What makes afro hair so different?

Hair has unique characteristics, and are classed into three ethnic-hair profiles. These characteristics include a difference in colour, type, texture, and how they grow from the scalp. 

The three ethnic-hair profiles are:

  • Asian
  • Caucasian
  • African

African or Afro hair is thick, curly, kinky, coily patterned, and grows almost parallel to the scalp. One might conclude it seems to defy gravity. In terms of length, afro hair grows in a spiral, which makes it seemingly grow slower than less curly hair types. The thickness of afro hair is a result of the size of the hair follicles and the amount that line the scalp. 

The size of the follicles determines how thick or thin an individual hair strand is.

Hair follicle shape is a sign of what texture the hair will be. Afro hair follicle shapes are curly and spiral coiled. 

Afro hair also is versatile, which means it can be made straight, braided, made more or less curly, and can be grown, cut, or coloured. 

What’s my hair type?

Whether you have just started your natural hair journey with the ‘big chop’, or wearing it natural from birth, understanding your hair type aids in proper maintenance and hair care. Figuring out your curl pattern and type can be difficult for most. However, once you discover it, you would be able to find suitable products and styles. Soon enough, you get into a hair routine in no time.

To get a clear picture of hair type, celebrity hairstylist Andre Walker came up with a hair type system. This system has detailed descriptions from straight to curly textures, so hair types can be easily identified. The hair type system categorizes hair, starting from Type One to Type 4. 

Between these types are subcategories labelled A, B, and C. 

Curly hair types start from category 3 to 4, with 3 being the loosest curl and 4 being the tightest curl or coil. The following will explain these two categories and the characteristics of the hair type. 

Curl Type Three – The S curls

3A – This curl type is big and loose with a distinguishable ‘S’ pattern. These curls are easy to define and tend to be bouncy and shiny.  However, they can be prone to fizz and need light moisturization for the curls to keep their form.  

3B – This curl type is described as springy rings, with much variety in the shape and size of the curls. The texture can range from fine to medium, being voluminous with lots of body and bounce. These curls are also prone to frizz and dryness. 

3C – Often referred to as the ‘curly – coil, this hair type has very compact curls that are straw or pencil-sized. These curls come with the definition, frizz, bounce, and body of 3A and 3B, just smaller in circumference. 

all curly love products
The Curly love line is specifically formulated for 2b to 3b curls

Curl Type Four – The coily curls

4A – These curls are described as having a dense, springy curl pattern that is about the size of a USB cable. It has a very kinky curly texture that is very thick but does not shrink very much when wet, like B and C. 

4B –  Type B has a distinctive ‘S’ and ‘Z’ pattern but is less defined. The curls are tight but voluminous and texture ranges from fine to coarse. Think of it as a mix between type A and C. 

4C – Like type ‘B’ these coils are tight, very dense but a bit less defined, and experience lots of shrinkage. The feel is cotton-like with a texture that ranges from thin and fine to coarse and wiry. Because of the tight coils, 4C hair is more susceptible to damage. 

Caring for Natural Hair curls and coils

Curly hair, compared to straight and wavy air types, are more susceptible to breakage and damage. The very nature of their twisted structure makes the hair cuticles weaker and prone to tangles. To combat this, it is recommended that the hair be detangled and manipulated while wet, as it provides the hair with slip to prevent breakage. Combing curly/ coily hair dry creates friction, which inevitably damages the hair. 

A blend of over 7 oils

With afro hair, the scalp’s natural oils (sebum), have a difficult time coating the hair strands because of the ‘S’ or ‘Z’ shape of the hair strands. Unlike straight hair types, the oils have a harder time getting to the tip of the strands, giving the hair a dry or dull appearance. 

Afro hair also has a hard time retaining moisture. Additional help in the form of natural oils and hydration is necessary to keep the hair breakage free and healthy. 

These oils include:

Jojoba Oil: 

  • Closest to hair’s natural sebum.
  • Protects against dryness, breakage, and split ends. 
  • Seals in hair shaft moisture.

Avocado Oil:

  • Penetrates the hair shaft, therefore moisturizing the hair.
  • Protection against harmful UV rays.
  • Fatty acids help repair dry hair.

Grapeseed Oil:

  • Restores hairs’ natural shine and vibrancy.
  • Contains natural conditioning agents and restores moisture to the scalp.
  • Light in texture so it would not weigh down thick hair. 

Argan Oil:

  • Prevents breakage by increasing the elasticity of the hair.
  •  Adds shine to dull natural hair.
  • Creates a protective layer around the hair that will lock in moisture until the hair is washed. 

In addition to oils, natural afro hair needs natural humectants and emollients to further seal moisture, style, and define curls/coils. 

A humectant is a substance that reduces the loss of moisture and preserves it. Products such as natural butters, pomades, and leave-in conditioners promote water retention from the air and into the hair shaft. As a result, the hair is soft, retains curls and coils, with less chance of breakage. Common hair humectants include shea butter, mango butter, and beeswax. 

An emollient is a moisturizing agent that keeps the hair hydrated for a longer period. It typically makes the hair more manageable without leaving it greasy.  Common natural humectants include cocoa butter, castor oil, olive oil, and jojoba oil. 

Protective styling on natural hair

To protect natural hair from excess breakage, cane rows, braids, twists, and wigs are used as protective styles. 

The less natural hair is manipulated, the health of the hair is preserved and it can thrive. Unlike straight and wavy hair, because of multiple twists in afro hair, they easily break off when combed too often. 

How often should I wash my hair?

It is recommended that natural hair be washed a least once every two weeks. While cleaning the hair and scalp is good, if done too frequently on curly and coily hair, it strips the hair of its natural oils which causes dryness and damage. 

Afro hair is versatile, unique, and requires extra care. Natural products tend to work best on curly and coily textures to further enhance their definition. There are many shapes and sizes of curl, coils, and kinks, that need personalized care routines. Most of all, afro hair thrives on proper hydration. 

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