I have found that the classic 3a to 4b hair typing can be very misleading in regards to choosing routines and products although many naturals do still make such inferences. In my experience there are two properties of hair that are more important. First is an assessment of whether your hair is kinky, curly or both. This will determine the strength of your hair and how best to handle it. The second is an assessment of whether your individual strands are fine or thick. This will determine the type of products that will be better for your hair and will also be a guide on how best to trim and style your hair. Today I will discuss individual strand thickness. This is a general guide based on observation, some people with fine or thick hair may indeed buck the trend. Equally if your hair is somewhere between fine and thick, you may find yourself switching between the two trends.
1. More dusting for fine hair, more trimmed cuts for thick hair
If your natural hair is fine, there is a stronger tendency for the ends to tangle as the individual strands seem to really like meshing. As a result, these ends will experience more wear as they are regularly separated for styling and detangling. Choosing a dusting routine where an eighth of an inch is cut every month or so is a good choice to prevent and get rid of damage. If your strands are thicker, you will probably find that knots are rare although tangles may still occur. Therefore, you may find a set trimming routine of, for example, half an inch every 4-6 months is more appropriate to get rid of damage
2. Lighter conditioners for fine hair, heavier ones for thick hair
The issue of tangling and meshing for fine hair once more lends it to finding lighter conditioners that are packed with slip to be more beneficial especially if choosing to conditioner detangle. Lighter conditioners are more able to coat the strands even when the hair has a tendency to mesh. You may therefore find that regular store bought conditioners such as Herbal Essences, Tresemme, Aussie and VO5 are praised highly by people with fine hair. Meanwhile if you have thick strands, you may find that lighter conditioners simply do not help you as they are unable to weigh your hair down properly for ease of management when detangling. Many naturals with thicker strands may still use lighter store bought conditioners but will tend to add in olive oil or shea butter to help make the product more substantive. Hair masks and thicker products such as Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose, Jessicurl Too Shea may also be equally preferred for thicker strands.
3. Lighter oils for fine hair, butters and thicker oils for thick hair
Many naturals tend to pick oils based on their preference for scent and texture. In general , most oils are perfectly fine to use on any hair strand thickness. However, people with fine hair may find that heavier butters and oil (e.g castor oil, shea butter, coffee butter, cocoa butter) are more difficult to spread and weigh hair down excessively. These oils, however, may be beneficial to fine hair if used on just the last 1-2 inches of hair as a thicker coating for moisture retention and breakage prevention. Over the rest of the strand, lighter oils and butters (e.g coconut, jojoba, avocado butter) may be better for finer strands. People with thicker strands will generally find that pretty much any oil can work for them but a preference for castor oil and shea butter is really prevalent. This is likely to be because thicker hair can easily withstand the thick oil coating.
4. More protein for fine hair, less or none for thick hair
Finer hair tends to be prone to damage compared to thicker strands which may have both more cuticle layers and a thicker cortex. For this reason, protein is almost always a must for fine hair. This does not mean using a specific protein treatment e.g Komaza or Aphogee. This could just mean using a hair conditioner with some protein or amino acids contained within or indeed adding a few drops of the protein treatment to a regular conditioner. People with thicker strands may find that protein treatments do not add to the strength of the hair and may even make hair less flexible. They should therefore be used sparingly.
5. Less heat for fine hair
There are a few rare creatures who will tell you how they can bleach and straighten their hair one day and then dye it all to a different colour a week later without any ill effects. There are some too who will tell you how they experience no damage or breakage even after using a flat iron on high heat with several passes each time. The likely fact is that all these people have thick strands. Fine hair is just not able to do this and even low direct contact heat can easily set off breakage. If you are in this group, restrict yourself to contactless heat (hair dryer held away from hair), reduce the temperature and/or number of times you flat iron or indeed completely avoid heat.
Ladies, is your hair thick or fine? How do you manage it?