Hair Typing : 4b is really just dry 4a hair?

I have been meaning to answer this question since I started the blog so a recent email prompted me to do so finally!

Q: What does science say about the hair typing system?

Well it was invented by Andre Walker who is a hair stylist and it was based on his experience. It is not a scientific system but it is very definitive. My google research says that over the years people have added in categories such as 3c and 4z. For the newbies/transitioners, if you haven't heard of the hair typing system - just google it!
I do not think the system was meant to be as restrictive and rigid as some naturals make it. You can have multiple textures and additionally, sometimes hair doesn't quite fit the exact definition but comes close to it

Q: Is 4b hair really just dry 4a hair?

No this is not always the case. If you experience a mass of tiny little spiral curls when your hair is wet, then after styling (stretching) they disappear, then you most likely have 4a hair. However, there is hair which never forms coils/curls. 4b hair is supposed to be z shaped but sometimes it is more s shaped, it just never forms spirals.

Great shots of 4a and 4b hair - Click here for Mwedzi's fotki

Hair with no curling (4b) - See Sera's video where she shows her hair dripping wet and points out it has no curls (but it is not straight) - Click here for
Sera's Youtube

Are you able to identify your hair twins using the hair typing system? Do you use the typing system or do you prefer not to?


  1. I really prefer not to use the hair typing system because I feel some type of inferiority or superiority complex comes tied to it. Like I've read some people tie such disdain to their comment when they state they have some 4a/4b ish in their head. I personally know I am in that family but like you said there are a lot of different textures in my hair like everyone else and figuring them all out doesn't suit me very well, mentally LOL. I just love to find people with the same hair texture as me and watch them flourish hair wise as I try to. I think that it is possible that products for a hair type similar to your own can work just as well but i've found that its all about technique. Washing, deep conditioning, handling etc.

    Just to add a lot of people don't show that type of angst against their hair texture especially when its in the *dreaded* <_< 4 family. LOL.

  2. IMO: curl-typing is simply a way to express the SIZE of the curls, nothing more. Whether you have loose waves or kinky/curly hair you can obviously see the difference in curl size. I think though that many people add in their own "good hair/bad hair" hang ups to this system. The typing system was merely to say: this is how big/small my curls are. The end.

    And yes, most people have more than one texture on their head, but if you're going to put yourself in that box, at least go by what you have on the majority of your head, not just that one patch that is xyz size. You wouldn't say for example "I'm skinny on my ankles and wrists, so am I thin?" and meanwhile being overweight everywhere else..that's called denial.

    I don't think that 4a/4b hair is any worse or any better than any other texture. The desire for "good hair" is historical baggage from slavery days.. can we just accept ourselves in 2009 AS WE ARE? Or do we constantly require validation from outside? And why do we have to keep alive this 19th century idea which only serves to divide and conquer?

    While I think curl typing is useful for determining the size of curls, it doesn't take into account any other factors such as hair porosity, thickness of the strands, etc. People of varying curl types now are using products that traditionally have only been used by those with afro-texture hair, so you can see that curl size (type) has nothing to do with anything.

  3. I'm openly against hair typing. I think the hair hierarchy it creates is terrible for someone newly natural. I can count so many people who freaked out when they found out they didn't fall in the "good" 3 category and instead where proud members of the "bad" 4 club.

    The "product recommendations" (another reason I think people hair type) for [number][letter] don't always WORK on your hair even if it's the same number/letter combination because EVERY HEAD OF HAIR IS DIFFERENT.

    I'm not a fan of hair twinship either. I much prefer someone who loves, reads about and cares about her/his hair as much as I do. Then we can have awesome conversations and I can learn how others, who may or may not have my hair type, care for their hair. I've actually had more success slightly tweaking routines from 3s to suit my hair type than I have from copying or tweaking 4s.

