Hair comes in various types and colors. It can be fine, thick, short, long, glossy, frizzy, straight, curly, etc. But does any of that really matter?
Well, yes. Different types of hair will require different care instructions. What works for long, straight hair may not work for someone with a short, curly head full of hair.
Below, we'll look at the four main types of hair in more depth, exploring some of their specific characteristics and care instructions.
Table of contents:
- Why Is Hair Important?
- A Closer Look at Hair Structure
- What Does Hair Type Mean?
- What Determines Hair Type?
- How Do I Determine My Hair Type?
- What Are the Four Types of Hair?
- Type 1 Hair: Straight
- Caring for Type 1 Hair
- Type 2 Hair: Wavy
- Caring for Type 2 Hair
- Type 3 Hair: Curly
- Caring for Type 3 Hair
- Type 4 Hair: Coils
- Caring for Type 4 Hair
Why Is Hair Important?
Hair is most commonly thought of as an element of expression and style. While this is certainly true, hair serves an even more important purpose too. For one, it offers protection.
Our hair protects our scalp from the potentially harmful effects of UV light. It also helps keep our heads warm in cooler months. So, it offers both style and protection — a win-win.
A Closer Look at Hair Structure
It all starts at the root — the hair root, that is. It rests below the skin inside a follicle (a small tube in the skin). Here, cells band together to form a hardening protein called keratin.
Keratin helps form hair. The part of the hair that we see is called the hair shaft. It comprises three layers of keratin: the medulla, cortex, and cuticle.
- Medulla: The inner layer of keratin is called the medulla. It is typically present only in thicker hair types and consists of a thin, soft core of air spaces and transparent cells.
- Cortex: The middle layer is known as the cortex. This layer makes up most of the hair shaft and contains pigment cells, which are responsible for hair color.
Cuticle: The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair shaft. This protective layer is composed of overlapping cells like roof shingles. This is where your hair gets its shine.
As our hair grows, it sprouts from the root and pushes its way through the follicle and finally out of the skin — where it dies. It sounds odd, but it's true.
Once the hair breaches the skin's surface, the cells within it die. So, the hair strands on our heads are dead cells. Also, each follicle is attached to hair oil glands, also known as the sebaceous glands.
These oil glands are the culprit behind the hair shine. However, too much oil can cause greasy, oily-looking hair.
Hair Today May Be Gone Tomorrow
Your head contains thousands of hair strands. But your hair growth cycle is a revolving door. You lose roughly 50 to 100 strands of hair daily from brushing, washing, etc.
Thankfully, new hair is always growing (for most, anyways). Around 90 percent of a person's total hair is in the growth phase (anagen phase) at any given time.
Here is a quick look at the phases of hair growth.
- Anagen phase: This growing phase can last for years. As stated, this phase is responsible for most of the hair on your head.
- Catagen phase: This is also called the transition phase. During this phase, hair follicles stop growing for a time.
Telogen phase: Also known as the resting phase, the telogen phase occurs when old hairs are pushed towards the surface to fall out naturally and are replaced by new hair.
What Does Hair Type Mean?
In most cases, hair type refers to the shape of a person's hair — wavy, curly, straight, etc. Some call this your hair's curl pattern.
What Determines Hair Type?
For the most part, hair type and hair texture are determined by your genes. Genes refer to the DNA structures that you inherit from both parents.
Genes determine your physical traits (phenotypes), including hair type. Other phenotypes include height, eye color, hair, and blood type.
It is certainly possible for two curly-haired parents to have a child with straight hair. Typically, this is due to recessive genes.
Other factors that can influence hair type include certain medications and chemical use. Chemical use on the hair includes hair relaxers, perms, bleaching, and coloring.
How Do I Determine My Hair Type?
Does determining your hair type even matter? If you want to keep your hair healthy, it matters. Determining your hair type can help direct you with styling and choosing the right hair care products.
For example, your hair type will play a role in how hair oil (sebum) moves from the scalp to your hair strands. Of course, oil production is very important regarding hair care.
There are several factors to consider when trying to determine your hair type. Aside from actual hair structure, the most important factors are hair density, hair texture, hair porosity, and hair elasticity.
Hair density refers to how tightly your hair is packed together. More specifically, it is the number of hair strands per square inch on the scalp. The average person has around 2,200 strands of hair per square inch.
It is often confused with hair thickness. But hair thickness (or thinness) refers to the actual circumference of the hair strand. Density is the thickness or thinness of the group of hair.
Hair texture refers to both the form and thickness of individual hair strands. Generally, hair texture is defined in three ways: fine, medium, and thick or coarse.
The texture of the hair will also determine how difficult it will be to care for and manage. For example, thicker hair can be easier to style as it tends to hold in place better.
- Fine hair is the most fragile hair texture. Typically, it is harder to style and tends to be more oily. It is also more susceptible to damage from some hair care products.
- Medium hair texture styles pretty well and is more resistant to damage and breaking than thinner hair. Most people have medium hair texture.
- Coarse or thick hair texture holds most styles well. It is also the most tolerant of styling products and is least susceptible to breakage. It also tends to take the longest to dry.
Hair porosity refers to how well your hair can hold in and absorb moisture - or how porous it is. Porosity is affected by the outermost layer of the hair shaft — the cuticle. Porosity is defined in three categories: low, medium, and high.
This refers to the extent to which a hair strand will stretch before returning to its natural shape. This is often used as an indicator of hair health. It is categorized in three ways: high, medium, and low.
What Are the Four Types of Hair?
As discussed above, determining hair type is important when caring for your hair. What works well for one hair type will not always work for another.
