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L.O.I.S. Hair Typing: Beautiful Black Hair Simplified

As black women, our hair is either our triumph or our tragedy. There is rarely a viewpoint that involves complacency or settling. We want the best and we deserve it.

There are three main hair typing systems in use today:

It’s the L.O.I.S. system that has been earmarked as the one true champion for black women and their hair.

There are some in the black community that believe the numbering system applied by both the Andre Walker and FIA systems promotes a “less than” status for the curliest of coifs.

If you see these charts as hierarchies, then that thinking makes sense. However, sometimes a number is just a number.

The L.O.I.S. Hair Typing System was created to remove any negative undertones from the equation.

Curl patterns in control

I’m a visual person so I like the idea of the LOIS system and its use of the shapes of the letters to define your curl pattern and hair type. It’s simple to understand and easy to apply to your own hair.

Photo source: http://themafrosisters.blogspot.com/2013/04/curl-class-7-lois-hair-typing-system.html

It’s foundation is built upon four main hair types as:

  • L represents the hard angles found in a ‘Z’ or zig-zag pattern
  • O represents spirals or coils
  • I is bone straight or absent of curl
  • S represents a wavy pattern or ‘S’ curl

Source: https://auntlucysfolksense.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/hair-types-hair-typing-systems-and-you/

Once you’ve identified your letters, you then move on to the second component, which involves a strand test.

Feeling shafted? Your hair strand thickness is a vital part of your hair plan

Unlike the Andre Walker system, L.O.I.S. leaves the door open for the possibility of unique variations within a hair type. It includes hair strand testing in its assessment process.

Examining a representative strand of your hair (or maybe a few if you’ve got combination hair like me) will show you if you’ve got thin, average or thick hair. Do not confuse thickness of your hair with density. Density is how closely placed together your hair strands are as they grow out of your scalp.

A common strand thickness test is to use sewing thread as a comparison. If your hair looks thinner than the piece of thread, you have thin hair. If it’s thicker, obviously you have thick hair.

Another hair strand test I stumbled across used hair from different parts of your body for comparison. For example, underarm hair is considered to be thick. If the hair on your head matches the thickness of your underarm hair then you know you’re thick. Arm hair is used to fairly represent the thin version of your hair sample.

The follicles on your scalp determine the thickness of your strands. You can have thin strands of hair with a dense covering on your scalp or thick hair with a sparse covering on your scalp. This is not a one-size-fits-all situation.

***

Interesting fact, thick and thin strands of different curl patterns look different when looking at a cross-section. Check out this image:

Photo source: https://www.britishcurlies.co.uk/2015/02/curly-girl-not-just-a-teenage-transformation-part-2/

Black hair typing beyond the curl

The final component of the LOIS system is about identifying your hair’s porosity and flatness of the cuticle layer.

Porosity refers to the rate that water is able to penetrate your hair shaft. The health of your cuticle layer will not only affect the amount of shine you can achieve, but also affect your hair’s response to water. Be warned: Some porosity is the direct result of our personal grooming habits.

Each of the following categories is identified with the name of a texture. That texture is then defined using visual reference points as well as behavioral characteristics pertaining to its ability to absorb or retain water.

  • Thready hair has a low sheen but high shine if held taut (like in a braid). It tends to be low frizz. It will wet easily but also dries quickly.
  • Wiry hair has a sparkly sheen, but low shine and low frizz. Water will bead up or bounce off the hair strands. Hair never seems to get fully wet, thus absorption is a problem.
  • Cottony hair has low sheen but high shine if held taut. It usually has high frizz and does not get thoroughly wet very fast. It takes time for water to be absorbed.
  • Spongy hair has high sheen but low shine with a compacted looking frizz. It absorbs a lot of water before it gets thoroughly wet.
  • Silky hair has low sheen and a very high shine. Due to the variable nature, it can have low or high frizz. This hair gets thoroughly wet very easily.

Knowing more allows you to do more

The L.O.I.S. system will give you a fairly well-rounded diagnosis of your hair situation, without any of that “less than” stigma.

Obviously, some hair textures will face more challenges than others when trying to achieve certain styles. Understanding the natural tendencies of your hair type will give you the ammunition you need to tame any hair dramas.

Are you a fan of the L.O.I.S.? Have you created your own hair profile to help you deal with the challenges of caring for and styling your hair? Let us know in the comments below.

FIA Hair Typing For Identifying Your Tresses

Of all the hair typing systems in use today, there’s one thing they all have in common. Four broad categories of curl pattern:

  • straight
  • wavy
  • curly, and
  • very curly or coily, also called kinky.

There are three mainstream classification systems:

According to auntlucysfolksense.wordpress.com the FIA system is the most used worldwide.

The best of both worlds

At first glance, the FIA Hair Typing System has similar categories to the Andre Walker system but then includes individual testing, like the L.O.I.S., for an enhanced hair profile diagnosis. But let’s start at the beginning.

