Hair Typing 101 - The Basics and the Controversy

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I have been checking out other natural afro-hair blogs and for some reason a majority are not sure or don't have info on hair type 4C...Please do a post on afro hair types, there textures and perhaps some pictures to accompany them. Mob love *:*:*

(Jacky Kalamu)

Hey all,

So in response to Jacky's email (Big UP Miss J!), we came up with this post on hair typing for Afro Hair.

For a brief history on just how this typing system came about, and a detailed account of Andre Walker's methodology, follow this link right hurr. Before we continue, we would like to give you our stand on hair typing, here goes...

Nyachomba and I (Mary) have very different hair types. Her curl pattern is looser than my own; her curls are defined and form loose locks when wet. My curl pattern is much tighter i.e. I have more coils than curls. When wet, my hair will form tighter ringlets and become even tighter when dry.

Nyachomba's Hair when wet; notice the thick clusters of wet hair


This completely resembles my hair type (Image courtesy of Nonie of LHCF). The coils are much tighter and do not cluster as much.


It goes without saying that there is a clear distinction between our hair types. And you know what, we ain't even mad! You see, the thing about hair typing is that it forces us to sort, segregate and file in relation to the differences. As human history can attest, the minute individuals or characteristics are classified, feelings of 'the other' come into play.

We, as Kurly Kichana, associate hair typing with other grossly misinformed societal stereotypes; the perfect example being the infamous notion that sisters with lighter skin are prettier than dark skinned sisters. Yes, you may think of us as drastic, but indulge me for a minute.

We have received numerous personal emails, chats and queries via Facebook and Twitter from women with coilier hair types seeking advice and telling us how much they dislike their hair type. They often cite this as the main reason as to why they are reluctant to go natural/ openly display their natural hair. Words such as 'ugly', ''makonge' (sorry if my spelling is wrong), 'unmanageable' and 'unsightly' were often used in these correspondences. More often than not, they ask us how they can get their hair to look like ours, more so - I presume - Nyachomba's.

This kind of 'fro-envy', as far as I am concerned is not healthy. I remember when Nyash and I first watched Good Hair, we kinda hoped Chris Rock would have touched the issue of natural African hair types in relation to the concept of 'good hair', but alas. We still enjoyed it though! We heart Chris Rock.

Now we may be wrong, but we feel that within the natural hair community there exists a thought that claims looser hair is prettier than coily hair. We do not in any way claim that this thought is seconded by every natural out there! Heck no! But it is a widely shared notion.... (I welcome your backlash, come at me).

Kurly Kichana, as the slogan(s) go, are in love with all things hair/ a kurls best friend. We do not care for hair type. In our eyes, all hair is awesome hair.

HOWEVER...

We believe that the aforementioned system came about to aid women in their hair maintenance regimens. As such, Mr. Walker saw a need to classify our hair for the ease of understanding. It is true that my hair requires a heavier amount of moisture than that of an individual who has 3B hair. It is evident that people bearing different hair types will need different regimens. This however is not always a positive, in light of the system.

All natural hair types require the same basic governance which dictates a moisture protein balance that encourages maximum health for the individuals hair. Hair typing is not the answer. KNOWING what your hair likes, and dislikes, how it reacts to manipulation is what counts. No two heads are the same. On an individual basis, no two WEEKS are the same! One week may require you to go hard on the moisture campaign, while the next might see you reaching for that protein. This reality affects the 3A's all the way to the 4C's.

Manipulation is the most important skill to master. Learning how to effectively manipulate your hair can have it looking super fly as a shrunken afro in one day, and draping down your back/neck in a perfectly executed twist-out the next. Basically, I can go from looking like a 4B to a 3C, heat free! And so can you.

You can take that to the bank.

Anyhoo... By now you know we tend to over think things. We will leave it at that. Below is a rough guide to Andre Walkers hair typing system for your viewing pleasure.

Type 3 Hair (3C):

Characteristics:
- Looser S-shaped coil, hair is more coily than kinky
- Can be fine in texture

Do's
  • Use creamy leave ins in moderation.
  • Avoid using heavy oils to seal, they can weigh down hair and make it too greasy.
  • Trim ends often.
Don't
  • Sleep without a satin cap - tangle central!
  • Use too much protein, can cause your hair to become very hard.

Type 4 Hair:

This has an "S" pattern, much like curly hair. It is kinky, or very tightly curled, with a clearly visible curl pattern. Type 4 hair is extremely fragile and can be prone to breakage.

Type 4 hair can range from fine to coarse with lots and lots of strands densely packed together. It can also be known to shrink to 75% of its actual length.


Type 4A

Type 4B

Type 4c

Hair that is coilier than 4C is sometimes referred to as 4Z

Do's
  • Use creamy moisturisers and water based moisturisers as often as possible.
  • Seal with butters and oils to make sure your hair is moisturised for longer.
Dont's
  • Do not use heat often, this is calling out for breakage and hair damage.
  • Detangle without loading your hair with a creamy conditioner.
****

That's basically it!

Let us know your thoughts on the hair typing systems. As always we welcome your thoughts and appreciate the time you take to provide them.

