Hair Types Don’t Matter

Posted on 26 June 2017

I know this may sound like a bold declaration, but I’m here to tell you that they don’t.  I’ve managed to grow healthy hair down to my waist only having a general idea of where my hair fell on the hair type spectrum.  I don’t subscribe to hair typing (and I don’t think you should either) for a variety of reasons.  If you don’t know what I mean by hair types or hair typing, head over to Curl Centric.  They have an excellent write-up on the subject:

Hair typing is confusing.  I’ve seen 4a look completely different from one website to the next.  It’s difficult to match your hair type to a picture of another woman’s hair.  Our hair just comes in too many different patterns and combinations, and it’s very common to have several hair types all over your head.  Besides, hair care companies just don’t make hair products for specific, detailed hair types.  Instead, they use basic, general hair characteristics associated with broad hair types to make their formulations.

So instead, let’s get rid of this notion that hair typing is the end all be all and replace it with the idea that knowing your general hair characteristics is much more important.  These hair characteristics will paint a clearer picture of the uniqueness of your hair and help you build an effective regimen with the right hair care products.  You should consider the following characteristics:

Hair Type: Hair type is the configuration or shape of the strands of hair on your head.

Straight & Wavy hair gets oily fast due to the straightness of the hair.  The oils in the scalp easily glide down the lengths of the hair.  Because of this, your hair requires more washing to keep the oil at bay.  You should wash your hair between two and three times a week.  Also, use less conditioner and apply it below ear-level since the natural oils from your scalp will keep your hair naturally moisturized.  In terms of styling, straight hair can be harder to style due to its inability to hold a curl.

Curly & Kinky hair is dry due to the twists and bends in the hair.  The oils in the scalp have a hard time traveling down the length of the hair shaft to moisturize the ends.  Therefore, the ends are dry and more prone to damage.  You should wash your hair once a week to preserve as much of the natural oils as possible and moisturize and deep condition regularly.  Your conditioning products should be very thick and emollient.  Curly and kinky hair can do the same hairstyles, but some hairstyles may be harder to achieve on kinkier hair.

Hair Texture: Hair texture is the diameter or thickness of the individual strands of hair on your head, and it is determined by the number of cuticle layers on a given strand.  The cuticle is the outermost covering of the hair strand and provides protection to the hair shaft. There are seven to ten layers of cuticle protecting the cortex.

Fine hair has the least amount of cuticle layers and is very fragile.  Handle fine hair with extreme care and avoid heat and chemical treatments.  Use styling products that are light and won’t weigh your hair down.

Medium hair is more durable than fine hair, and it’s easier to style.

Coarse hair has the most cuticle layers and easily resists damage.  However, it is hard to style.  It takes longer to color or chemically process.  If the hair is heat styled, it may have a hard time holding a curl for long.  Coarse hair can use heavier styling products if necessary.

Hair Density: The density of your hair refers to the number of hairs on your head per square inch.

Thin hair (not due to hair loss) is less than 2 inches in a ponytail.  It lacks volume and may not offer complete coverage of your scalp when styled.  If you have thin hair, use products that will add volume and density to your hair. Choose hairstyles like curls, twist outs, Bantu knots, etc. to add volume and fullness.

Normal hair is between 2 and 4 inches in a ponytail.  It is ideal because you have the most styling options and don’t need special products.

Thick hair is greater than 4 inches in a ponytail.  It is also desirable because the hair looks very full and voluminous.  However, you may want to use smoothing products to reduce the volume of your hair.

Hair Condition: The condition of your hair refers to the current health of your hair.  It should be the primary determining factor for how you style your hair and what products you should use.  I would argue that it is the most important characteristic out of all those listed. 

Normal hair is healthy hair.  It is very shiny, bouncy, and full of body.  The hair is soft to the touch and can handle a variety of hairstyles.  Use products earmarked for normal and healthy hair. This hair condition can withstand heat and chemical process the best, but both should be avoided to maintain normal, healthy hair.

Dry hair looks parched and feels rough and brittle.  You can use the same products as those earmarked for damaged hair.  Although the cause is different, the remedy is the same.  Deep condition the hair once a week and moisturize it daily with very rich and emollient styling products.  Avoid heat and chemical processes.  Both will exacerbate dry hair.

Damaged hair is a catchall for many different hair problems - damaged, permed, relaxed, chemically-processed, color-treated, coarse, dry, porous, sun-bleached hair, and over-styled.  The source of the damage may be different, but each has the same effect on the hair shaft.  Avoid heat and chemical processes.  Both will cause damaged hair to result in extreme hair loss.  You need to commit to regular protein treatments (followed by a deep moisturizing treatment) and moisturize your hair regularly until you cut can it off.

Oily hair can be healthy or damaged hair.  You can either have oily hair and an oily scalp (typically common in straight and wavy hair types) or an oily scalp and dry ends (usually common in curly and kinky hair).  It is a scalp condition, not a hair characteristic.  Nonetheless, companies make products earmarked for oily hair.  You should avoid buying these products because they are harsh and drying.  Instead, treat the underlying scalp condition and buy products earmarked for one of the hair conditions above.  If you have oily hair, wash your hair regularly, and avoid putting conditioner anywhere close to your scalp.

Hair Porosity: Hair porosity describes how opened or closed the cuticles of your hair are and is closely tied to the hair conditions noted above.  I don’t think it is necessary to know the porosity of your hair.  (I don’t know mine, and I’ve never tested it.)  If you know the condition of your hair, it will imply what the porosity is.

Nevertheless, if you want to test the porosity of your hair, take a few strands and place them in a glass of water.  Check the glass after two to four minutes.  If the strands float, you have low porosity hair.  If they sink, you have high porosity hair.  If they stay in the middle of the glass, you have normal porosity hair.

Low porosity is when the cuticles of the hair are so compacted that they won’t let water penetrate or provide moisture.  Instead, the water just beads and sits on top of the hair. You will notice that it takes a long time to color or chemically process your hair.  Low porosity hair is healthy hair.

Normal porosity is hair that has compact cuticles, but not so compact that water can’t easily penetrate the shaft.  Normal porosity hair is healthy hair.

High porosity is undesirable.  The cuticles are remarkably lifted and separated, so water easily flows in and out of the hair.  Although it can be natural, it most likely isn’t and is the result of damage from chemicals, heat, etc.  You should treat your hair the same as the damaged hair condition above.  Do regular protein and moisture treatments until the damaged hair is cut off.

The goal of knowing your hair characteristics should be to use this information to build an effective regimen, select the best products for your hair, and employ the best styling practices.  Having a general understanding of your hair characteristics is all you need to achieve healthier, longer hair.  Anything beyond this is overkill and serves no purpose.  The human population is so diverse, and our hair is so unique.  It’s impossible for any hair typing system to cover and capture all of these diverse combinations.

In addition, I do believe that hair types are sometimes used to divide, rather than unite, women of color.  We should all be proud of our hair and acknowledge that each hair type brings a particular set of attributes and challenges to the table.  Stick to the basic, general characterizations and focus your efforts on caring for your unique head of hair.  I promise that it’s enough to get the job done and help you accomplish your goals.


Guest post by: Love.Nurture.Grow

Head over to for a free Hair Characteristics cheat sheet to help you quickly identify your hair’s unique attributes and why they are important.  In addition, you’ll find that we get a lot more in depth in covering all things hair


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