By Terez Howard
Hair type systems, like the Andre Walker Hair Typing System or the LOIS system, describe various wave and curl patterns. However, they fail to describe black hair types thoroughly. When you are choosing a natural hair care regimen, you need to know more than simply your curl pattern or lack thereof. Those two hair typing systems help naturals to understand their hair better.
However, black hair types can be defined by more than that. Black hair types also include thickness, density, elasticity and texture. Each of these must be analyzed when you are deciding which natural hair care regimen is best for you. It also helps you when choosing styling options and when measuring hair growth.
Thickness is how thick each strand is. With black hair types, you can measure the diameter of a strand by comparing it to a piece of regular thread. If your hair is thinner than the thread, then your natural hair is thin, and if it’s thicker than the thread, it is thick. If your stand is the same size, your natural hair has a medium thickness.
Density refers to the number of hairs on a person’s head. Most people have about 100,000 hairs on their head. Density is measured by counting the number of strands in one square inch of scalp. According to the Long Hair Don’t Care website, the average head has about 2,200 strands of hair per square inch.
Density is directly related to natural hair’s thickness. Oftentimes, a natural with thin strands has a greater density, and one with thick hair has less density. But this is not a hard and fast rule. All natural hair is different.
Elasticity is your hair’s ability to stretch and bounce back to its usual state. Healthy, natural hair can stretch up to 50 percent of its length when it’s wet and then return to its shrunken state without breaking. Dry hair can only stretch to about 20 percent of its length.
To test a black hair type’s elasticity, take a wet strand from your head. Hold the strand and gently stretch it. If after stretched, the strand returns to its original length, you have normal to high elasticity. If your natural hair breaks and does not return to its original state, your elasticity is low. Hair with low elasticity is very susceptible to breakage.
Black hair types also can be measured by hair texture. Black hair types vary from woman to woman. They can be classified by the following:
- Thready. This black hair type is thick and has low frizz. When braided, it has a high shine. It absorbs water quickly.
- Wiry. This hair texture is thick and can have low or high frizz. It has high sheen, and water seems to bounce off the hair type, like it can never get fully wet.
- Spongy. This black hair type has high sheen and high frizz, with medium to thick strands. It shrinks and absorbs a great deal of water before it even gets totally wet.
- Cottony. This hair texture is fine with high frizz and low sheen. The shine is high when held taut. It shrinks a lot, like the spongy hair texture, and absorbs water quickly but does not get totally wet quickly.