Why I Dislike Hair Typing
I don’t talk a lot about hair typing here and on my Youtube channel. The main reason is texturism. It is so prevalent in the natural hair community, especially now that it’s gone mainstream. You’ll hear me refer to my hair as kinky and coily instead of a number and a letter which is done intentionally as there are a lot of negative connotations around the hair typing system. So, I rarely use it when referring to any hair type. However, I’ve realized that the system is very much so important and that I shouldn’t shy away from it because of how others have used it as a divisive mechanism.
The OG hair typing system was created by Andre Walker who is famously known as Oprah’s hair stylist. A huge turnoff for me about the hair typing system was due to remarks that Walker made a few years back about kinky hair. He said that it was not only the least versatile hair type for styling but he’d recommend a relaxer for that hair type. I’m not a fan of perpetuating self-loathing or pushing fallacies. Kinky hair is extremely versatile. The gag is, he now has a natural hair care line for all hair types including kinky hair. So I guess kinky hair is fine, as long as a coin is involved.
Nonetheless, the system has helped me to understand my hair more. I have many different hair types in my hair, but I am predominantly 4a/4b with coils and s-shaped strands. It is normal for one to have multiple hair types. My hair shrinks up to 60% of its length, sometimes more depending on the product. It’s fine in texture, low/normal porosity, and normal density. For people that say that the typing system is not necessary, I found them to either be a hairstylist professional or amateur, or they are just adept with their own hair needs. If you’re a person that is rocking your natural hair for the first time or has never had to deal with your own hair, you may find the hair typing system useful. For me, I learned that my hair type is usually fine, fragile, dry, and has less cuticle layers than other hair types. Knowing this information helped me to understand that I must be gentle with hair, use less heat and manipulation, as well as utilizing a lot of hydrating products in my regimen.
Now, the hair typing system isn’t an end all be all as I find it to not be representative of every single hair type. Especially since 3C and 4C aren’t included within that particular system. But if you find a hair type that is similar to yours, then it is a great guide to use to better understand the properties of your hair. Another hair typing system that I like is the LOIS system. Each letter represents the shape of hair strands. If your strands have sharp bends or zig-zags, then you are daughter L. If your strands are coily and has a ringlet/spiral shape, you are daughter O. Straight or relaxed hair are daughter I and s-shaped/wavy strands like mine are daughter S. While the LOIS system is a bit more simplistic than the Walker system, I think that the two used together does a great job explaining hair’s characteristics. A person who has 4C hair can have zig-zag strands, while another person may have coils or s-shaped strands and may also be 4C.
Both systems explain the aesthetics of hair textures perfectly, but many of us use it to try to understand what products or ingredients are best for our hair type. That can be quite complex as hair texture (fine, medium, and coarse), porosity, environment, lifestyle, technique, and even pH are all factors in finding the right products for you. For my type 4 hair, I see shea butter or heavy products often recommended. My hair doesn’t respond well to heavy products and I usually opt for products with milky or light viscosity which are usually the recommendations for type 3 hair.
If you’re looking to find products that work for your hair, I would suggest checking products’ labels to see if a certain hair type/texture is suggested for use. Many hair care lines do a great job at listing what hair types a particular product is best for. There are cases that a product is targeted for one hair type but may also work great on others. However, if your hair type isn’t listed, there is a great chance that it may not work for you. Once you see that the product is targeted for your hair, look up reviews. Youtube and blog reviews are a great place to start. The review section of online retailers is useful as well. One of my favorite websites is NaturallyCurly.com. Not only do they explain the Walker system in-depth, but they recommend specific products for your hair type.