Knowledge is power, so the more you get to know about natural hair and your hair type in particular, the easier it will be for you to grow your hair but most important to keep your hair healthy.
This is why we would like to dedicate this section in giving you insights and bringing you some education on Natural hair.
Natural Hair Type:
Natural hair generally falls into one of two categories: Type 3 or Type 4 natural hair. Type 3 natural hair is characterized by it's loose, wavy, curl pattern, while Type 4 is characterized by its kinky, coily curl pattern.
Type 3 Natural Hair
The most common natural hair type that you’ll find in mainstream and mass media is type 3. These soft, defined, curls have been at the forefront of the natural hair movement but are no means representative of the natural hair community at large. Here’s your guide to type 3 natural hair.
The curl pattern: Type 3 natural hair is known for its super defined S-shaped or C-shaped curls. The curls are known for their uniformity with the majority having the same look, diameter, and definition. One of the key characteristics of type 3 natural hair is that it tends to fall down instead of up and out, so while you may find this curl type getting some nice volume, it’s impossible to achieve the full kinky afro textured hair that type 4 naturals have.
Type 3A: The first curl pattern in the type 3 category is type 3A natural hair. This hair type is home to big s-shaped curls. They are loose, long, and heavy and naturally pull downward. This is why type 3A curls tends to look the longest of the hair types because they have so much weight. While type 3A curls are heavy, they aren’t tight at all. In fact, some people in this category my have curls that are more wavy than curly. A key characteristic of type 3A hair is it’s shiny appearance which is related to the low porosity found amongst this hair type.
Type 3B: If you’ve seen natural hair in mainstream spaces, chances are it was this curl type. Type 3B natural hair consists of the curly c-shaped curls that take on a corkscrew type curl pattern. These ringlets are usually very dense providing type 3 naturals with nice volume and lift.
Type 4 Natural Hair
Most African-American women have a curl pattern that falls inside the the Type 4 hair category. Even those with looser curls generally have a type 4A or 4B rather than type 3. Type 4 hair is much more fragile than type 3 because the strands tend to be thinner and more coarse. And because of this, moisture is the number one concern for type 4 natural hair. Here’s our guide to Type 4 natural hair.
The curl pattern: Type 4 natural hair is known for its diverse curls and textures that live together on one head. Just one person with type 4 hair can have a variety of different curl shapes and patterns. Afro textured hair dominates this hair type with one key difference between the types. Where type 4A and B have a silkier afro texture, type 4C has a coarser texture. But one thing every hair type within the Type 4 category has to deal with is shrinkage. Unlike type 3 hair which has less shrinkage and falls downward. The deeper into type 4 hair the more extreme the shrinkage tends to be.
Type 4A: This hair type is home loose, coily curls. The pattern and definition between them will vary with some being more wavy than coily, and others being more curly than wavy. Type 4A hair is usually the shiniest of the type 4 family because this hair type tends to lean towards low porosity. It also is the heaviest type 4 hair so it will fall a bit more than 4B and 4C which prohibits its ability to grow an afro.
Type 4B: This hair type falls right in the middle of the type 4 category. Like type 4A, this hair type is home to various types of curl definition, with a mixture of tighter and looser curls making up this curl pattern. The general curl pattern of this hair type are z-shaped curls. They are much tighter that 4A but still looser than 4C hair overall. Because of this, shrinkage is a bit more intense and curls grow out to the side. Type 4B hair is generally low to medium porosity.
Type 4C: This hair type is the most fragile hair type of them all. Commonly compared to type 4B because of its dense tight curls, 4B hair is much more tight, fine, and thin. This hair type can be low, medium, or high porosity and like the other hair types in this category, it’s not uncommon to have a few different curl patterns on your head. This hair type is characterized by its afro texture and lack of definition. When left in its natural state, type 4C hair is prone to serious shrinkage and becomes an afro.
Remember, your curl type is just your starting point to understanding your natural hair. But with this knowledge, you should be able to begin to find products, styles, and regimens that will work for your unique natural hair.
Hair Porosity :
Essentially, hair porosity is about your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture.
The porosity of your hair affects how well oils and moisture pass in and out of the outermost layer of your hair, known as the cuticle.
Hair porosity is typically divided into three broad categories:
- Low porosity: Cuticles that are close together.
- Medium porosity: Cuticles that are less tightly bound.
- High porosity: Cuticles that are more widely spaced.
Your hair consists of three layers:
- The cuticle: This is the tough, protective outer layer of your hair that’s made up of smaller cuticles that overlap each other
- The cortex: This is the thickest layer of your hair. It contains fibrous proteins and the pigment that gives your hair its color.
- The medulla: This is the soft, central part of the hair shaft.
For your hair to stay healthy and hydrated, water, oils, and other moisturizing products need to be able to pass through the cuticle to get to the cortex.
But, if the cuticles are too close together, it’s not easy for water and oils to penetrate the hair. This can make it harder for your hair to get the moisture it needs.
Also, if the cuticles are too widely spaced, your hair will have a harder time retaining moisture and staying hydrated.
How your hair absorbs and retains moisture is largely due to genetics. So, if low porosity hair runs in your family, there’s a good chance you’ll have low porosity hair, too. But while genetics can affect porosity, it isn’t the only contributing factor.
Blow drying, bleaching, straightening, overwashing, and using harsh products can all damage your hair over time. This can cause your hair cuticles to become raised and open, which may make it harder for your hair to retain moisture.
In addition to hair treatments, too much
With low porosity hair, the cuticles are tightly packed and very close together. This makes it harder for moisture to penetrate the hair shaft.
You may have low porosity hair if:
- hair products tend to sit on your hair and don’t absorb easily
- it’s hard for water to saturate your hair when washing
- it takes a long time for your hair to air dry
Whether due to genetics or hair damage, high porosity hair allows moisture to be absorbed into the hair shaft easily, yet it isn’t able to retain moisture for long. This is because the cuticles tend to have gaps or spaces between them.
With medium or normal porosity hair, the cuticles aren’t too close together, but aren’t too open either. This allows moisture to penetrate easily, and it also makes it easier to retain moisture for a longer period of time.
You may have medium porosity hair if:
- your hair is easy to style and can hold styles for a good length of time
- your hair takes color well
- your hair tends to look healthy, shiny, or glossy
- it doesn’t take too long for your hair to air dry
Heat damage and other chemical processes can cause normal porosity hair to change over time.
You may have high porosity hair if:
- water and other moisturizing products are quickly absorbed into your hair
- your hair tends to break easily
- your hair tends to be frizzy and dry
- it doesn’t take much time for your hair to air dry.
How to take care of your hair based on your hair porosity?
For low porosity hair:
- Use protein-free conditioners. These tend to be more easily absorbed into your hair and may be less likely to cause product buildup.
- Apply conditioner to hair that’s already wet. Diluting the conditioner may make it easier to be absorbed into your hair.
- Look for ingredients like glycerin and honey in shampoos and conditioners.
- Apply heat when you condition your hair. Use a steamer, heat cap, or hooded dryer. Or, if you don’t have those, put a shower cap over your hair once you’ve added a conditioner.
For high porosity hair:
- Look for ingredients like butters and oils in shampoos and conditioners. These ingredients will help moisturize your hair.
- Use leave-in conditioners and sealers. These products help your hair hold on to moisture.
- Use a heat protectant product on your hair. Apply this product before you blow dry or use other heat styling treatments. This can protect your hair from heat damage.
- Avoid hot water when shampooing and conditioning. Use lukewarm water instead.