  4. Thanks for contributing! I didn't touch on the 'curl envy' aspect. It is an important aspect to consider.

  5. I'm not against hair typing, because it helped me figure out what kinds of products worked best for my hair. I was so ready to go and buy Miss Jessie's and try her shingling technique to define my curls, but then I learned that Miss Jessie's products did not work for type 4 hair, so I declined. Also, some curly hair product companies use hair typing (though not always the 2/3/4 method) to help you find the products that will work best for your hair, and they're usually right.

    However, the thing that really helped me figure out what products to use and how to style my hair was finding out that i was a "cnapp" (had cottony hair - or maybe 4c? not sure) on Nappturality. I had never thought to look for people whose hair was like mine and see how they cared for their hair, but once I did my regimen improved by miles. I don't think I could ever find a true "hair twin" though. Looking at the regimens of women with similar hair only helped me create my own - I didn't copy them exactly. Their methods all varied, and probably wouldn't have worked as well for me as it does for them. As Alice said, every head of hair is different.

  6. Like mellowyellow, the hair typing helps me to figure out products. when someone makes a recommendation, I know rather or not I should waste my money by their hair type.

    I have 4B hair. When it is wet,you can look at it and see curls but they do not clump.

    My daughter is 4A, when her hair is wet, it immediately starts to clump and spiral.

    The things that work on her hair, don't work on mine. I can shingle her hair and her curls are defined. If I do the same on me, it just looks like a greasy cotton ball.

    There is a huge difference.

  7. Hair typing has done nothing to help me decide what products to use. It's just a fun way to give yourself another label (and we seem never to tire of doing that!). Qualities of hair such as texture and porosity are far more important, in my opinion.

  8. @ Sage - Thanks for your comment. I do actually think that the hair typing system is a way of describing texture.

    I am actually intending to research porosity really soon! My theory is it doesn't have as much relevance as we give it. Many of the studies I have looked at show damage to the cuticle when the hair is chemically processed (bleached/coloured/relaxed).

    I think if hair is natural and uncoloured, the likelihood of being porous is really minimal.

    I haven't done the research though so I'm going to and put my theory to the test!!

  9. I don't really care for the hair typing system of categorizing natural hair. I find it useless. I'd rather base it on the dryness of the hair so we can know what products to use. I always thought of myself as having 4b hair, however I do have a visible curl pattern even when my hair is dry. My hair doesn't match the so-called 4a pictures in the hair type charts, but I have coils all over. I do not have z pattern hair, this is why I don't find those charts helpful at all.

  10. I guess I am a 4C (just found out about this whole categorization) but I could care less on the categories unless that will help me find proper products for my hair.

    I have been natural for 5 years now, and I plan on staying natural. I have to say though it is not easy - it's extremely curly and have to spend so much time every day to get it done. So for me I am looking at it in terms of manageability. It seems as if someone complains about their kinky hair then people immediately jump into the conclusion that it is a slavery mentality, or whatever judgement people make.

    So hopefully I will find right products with this texture category thing - cause it's really a lot of effort everyday I am putting into the hair, and it breaks - the length I have now, is the same as what I have 2 years ago.

  11. To the Anonymous person who posted on 16 May 2010 at 23:19---if your hair is extremely curly then you are NOT 4C. Thank's yall. Have a good day.

  12. Anon 5th October - This is exactly why hair typing does not work. I am not being rude in my response to you though I am aware it will come across as a telling off (which is why I am saying this part first)

    1. You have not seen her hair so you really do not know what it looks like.
    2. I would define my hair as extremely curly. I used to class myself as a 4a but nowadays 4a really is 4c.
    3. I think the truth is we are resistant to calling natural hair by the word curly when in essence it is curly hair, just a different type of curl that does not necessarily form tendrils or spirals.
    4. In truth 4c hair was made up by the hair boards and forums because people wanted an extra definition for super curly hair. Technically 4c does not exist (neither does 3c).

