Curl Pattern Isn’t the Only Key to Healthy Hair—Here’s What to Prioritize Instead
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The Andre Walker Hair Typing System was developed in the 1990s to help classify different types of curls. The method gained a cult following in the late 2010s as afro-textured people ditched their relaxers in favor of growing out their natural curls. By classifying hair into four types, it allowed natural-hair wearers to make more sense of something that wasn’t well understood. It provided a sense of direction, a close-knit community, and a feeling of hope that maybe this was the missing piece to all of our never-ending frustrations.
While knowing your curl pattern is incredibly useful in terms of styling, it falls short of providing information on the characteristics that are essential for hair growth and retention. Unfortunately, curl patterns have been heavily relied on and given far too much credit. While the system can be used as a guide, it should not be viewed as the be-all and end-all of curly-hair care. Here is what to prioritize instead:
Two people can have a 4B hair type, but if one has low porosity hair and the other is characterized as high porosity, their approach to haircare will be totally different. The curl pattern system fails to account for this. Porosity refers to your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. This is determined by the formation of your hair cuticles. Low porosity hair is characterized by cuticles that tightly overlap, making it difficult for water and hair products to penetrate the hair shaft. While low porosity hair has trouble absorbing moisture, it is actually able to retain it very well due to the tight cuticle formation making it tough for water to escape.
In contrast, high porosity hair is characterized by cuticles that are widely spaced. This makes it easier for water to penetrate the hair shaft but just as easy for water to escape. A low porosity hair type wants to limit protein and go for products that are lightweight, while a high porosity hair type needs more proteins, rich creams, and oils to maintain moisture. For all curl patterns, this understanding will be crucial to your wash days and daily maintenance routines.