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Hair Texture – How to Determine Your Hair Type

Hair texture

Like the people it’s attached to, hair comes in various shapes and looks, with hair texture being a driving force behind your specific, individualized hair care routine.

Or, if it isn’t already, it should be.

Determining the type of hair you have can be a relieving and affirming experience. It can provide answers regarding your specific treatment approach and how to adjust your hair care routine best to promote the healthiest, shiniest, most beautiful hair possible.

Hair texture can be demanding, so determining the best course of action for your particular hair type can make or break your hair’s condition and appearance. It is also one of the critical first steps to avoid such obstacles as dry or greasy hair and save yourself from hiding it underneath hats or up in the coveted tried-and-true messy bun.

Even if you think you’ve got it pegged, you may not know all there is to know about your hair texture and how it plays into your hair’s overall maintenance.

Don’t worry. We’re here to sort it all out and provide you with the crucial info to promote beautiful, luscious locks.

What is Hair Texture?

hair texture definition

The term ‘hair texture’ is used to describe the circumference of your hair. It is not how your hair feels but instead determines the thickness of every single strand of hair.

An old-school yet effective method of determining hair texture is to compare it to a piece of thread. Take a single strand of hair from your head, hairbrush or comb and lay it on a solid coloured, flat surface.

From there, you can take a regular piece of sewing thread roughly six inches long, similar to your hair colour if possible, and place it next to your hair. If your hair appears to be thinner than the thread, you likely have fine hair. If it seems thicker, it’s more likely coarse or thick. If it’s in between, it’s medium.

Pretty straightforward, right?

In this way, there are three primary hair textures:

Fine Hair

Judging by the name, you can probably deduce that fine hair is by far the most delicate and fragile, meaning that it is the most easily prone to damage.

With this hair texture, every individual hair is thin. Structurally, fine hair has two hair layers, the cortex and cuticle. The cortex is the inner section of the hair composed of cortical cells, while the cuticle is the outermost layer comprised of flattened cells that overlap and protect the inside of the hair shaft from damage.

Individuals with a fine hair texture often find it difficult to hold a style and are more prone to experiencing greasy or oily hair when using heavy products, causing a stringy and weighed down appearance.  So, while common remedies such as argan oil may be beneficial for a deep conditioning treatment, it may not be suitable for everyday use for individuals with fine hair.

Another common complaint about fine hair is that it lacks volume, which can be quite challenging to attain with this hair texture.

Medium Hair

The most common hair texture, medium hair, is thicker than fine hair, containing the same two layers as fine hair, the cortex and the cuticle, but potentially also containing a third additional layer, as well, known as the medulla. We will describe this third layer in greater detail when discussing thick hair texture.

Medium hair is not as fragile as fine hair and can be more easily styled and manipulated without coming out.

Typically, medium hair texture appears thick and covers the scalp well while also being less prone to damage than more delicate hair texture.

Thick/Coarse Hair

Thick hair is considered the strongest because it contains three structural layers: the cortex, the cuticle, and the medulla.

The medulla is the innermost layer of the hair shaft that contains mostly air and protein.  It is a soft, spongy mass of tissue that plays a minimal role in how coarse hair behaves. Since it includes an additional layer, thick hair takes longer to dry than fine or medium hair. 

However, this also means that it is more susceptible to becoming frizzy in humid weather.

A coarse hair texture also holds styles best out of the tree hair texture categories while also being more tolerant to heat, styling products, hair dyes and colours and breakage than fine or medium hair.

hair texture chart

The easiest way to visualize the different hair texture variations is to look at a hair texture chart. A hair texture chart allows you to see how the various features of each texture easily. However, it is essential to clarify that hair type and hair texture are not the same, which we will explain below.

Determining Your Hair Type

What sets hair type and hair texture apart is that hair texture is the degree of fineness or coarseness of individual hair strands, whereas hair type is the form or shape of the hair strands and fibres.

Ultimately, hair type is breaking down whether or not you have straighter or curlier hair. However, it’s also not black and white as there are variations and subcategories within these various distinctions.

There are four basic hair types:

Straight

straight hair

Natural straight hair is often fine, meaning that it is more prone to becoming greasy or oily because the oil naturally produced by the scalp makes it way down the hair shaft. However, this is not always the case.

There are three subsets within the straight hair type categorization: Types 1A, 1B and 1C.

Type 1A hair is typically very straight with a fine hair texture. It is most common among Asian populations. 

Type 1B is thicker but still quite straight with a medium hair texture that provides more volume. Finally, Type 1C is thick and coarse while remaining straight and shiny.

These variations will have trouble making curled styles last, meaning they are susceptible to styles falling out.

Wavy

wavy

Wavy hair types leave room for more variety, with some being curlier than others. They also vary in terms of texture, ranging from fine and thin to medium or slightly coarser.

The curls of a wavy hair type typically appear in an s-shape that is either consistent down its length or only slightly bends at the ends.

Like straight hair, wavy hair types can be categorized in three different ways. Type 2A hair can be fine and thin or slightly coarser while being easy to style. Type 2B has a medium thickness that is more prone to frizz. Finally, Type 2C is wavy, thick and coarse, often very frizzy and difficult to style.

This hair type can be tricky and requires care to achieve effortless-looking waves, but if done correctly, it will have you looking like a beautiful mermaid fresh from the sea.

Curly

curly

One big difference between curly and wavy hair types is that curly hair typically tends to curl down the entire hair shaft’s length. While naturally straight when wet, there is no denying curly hair once you see it dry.

Most of the time, a curly hair type is easy to style and has a visibly springy appearance.  It also contains three categories, with Type 3A hair being shiny, thick and defined, but susceptible to frizziness. Type 3B hair can be a combination of hair textures that often contain well-defined tighter curls ranging from bouncy ringlets to tight corkscrews. 

More often than not, Type 3B will have a fine to medium hair texture that is prone to frizz and dryness and benefits from lots of body.

Finally, while some lists may not include it, Type 3C hair contains tight corkscrews that are densely packed together, providing an abundance of natural volume.

Kinky/Coily

kinky hair

Last but certainly not least, the kinky or coily hair type contains by far the tightest curls of all, ranging from fine to coarse hair texture with s and z-shaped curls and anything in between.

Predominantly coarse in texture, kinky-coily hair is also sensitive and can easily be damaged. When healthy, kinky-coily hair gives off a stunning shine and has a delightful springy elasticity that allows curls to bring back into place.

This hair type is most commonly found in natural African hair.

Type 4A hair is soft with tight, well-defined curls, while Type 4B shares similar characteristics but with very tight, albeit less defined, curls. Finally, Type 4C curls are so tight that they may not even look curly at first glance. 

All of the above variations are prone to dryness, so hydration and deep conditioning are key elements in kinky-coily hair care routines.

Wavy, curly and kinky-coily hair and types in between all typically require quite a bit of hydration to stay healthy, which is what makes the co-washing technique an excellent option for those looking to keep their hair moisturized. 

However, those with flat, straight hair that is prone to greasiness may need to wash with shampoo more frequently to avoid their hair being too weighed down or flat-looking.

Hair Texture – Healthy Hair Starts with the Basics

While all of the different subcategories and variations may seem confusing, establishing a basic understanding of your particular hair type and hair texture will go a long way in promoting overall hair health.

If you still aren’t sure, that’s totally okay! Visit a professional stylist or esthetician, and they will be happy to answer any and all questions to help you better get to know your hair and its specific needs.

While it may take some experimentation in terms of products and routines, adjusting your regimen to account for your specific hair texture is the best move in promoting healthy, happy hair.