  13. I don't pay any attention to the texture hierarchy because it makes me feel limited. I also feel that sometimes, its a force of categorizing into what is good and what isn't. On those specific days when I want to see hair that looks like mine I just look. Other than that, I appreciate all natural textures, because they're all beautiful.

    ~I've got Kinky Coils, and Coily Kinks, Fuzzy Curls, and Curly Fuzz

  14. It's funny the open dislike for hair typing. I don't see anything wrong with it. I think it's people that assign it this "devisive" aura. It doesn't have to be this way if we don't make it. All it simply is doing is describing your curl pattern. Nothing more nothing less.

  15. I prefer the LOIS system as you easily identify which curl you have you either has L. O. I.S curl pattern or a combination which is quite interesting. I am 16 months-post relaxer and my curls are mostly S curls.The Andre Walker system was intented as a guide but unfortunately has become a rigid way that people want to classify people's hair texture. As it is the most known way you can't ignore it.

  16. Ladies, ladies get a grip on the hair thing. I'm 46 years old now, so I predict I have about 30-35 years left on the planet, and I'm damn sure not going to spend that time being obsessed about my hair. After all, hair is just one of the many props that we use on the stage of life. You can fry, die, or lay it to the side, depending upon the scene your doing that day. I'll start thinking in terms of hair heiarcy when hair can actually be cashed for hair-bucks to pay my bills or put food on the table, or become a radar that can actually point-out good husband material. As long as your coif is clean and groomed, it's all GOOD. I bet it was a man that came up with this hair-typing crap, more than likely a gay man at that.

  17. My last perm was in December of 2010, I have transitioned from December to the mid of April..and that is when I did my BC. At that time I will say I had about 4 months of new growth and now it is July 19th (7 months of new growth) and I must say that I am loving my natural hair! I have 4b type hair and in it's afro form i don't see a "z" pattern, so now im not sure if it's 4b or 4c. My hair is very thick and it has real tight curls, I tried looking closely to my hair and I honestly don't know what i'm looking@lol I can't define what type curls are they supposed to be.

  18. Mwedzi's fotki needs a password. Anyone know what it is? Sera's hair is amazing !
    I call my hair 4a/4b but my whole head is filled with various sizes of little penspring coils & spirals from using Kink-Curly.Curl clumping is often dependent on what products you put in your hair. You can look like a 4b with some products & 4a with another. And that's why I'm not crazy about hair typing. Just find out what works for YOUR HAIR & call it a day

  19. The hair typing system is very discouraging, I am transitioning to natural hair, I'm 8 months post, I tought I may a 4a now that I have so much new growth I think I may be a 4c, My roots don't curl at all. And yes now I have curl envy.

    1. It may be hard to assign any kind of "type" to your hair with the relaxed ends still attached. I big chopped last month and the curl pattern of my hair has gradually changed over the last few weeks. I think it has to do with me only needing to work with one texture, no weight from the straight hair, better conditioning, etc.

      And even if you have a different texture than you think you want, so what?

  20. Hair "typing" systems has helped me make better choices on what products and techniques work and do not work in my hair. Sure we have different curl paterns, density and textures in our hair, but there is no harm in using these system/methodology designed as a starting point to help up describe and understand our hair.

    I tend to like the LOIS system better because is it more descriptive. But after seeing the actual chart for Andre's system I understood his system as well.

    I happen to have 3c pattern. But if I had a different pattern who is to say that it is better or worse? That is a problem that started way back when so it is time to stop trippin' and seeing these systems/methodologies as something that isn't useful and thus devides a people. - Jjac401

  21. AnonymousOct 12, 2011 02:17 PM-- co sign.

    AnonymousSep 21, 2011 02:48 PM-- im sorry you feel that way, I hope you love to love what G-D gave you.

  22. What about Fia's system?

    And have you seen the studies on curl type?
    "Shape variability and classification of human hair: a worldwide approach." by De la Mettrie R et al
    "Worldwide diversity of hair curliness: a new method of assessment." by Loussouarn G et al


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