In general, hair type is categorized in four ways:
- Type 1 (Straight hair)
- Type 2 (Wavy hair)
- Type 3 (Curly hair)
- Type 4 (Coily hair)
Type 1 Hair: Straight
Type 1 hair is considered completely straight, without a natural curl. Furthermore, type 1 hair tends to lay very flat and carry little body. However, it typically carries a noticeable shine thanks to natural oils.
Individual strands are often fine to medium in texture, but type 1 hair can also be thick. The pros of type 1 hair are its ability to stay straight and its ease of maintenance.
Type 1 hair is considered straight as far as structure goes, but there are also varieties of type 1 hair, differing mostly on texture.
Let's take a look at these subcategories.
Out of the three subtypes, type 1A is the straightest in hair and follicle structure. It carries no natural curls at all. It also has no wave patterns and little volume.
It tends to be thinner than other types but is also known for carrying a higher gloss. This is due to a higher hair oil content. It is also the least common of the subtypes.
A medium texture marks type 1B, and it is slightly coarser than type 1A. This means the hair strands themselves are thicker and less prone to breakage.
Though it still has little in the way of waves or curls, type 1B has more body and can hold curls better during styling. It is more common than type 1A.
The third subcategory of type 1 hair is the most voluminous and has the most body. Although it is still mostly straight, it can have some waves. It is also more coarse than the others.
It is also prone to being a bit frizzier than the other subtypes, especially when it is combed out. Also, it doesn't carry as much natural shine as the other two subtypes.
Caring for Type 1 Hair
Type 1 hair is more prone to damage and breakage. So, when it comes to hair products, volumizing conditioners can help strengthen the hair and protect it against breakage.
Type 2 Hair: Wavy
Type 2 hair is considered wavy and is defined by the sought-after S shape. This type is the most sought-after because the hairstyle options are seemingly endless.
Also, this hair type is known for its tousled appearance. It lies in the middle of types 1 and 3. It is not straight, but it also isn't considered curly.
Of course, one drawback is its potential for frizz. But, this is a small obstacle considering its ease with various styling options.
This is the straightest of the three subtypes. It tends to be finer and carries only a slight S pattern. On the plus side, it is also much easier to detangle.
This subtype often responds well to volumizing products that can help strengthen and boost the S pattern look.
This subtype carries a better-defined natural wave pattern. While the top of the hair can appear fairly straight, the wave generally starts at the midpoint of the hair.
It can also be more difficult to manage than type 2A and is generally a bit more challenging to manage when it comes to frizz. Straightening is also a bit harder.
This represents the thickest of the three subtypes. It also carries the most waves, which is great for those looking to go with the natural, low-effort look.
In most cases, type 2C is wavy from the root and carries the S pattern through the midpoint and beyond. It is the most prone to frizziness.
Caring for Type 2 Hair
Type 2 hair requires less regular washing than type 1 since it does not build up oil as quickly. This type requires a bit more in the way of brushing, though, to help keep tangles at a minimum. Moisture-retaining hair masks work well with type 2 hair.
Type 3 Hair: Curly
Type 3 hair is defined by the curls. While it does open the door for a natural beauty style, type 3 hair can also be frustrating to manage.
Type 3 hair is full of S-shaped, loose curls and loops. It is also full of volume and does the best job when it comes to maintaining the bounce.
However, it can also be a beast to tame. Brushing this type of hair can be a chore thanks to the head full of curls. And you may as well expect a mane full of frizz.
Type 3A hair carries less volume than the three because the curls tend to be much wider. This also means less thickness. But having thin hair does have its advantages.
The thinner nature of type 3A means it's easier to manage and style. It is much more likely to respond to straightening attempts too.
This curly hair type is much tighter than type 3A. They also tend to be much stiffer. While it offers more in the way of natural bounce, styling can be a challenge.
This type also carries less natural oil and is prone to dryness. So, proper hydration is key. However, make sure to avoid shampoos with sulfates or silicones.
Type 3C is the thickest and most curly of them all. Type 3C is known for having extremely tight curls that appear to be very voluminous and springy.
But, it is also very prone to dryness for its lack of natural oil. Also, styling and straightening can be nearly impossible, if not damaging.
Caring for Type 3 Hair
Since type 3 hair lacks a lot of natural moisturizing and oils, it is important to use a deep moisturizing conditioner and a nice clarifying shampoo. Oil treatments can also help hydrate dry hair.
Type 4 Hair: Coils
Type 4 hair is defined by having extremely tight coils or corkscrews. This coily or kinky hair often carries ringlets that are voluminous and full of bounce.
The texture is often thick or coarse but can also be fine sometimes. But, this natural beauty also tends to be the most fragile hair type and the most prone to damage because it lacks moisture.
Type 4A hair is marked by having tight coils. In appearance, it is springy and full of volume and bounce. It typically retains this whether it is wet or dry.
The biggest care concern for type 4A hair is moisture retention. Also, styling, especially heat styling, can be very damaging.
Even tighter than type 4A, the curls of type 4B hair are often described as zig-zags or a Z pattern. It is typically less defined than type 4A hair, which is why curling creams are often used.
This type of hair is also very prone to dryness and needs to be properly moisturized in order to maintain its health.
The thickest and tightest curls belong to type 4C hair. It is densely packed, and curls are often very small. It is also the most fragile.
The tight density and coarseness make type 4C the most prone to damage and dryness. This is why utilizing conditioners and oils is so important.
Caring for Type 4 Hair
Type 4 hair is the most prone to dryness and damage. Therefore, combining moisturizing conditioners with coconut oil and WOW's Moroccan Argan Hair Oil can help restore lost hydration with deep conditioning.
Hair comes in all sorts of colors, shapes, and types. Knowing your hair type is an important first step in healthy hair and finding the right hair care routine.
Check out WOW for hair care products to fit any hair type.
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