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Complete Guide to Determine your Hair Type and Texture

Hair comes in a variety of textures, shapes, colours and thickness and that’s the beautiful thing about it. Everyone’s hair is unique to them and the diversity should be celebrated.

The major factor that determines your hair type and texture is your genes.

Studies suggest that different genes influence hair texture including straight, wavy, curly or kinky, hair strand thickness and the density of hair in people of different ethnic backgrounds.

Genes influence hair texture and hair strand density in people of different ethnic backgrounds

Hair Follicle Shape Determines the Curl Pattern

Your hair follicle shape is partly determined by your genes and the hair follicle shape determines the curl pattern.

Straight Hair Follicles

the hair follicles are perfectly round and the follicle tunnels vertically down from the skin’s surface

Curly or Wavy Hair

The flatter the hair follicles are the curlier the hair texture. When the follicle is more oval in shape it angles from the skin.

The hair follicle size determines the hairs thickness. When the hair follicle expands this is what determines the volume of your hair. This is generally categorised into fine and coarse.


What are my hair strand characteristics?

Hair strand characteristics are determined by width, diameter or circumference of the hair strand. If you have fine hair, your individual strands are smaller in diameter, while coarse hair has a thicker diameter. There are three characteristics for hair strands; fine, medium and coarse.

Hair Stand Test 1 – Touch

If you take a single hair and rub it between your fingers. and you don't feel

1. If you can barely feel the strand of hair then it’s fine hair.

2. If you can feel the hair, then it's medium.

3. If you feel a strong, thick strand, then it’s coarse.

Hair Stand Test 1 – Sight

If you take a single hair and lay it flat on the table.

1. If you can barely see the strand of hair then it’s fine hair.

2. If you can see the hair more, then it's medium.

3. If the hair strand looksthick and appears to be textured, then it’s coarse.

Fine Hair

A strand of fine hair is lightweight in thickness and structurally fine hair in most cases only has two layers to the hair shaft – the cortex and a cuticle and typically has fewer cuticle layers on the outside of the hair strand so it’s not as strong.

Characteristics of fine hair

  • Tends to lack volume from the scalp

  • Doesn’t hold hairstyles well

  • Is weighed down by heavy styling products

  • Is fragile and more prone to breakage

  • Can tangle easily

  • Generally, gets oily quickly

  • Is often shinier than coarse hair

Medium Hair

Structurally medium hair tends to hair the two layers of the cuticle and cortex; some hair strand may contain the medulla.

Characteristics of medium hair

  • It holds hairstyles well

  • It is not as prone to breakage

  • It feels thicker in texture than fine hair

  • It needs slightly more moisture and fine hair

Coarse Hair

Is strong because structurally it contains all three hair layers – the cortex, cuticle and medulla. It is wider than the other hair types and generally has a rougher appearance.

Characteristics of medium hair

  • It can hold a hairstyle well.

  • It is more porous

  • It is more tolerant to heat and styling products

  • It can take a long time to dry

  • It can be resistant to chemical treatments including hair colour, perms or curl relaxers

  • It can get frizzy in humid weather

  • Its rough texture can make the strands look dull


What determines the density of my hair?

A lot of people get confused with the term’s fine vs thin and thick vs coarse.

As mentioned above the individual hair strands characteristics are determined by width, diameter or circumference. And the terms used here are; fine, medium and coarse.

The hair density is determined by the amount of hair strands you have on your scalp and the terms are;

  • Thin - If you see a lot of scalp, you have thin hair density.

  • Medium -If you see some scalp, you have medium density.

  • Thick - If you don’t see much scalp at all, you have thick hair density

So, when your hair is fine it doesn’t always mean its thin and the same for coarse hair is thick. There are different combinations of hair stand thickness and density on the scalp to determine your true hair type.


How do I work out what my hair type is?

The most popular system to determine your hair type was designed by Andre Walker, the Andre Walker Typing System. He is well known for being Oprah Winfrey's hairstylist.

Hair Stand Types based on the Andre Walker Typing System

In general, there are 4 basic hair type categories;

TYPE 1 - is classified as straight hair

General overview of straight hair characteristics are:

  • Generally, quite shiny and glossy in appearance as it reflects the light

  • Most oily hair of the categories

  • Can be difficult to curl

  • Often quite fine hair

He then breaks down the category into three hair textures;

1a – Straight (Fine/Thin): hair is usually very soft, glossy in appearance, can get oily and doesn’t hold curl very well. Very straight

1b – Straight (Medium): hair can using get more body and volume when styling.

1C – Straight (Coarse) – Hair is very straight, coarser in texture and very difficult to curl.

TYPE 2 - is classified as wavy hair

General overview of wavy hair characteristics are:

  • Has S-shaped curls. Most of the length of the hair can appear straight with a slight bend.

  • More likely to become frizzy than straight hair

  • Can still be shiny in appearance

He then breaks down the category into three hair textures;

2a – Wavy (Fine/Thin): hair has an ‘S’ bend pattern, can be easily straightened or curled when styling and usually moulds quite well into different styles. More of a tousled wave texture.

2b – Wavy (Medium): Generally, a bit flatter at the top and waves starting more from the mid-lengths. Can tend to be a little frizzy and more resistant to hair styling, especially straight,

requires more attention to techniques for finishing.

2C – Wavy (Coarse) – Fairly coarse hair, with a thicker wave usually quite frizzy in texture and quite resistant to hair styling methods. The S-bend is generally well-defined starting from the roots to the ends.

TYPE 3 - is classified as curly hair

General overview of curly hair characteristics are:

  • Has small or large S-shaped or Z-shaped curls.

  • Frizzier in humid weather creating lack of curl definition

  • Lots of volume

  • Is more prone to damage due to lack of moisture in the hair

He then breaks down the category into two hair texture;

3a – Curly (Loose): Hair has a definite ‘S’ bend pattern, is usually quite thick, has lots of volume and can be quite frizzy.

3b – Curly (Tight): Hair has a definite ‘S’ bend pattern, usually of a corkscrew or spiral shape. This hair texture can be quite dry.

TYPE 4 - is classified as kinky hair

General overview of kinky hair characteristics are:

  • Tightly coiled curl pattern.

  • Shrinks when wet

  • Is more prone to damage due to lack of moisture in the hair

He then breaks down the category into two hair textures;

4a – Kinky (Soft): Hair is very tightly coiled curly hair pattern. Tends to be quite wiry and fragile

4b – Kinky (Wiry): less defined curl looks more like a ‘Z’ shape

I know it’s a lot of information to take in, but it should help guide you to find out what your hair texture and type is, more than likely it will be a combination.


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