With the advent of the natural hair community came the realization that rather than just the categories “natural hair” and “relaxed hair”, there was much more to be discovered under the natural hair category. While relaxed hair tends to have almost a uniform texture, natural hair could be very curly, very kinky, wavy, slightly straight and much more.
Little wonder that hair typing systems were developed to try and cover these differences in hair textures. The hair typing system that is most popular is Andre Walker’s (Oprah Winfrey’s long-time hair stylist) method which depends on factors such as:
- curl pattern (how tight or loose the curls are)
- texture (coarse, medium, fine)
- the shininess of the hair strand
Andre Walker’s hair typing method is available in his book, Andre Talks Hair. His hair typing system has provided us the oft-spoken about 1a – 4c hair types. It is important to note that, he does not provide any guideline on 3c and 4c hair. It was unofficially added later by others who identified the gap in his hair typing system. Andre Walker’s Hair typing system chart below shows graphical representations of hair types. This helps so that one may determine where one lies within the categories. On the right-hand side of the chart, you will see that certain brands (not all available in Nigeria) are recommended for the each hair type.
It needs to be pointed out that this hair typing method is not the only one available. If you do not find your hair type represented within Mr. Walker’s chart, you can try Fia’s Hair Typing System as it is viewed as an unofficial extension of the Andre Walker’s chart. The last method of note is the LOIS hair typing method. Reading up on these three hair typing systems may give more information on your hair type.
What is the importance of hair typing?
- Hair regimens have been developed for various hair types. While this may not work the same way for everyone with the same hair type, it is a more specific guide than most. For instance, it is a well-known fact that Nigerians typically have types 4a, 4b, and 4c hair. That means that most of our regimens are based on something that works for most of us.
- Some hair product manufacturers make products specifically for a certain hair type.
- For a newbie to the Natural Hair community, this can be a crash course in learning how best to treat your hair.
- For the discerning user, it becomes obvious that one’s hair type may change over a course of time. Or that one does not have the same hair type consistently all over one’s head. 4c, 3a and 4b hair, for instance, may make up a whole head of hair.
- It does not cover all one needs to understand about one’s hair type. For instance, porosity is not discussed.
- It can not be used as a definite guide for individualized hair care. For example, it does not take into consideration the weather condition where one lives. For instance, a person living in Lagos, Nigeria where it is usually quite humid may need different advice from one that lives in Abuja, Nigeria where it is not as humid. As a matter of fact, Abuja can be considered to be much hotter and dryer.
- Some people view hair typing as a political statement. There has been talk about Andre Walker’s hair typing being racially prejudiced because it places kinky hair at the bottom of the scale, making it (in some people’s view) appear to be the worst hair. He has denied this claim.
The last Con here is one of the reasons why a lot of people declare that they are unable to get onboard the hair typing boat.
To end, I would like to point out that Hair Typing is not an isolated thing. Apart from the hair types, skin types also have a scale called the Fitzpatrick scale which is a recognized research tool used by dermatologists looking into human skin pigmentation. Although you may not recognize this skin typing method, it is even the basis of something that a lot of us every day – emojis. Remember that there are now different shades so that racial diversity can be represented? Those shades are based on the Fitzpatrick scale.
Hopefully, after reading this post, you can determine for yourself if Natural Hair Typing is helpful or not.