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Understanding Textured Hair

Why We're Simplifying The Alphabet Brigade

If you’ve been in the natural hair arena for any length of time, then you’re fairly familiar with the alphanumeric categorization system that most natural hair gurus and DIY-ers religiously reference. Not only is it an easy way to describe your hair type, it can be helpful when it comes to picking out the best products. There’s only one major issue: it’s incorrect. 


This hair typing system is primarily employed to describe a curl pattern, when what its user really wants to target are their hair characteristics. For example: someone with 4a hair may describe their locs as “tightly coiled and somewhat dry” when the real problem is that their strands are denser and have lower porosity, and therefore need new products. 


While we don’t want to discourage you from trying out new products, we do want you to understand the ins and outs of your hair so you know what to ask for, and can save yourself some time and money in the long run. Black and African American hair types are generally more fragile than other textures because of the adverse climate we’re in. Black hair goes through so many climate and seasonal changes that it can be hard for the hair to receive the nutrients it needs on a regular basis. If you were to look at what’s considered type 3 or 4 hair under a microscope, or even just part your hair into sections across your head, you’d find unique curl patterns that could very well fall into any of the number types. 


Each subtype depends on the curl pattern, density, porosity, texture, and hair history. Yes, hair history: i.e., how much heat damage, chemical treatments, and breakage that strand or section of hair has incurred. 


So the next time you waltz into your local beauty supply store, or book your hair appointment, consider sharing your hair concerns beyond 3a or 4c. You can read more about our product recommendations and descriptions for each hair profile here.