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Figuring out your hair type and porosity level can be the first step to learning the best way to look after your natural hair. If you're newly natural knowing these things can help you to find people with similar hair types, see what's working for them and then try it on your hair. So let's get started...


Hair Type 

Not to be confused with hair texture, which we'll get into in a minute. Your hair type refers to the shape your hair strands form naturally. Your hair can actually have many different types however there is usually one or two that is most dominant. 


Hair types 1 through 2C are pretty easy to identify using the image above. Type 1 is straight and 2C gets as curly as a loose wave.

We'll quickly take you through types 3 and 4 and give you tips for each type. 


Type 3 hair has a very defined curl pattern and can be easily identified by its spiral curls.

3A hair is formed of loose spiral curls and when wet the hair can appear straight, once dry curls form without much manipulation. Tip: When drying 3A hair scrunch it or use a diffuser to add volume.
3B hair is more springy than 3A, the curls can range from ringlets to tighter corkscrews. Tip: 3B hair is prone to frizz so use gel or a curl styling creme to keep curls defined.
3C hair is more coily and has voluminous corkscrew curls. Tip: Add curl creme and gel to 3C hair when its wet to define curls as the hair dries.

Image: Musely  


Type 4 hair is much more tightly coiled and without lots of hydration, it can be difficult to achieve definition.

Tip: Type 4 hair is the weakest of them all because of all of its twists and turns and without gentle treatment may break. Protective styling can be one of the best ways to retain length with this hair type. 

4A hair is tightly coiled and has a defined "S" pattern.
4B hair is fluffy, the hair strands have a "Z" shape and do not have a clearly defined curl pattern. The hair tends to clump together rather than forming curls.
4C hair is more tightly coiled that 4B hair and can have little to no definition. 4C hair can shrink up to half when wet!


Hair texture can be fine, medium or coarse and is determined by the width of a single strand of your hair. You can have fine 4C hair or coarse 1 hair, it has little to do with your hair type. 


Now Let's Talk About Porosity 

Porosity is your hair's ability to absorb moisture and it can be low, normal or high. Testing your hair's porosity is as simple as taking a few strands and dropping them into a glass of water. (For best results make sure your hair is product-free!) Watch your hair for 2-4 minutes and use this image to see how porous your hair is: 

Quick Tips to Moisturize Low and High Porosity Hair

Low Porosity: Use heat to open up the cuticles of your hair, try sitting under a dryer after applying conditioner to let the moisture seep in! 
High Porosity: Hair is usually high porosity because it's damaged, this could be from chemical treatments or too much heat so we recommend that you avoid both for a while to allow your hair to recover. Use protein treatments once a month to strengthen high porosity hair and seal in moisture with oils


  • CC, I have low porosity 4C hair and I actually think it’s more common than people know. Porosity tests like these aren’t actually accurate. Natural scalp oils (even on freshly washed hair), strand density and the effects of chemicals and heat can all influence how long it will take your hair to sink without having anything to do with your hair’s own natural porosity. In my experience, a lot of Type 4 people will wrongly assume their hair is HP because of issues with moisture retention and curl definition. The easiest and cheapest way, IMO, to find out your porosity is to wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo and rinse. HP hair will feel dry and like it needs conditioner; LP will have its cuticles raised just enough that it starts absorbing the moisture in your shower before you even reach for the conditioner.

  • Has anyone noticed that 4 type hair tends to usually be high porosity more times than not and every other type tends to be low porosity or medium? I noticed while watching youtube and instagram videos that most of those who had low porosity also had a looser curl pattern. Am I the only one?

  • Thank you for the article on the different hair types….very good information for women of color.

    Thank you!


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