Hair Typing Beyond Curl Pattern? ...Part 1 - What Else is There? :-)

Oooooo, Hair Typing!

Hair Typing can be such a Controversial topic sometimes, but I'd like to touch on it a bit today as it pertains to hair care and what hair care regimen you use/ should use.

I think everyone who is on their hair journey or just beginning knows about the Curl Pattern Classification System. Naturals especially for obvious reasons. Relaxed ladies may want to know it to determine how long they can stretch their relaxers or if they are considering going back to Natural.
But if you are like I was back in 2012, this whole Curl Pattern Classification System is a completely new and foreign concept.
In a nutshell, there is a number-letter assignment to hair based on the curliness or kinkiness of it:


It stands to reason, I mean its just logical, that ALL type 3 girls use one regimen that works mainly for them, ALL type 4 girls use a different regimen that works mainly for them etc, right???? 
NOPE! Lol, not at all...

But hang on, why not? Because guys honestly, there's more to your hair than just the curl pattern. 
Did you ever notice that you can have 5 different girls online saying they are 3c for example, but their hair looks different from one another? Did you notice that some people with say 4b hair can use a denman brush to detangle their longer-than-BSL hair, where as some 3cs complain that the same denman brush causes too much breakage or split ends for them?

The LOGICAL explanation for this is... There MUST be more to this Hair Typing thing than just the Curl pattern, wouldn't you agree?

There are 3 questions I'd like to ask and subsequently answer in this post:
  1. Is Curl Pattern all there is to Hair Typing?
  2. How does this affect how I go about building a Hair Care Regimen?
  3. Does my Hair Type Determine how long my hair will grow? 
Because I'd like to go in depth with the answers to each of these 3 questions, I'm splitting them up into 3 different posts so as not to burden you guys with information OVERLOAD! :-D

Is Curl Pattern all there is to Hair Typing?

I was talking to a girlfriend the other day, Hey Roj!! :-) and we were talking about what products should she use for her hair type. And I remember I was also asking myself the same question at the beginning of my own journey. I actively sought out someone with BSL or longer hair (My initial hair length goal) with 4abc hair type, and was Relaxed (like me :-) ). I was lucky enough to find Jeni from JGA.
I immediately began to follow her regimen and pointers that she had. And after a while I noticed that some products worked EXCELLENTLY for my hair while others didn't go so well with my hair at all, and some other things that TYPE 3 NATURALS were using was working much better for my hair... what gives?

As I researched further I became aware of other very important "properties" of hair:
Hair Porosity,
The Width of each Strand,
&
Strand Density
So let's explore these new properties for a little bit :-) ...

Hair Porosity
The outer layer of each hair strand is known as the cuticle. Over time with thermal, chemical or mechanical trauma to the strands, holes and gaps may develop. Some peoples hair develop this easier than others, and this is likely genetically pre-determined. Hair porosity simply refers to the amount of gaps or holes you have in the outer layer of each hair strand which by extension is a measure of how well hair can ABSORB and RETAIN moisture.

High Porosity hair has a lot of gaps and cracks and holes which makes it very easy for the hair to absorb moisture, but much more difficult for it to retain said moisture. 

Low Porosity hair on the other hand has much less gaps and holes and so its actually harder for them to absorb moisture, but able to retain moisture a lot longer than their low porosity counter-parts.

Normal Porosity hair basically lies somewhere between High and Low Porosity.

Hair Porosity Test
So How exactly can you determine what level of porosity your hair is? This a "Strand Test" to help you do just that. All you need is a glass of water (at least half-filled) and a cleaned and dried Shed hair from your brush.

You just place the hair on top of the water and wait to see if it sinks and how long it takes to do so.
High Porosity - Hair sinks withing first 15 seconds
Low porosity - after 15 seconds hair continues to hover at or near the top
Normal Porosity - Hair strand hovers somewhere in the middle.

So how does this affect day to day hair care?
People with High Porosity hair can absorb moisture from a deep conditioning session very easily, so quite often heat need not be applied for as long as say a person with Low Porosity hair would need. I have high porosity hair, and I've found 20 - 25 mins deep conditioning under the heat of the drier, for me, is just as effective as 1 hour. Sometimes no heat at all is required, as the body heat generated under the plastic cap is enough! People with Low Porosity on the other hand find it more difficult to absorb moisture, and will tell you if they don't use heat for 45 mins to an hour when deep conditioning, then its a waist of time, because the conditioner just sits on the outside of the strand, and does not penetrate the cuticle layer. 

People with High Porosity hair lose moisture just as easily as they absorb it for the very same reason - the high number of gaps in the cuticle. So such people find that their hair gets dry quickly after they moisturize, especially if they don't seal in the moisture with some kind of oil. It is for this reason that M&S is especially important for high porosity hair. People with Low Porosity hair on the other hand may find it difficult sometimes to moisturize, but once the hair is moisturized, especially after a a good deep conditioning session, and the moisture is then sealed in with some kind of oil, they are able to retain moisture a lot longer than their high porosity counterparts.

