gentle sulfate free shampoos and rich creamy products or butters.

4b hair has a curl pattern resembling the letter z and the hair ranges from fine to coarse whilst being extremely dense. The various bends in the hair strand makes it more vulnerable to dryness and breakage. Moreover, 4b hair can experience shrinkage of up to 70% when wet. When it comes to 4b hair it’s important to use a hair regime that incorporates a lot of moisture, gentle cleansers and deep conditioning. 4c hair appears similar to 4b type but it’s much more more tightly coiled and much more fragile. It’s also extremely low in porosity and highly dense. When this hair is free of products, it does not have a definitive curl pattern. Individuals with 4c hair (including myself) deal with shrinkage up to 75% or more. Essentially, your hair may be 12 inches long but if you do not stretch it out, then it will appear as if the hair is 5 inches long. Leave-in conditioners, heavy creams and moisture are essentially when it comes to caring for 4c hair.

Not all forms of natural hair are the same. Therefore, by using the hair type system, you can not only learn more about your hair but you can also use it as a guide to find out how to make your locks glow. Click here for an olive oil hair treatment for shiny, healthy locks that will just swish!

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