FIA has 4 levels of hair texture, which are differentiated with a numbered system like Walker’s:

The straight ones:

  • 1a – stick straight, absent of curl
  • 1b – straight but with a slight body wave, just enough to add some volume, doesn’t look wavy
  • 1c – straight with body wave and one or two visible S-waves (e.g. nape of neck or temples)

The wavy ones:

  • 2a – loose, stretched out S-waves throughout the hair
  • 2b – shorter, more distinct S-waves (similar to waves from braiding damp hair)
  • 2c – distinct S-waves and the odd spiral curl forming here and there

The curly ones:

  • 3a – big, loose spiral curls
  • 3b – bouncy ringlets
  • 3c – tight corkscrews (This category does not exist in the Andre Walker system.)

The really curly ones:

  • 4a – tightly coiled S-curls
  • 4b – tightly coiled hair bending in sharp angles (Z-pattern)

Having numbers allows you to get really specific about your hair classification.

Understanding your hair today to get the hair you want tomorrow.

Like the L.O.I.S., FIA goes beyond the broad classification to look further into your specific hair qualities.

Rather than defining your hair as a whole, FIA introduces texture identification by examining individual strands. Take the time to determine whether it’s fine, medium or coarse in nature:

  • Fine hair strands appear almost translucent when held up to the light. They can be hard to see even when up against a contrasting background.
  • Medium hair strands are your average consistency. If you roll it between your thumb and index finger, it will feel a little like cotton thread but isn’t stiff or rough.
  • Coarse hair strands are usually easy to identify against most backgrounds. When rolling this type of hair between your thumb and index finger, it will feel hard and wiry.

For an alternative way to determine texture, try this water test at science-yhairblog.blogspot.ca.

Hair texture will dictate the types of products you need to get your hair to behave the way you want it to.

Less is less and more is more.

The final component of the FIA system is the overall volume of your hair. The prescribed ponytail test measures the circumference, or distance around the shaft of a dry hair ponytail, to determine hair volume. There are two factors at play here, strand thickness and density of scalp coverage.

Because they are measured together, you don’t have individual data for each of the components. FIA may assume that you take note of the hair thickness at the same time that you are measuring for texture, but it’s not specifically mentioned in the material referenced.

  • Thin has a circumference of less than 2 in or 5 cm
  • Medium or Normal has a circumference between 2 to 4 in or 5 to 10 cm
  • Thick has a circumference of more than 4 in or 10 cm

The thing I like about the FIA system is that it takes a few more hair characteristics into account for a better overall hair type diagnosis.

How does it measure up?

We put together this chart to show you a side by side comparison of the three most recognized systems. Just in case you were wondering whether one was more accurate than another.

Black Hair Spot - Hair Typing System Comparison chart

If FIA is the system for you, go ahead and assess your hair and retake your control. Knowledge is power.

Tells us about your hair journey. Have you identified your hair type? Has it made living with your hair better or worse? What’s your favorite hair typing system? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

Andre Walker Hair System: Hair Type or Hair Hype?

Will Knowing Your Hair Type Really Give You Happily-Ever-After Hair Days?

Have you ever been fortunate enough to have experienced the effects of a hair genius? I assure you, if you’ve had a hair genius work on your hair, you know it.

First of all, they won’t tell you they’re a genius. That would be trying too hard. These ‘unicorn-like’ hairstylists are a rare breed. They eat, sleep and daydream about the mysteries of black hair. They invest in education to stay current on what the latest looks and trends are. And they take pride in perfecting their craft.

I had one of these hair geniuses in the early part of my hair journey and haven’t found anyone like her since. I mention this because my hair genius spent time educating me about my hair whenever she had me in the chair. Helping me help myself came first and gossip came second—that’s definitely a unicorn!

I hung onto her every word, absorbing as much as I could so I could try it on my own at home – I never could quite get my hair to look the way she did but it was pretty close.

During  these marathon hair sessions – I have “Big A** Hair” – I heard about the thickness of the hair shaft, the density of hair coverage, elasticity, the action or inaction of the cuticle and of course the condition of my scalp. Not once did I hear her mention a hair type according to the present day classification systems.

My natural hair is its own type

So as soon as I heard about the term hair typing, I had to know more. I wanted to put my “Big A** Hair” into context and apply all of the information my hair genius had fed me over the years.

I learned there are three main hair classification systems in use:

There’s one thing these all have in common and that’s 4 broad categories of curl patterns:

  • straight
  • wavy
  • curly, and
  • very curly or coily, also called kinky.

At least they all start from the same place. Today, I’m focusing on the Andre Walker system as I try to increase my chances at achieving a happily-ever-after hair day.

Natural hair patterns: There’s solidarity in having a type

The Andre Walker hair typing system seems to be the most widespread, although there have been reported omissions in some of the more specific hair subcategories. I’ve already mentioned the broad categories, but with the numbers applied we learn:

  • 1 is Straight
  • 2 is Wavy
  • 3 Is Curly, and
  • 4, Andre calls, Kinky.
Andre walker hair typing system

Photo source: https://www.andrewalkerhair.com/whats-my-hair-type/

Then these are subdivided even further to reflect subtle, or not so subtle, variations.

