If you’ve been to your local beauty supply store lately, it isn’t hard to understand why hair typing is such a big business. But what do you really know about hair typing and its significance in the natural hair community?
Hair typing is a methodology that utilizes certain characteristics like curl pattern, strand size and texture to determine care and styling needs for individual categories of hair, which can range anywhere from straight and wavy to curly and kinky.
Although there are multiple hair typing systems, possibly the most universally accepted one is the Andre Walker Hair Typing System, created by Oprah Winfrey’s hairstylist and chronicled in the 1997 book, Andre Talks Hair.
In it, Walker divides hair into four texture categories: 1) Straight, 2) Wavy, 3) Curly and 4) Kinky. Within each of these groups are texture subgroups: A (Fine/Thin), B (Medium) and C (Coarse). So, a person with “Type 2B” hair would likely have thicker strands with a more defined wave or “S” pattern. This hair type, according to Walker, may also be resistant to styling. To see more about Walker’s Curl Typing System, click here.
In addition to Walker’s system, there are two other mainstream systems used to identify hair type. The LOIS system takes into consideration a person’s hair pattern, strand size and texture, while the FIA system looks at curl definition, along with the overall appearance and volume of the hair.
Much like Walker’s system, LOIS accounts for the possibility that there will be more than one pattern present in the hair and uses the letters as descriptors for an individual’s hair texture.
· L = Bends/Kinks
· O = Spirals/Coils
· I = Flat/Straight
· S = Waves
Consequently, a person with an “LO” hair type might have thickly coiled tresses that could be a challenge to straighten.
Determining hair type using the FIA system is also relatively simple and uses a combination of factors such as curliness, volume and appearance to define hair as fine/thin (hair that exhibits the fragility of a strand of silk), medium/normal (hair similar in size and density to a sewing thread) and course/thick (hair that feels hard and wiry to the touch).
Now that you know the basics, here’s what you can do to find out what hair type you are. Simply take a freshly washed, product free strand of the most common texture present in your hair. Remember, most people have more than one. Place the strand on a flat surface; preferably one that contrasts with the color of your hair to make it easier to see. Dark hair will require a lighter surface and vice versa. Then, lay a piece of sewing thread next to the hair strand. How does it compare? If it’s thinner, thicker or equal in size to the thread, it’s an easy way to determine if you have thin, course or normal hair.
Quin Brewington has been a natural hair enthusiast for nearly 20 years and recently launched her own blog, SisterLadyGirl.com which offers sensible style inspiration to the grown, classy and sassy woman.