Textured hair has special care and styling needs based on its unique curl patterns. Inspired by celebrity stylist Andre Walker’s hair types, and built upon by NaturallyCurly.com readers and hair professionals, our Texture Typing℠ system details the varieties of wavy, curly and coily hair. We’ve put together handy charts to help you identify your hair type at a glance. We’ve also given you quick care and styling tips as well as product recommendations to help keep your waves, curls and coils looking their best everyday.
Type 2 Wavy Hair
Type 3 Curly Hair
Type 4 Coily Hair
No two curls, coils or waves are the same. Our Texture Typing℠ system will let you create a hair profile to identify the unique properties and needs of your hair. Understanding the curl pattern, porosity, density, width and length of your hair will help you find the right products and styling tips to keep your locks healthy and beautiful everyday.
Your curl pattern shows the amount of wave or curl in your hair, and is divided into wavy (type 2), curly (type 3) and coily (type 4). Knowing your curl pattern will help you find the right products, styles and care tips for your hair.
Porosity refers to how well your hair is able to absorb and hold moisture. It is affected by the flexible outer hair layer called the cuticle, which determines how easily moisture and oils pass in and out of your hair. For most, porosity is genetic, but it can also be affected by external factors such as exposure, heat treatments and chemical processing. Knowing your hair’s porosity can help you choose the right products to keep your hair well-moisturized, supple, strong and shiny.
Determining Hair Porosity
There are two methods you can use to find out how porous your hair is.
The Float Test: Take a couple of strands of hair from your comb or brush and drop them into a bowl of water. Let them sit for 2-4 minutes. If your hair floats, you have low porosity. If it sinks, you have high porosity.
The Slip’n’Slide Test: Take a strand of hair and slide your fingers up the shaft (toward the scalp). If you feel little bumps along the way, this means that your cuticle is lifted and that you have high porosity. If your fingers slip smoothly, then you have low porosity hair.
Hair with low porosity has a tightly bound cuticle layer with overlapping scales that lay flat. This type of hair is usually considered healthy, and is often very shiny, especially when it’s dark in color. Low porosity hair repels moisture when you try to wet it and is hard to process since it resists penetration of chemicals.
Low porosity hair is also prone to build-up from protein-rich deep conditioning products, which can leave it feeling stiff and straw-like. Stick to protein-free, daily conditioners with humectants such as glycerin or honey. Use moderate heat with protein-free deep conditioning treatments to help open up the tightly bound cuticle.
Low porosity hair requires moisturizers rich in emollients such as shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil and mineral oil. It also benefits from humectant products, which attract and hold moisture to your hair. Choose lighter, liquid-based products such as hair milks that won’t sit on your hair and leave it oily or greasy.
Hair with medium porosity often requires the least amount of maintenance. The cuticle layer is looser, allowing just the right amount of moisture to enter while preventing too much from escaping. Hair with normal porosity tends to hold styles well, and can be permed and colored with predictable results. Over time, however, these processes can damage your hair and increase its porosity.
Occasional deep conditioning treatments with protein conditioners can benefit medium porosity hair, but proteins should not be included in your daily regimen.
High porosity can be either an inherent property of hair or the result of damage from chemical processing, rough treatment or environmental damage. High porosity hair has gaps and holes in the cuticle, which let too much moisture into your hair and leave it prone to frizz and tangling in humid weather. Even simple acts such as bathing, swimming and shampooing can create more damage and breakage due to the sheer amount of moisture highly porous hair can absorb.
Be sure to use anti-humectants in climates with high heat and humidity. This will help seal your damaged cuticles and prevent them from absorbing excess moisture in the air.
Because highly porous hair can also lose moisture easily, it’s important to use leave-in conditioners, moisturizers and sealers. Layering these products will help your hair hold on to the moisture you’re giving it. You can even follow up with a heavy hair butter to help fill the gaps in your damaged cuticles and further protect your hair from losing too much moisture.
