Natural texture is all the rage these days! The highly-styled looks of the past are giving way to soft natural waves, curls, coils, kinks and straight strands. But what exactly IS hair texture, and how do you zero in on your unique hair type? We have all the answers for you!
Understanding Thickness vs. Density vs. Texture
While the terms “thickness”, “density” and “texture” are often thrown around interchangeably, each term actually describes a specific property of the hair. It’s important to understand what these concepts mean so you can tailor your care and styling routines for your hair type.
Your hair’s thickness is the diameter of each individual hair strand. There are three categories of thickness: fine or thin, medium, and coarse or thick. As a general rule, fine hair may feel soft and tends to get oily faster than other hair types. It’s delicate and can be tough to style. Medium hair is the most common hair type and is generally the easiest to style. Thick hair has a fuller appearance, holds a curl easily, takes a long time to dry and may be prone to frizz.
To find your hair’s thickness, take a single loose strand of hair and place it on a piece of paper in a contrasting color. Cut a piece of standard sewing thread and lay it alongside your strand of hair. If your hair is thinner than the sewing thread, you have fine or thin hair. If your hair is about the same size as the thread, you have medium hair. You have coarse hair if your strand is thicker than the sewing thread.
Hair density has nothing to do with the size or shape of your strands; rather, it describes the number of hairs on your head. There are three levels of density: low, medium, and high. Low-density hair would be about 80,000 or fewer hairs. Medium or average density is closer to 100,000 hairs, while people with high-density hair have 150,000 hairs or more.
So how can you find out your hair density without spending a Saturday afternoon trying to count every hair on your head? Try the ponytail test! Pull your dry hair back into a low ponytail with your index finger and thumb. Slide your index finger and thumb down the ponytail and check to see where your index finger touches your thumb. If it’s near the base of your thumb, your hair is low density. If it’s around the middle knuckle of the thumb, your hair is medium density. If it’s closer to the tip of your thumb, your hair is high density.
Many people believe that thick hair is dense hair, but this isn’t necessarily the case! It’s possible to have fine, high-density hair or thick, low-density hair. Each of these hair types will require different products and care.
Texture generally refers to the structure or curl pattern of your strands. Hair texture falls into four main categories:
Each of these four types can be broken down into a, b and c subcategories based on how tightly your hair curls. So Type 1a hair is silky-smooth and completely straight, while Type 4c hair is tightly coiled.
The best way to determine your hair texture is to wash your hair and allow it to air dry without applying any products. Place a piece of paper in a contrasting color underneath a strand of hair, and observe the curl pattern. Compare your hair to the chart below; which image most closely matches your hair?
Once you’ve figured out your texture type, read on to learn how to best love and care for your mane!
Type 1 (Straight) Hair
Silky, smooth and shiny, type 1 hair is straight with no or minimal waves. There are three subcategories of Type 1 hair, from straightest to waviest:
Type 1A hair is sleek, pin-straight and glossy. This hair type is common among East Asians and people of Asian descent.
Type 1B hair is very straight but has a bit more volume than Type 1A.
Type 1C hair has more body along with a slight wave or bend.
Straight hair is fairly low-maintenance, looks soft and shiny, and rarely frizzes up. On the other hand, this texture type tends to get greasy because natural oils from the scalp can easily move down the hair shaft. The lack of volume and texture can cause straight hair to look flat, dull or limp. Type 1 hair (especially silky 1A hair) is delicate and may not hold a curl or an up-style for long.
Caring for Type 1 Hair
Regular shampoos are essential to keep Type 1 hair clean, healthy and fluffy. Wash your hair every 2-3 days with a volumizing shampoo and conditioner. While it may be tempting to shampoo every day, this can actually cause excess oil production and make straight hair greasier.
Choose lightweight styling products to give you more body and volume. Heavy oils, curl creams, and shine-boosting products can weigh down Type 1 hair. For straight hair that’s also fine, reach for hair thickening products for a boost of fullness.
Type 2 (Wavy) Hair
Bring on the beachy waves! Type 2 hair is wavy hair with an S shaped curl pattern. It’s less defined than curly hair, but has more texture and volume than straight hair. Wavy hair may be straight on top and begin to bend further down the hair shaft.
