Does hair typing set us back?

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I have never been overly concerned about what my hair type was. However I do consider it useful information when learning how best to manage my hair. For example I knew that certain styles demonstrated by bloggers would not necessarily turn out the same with my hair and I would have to adapt them accordingly. Also, when it came to my hair care regiment I was able to develop techniques that worked best for my hair type. I understood that not every method would work the same with my hair.

However what happens when hair typing becomes detrimental to the way you see your hair or to the way other people respond to you. Have we just replaced the derogatory terms ‘good hair’ and ‘bad hair’ with type 3 and type 4 hair. Unfortunately this is the negative result of hair typing and I think it is becoming more and more evident.

There are a few hair typing systems. One of the most popular ones is the one formed by celebrity hairstylist Andre Walker. Have a look at the diagram below:

While this information can be useful it should not be used as a ranking of good to not so good. We must respect the fact that natural hair is very diverse. Some women don’t have one hair type overall, their hair may be made up of a combination of the different hair types. So not everyone fits into a particular box  of a certain hair type.

Esperanza Spalding
4a

Shingai Shoniwa
4b hair

We spend a lot of money on curl enhancing creams, puddings and serums. When the fact is if the curls aren’t there to begin with they are not magically going to appear just because you apply these  products.  Rather than being disappointed, a person in this position should accept their hair the way it is and focus on the many of styling options that are available to them to create curls and waves. I hope these products haven’t become the new ‘creamy crack’. I dread to think that another woman would look down on someone with hair that is say 4b as opposed to the more curl defining hair types. Corinne Bailey Rae and Tracee Ellis Ross have stunning hair but they are not representative of everyone with natural hair,  when you consider the shear diversity of natural hair. Other hair types are just as stunning but in a different way, neither one is superior or better. If you fall into the trap of thinking like that you need to remember why you went natural in the first place. For many of us  it was to be free from the pressure to conform to what society typically states is beautiful and to embrace our natural beauty.

Debra Messing
3a hair

Keri Russell
3b Hair

I’ve heard horror stories of certain naturals attending hair care events and being told that their hair wasn’t kinky enough (simply because they were of mixed heritage) or being told that their hair was too kinky for the products on display and both were made to feel like they didn’t belong there.  Neither scenario is acceptable and is the result of nothing but ignorance and the same attitude people had about natural hair being inferior to straight flowing European hair. I know white women who use afro hair care products because they have very curly hair, would we turn them away just because they’re not black? That would be absurd.  Some of them can relate to us because they felt the pressure to straighten their hair for years. I have  also heard of some YouTube vloggers who have decided to close their accounts and delete their videos because of  a lack of interest in their channels.  They have claimed it is because they don’t have what is perceived as the ‘good hair’ type that usually is related to having super defined curls and really long hair.

We are supposed to be moving forward not replacing derogatory terms with different ones with the same sentiment.  More and more women are deciding to go natural, this is a good thing that should not be met with disappointment. If we accept that natural hair is diverse we can avoid this. The same applies to women who have relaxed hair, it all comes down to choice and it would be just as wrong to make someone feel inferior for having relaxed hair as well. Inspire them don’t bash them!

Alicia Keys
3c hair

What do you think about hair typing? Is it a good thing or has it set us back to where we were?

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8 responses »

  1. Keep doing your research and you will continue to gain ideas. The positive aspects of the natural hair community far outweigh the negative, in my opinion. The blogs and YouTube videos have been very helpful to me as well. I’m sure the wash and go looked great! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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  2. I grew out of getting my hair permed because I moved to a new city and couldn’t find a stylist that didn’t make me waste hours in a salon even when I had an appointment. I didn’t do a big chop just let the perm grow out, and that was nearly ten years ago. Normally, I wash and condition it, braid it to stretch it and for work, put it up or in a pony tail. From time to time, I will flat iron my hair and roller set it, but that’s about all. It’s easy to me to maintain, and I don’t spend much time or money on my hair. Lately, though, I wanted to do something new. Even though I don’t perm my hair, I’ve stayed away from the natural movement because of the hair typing and the harsh judgement of those who still perm their hair or wear weaves or wigs. Also, most of the people that the media touts having natural hair were of mixed race like Halle Berry or Alicia Keys, and nothing against them, but I can never get my 4a/b hair (as best as I can tell) for look like that, so it was discouraging. Still I’ve been watching videos and and reading blogs, and it’s good to see people with hair like mine doing things and giving tips. I tried a wash and go with some curling gel, and while it shrank up something fierce, the curls are super cute, long lasting, and I’m getting a ton of compliments. It’s certainly a learning curve, but it’s fun finding out more about my hair.

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  3. Yes, it certainly isn’t something to be offended about, and the hair typing system isn’t bad. I myself have benefitted from it. However, when it is used to discriminate, or to put one hair type above another, there is a problem. I think the ranking thing was a simple observation. When it comes to ranking, 1 is usually considered the highest i.e.: the music charts. This may not be deliberate but it could give insight into our perception of different hair types. Like you said, it depends on how you look at it.

    The fact is, for decades, the majority of black people have viewed straight hair as superior. That’s why chemical relaxers are so prevalent, and why the concept of ‘going natural’ even exists. I would hope that we have moved away from this, but when I hear stories like the ones I mentioned in the article, it makes me wonder if certain negative attitudes still exist.

    Thanks for your input, it is much appreciated (your English is brilliant btw) 🙂

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  4. I acctually diagree about the straight being ranked number one. You look at number one as the lowest number but I think it’s about you menality towards this, because 4 is higher then 1. I would also set the typing like this, the highet the number – the more texture. It would seem backwards to me to put the most textured hair type with the number one, as number one is one the bottom. If i were to make a graph on every number with grade og texture it would only make scense to put number one in the bottom.

    I feel people are to sensetive and are just looking for something to be offended about. The typing system is a good guideline to fin inspiration and expectation from people with similar, but noe exact, hair as yourself. Nothing else.

    That is just my two cents, sorry for any errors, this is not my first language.

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  5. She’s right it isn’t an exact science and some people have more than one type of texture with their hair. It’s a shame that some people still have a notion of good vs bad hair. An interesting point about the straight hair being ranked number 1. These things are subtle but give a message. I think hair typing can be helpful but it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. I appreciate your comments. Thank you.

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  6. I’ve always felt that hair typing was detrimental to the psyche and, perhaps, just a new way of saying “good hair” and “bad hair,” as you pointed out. Notice how the highest number is “straighter” and the lower number is “kinkier”?

    My wife just looked over my shoulder and declared that the typing system is not an exact science (whew!). I didn’t see anything there that resembled my daughter’s hair. She, becoming interested in managing hair recently, was puzzled by my short, strange hair, saying it was furry! We have no idea what texture mine is and it doesn’t fit in any of those categories. An older man in church once had a similar statement when he saw my hair longer than usual (I wear a close-cropped Caesar and never go longer than an Obama fade), however he quickly began the “good hair/bad hair” discussion, at which point I turned the discussion off.

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