 

Straight hair can be:

  • 1A, thin and fine
  • 1B, thin and coarse
  • 1C, coarse with no specification of strand thickness.

Photo source: https://www.andrewalkerhair.com/whats-my-hair-type/african-american-kinky-hair-types/

Wavy becomes:

  • 2A, fine with a slight ‘S’ wave at the ends; tends to lack definition and volume
  • 2B, more defined ‘S’ curl pattern with slight frizz at the crown of your head
  • 2C, coarse with a lot of volume and it’s obvious you have an ‘S’ curl pattern

Photo source: https://www.andrewalkerhair.com/whats-my-hair-type/african-american-kinky-hair-types/

Curly branches into:

  • 3A, loopy ‘S’ pattern and tends to be more susceptible to frizz and loss of hair definition
  • 3B, coarse and full of volume with a smaller curl pattern than 3A

Photo source: https://www.andrewalkerhair.com/whats-my-hair-type/african-american-kinky-hair-types/

Finally, Kinky is broken down into:

  • 4A, can be fine or wiry with high density and fragile in nature; it is tightly coiled in a tight ‘S’ pattern; experiences shrinkage
  • 4B, can be coarse or wiry with high density and very fragile in nature; hair pattern favors a ‘Z’ with less of a defined curl; also experiences shrinkage

Photo source: https://www.andrewalkerhair.com/whats-my-hair-type/african-american-kinky-hair-types/

According to Andre Walker’s system, my ‘Big A** Hair’ is 2c, 3b and 4a with a smidge of 1b… I kid you not.

Depending on which part of my head you are looking at, the results are diverse at best. Luckily for me, 3b and 4a tend to dominate so that I don’t walk around looking like a badly pruned bonsai tree.

Black hair typing hype… pulling it all together

I think it’s fair to say that Andre Walker’s hair typing system was meant to simplify a very complex process. His deliberate lack of detail in the descriptions of hair types allows them to be more inclusive than exclusive.

Perhaps his way of helping us feel as though we aren’t alone.

We put together this chart to show you a side by side comparison of the three most recognized systems. Just in case you were wondering whether one was more accurate than another.

LEGEND: Y=Yes N=No NS/G=Non-specific / General

  • Hair Traits
  • Straight
  • 1A
  • 1B
  • 1C
  • Wavy
  • 2A
  • 2B
  • 2C
  • Curly
  • 3A
  • 3B
  • 3C
  • Very Curly/Kinky
  • 4A
  • 4B
  • 4C
  • Thickness
  • Texture
  • Volume
  • Porosity
  • Elasticity
  • Moisture Content
  • Andre+ (Combo)
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • NS/G
  • Y
  • NS/G
  • NS/G
  • N
  • N
  • Andre Walker
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • N
  • NS/G
  • Y
  • NS/G
  • NS/G
  • N
  • N
  • LOIS
  • Y
  • N
  • N
  • N
  • Y
  • N
  • N
  • N
  • Y
  • N
  • N
  • N
  • Y
  • N
  • N
  • N
  • Y
  • NS/G
  • N
  • Y
  • N
  • N
  • FIA
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • N
  • Y
  • Y
  • Y
  • N
  • N
  • N

LEGEND: Y=Yes N=No NS/G=Non-specific / General

You can’t judge a book by its cover and black hair is no different

Even though I’ve gone through the motions of identifying my hair type number or category, along with my personal special features, I’m still left pondering the implications.

I mean, knowing whether or not I’m a 3b or 4a or some combination of the two, doesn’t actually tell me how to deal with my hair.

At best, it tells me I have a group of sisters out there that share similar haircare headaches. (Shout out to the “2c-3b-4a, with a touch of 1c sisters” … I feel your pain!)

I’m all for solidarity but I need answers not just moral support.

As you start your journey of figuring out your hair type, narrow the field first by applying Andre Walker’s numbered system, or letter system if you prefer LOIS. But don’t stop there.

In order to have a true hair type assessment, you need to go beyond how your hair looks. You need to analyze your hair’s characteristics and behavior. That is the only way to know which products will work best for you. Andre’s system doesn’t tell us much about this so don’t assume you are a perfect representation of your number, whatever it may be.

You can consult your own hair guru (genius status must be earned) and ask for your personal hair assessment or you can do-it-yourself and consult this Wikihow article on determining your hair type.

It takes you through the characteristics my hair genius shared with me so many years ago: density, diameter or thickness, porosity, oiliness, elasticity, moisture content and curl pattern. When you add in the health of your hair cuticle, then you have what you need to get the results you are looking for: happily-ever-after hair days.

I do hope that one day Andre will crack open the door to the vault a little wider and give us a little more than the extremely brief overviews currently associated with each sub category. Hey, Andre Walker, we’re waiting…

How many of you have used Andre Walker’s hair type chart to classify your hair?

Did it help you to know how to better care for and style your hair or were you also left with questions?
Would you like to be informed about hair products that suit your hair type?
Let us know in the comments below.