Hair typing systems were created to give women a uniform set of descriptors when discussing the many varieties of curls, coils, and waves.
Knowing your hair type can be beneficial when searching for products, understanding the hair concerns of a certain hair type, and to be honest, for some it is just to feel that they have a place in the hair type system.
There are many hair typing systems out there, but there are two that are used most commonly in our community, and while they both categorize hair by type or texture, they are not perfect.
The Texture Typing℠ System
The system that we use at NaturallyCurly is the Texture Typing℠ system, inspired by celebrity stylist Andre Walker's hair types, and built upon by NaturallyCurly readers and hair professionals. This system describes wavy hair as Type 2, curly hair as Type 3, and coily hair as Type 4. And because “curly” is a pretty broad term, it drills down into Type 3A, Type 3B, Type 3C and does the same for the wavy and coily curl patterns. Some may find the letters and numbers overwhelming, while for others this system gives the tools and language to describe the size and shape of their curls in a way that others who use the system can relate to. The Texture Typing system only addresses the curl pattern of the hair, which is just one characteristic of your hair type. Others include porosity, density, width and length.
In our experience most women have several curl patterns on their head, so while the hair at their crown may be Type 3B, they may have looser Type 2 sections framing the face and tighter curls and coils at the nape of the neck. This is completely normal, but can also lead to confusion when women look at a photo example of Type 3B and don't feel that it mirrors their curls. You can find out more about the Texture Typing system (and learn more about your curl pattern) here.
The LOIS Hair Typing System
Another popular system is known as the LOIS Hair Typing System, which was originally published by former website OurHair.net. The whole point of the LOIS Hair Typing System is to eliminate the need for labeling hair types by numbers. Most black women fall into the Type 4 category and there has been some stigma associated with black women being labeled as the lowest number.
How you or anyone perceives either system is completely up to each individual. With the assistance of NaturallyCurly Types 3C and 4C were added to the Andre Walker system to incorporate more women who felt their hair type was not represented. I mention this because this system is more widely known than the LOIS system. The LOIS system is easy to understand with the visual representation of the letters and it encompasses more than just the curl pattern by addressing hair width, sheen and shine.
How to use the LOIS System
The LOIS system is broken down by letters and incorporates all hair types for black women. L = Bend, O = Curl, I = Straight and S = Wave.
You should examine strands on freshly washed hair without any product. Allow hair to dry a tad before examining to see where your strands fall.
Next it is time to compare hair to a piece of thread to find your hair width. Hair that is thinner than a thread is fine, hair that is equal in size to thread is medium, and hair that is thicker than thread is thick.
Find your pattern
According to Susan Walker's article on CurlyNikki, this is how to determine your pattern using the LOIS system:
- L – If the hair has all bends, right angles, and folds with little to no curve then you are daughter L.
- O – If the strand is rolled up into the shape of one or several zeros like a spiral, then you are daughter O.
- I – If the hair lies mostly flat with no distinctive curve or bend you are daughter I.
- S – If the strand looks like a wavy line with hills and valleys then you are daughter S.
You may have a combination of the L, O, I, S letters, possibly with one dominant.
Determine if your hair is
- Thready – Hair has a low sheen, with high shine if the hair is held taut (as in a braid), with low frizz. Wets easily but water dries out quickly.
- Wiry – Hair has a sparkly sheen, with low shine and low frizz. Water beads up or bounces off the hair strands. Hair never seems to get fully wet.
- Cottony – Hair has a low sheen, a high shine if the hair is held taut and has high frizz. Absorbs water quickly but does not get thoroughly wet very fast.
- Spongy – Hair has a high sheen with low shine with a compacted looking frizz. Absorbs water before it gets thoroughly wet.
- Silky – Hair has low sheen, a very high shine, with a lot or low frizz. Easily wets in water.
Can you use both?
I feel both systems give some understanding to different aspects of hair textures, but overlapping or comparing the two for your hair may lead to confusion. Take for example this question we received on Curly Q&A from our reader Ayitiana.
“If type 4A hair strands are "S" shaped, what 4 hair type has "O" shaped strands? I have both.”
My response? There are pros and cons to both systems so it may very well be beneficial for you to know your hair type in each system, but in my opinion, trying to incorporate two very different systems truly defeats the purpose of the LOIS system. They are both full systems that will aid in hair typing for products and styles, but I would not recommend combining them.
The curl community is made up of many multi-faceted women, each with her own unique hair type and a personal set of hair concerns, so it is no surprise that there are many opinions on this topic of hair typing. We'd love to know yours!