Determining your hair type isn’t as simple as it may seem. We often tame our tresses by using the same shampoos, conditioners, and hair styling products every day. How you “think” your hair should behave isn’t necessarily the way it will look its best.
The shape of your hair follicles determines your hair type, meaning whether your hair is straight, wavy, or curly depends on the follicle. If your hair follicles are flat or oval, your hair is curly, and the more elliptical the strand is at the root, the curlier your hair will be. Circular hair follicles result in straighter hair, and the more round the follicle, the more refined the hair will be.
Subcategories lie within each of these four hair types to further identify each. Take a journey with us to learn how to determine which category your strands belong to, so you can choose the best hair care products.
Until you try something new, you may not realize that you have a different hair type than you initially thought. The information below breaks each of the four hair types into subcategories so that you better understand your own hair.
Celebrity stylist Andre Walker introduced a universal hair typing system on the Oprah Winfrey Show in the ’90s. He created four typing categories; straight, wavy, curly, and coily.
Over time, each of these four were broken down into subcategories. Hair Type 1 includes straight hair, Type 2 includes loose waves, Type 3 characterizes O-shaped curls, and Type 4 includes the coiliest of coils. Hair type is primarily determined by genetics. Let’s begin with hair Type 1.
Hair Type 1 describes straight hair. This hair type styles well in ponytails, braids, and buns. Straight hair rarely, if ever, holds a curl and is flat most times, especially in humid conditions. Hair Type 1 tends to be oilier than others, especially at the roots, and it is shiny and may also be thin. Using a heat-protectant spray and hair care products that boost volume is beneficial, and teasing the hair works great, too. Hair Type 1 has three subcategories: 1A, 1B, and 1C.
Completely straight hair is usually flat and thin and dries straight, meaning it rarely holds a curl.
This high-shine hair type requires styling products that amp up hair texture and decrease oil. Beneficial hair care products for Type 1A hair include dry shampoo, volumizing mousse, and texturizing sprays, to name a few.
Hair Type 1B has a medium texture and body. This hair type may hold a loose wave on the ends and is not as straight as hair type 1A, but it also doesn’t have an actual wave. Avoid heavy styling products that cause oiliness and may weigh down your strands. Instead, use volumizing products such as mousse that boost the hair’s body and lift at the crown.
Type 1C has the most body out of all Type 1 hair, and has a loose texture. It can hold a curl but may be prone to frizz. Humid weather doesn’t affect this hair type as much, but avoid products that weigh the hair down, such as heavy creams and other styling products.
Wavy hair isn’t straight, and it isn’t curly. Type 2 hair characteristics lie between Types 1 and 4, being loose and wavy. This hair type is not too oily or dry and, depending on its density, may have S-shaped waves. These waves are easily straightened with a flat iron, blow dryer and brush, or other heated hair tools. Type 2 wavy hair falls into three subcategories: 2A, 2B, and 2C.
Hair Type 2A consists of tousled waves that look loose and bouncy. It is silky and has more volume than straight hair. Type 2A is prone to being flat at the crown so use a volumizing product to increase body.
Increase volume by using a clarifying scalp scrub to detox and remove buildup. Tousled hair has a loose wavy look and is easily styled straight with a flat iron or dried as wavy. Type 2A is less frizzy than other Type 2s.
Type 2B consists of those beachy waves many people love, but the hair may remain flat at the crown. Use volumizing products at the root to increase volume. These waves work best with hair products such as dry shampoo and curl creams.
Type 2C is the waviest of all Type 2 hair and may contain an S-curl pattern here and there. It is also the frizziest of all three wavy hair types but may have more volume at the crown. These waves require moisture to help combat frizz.
Type 2C hair responds well to hair plopping. This technique involves binding wet hair into a microfiber towel and allowing it to dry. Doing this avoids heat styling and reduces drying time, while keeping your curls intact. Styling creams and smoothing products work best for this hair type.
Circular hair follicles result in straighter hair, and the more round the follicle, the more refined the hair will be.
Curls shaped in ringlets fall into the Type 3 hair category. Whether loose or tight, these curly hair types tend to be dry because the oils from the scalp do not make it all the way down the hair strand. Moisturizing hair care products work well for all curly hair. Type 3 hair contains three subcategories; 3A, 3B, and 3C.
Type 3A includes bouncy, loopy curls that are well-defined and frizz-prone. Type 3 styles the best by scrunching it with moisturizing curl creams and sprays to avoid dryness and frizz.
Type 3B hair is well-defined, with less space between the curve and bend of each curl than 3A. This hair usually has ringlets and spirals that look frizzy when not styled because it tends to be dry.
Use light moisturizing products on your coarse hair, and avoid products that include silicone and sulfate ingredients, which can dry out your hair. Use a deep conditioner regularly to help your natural curl retain hydration.
Type 3C has the least amount of space between each bend and curve of the curl compared to 3B. The corkscrew coils are very dry and rough, so you may need to shampoo less frequently. Condition kinky hair with hair masks often to help avoid breakage and use light, chemical-free gels.
Type 4 hair usually pertains to African American natural hair with tightly coiled strands. These coils vary from Type 3 because they tend to be very fragile, dry, undefined, and prone to breakage. Hair strands in this hair type may pack together to create thick, stronger-looking hair.
