Decoding Hair Types

Image of three women with different hair types.

Go anyplace where people of different ethnicities gather and you’ll probably notice a wide variation in hair types. On close inspection, you’ll realize this goes beyond color and style. The hairs themselves – their texture, shape, and even the way they grow from the scalp – vary between ethnicities.

Here’s a brief rundown on the main differences.

African hair: You know it’s black and curly or kinky, but did you know it grows almost parallel to the scalp? African hairs grows more slowly than the hair of other ethnicities, averaging about one-third of an inch per month. African hair has a flattened shape, grows in more densely than Asian hair and can reach a maximum length of about 12 curly inches.

Asian hair: Usually straight, Asian hair ranges from dark brown to black and grows perpendicular to a person’s scalp. At .55 inches per month, this is the fastest growing type of hair. Asian strands are round, with a lower density than African or Caucasian hair. It typically grows the longest, sometimes reaching 60 inches.

Caucasian hair: Straight or curly, blond, red or brown, Caucasian hair varies wildly from head to head. Oval-shaped strands grow diagonally from the scalp and have the highest density of these three ethnicities.

Hair types by numbers and letters

Oprah’s stylist, Andre Walker, devised a useful classification system for determining your hair type:

1 = straight

2 = wavy

3 = curly

4 = kinky

He further quantified the curl by adding letters. If you’re a 1, you’re a 1. But a 2A would describe the slightest wave, while a 2C would be approaching curly territory. Most Asians rate a 1 on this scale. Caucasian heads likely fall into 1-3, while African hair gets the highest scores, ranging all the way up to 4C for the kinkiest natural hair.

If you’re wondering why hair is curly or not, it comes down to biochemistry. Disulfide bonds between hair proteins determine the amount of curl. The more bonds, the curlier. Straighter hair has fewer disulfide bonds.

What’s my hair type?

Want to know more about your hair type? Our stylists know the best ways to care for each type, and have fabulous ideas for best products and flattering styles. Give us a call and we’ll help you bring out the best in your hair type.

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