It’s not all just a jumble of numbers and letters.
Thanks to celebrity hairstylist Andre Walker and his hair type classification system, categorizing your strands with a hair chart, which also includes natural hair chart classifications, has become wildly popular. The hair chart streamlines the needs and products for each specific hair type. For women who don’t know their curl type and want to find out what it is, they can simply use this chart and pick out the correct products for them. Pretty straightforward, right?
We’ve broken down a simple way to navigate the natural hair chart for those that need a bit of a primer. Read on:
The Natural Hair Chart Classifications: 3A to 4C
One of the most popular hair classification charts categorizes hair into four groups: straight (1), wavy (2), then naturally curly (3) and kinky (4). Each group is then subdivided into A, B or C. This indicates an increasing level of texture, i.e. very fine, straight hair is classified as 1A, and Z-coiled, kinky hair is a 4B/C. The natural hair chart categories start from 3A upwards, though sometimes can even include a 2C. Before we delve into these latter classifications, though, let’s define the hair chart as a whole. See below:
Type 1: Straight Hair
Straight hair is classified as Type 1 hair. It is also considered to be the most resilient and oiliest of hair types, as sebum from the scalp can easily make its way down to the hair tips. It is also generally considered to be curl-resistant and can range from superfine and fragile (1A), fine and thin (1B), or thick or coarse (1C).
Type 1 hair benefits from lightweight clarifying daily moisturizers and volumizing wash and care systems. They also love styling products that impart body, bounce and lift to fine, limp hair.
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Type 2: Wavy Hair
Wavy hair is classified under Type 2 and ranges from fine and almost straight (2A) to wavy (2B) to coarse and very tightly wavy (2C). This hair type has a moderate amount of sheen and natural body, but it is also a hair type that is frizz-prone. It benefits from anti-frizz shampoos and conditioners, lightweight hair oils and humidity-resistant styling products.
Type 3: Curly Hair, Loose
Curly hair is categorized as Type 3 hair and is grouped via the tightness of its curls. It is also, for the most part, where the natural hair chart classifications start. Type 3 ranges from loose ringlets (3A) to tight corkscrews (3C), regardless of ethnicity—although “natural hair,” as it’s defined in the vernacular, is a term typically used to refer to the natural texture of those of African-American descent.
It is considered a dry hair type due to the coils that make it harder for sebum to evenly coat its lengths. Curly hair is also fragile and prone to breakage and damage, especially when treated roughly or subjected to chemical treatments.
It’s good to note that there is a disparity in several hair type charts: Some have only two subcategories for Type 3 hair—3A and 3B—and other, more natural-hair friendly charts, include a 3C type, which is the classification for very tight, almost Z-like corkscrews, but which still retain definition.
Products that moisturize hair optimally throughout the day and protect it from frizz without deflating the ringlets are a priority.
Type 4: Curly Hair, Tight
Considered the driest according to the natural hair chart, kinky-coily hair falls under the Type 4 category in the natural hair chart. It has a definitive Z-pattern to its corkscrews. This can vary in extremity from tightly coiled with a specific curl pattern (4A) to Z-coiled but with no visible curl pattern (4B). Some hair type charts add another subcategory to this type: 4C hair. This type was presumably added by those in the natural hair community to include hair with a curl pattern that’s even tighter than 4B hair.
As expected, Type 4 hair is very fragile and breakage-prone. Treat this type with care! Gentle shampoos, co-washing, leave-in conditioners, nourishing daily moisturizing butters and super-hydrating, non-petrolatum hair oils are what to look out for.