Monday, June 22, 2015

Defining My Hair

Hair Type

I've been natural for three and a half years. During that time, I've read a lot of information and I must admit it's a bit overwhelming! I've skimmed over some good information that I had difficulty retaining for several reasons; with most prevalent being if it's not information I can use right at the moment, I'll forget it!

One thing I've seen most often in natural hair communities is hair typing. I've seen chart after chart about what each hair type is, what it looks like, and what celebrity has that type of hair.

What are my thoughts on hair typing? 

My overall thoughts on anything are, if it's something you want to do, go for it!! I'm not one to stop anyone from doing anything they want to do. If you feel like hair typing is important for your hair care regimen, and it's worked for you, and has helped you choose the best products, then that really is a great thing! I feel people are entitled to do whatever they want and I'm definitely not here to persuade you one way or the other with my opinions.

Honestly, I've never taken an interest in typing my hair because I didn't think it was important. When my hair was relaxed, I didn't need to know what type of hair it was to take care of it and keep it as healthy as possible, so I was approaching being natural the same way. For the first year and half of my natural journey, I was seeing a cosmetologist every 2 weeks, so I was hands off...and loving it! Her hands are truly blessed and she has hair knowledge for days! Any questions I had, she could answer them.

Now that I want to be more proactive about my hair knowledge, I figured why not?!

What type of hair do I have?

I recently read this post and thought it would be a good guide, along with this post, to loosely use for typing my hair. To start, I thought it would be helpful to describe my hair in my own words. My hair is full of small, very tight curls. The hair in the front is a little looser than the hair in the back, but for the most part the curls are similar in size. I'm also blessed with super shrinkage (peep the sarcasm).

Using the descriptions I've seen recently, there were two types I could identify with; Type 4a and 3c. The main article I used to type my hair considered 3c as a subtype of Type 4 hair, so let's start with the description of what Type 4 hair is:
Type 4 hair is very tightly curled, with a clearly visible curl pattern. The circumference of the spirals is close to that of a crochet needle or smaller. The hair is very wiry and very, very fragile. Type 4 hair can range from fine/thin to wiry/coarse with lots and lots of strands densely packed together. Type 4 hair has fewer cuticle layers than any other hair type, which means that it has less natural protection from the damage you inflict by combing, brushing, curling, blow-drying, and straightening it. Type 4 hair is known to shrink up to 75% of the actual hair length. -Source
I can relate to many of the characteristics listed here. The characteristics that stick out the most for me are the curl type, how fragile the hair is described to be, and the shrinkage! Now, let's look at the difference between 4a hair:
Tightly coiled hair that, when stretched, has an S pattern. It's more moisturized than 4b hair.
...and 3c hair:
Type 3c hair has voluminous, tight curls in corkscrews with the circumference of a pencil or straw. The curls can be kinky, or very tightly curled, with lots and lots of strands densely packed together. Getting this type of hair to blow dry straight is more challenging than for 3a or 3b, but it usually can be done. The very tight curls are usually fine in texture. -Source
Look at these descriptions. One of my problems with these typing descriptions is they use the description of other hair types to describe another type. How helpful is it for me to know that Type 4a hair is more moisturized than 4b hair; or that 3c hair is more challenging to straighten than 3a or 3b hair??? That doesn't help me one bit! The other problem I have with typing is, how similar the descriptions can be:
  • Curl size: crochet needle vs. pencil/straw. What's the difference?! They're about the same size to me!
  • Both curl patterns are described as tight curls
  • How is a S pattern different from a Z pattern? What does a Z pattern even look like?!
  • ...and I still don't know the difference between a curl, coil, and kink!!
However, if I HAD to pick a type for my hair, I would choose 4a over 3c (according to these descriptions). I didn't choose 3c because I wouldn't describe my hair as voluminous, nor do I have trouble straightening my hair. I'm also assuming that 3c curls are bigger than 4a curls. My curls are more on the tiny side.

Hair Tips For 4A Hair

The purpose of typing my hair is to find tips that will help me take care of my hair better. One eye opening statement was about the fragility of Type 4 hair. I can believe my hair has less natural protection than other types of hair. I learned a long time ago not to comb or brush my natural curls when they're dry and to be extra careful when they're wet. About a year and half ago I had to learn the hard way that I can't be rough with my hair.

With that in mind, here are some tips:
  • Use styling creams, butter, and oils
  • Detangle hair with a lot of conditioner in your hair
  • Do not use a brush or comb on dry curls
  • Reduce tangles by sleeping on a satin a pillowcase or wrap hair in a satin cap
    • or do like I do and use both!
  • Cowash, which will cleanse & condition coils without stripping out natural oils
  • Deep condition once a week
    • I read this to mean "maybe not once a week, but often."
  • Hydrate, soften, and nourish hair with moisturizers (Sources 1 & 2)
I don't want to sound pessimistic, because it's better to have some information than none, BUT the hair tips I got from these posts was knowledge I already had. I'm not going to go around telling people I have 4a hair, but I will do some extra research to see if there's some information out there that I can use that will be helpful to add to my current regimen.

Remember the goal is to have and keep healthy hair, so I'm taking in any and all information that will help me take better care of my hair!

How do you feel about defining your hair type?

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