I wonder about the construction of these hair typing systems, and please let me apologize in advance: I’m a math nerd, and definitions and precision and categories and names really matter in math. This post therefore might be a little headache-inducing. I’m sawwy. 🙂 But if you are so inclined to think about clarity and hair typing for just a moment, I appreciate your company! 😀
So, lately I’ve been hearing a lot of naturals make statements like, “Curl pattern doesn’t even really matter. First off, most people have multiple curl patterns, not just one — and it’s all about your hair’s porosity, anyway.” Well, I agree that if FORCED to choose, I’d rather understand my hair’s porosity than my hair’s curl pattern or type. But that doesn’t mean there is no benefit from knowing GENERALLY what my overall curl pattern is, in particular for the sake of styling.
When you go natural, in my opinion it is NATURAL to care about your curl pattern (or hair type) for one main reason: Sometimes a style that works on 3c hair isn’t as likely to work on 4c hair if the same products and technique are used. There’s a reason that the YouTube hair videos I tend to watch contain Type 4 hair and not Type 2 or Type 3 hair.
One of the most INSIGHTFUL things I’ve recently heard from a natural was the musing that while a twist out will work on 4a hair and a wash and go will work on 4b hair, it may be that the wash and go “pairs” well with 4a hair because it leaves the hair most similar to its natural state: coily. Likewise, it may be that the twist out “pairs” well with 4b hair because it leaves the hair most similar to ITS natural state. Well, I’ll be!!! I never, ever thought of that.
Three Explanations I Have Received That Try to Clarify the Andre Walker Hair Typing System
I never ever HEARD of hair typing until I went natural. And even then I didn’t realize I was learning about a SYSTEM (The Andre Walker hair typing system) when I first encountered phrases like “4b.”
The FIRST definitions of Type 4 hair that I was told went something like this:
- 4a hair is coily, not curly and not kinking. And 4a coils have the same diameter as the metal SPRINGS in ink pens.
- 4c hair typically doesn’t show definition. It’s cottony hair that may show definition when maximally hydrated. When you do see 4c definition, the coils are EXTREMELY tiny. The tiniest possible.
- 4b hair is kinky hair that has waves that are shaped like S’s. It may even zig-zag.
The SECOND explanation I received about the Andre Walker hair typing system focused on coil diameter solely. According to that explanation, the only difference between 4a, 4b, and 4c hair was the diameter of the coil. So 4a hair had a larger diameter than 4b and 4c hair . . . and 4c hair had the smallest diameter out of the three. And a main point in this second explanation I received was that all hair was capable of coiling (i.e., having and displaying coil definition).
After getting yet a THIRD explanation that assigned actual diameter measurements in millimeters to distinguish 4a from 4b from 4c coils, I kind of tapped out. DISAGREEMENTS over hair typing still persist despite various ways of thinking about the Andre Walker hair typing system. I betcha I could take 10 longtime naturals, put them in a room to identify the curl pattern in a section of hair, and it’s likely I’d get several different answers.
I remember going to a salon a few months after my big chop, explaining to the stylist that I wasn’t sure what to do with my 4c hair, and having her almost laugh me out of the chair. “Girl. You have 4a hair if that. Talmbout 4c hair. PLEEEEEAAASE!” Then she proceeded to give me a steam treatment that had my hair looking unrecognizable to me and completely brand new to me. Coils all over, even after drying. I was legit confused. LOL.
One thing I’ve noticed is that my HIGHLY DENSE, FINE, COTTONY 4a hair looks very different from someone else’s LOW DENSITY, COARSE 4a hair. They may look more similar when wet, but certainly when dry, both of these 4a heads of hair look very, very different. Maybe the LOIS system, discussed below, can work out the difference???
A Little About the L.O.I.S. Hair Typing System, With Links To an Article and Video
The LOIS hair typing system is a different hair typing system. I can tell that the creator of the LOIS system is aiming to be more comprehensive in describing hair. I think the LOIS system is on the right track.
Each letter in the word “LOIS” stands for a different hair SHAPE (please see the photo below). The “L” represents hair that kinks, or bends. The “O” represents coily hair. The “I” represents straight hair. Finally, the “S” represents wavy hair. One head of hair can be a combination of any of these.
Photo credit: THEMafroSISTERS
There are other components to the LOIS system. Please see this article: http://themafrosisters.blogspot.com/2013/04/curl-class-7-lois-hair-typing-system.html.
I do find a few things about the LOIS system confusing. It might just be me, lol. For one thing, instead of keeping the characteristics of POROSITY and FEEL as two separate categories, these concepts are intertwined into one. Here’s an example:
“Thready hair” is defined as “hair [that] has a low sheen, with high shine if the hair is held taut (as in a braid), with low frizz. Wets easily but water dries out quickly.”
So then . . . what if my hair has all of this EXCEPT it takes forever to dry? Is my hair then not thready??? And is it just me, or does that definition of “thready” not only lump the FEEL and POROSITY into the definition, but also the LOOK (shine? sheen?)? This is okay if these characteristics (low sheen, high shine, low frizz, gains water fast, and loses water fast) are always found “together.” However, it’s confusing if they don’t. In that case, it would be better to talk about LOOK, FEEL, and POROSITY separately and let people mix and match so that they can describe their hair to a tee.
Here’s an example of the category fuzz I’m detecting: I may be waaaaay off, but I feel that perhaps the utility of the terms “spongy,” “thready,” “cottony,” “wiry,” and “silky,” will increase if “spongy” is relabeled. You remember that Sesame Street song “One of these kids is doing its own thing. C’mon, can you tell me which one?” Well, I think spongy is more a porosity-focused term, while thready and wiry and silky and cottony are all feel-focused terms. (And cottony is on the ledge. Suspect. LOL. Just kidding. 😛 )
So am I wrong? Are there folks who feel like “spongy” is the PERFECT word to describe how their hair feels? I can see someone saying, “My hair has a silky feeling.” Or a cottony or wiry or thready feeling. But spongy? When I hear “spongy,” my mind automatically thinks about water absorption and release. In other words, porosity. BUT I COULD BE 100% WRONG. It may just be that I’ve never had the opportunity to touch a spongy-feeling head of hair.
For the sake of this discussion, let’s say I’m not wrong and it is indeed true that there’s not really spongy feeling hair. Then we might clean up that category. And we could move the topic of porosity to its own category distinct from feel. It also might help if for each category of hair we had video and picture when the hair is both dry and wet. These pictures and videos could highlight and emphasize what, for example, makes hair “wiry” versus “thready” . . . or “cottony” versus “wiry.” I need the clarity, because I feel like I’ve seen a head of cottony, wiry hair. Lol. Which brings me to a main question I have: Is it possible to have a texture that is a blend?
Here’s a link to the closest such information I’ve found to-date — a picture-heavy forum thread: http://forum.blackhairmedia.com/what-is-your-real-hair-type-pic-heavy_topic326175.html.
So I’m hopeful!!! When I look at how the GreenBeauty channel creator uses the LOIS system (please see video below) and other descriptors TOGETHER to describe hair, I see increased clarity. Once somebody gets the LOIS system worked out (if it indeed even needs to be worked out), I think it’s going to be clarifying in a way that enables us to USE hair typing to benefit the care, look, and health of our hair. One really great thing: The LOIS system doesn’t inadvertently and inherently “rank” hair types, like any numbering system does as a matter of course. 😉 Good deal.
Please check out the video below that uses the LOIS system, and please share your thoughts about this topic in the comments. As always, take care!