So you’ve decided to RETURN natural, and you’re unsure of where or how to start…Start here:

These are some of the first things, as a new natural you may be interested in knowing about your hair.

Hair Type

Hair type defines the curl pattern of your hair. This is usually determined by using a clean, un- stretched single strand of hair and comparing against a chart.

There are a number of hair typing methods, each briefly explained VERY simplistically below, but we do not endorse or promote any typing method.

**(If we HAD to choose one it would be Fia’s method-see below)

For the purpose of simplicity we have chosen to adopt the following typing:

There are a number of hair typing methods that define natural hair curl pattern, the most common being the Andre Walker method. This system divines hair into numbers (1-4) and then further divides each number category using letters A-C.

Although this method is the system most naturals gravitate to, we have chosen NOT to adopt these categories for the following reasons:

~ it’s limited and too simplistic : this system was developed for and around an American audience who have a limited range of curl patterns. However we have found that South African hair, especially ‘type 4’ hair, cannot be simplified into 3 types (A-B). You will note that he does not have a Type C pattern.

There are other hair typing methods that have noted this and have added more categories,(some going as far as 4H)

~It doesn’t account for Combination texture(more than 2) : Officially it doesn’t consider combination hair. Hair enthusiasts have tired to encompass combination hair types by including more than one sub category per main category i.e. 3a/b would refer to someone who has ‘Type 3 hair, but some areas of their hair having type A curl, and another having type B.

But for some naturals, especially at the beginning of their natural hair journey (or when hair is very short) are unable to differentiate the textures of the new growth.

~ it’s hierarchical : The system appears to be hierarchical. Andre Walker was quoted saying “I always recommend embracing your natural texture. Kinky hair can have limited styling options; that’s the only hair type that I suggest altering with professional relaxing.”

This, as you can imagine caused a stir in the Natural hair community, and was followed up with him ‘clarifying’ his statement.

“So when I say to embrace your natural texture, but consider relaxing kinky hair, am I contradicting myself? I don’t think so! You see, even relaxed hair can still be worn naturally. If you want a natural look, but find that your kinky hair is difficult to manage, breaks too easily, lacks shine and luster, and limits your preferred styling options, I say feel free to consider a mild chemical relaxer, sometimes called a texturizer, that eases your hair to a more manageable texture and allows you to Make Peace With Your Hair.”

Full article here:

Although not very popular, this hair typing is considered by many to be very user friendly – due to its simplicity.

A short summary of the method:

The LOIS system defines the hair pattern by the letters LOIS:

L = Hair is dominated by right angles and substantially bends with nearly no curve, then you’re considered a pattern “L”.

O = If your hair strand curls or coils significantly and appear to be shaped like the letter “O”, then you’re considered a pattern “O”.

I = If your hair has no distinctive curls or bends and primarily lies flat against your head, then you’re considered a pattern “I”.

S = If your hair strand has “S” shaped curls or waves with defined hills and valleys, then you’re considered a pattern “S”.

This hair typing also considers combination hair typing, so you are able to combine letters where required.

It then expands on other classifiers, Strand, Sheen, Texture and Frizz – to give you a more detailed and comprehensive description.

We have chosen not to adopt this hair typing method because it is not well known, and as a South African natural, you may NEVER come across this system.

Also, the website that developed this method is no longer active so information on the method is limited to a very small number of bloggers.

Fia’s Hair Typing System which is a relatively unknown method using a combination of Andre Walker and the LIOS system.

The system defines hair using three classifiers:

(1) The definition of your curls (think Andre Walker),

Type 1 – straight hair, Type 2 – wavy hair, Type 3 – curly hair and Type 4 – really curly hair

(2) The appearance of most of your hair strands (a singular strand)

F – Fine: Fine, thin hair strands

M – Medium: Medium sized hair strands,

C – Coarse: Think hair strands that feel hard and wiry.

(3) The overall volume of your hair (the overall circumference of your hair when tied in a pony-tail.)

Thin – The circumference of the ponytail is less than 5cm

Normal – The of the ponytail is between 5-10cm

Thick – The circumference of the ponytail is greater than 10cm

Hair Porosity

Simply defined, Porosity is the hair’s ability to absorb water.

There are 3 levels of porosity and knowing these levels will help you understand how to create a healthy hair care regimen for your natural hair by being able to determine which products work best on your hair.

Below are some microscopic images of a hair strand to further explain porosity:

Cuticles on the hair are raised and open. This allows water to be easily absorbed, but hair also loses moisture easily. (Imagine a sponge). Hair is therefore often dry, lacking flexibility or elasticity.

To manage High Porosity hair

  • Deep condition regularly (as much as once a week)
  • Incorporate Protein treatments into your regimen which can help hair gain strength and reduce breakage
  • Seal your hair using heavy oils like Shea butter and olive oil
  • Manage the PH of your hair by including Apple cider vinegar or aloe vera juice to your conditioner or daily spray bottle

Medium/Normal porosity hair has a looser cuticle layer, which allows just the right amount of moisture to enter while preventing too much from escaping.

Hair with normal porosity tends to hold styles predictably well

Occasional deep conditioning treatments with protein conditioners can benefit medium porosity hair, but proteins should not be included in your daily regimen.

Cuticles lie flat against each other and are tightly bound.  Hair repels moisture when you try to wet it and is hard to process since it resists penetration of products. Low porosity hair is usually healthy and shiny, elastic and quite flexible.

To manage Low Porosity hair

  • Reduce product build up by limiting protein-rich deep conditioning products (read labels)
  • Hair can benefit from moderate heat while conditioning to raise the hair cuticle
  • Choose products and ingredients that are used to penetrate the hair shaft like jojoba oil, coconut oil and mineral oils as well as lighter products like hair milks

“Did I choose my hair texture? No. I’m grateful for having this hair on my head.”

Gabby Douglas