Each of us has hair that is unique—from stick-straight to extremely tight curls, the mixture of patterns and textures growing out of our heads is different for every person. But, no matter how unique our hair may be, all hair types fall into a classification system that helps us identify it.
You might be wondering, why is it important to identify our hair type? Understanding the type of hair you have can help you care for it better. Each hair type has its own qualities—for instance, curly hair will need to be moisturized a lot while straight hair might need to prioritize volume. By identifying your hair type, you’ll be able to choose products and styling methods that will keep your hair healthy and looking great.
Andre Walker’s 4 Types of Hair
There are multiple different hair type classification systems out there, but one of the most widely-recognized comes from Andre Walker, the former hairstylist of Oprah Winfrey. Created in the 1990s, the Andre Walker Hair Typing System breaks down the qualities of each commonly-found type of hair into four categories:
- Straight: Straight hair is the oiliest of the four hair types and does not have any distinct curl pattern. The hair is usually quite hard to curl but is resistant to damage.
- Wavy: Wavy hair has a slight “s” curve to it but is very relaxed. It can be easy to style but is also more likely to become frizzy.
- Curly: Curly hair has a much more distinct “s” shape to it. It is far drier than straight hair because of the texture, so it is prone to breakage. Curly hair is also more likely to be voluminous but frizzy.
- Kinky: Kinky hair has a very tightly-coiled pattern, either in an “s” or a “z.” This hair type is very dry and susceptible to damage.
The typing system also designates sub-types of hair based on its consistency, or the follicle volume. Depending on its circumference, your hair can be considered fine, medium or coarse. A person might have hairs that are part of more than one hair type, although these types will typically be similar to each other.
Type 1: Straight
Straight hair comes in three consistencies: 1a (thin), 1b (medium) and 1c (coarse). All three of the textures are quite soft and oily because the oils are more easily able to travel down the shaft to the ends. They are also more difficult to curl and lack volume.
To care for straight hair, wash it close to every day to prevent it from getting too oily. Use a volumizing shampoo and conditioner that won’t weight the hair down.
Additionally, use a dry shampoo on your roots to soak up excess oil and give the roots some extra lift. For added texture, try out a texturizing spray.
Type 2: Wavy
Wavy hair is also categorized in three consistencies: 2a (thin), 2b (medium) and 2c (coarse). Type 2a has a clear and very loose “s” pattern but lays flatter. Types 2b and 2c tend to get more frizzy and difficult to style, with tighter “s” patterns and more volume.
Since wavy hair is not as oily as straight hair, wash your hair every few days and use a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner to keep frizz at bay. Hair types 2b and 2c may also require creams or hair oils applied from mid-shaft to the ends to prevent more frizz.
Type 3: Curly
Curly hair has two types: 3a (loose) and 3b (tight). The loose hair type is very thick and full, with much more frizz and a curly “s” pattern. The tighter style is similar but looks more like a spiral.
Curly hair gets very dry since oils can’t travel down the shaft, so make sure to use moisturizing products and only wash every few days. When hair is wet, finger-comb or use a special brush to detangle your curls. Never brush your dry hair, or you’ll experience a ball of frizz and undefined curls. Use hair oils and curl creams to maintain curl definition and prevent frizz.
Type 4: Kinky
The final type, kinky, also has two textures: 4a (“s” curl) and 4b (“z” curl). The major difference between the two is that 4a has a defined and tight “s” pattern while 4b has an extremely tight “z” pattern or no visible curl pattern at all. Both types are very dry.
To combat excessive dryness and damage, utilize a lot of hair masks and moisturizing products. Apply a heavy hair oil to moisturize your locks and give them shine. Additionally, steer clear of heat tools so you don’t dry your hair out further.
Healthy hair, no matter what type
Once you determine what type of hair you have, take care to use the types of products and styling recommendations it needs to grow healthy and undamaged. With the proper care, any hair type can look amazing!