Peace.

14 comments:

Kalumz said...

Thank you afrobelles for shedding more light and demystifying the hair classing system. I totally agree that all hair is good hair, you only need to know what to do with it and how to take of it. I love my Africa/Kenyan heritage and everything that comes with it. You only need to start talking about african hair *it's like a can of worms* and out comes our skin color and body shapes and sizes. There is a saying that goes ' There is no such thing as an ugly woman only a lazy one.' I chose to understand it as beauty-both inner and outer requires patience and nurturing and hell yeah it is a lot of work but the gains out weigh the pains. Cheerio!

Daisy M said...

My mane to be is a loveable 4Z that wasn't always loved till I found what worked for it...and it took a while but now more often than not I wouldn't change it for the world, the exception being when I've neglected it and it tells me who's boss as I detangle O_o

Kui said...

You completely took me back to my growing up days when my hair was renowned for its 'makonge' nature coz no comb would make it through 'alive.' It'd break midway and this was promptly followed by a trip to the barber...'nyoa yote pap!' Thanks for this enlightenment!

Kurly said...

@Kalumz We need more people who think like you!! Big up!! All hair is good hair, no matter what anyone else thinks.

@DaisyM Defo!! Our hair does have a certain way of reminding us whose boss...nothing worse than spending over 2 hours detangling our hair!

@Kui...As Kenyan girls we have all had the issue of sitting down at the salon..in pain as someone uses a comb to rip through your scalp..You are very welcome...Ours is to make ladies love their hair no matter the texture

Miss Lulu said...

Thank you so much for this post... now i can stop wondering why my natural hair doesn't look anything like my elder sisters' natural tresses. I am just beginning to love and properly take care of my 4B/C it's somewhere there... Loving your blog! Miss Lulu

Kurly said...

Our pleasure Miss Lulu! Go on and love those beautiful tresses! :D

sugarthesky said...

Great post. I'm still transitioning soo it's hard to tell exactly what type I am but I think it's 4b and 4c at the crown. I soo didn't know there was a 4z! lol

Miss D said...

True gal, it's all about using what you got and i love my hair! Thanks for all the tips, information is power!

Dena said...

Wow, thank you for this post. It's so refreshing to see honesty regarding natural hair types.

I've been on many natural hair sites and seen many videos. Frequently, I see girls in the 4 category claiming to be in the 3s. Those with obviously 4z hair on such sites were more likely to say that they were not into hair typing and yet most of those who said that also made sure to say that the hair on their head varies in type as they have very loose curls in some places.

Now, if this wasn't so common among those with 4 hair types, I wouldn't think anything of it. But to see such a stigma of labeling oneself as a 4 is so sad. Mentioning that someone is in the 4s is like a slur but if you say that one might be in the 3s or even 2s is seen as being a compliment. I have 4b type hair and yet I found it so hard to find tips and others like me online mainly because most choose to say that they are 3b/3c or else declined to label their hair at all. It's saddening to see this in a community I believed was enlightened.

I thought I found solace from hierarchies and stigmas of what society's calls "blackness" in the natural hair community but instead I found hidden biases and a whole other set of hierarchies.

Dena said...

Wow, thank you for this post. It's so refreshing to see honesty regarding natural hair types.

I've been on many natural hair sites and seen many videos. Frequently, I see girls in the 4 category claiming to be in the 3s. Those with obviously 4z hair on such sites were more likely to say that they were not into hair typing and yet most of those who said that also made sure to say that the hair on their head varies in type as they have very loose curls in some places.

Now, if this wasn't so common among those with 4 hair types, I wouldn't think anything of it. But to see such a stigma of labeling oneself as a 4 is so sad. Mentioning that someone is in the 4s is like a slur but if you say that one might be in the 3s or even 2s is seen as being a compliment. I have 4b type hair and yet I found it so hard to find tips and others like me online mainly because most choose to say that they are 3b/3c or else declined to label their hair at all. It's saddening to see this in a community I believed was enlightened.

I thought I found solace from hierarchies and stigmas of what society's calls "blackness" in the natural hair community but instead I found hidden biases and a whole other set of hierarchies.

Lulu said...

i live in asia and finding hair products for type 4 hair here is a bit of a headache. am curious how shud u clean ur scalp often? wash your hair regularly?

Nyachomba said...

Try and get some basic conditioner to do co-washes with...i.e. washing your hair with conditioner instead of shampoo. You can wash your hair as often as you like, depends mainly on your lifestyle. If you go to the gym often and get very sweaty then every day or every other day, if you don't then once a week

scarcity said...

Slowly by slowly im learning what my hair type is and what i should do with it im transitioning to natural hair il be an year end of March this year im a mum and want to step out with confidence and embrace my natural tresses.

Jeannie said...

I appreciate this blog tremendously. I am from the US, and recently moved to Nairobi. I have curly hair, and based on the aforementioned hair type classification, my hair type is 3C. I desperately need a haircut, do you have any hair salon recommendations? I do not want to experience a hairdo nightmare.I would love your advise. Thanks a ton.