High Porosity Quick Fixes and Tips:

  1. Rinse with cold water when washing out conditioner/ doing your final rinse on wash day - this helps to smooth the cuticle. Hot water in contrast lifts the cuticle, this is NOT good for High porosity hair that already by definition has lifted citucle scales, gaps and holes.
  2. Don't deep condition with SOGGY WET hair overnight - why? mainly because we absorb water so easily we can take in TOO MUCH into the strands and cause them to SWELL. This makes the hair verrry vulnerable to breakage.
  3. APPLE CIDER VINEGAR RINSES - help to smooth the cuticle and thus decrease porosity, a life saver!
  4. Protein treatments - the protein helps to plug in the holes and fill in the missing gaps in the hair cuticle thus reinforcing each strand making them stronger and less prone to breakage from regular brushing or other mechanical manipulation. This also helps to reinforce the hair and make it stronger so that your hair will suffer less damage when you do a relaxer afterwards.
  5. Aloe Vera Juice - used by some in their hair spritzes for daily moisturizing. This, like ACV, has a low pH and thus helps to smooth the cuticle also. This helps the hair to retain the moisture applied to the hair.


Width of Each Strand
This is another property of hair that I learned about on my HHJ that has really helped me to know how to handle my hair. Everyone's individual hair strands have different widths/diameters. Even on the same head of hair some people - like me, will notice that some of my shed hair appears very fine and others coarse. Knowing the strand width of the MAJORITY of the strands on your head is very important to help you to know if your hair is more or less prone to damage.
Hair Strands may be considered fine, normal, or coarse.


Simply compare a shed hair to a piece of thread. FINE HAIR - hair width seems smaller than the thread, COARSE HAIR - hair strand seems thicker than the thread. 

FINE hair is more prone to thermal, mechanical, or chemical damage than COARSE hair. So women with fine hair like myself have to be very careful about the use of heat, especially careful about overlapping relaxers, and even more careful about daily hair manipulation. In fact, Since I've been protective/low manipulation styling, I've been able to retained more length over time because I'm allowing my hair to stay on my head instead of my brush! if you get my meaning :-)
People with Coarse Hair have a bit more leg room when it comes to heat chemical processes and daily hair manipulation than their Fine-hair counterparts, BUT its wise to still be careful and listen to your hair because again one-size-fits-all is RARE in hair care. :-)

Strand Density
This essentially refers to the number of hair strands growing form a given surface area of the scalp. So, from a small patch on one persons scalp they may be more hair strands than another person in the same size patch of scalp.
So people with HIGH STRAND DENSITY are seen to have what we call Thick hair and people with LOW STRAND DENSITY are seen to have Thin Hair.

  1. Thick Hair  means you have more hairs to apply product to! So These people will find that they may go through bottles of conditioner much faster than their thinner haired counterparts for example.
  2. Strength in numbers - the more hair strands there are, the greater the ability of the hair to handle daily mechanical manipulation e.g. styling and brushing, because the "force" of said brushing/ styling is evenly distributed over more hair strands which means less stress on the individual hair strands themselves. Think of it like an army or hairs vs your brush! An army of 10,000 vs an army of 100,000 hairs? The 100,000 is more likely to fare better. :-)

With all of these other hair properties to take into consideration, its easy to see why not everything someone uses that seems to have the exact same hair type as you (curl pattern-wise) will work for you.


As you can see I'm very passionate about this topic because it really helped me to understand my hair and what it needed.

I really hope you guys found this information as useful as I did when I first learned about them. If you have any questions or comments or feel I left anything out, feel free to drop me a line or 2 below!
I'll be posting Part 2 very soon :-)

Have a Super Thursday!

Xoxo,
Rachie :-)

4 comments

  1. Great post, very informative!

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    1. :-O, Yayness!!!!! I'm so humbled right now. You are such a hair-inspiration! I did want to discuss this topic because learning all the different aspects of my "hair-type" really helped me to clear some of my length-reretention hurdles. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  2. Oh wow Rach! Your blog is so good. Very informative article. I've read up on the hair classification system and to be honest it just seemed like a gimmick to me. My hair varies between their classification of a 4 and a 3 depending on my hair's mood and how I care for it. Having the classification did not change how I cared for or styled my hair. Even trying to follow the YouTube videos of girls with similar hair classifications didn't work, because what may work for someone with a particular hair type may not work for another person even with the same hair type. Whats more important is the health of your hair, not fitting into the curling classification.

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    1. Heya girlie, I realise I called you instead of replying here! So big ups to Knakita who is also on her HHJ! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting :-) There's so much more to hair typing than I originally thought! :-)

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