Coily hair styles well in braids, puff bubble ponytails, and tapered cuts. Type 4 hair has three subcategories; 4A, 4B, and 4C.
Type 4A hair sees tight curls that create an S-pattern, and is the loosest of all Type 4 hair types. These curls are cylindrical and springy due to the moisture the coils retain. Moisturizing creams work well for curl definition in this hair type, although wash and air drying styling also work well.
Hair type 4B curls resemble a zig-zag pattern with a cotton-like appearance. These curls are very prone to dryness and breakage. Type 4B hair appears shorter than it actually is due to the 70 percent shrinkage that occurs with this hair type thanks to the tightness of the curl. Moisturizing creams, serums, and lotions work well for this curl pattern to help avoid breakage.
The 4C pattern is similar to Type 4B, except it is curlier. Without styling products, freshly-washed hair Type 4C appears not to have a defined curl pattern. Shrinkage is 70 percent or more, and coils must be determined by twisting or braiding the strands. This is the most fragile hair type, and it requires a lot of care to avoid breakage.
Heavy creams and leave-in moisturizers that detangle work best in a hair care routine for Type 4C hair. Moisturizing the hair will help reduce breakage, encouraging hair growth.
“Hair texture” describes each hair strand's thickness or width. There are three types of hair texture: fine, medium, and coarse. Knowing your hair type and texture are key to determining which types of hair care products to use. Hair texture often changes with age.
To determine your hair’s texture, gently pull a hair from your head. If the hair feels like a piece of thread, you have thick or coarse hair. If the hair feels barely there, it’s medium, and if you can’t feel it at all, your hair is fine.
Fine-textured hair is soft and silky, requires special care, and tends to absorb water and products such as hair color and bleach quickly. Fine hair is weighed down easily by styling products and may look thin and stringy. This hair texture doesn’t hold hairstyles well due to its lack of protein structure.
Medium textured hair is the most common hair texture. It holds hairstyles well and looks thicker than fine hair, and feels silky when it is in a healthy condition. Medium texture hair isn’t usually prone to breakage, but it is vulnerable to the overuse of heated styling tools.
Coarse textured hair is the largest in diameter and tends to have many overlapping cuticle layers. This decreases the hair’s ability to absorb moisture and hair care products. Coarse hair holds style well and can tolerate styling tools at higher heat levels. It may resist chemical relaxers and coloring and take longer to dry than other hair textures.
Hair porosity defines how the hair’s cuticle absorbs and retains moisture within the strand. Hair is either low, medium, or high porosity.
Low porosity hair is denser and less able to absorb water and other substances. High porosity means that the cuticle is open, and the hair absorbs water very quickly. It also means that the hair loses moisture easily. High porosity hair may have more buildup and take longer to dry because the hair holds onto water.
Medium or normal porosity hair falls between low and high (of course!). Its ability to retain moisture varies because the cuticle is partially open. Medium porosity hair usually requires the least amount of maintenance.
Did you know that people typically have 80,000 to 120,000 hairs on their scalp, the thickest part being the crown? The number of hairs per square inch on your head refers to hair’s density. Hair density tends to differ by ethnicity and varies person to person. The thickness of your hair determines how much hair product to use. The denser your hair, the more product you need to use to cover each strand.
Hair elasticity determines how far a strand of hair stretches before it returns to its natural state. Hair with low elasticity breaks easily and is brittle, while hair with high elasticity stretches without breaking.
Your scalp provides its own moisture through natural sebum (oil) production. The hair follicles contain sebaceous glands that generate this sebum. This oil helps protect the skin from microbes and moisturizes the skin.
An overproduction of sebum can lead to an oily scalp and hair, as well as flaking and itching. Dandruff shampoos and leave on treatment products are specially formulated to help control oil production on the scalp and ensure your natural sebum production remains balanced.
Flaking of the scalp can be caused by both dry or oily scalp. An under-production of oil on the scalp leads to dryness that may result in powdered sugar-like flakes. More oily flaking can be caused by conditions such as psoriasis, dandruff, scalp ringworm, and seborrheic dermatitis. See your doctor if you notice excessive dry scalp or suspicious scalp conditions.
Dandruff is a common condition that causes a flaky scalp that can also be red, itchy, and irritated.
Dermatologists are convinced that dandruff is caused by an overgrowth of Malassezia, a yeast that is naturally found on our scalps (and elsewhere on the body). They also believe that low zinc levels may cause chronic dandruff.
To relieve symptoms, help prevent a recurrence, and leave your hair feeling cleaner, you need to use a professionally formulated dandruff shampoo that includes the active ingredient Zinc Pyrithione to address oil production and get at the root cause of flaking.
Understanding your hair type, texture, density, porosity, and elasticity will help you choose the best hair care routine and maintain healthy strands. It also allows you to select hair care products, styling tools, and hairstyles that work best for you. No two heads of hair are alike, so treat your hair and scalp with care. After all, great hair starts at the scalp.
Check out Jupiter’s range of hair care products that deliver science-backed, clean formulas for a healthy scalp and endless good hair days.
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