Type 2A hair features a loose or “lazy” S pattern. This hair type is very common and holds a style well.
Type 2B hair has a more defined S shape and may be prone to dryness and frizz.
Type 2C hair has a strong S pattern (but not quite full ringlets). This hair type is almost curly.
Natural waves have a soft, carefree look that’s perfect for today’s laid-back hairstyles. The biggest challenge with Type 2 hair is frizz. Waves are sensitive to humidity and tend to be dry, which can cause them to lose definition or clump together. However, the rich moisturizing products used on curls may be too heavy for wavy hair.
Caring for Type 2 Hair
Since wavy hair is prone to damage, dryness and frizz, it’s important to A) keep the hair super-healthy and B) replenish moisture without weighing down your hair. Make sure to use a hydrating conditioner in the shower, then squeeze out any excess water and apply a leave-in conditioner designed for wavy hair.
Try to avoid towel-drying Type 2 hair, which can disrupt the wave pattern and create frizz. Instead, let your waves air-dry or use the diffuser attachment on your blow dryer. Hydrating products are important for Type 2 hair, as waves need definition to look their best. Consider using a lightweight hair lotion on your mid-shafts, and a hair oil to seal dry ends.
Type 3 (Curly) Hair
Curls run the world! Type 3 hair, or curly hair, has a spiral curl pattern with plenty of bounce and volume. Curly hair requires extra gentleness and care, but it’s so worth the work! There are three subcategories of curly hair, from loose ringlets to tight corkscrews:
Type 3A hair has a loose, relaxed curl that may lack volume.
Type 3B hair features tight S-pattern ringlets with more volume than Type 3A.
Type 3C hair has tight spiral curls with lots of volume.
Curly hair is undeniably gorgeous, but it can be tough to manage. The structure of Type 3 curls prevents natural oils from moving down the hair shaft, which means curls may be dry and prone to frizz. Humidity is also a challenge for curly-haired folks, as the moisture in the air causes the hair’s cuticle to swell and frizz out.
Caring for Type 3 Hair
Curls need moisture, nourishment and definition to look their best. Avoid over-shampooing or overusing heat tools, which can further dehydrate and damage delicate hair. Daily moisture is a non-negotiable for curls! Always apply a nourishing leave-in conditioner before detangling or styling hair. If your Type 3 hair looks extra-dry, consider adding a weekly hair mask or deep conditioning treatment to your routine.
Type 4 (Coily) Hair
Whether you call it coily, kinky or super-curly, Type 4 hair is a stunning crown! This hair type features tight curls that are prone to shrinkage. Although anyone can have Type 4 hair, it’s most common among people with African heritage.
Type 4A hair has a tight, S-pattern curl with the least amount of shrinkage.
Type 4B hair features tight Z-pattern coils with more shrinkage than 4A curls. The coils may not be well-defined without styling products.
Type 4C hair has very tight coils with high shrinkage. This hair type has low definition and grows out from the head in an “Afro” shape.
Natural textured hair has been making a huge comeback since the early 00’s, with many people now choosing to embrace their natural curls and coils. Type 4 hair is very delicate and requires special maintenance and care. The biggest challenges for this hair type are maintaining moisture, preventing damage to the hair, and keeping strands healthy.
Caring for Type 4 Hair
Three words-- hydration, hydration, hydration! Type 4 hair tends to be very dry, so replenishing moisture daily is key. Rich hair oils, shea butters and curl creams will quench your hair’s thirst! Make sure to use a leave-in conditioner every day and a nourishing deep conditioner after shampooing. At night, cover your coils with a silk scarf or bonnet to protect against breakage.
Getting to Know YOUR Mane
We hope you’ve gained some new insights into your hair type… and maybe a few ideas to upgrade your hair-care routine! Learning more about your texture type is the first step to making the most of your mane’s natural beauty.
Keep in mind that the different hair types are just general categories. Your hair may not fit perfectly into a single box, and that’s okay! (For example, many people with textured hair have several different curl patterns on different parts of the head.) Use these type categories as a jumping-off point, and then experiment to find out what works best for YOU!
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