While hair width measures the width of individual strands of hair, density refers to how closely those strands are packed together on your head. Your hair’s density can also be affected by your hair texture, porosity and width. Knowing your hair density, along with your curl pattern, porosity and width, will help you choose the right products, styles and cuts to maintain the volume of your hair.
Determining Hair Density
The most accurate way to determine hair density is to have someone count the number of strands growing in a 1″x1″ area of your scalp. But since the average person has about 2,200 strands of hair per square inch, it can take some time to count them all. Fortunately, there are other ways you can determine your hair density.
Start with dry hair, because hair that’s wet will often look thinner than it really is. Let your hair hang loose in its natural, unparted shape and look at it closely from all different angles. If you can see your scalp very easily, then you have low hair density. If you can see some of your scalp, you have medium hair density. If your scalp is difficult or impossible to see, then you have high hair density.
If you have low hair density, use light products that won’t weigh your hair down and reduce its volume. Use a mousse to make your hair look fuller, and consider using dry shampoos, volumizing shampoos and volumizing conditioners with thickening agents. Simple, rounded hairstyles will also allow your curls, waves or coils to fall into place and give the appearance of more volume.
If you have medium density hair, you can use a variety of products, styles and cuts to enhance your texture. Try mousse and dry shampoo to play up volume, or use heavier creams and butters to give your hair more weight and hang. Wash’n’gos will allow your existing texture to shine through, while twists and braids will work well to alter your curl pattern and give it more structure.
Hair width (sometimes called texture) refers to the thickness of individual strands of your hair, rather than to how much hair you have on your head. Knowing your hair width, along with your unique curl pattern, is important since it can affect your ability to retain length.
Determining Hair Width
To find your hair width, take piece of your hair from a brush or comb and hold it up to the light. If the hair is very wide and easily visible, then you have coarse hair. If it’s so thin that you can hardly see it, you have fine hair. If your hair appears neither thin nor coarse, you have medium width hair.
The strands in coarse hair are very wide in circumference, making them the strongest of all hair textures. As a result, it’s easy to maintain length with coarse hair since it’s more resistant to damage.
Hair with medium width consists of strands that are strong and elastic, and neither too thin nor too thick. Medium width hair is also somewhat resistant to damage, making it easy to maintain length.
Hair with fine width has a very small circumference and is very delicate and easy to damage. As a result it’s often difficult to maintain length with fine hair. Deep conditioning after you wash is a good way to nourish and strengthen fine hair. You’ll also want to keep manipulation of your hair to a minimum to avoid unnecessary breakage by reducing your use of combs and brushes and steering clear of elaborate, high-maintenance hairstyles.
In addition to your curl pattern, the length of your hair can determine which products you should use as well as how to apply them. Here are some basic hair care tips and product recommendations based on your hair length.
Freshly chopped: ½” or less (TWAs)
- Requires zero to no maintenance!
- Keep hydrated with a daily moisturizer and a leave-in conditioner spray
Short: ½” – 2″ (TWAs & pixie cuts)
- Detangle with fingers
- Use fingers to apply products
- If hair is very short, use palm of the hand to rub in circles to create texture
- For slightly longer hair, twist around finger to create curls and coils
Medium: 2″ – 10″ (shoulder to bra strap length)
- Detangle with fingers and follow with a wide tooth comb
- Use duckbill clips to separate hair into sections
- Apply product from root to tip
- Tip head upside down and use a diffuser to dry
- Preserve curls and coils overnight by using a multiple-scrunchie pineapple method
- Use a quarter-sized amount of styling product per section
Long: 10″+ (armpit to waist length)
- Detangle in sections, first with fingers and following with a wide tooth comb
- Use duckbill clips to separate hair into sections
- Apply product from root to tip, distributing with fingers
- Tip head upside down and dry with a hair diffuser, or use the pixie curl method
- Use a scrunchie to pineapple hair overnight
- Use two quarter-sized dollops of styling product per section