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Hair Characteristics 101- Decoding the Hidden Message Your Hair is Trying to Tell You

February 11, 2020

Forget Relying On Your Hair Type Alone to Give You All the Answers… Because You Might Actually Have 5 of ‘em.

I know Curl-Typing is a big thing. You’ve seen the Hair Type Chart, right? 

We take one look at the pictures of the squiggly drawings showing the different types of curl patterns, we pick out that one curl or coil that looks the most like ours… We research products and techniques for that curl type and then we use that curly girl regimen as the gospel., And it’s a pretty good guide for the most part. But knowing your hair type is only scratching the surface.It's easy to look at a grid and yearn to find someone with the same hair challenges as you… You hope and wish and pray that they’ve discovered the magic solution that will fix all of your problems too. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you may just be wishing forever. 

So you’ve identified yourself as a particular hair type, gone ahead and done your research to find gals with the same type, then followed them on Instagram and YouTube to find out what their hair care routine is. You then buy all the same products they use and copy their techniques with the high hopes you’re gonna be rocking #gramworthy locks in no time… But the products aren’t working for your Type 4 Natural like they did on that YouTube video. Your twist set doesn't look as good. Your Wash-N-Go isn't going well. It doesn’t make sense, because she’s a Type 4 Natural too! 

I’ll let you in on something we have known for 15 years... 

The Hair Type matrix is fundamentally flawed. 

It’s overly simplified, and neglects to mention that it’s over-generalizing. It assumes that by taking one glance at your entire head of curls will tell you everything you need to know.

It’s about as vague as the makeup artist at the cosmetics counter taking one quick look at the color of your skin, then making a complete recommendation on your makeup and skincare routine based on that brief impression alone, without asking you any questions. But how could they possibly know what sort of makeup you should be wearing, what your skincare regime should be, and how you should apply these lotions and potions without actually taking a deeper look at your specific concerns. You might have oily skin, or fine lines appearing, or dark under-eye circles... But you wouldn’t skip mentioning this to the makeup artist, ‘cause you know if you didn’t bring these to her attention, you might risk buying the wrong moisturizer that’s too heavy and makes you break out, or grabbing a foundation that’s a heavy matte coverage and makes you look like you’re wearing a mask. 

The same goes for your curls. Using this diagnostic tool alone is simply looking at one limited aspect, out of your many hair characteristics. 

Before we jump into these characteristics that are hijacking your styling efforts, let's start with this need-to-know truth:

You have multiple types of curls on your head. 

This is true for everyone, and especially if you are a Type 4. Perhaps your nape area tends to be silky curls, but your curls at the front are loose… and then somehow your curls in the middle seem like they belong on another person's head! Sound familiar? 

You can have a mix of several different hair types on your head, and these sections all require different attention accordingly to get the look you want. Some sections require more product and stretching, while other areas need less product, and they simply need to be smoothed down. If you’re feeling a bit like you have Franken-hair, don't fret. You’ll just need to understand what’s going on in what section of your hair to conquer your crazy curl areas once and for all. Here’s a deeper dive into the things to consider, so you can truly understand what it is your unique curls need.

Characteristics of Your Curls to Consider

Once you determine these key characteristics in your hair, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to tackle them head-on and decode your hair mysteries.


    1. What’s Your Hair Porosity?

      The porosity of your hair will play a major role in how shiny it looks and how much product you’ll need to use. Knowing your hair porosity will help you figure out: 

      • How much product you need to apply to each section: Switch it up if you’re not using enough, or ease off if you’re laying it on too thick.
      • How much water can be in the product: High porosity hair drinks everything up, so get lots of water on there with your products. 

      • How much oil you need: Low porosity hair can be prone to product buildup, so opt for products with a lower oil content. High porosity hair needs ALL THE OILS!!
      • The quality of the products you need to use: Low porosity hair can get away with using lower quality products and have styles last for days with cheap creams. Can high porosity hair do this and still look good? No. No, ma’am.

      2. Do You Struggle With Natural Shrinkage?

        How tight your curls are will affect many key things. If your curls are prone to shrinking into a tiny afro than stretching out to your shoulders, this will affect your product and styling choices. Take extra care with: 

        • Hair cutting:  Don’t fight shrinkage. Embrace it by going with a short haircut that accentuates the natural beauty of your hair and curls.
        • How much product you use: Hair with more shrinkage requires more product to pull it out. Styling products with oils are going to help you the best. If you’re looking for more volume with loose stretched curls, be sure to avoid products with a lot of oil.  This will stretch your curls even mor
        • Choosing between gels and creams: Hair with a lot of shrinkage is thicker at the roots. Due to this, gels perform better for curl definition, as they can get in-between the curls and bends of the hair strands better than creams. For hair with too much stretch (yes, there is such a thing) apply gels and creams at least ½ inch away from your roots to get more volume.

          3. What’s Your Curl Diameter?

              How big are your natural curls? Are they all the same all over your head? If you haven’t established what your curl diameter is, you can take a peek at the shapes formed by your fallen hairs. The categories are broken down by the numbers 1-4 to describe the shape of your curls, and the letters A-B refer to the diameter of the curls, ie how tight they are. Working out where your curls sit in the scale will help you and your hairstylist work out the best styles and techniques for you to go for. Keep these in mind next time you’re looking at your curls: 

              • Are they tightly wound circles, as small as the head of a pin: 4C
              • As thin as a pencil: 4A- 4B
              • Loops that could wrap around a lipstick: 3B
              • Always remember: You can have a mix of any of these on your head.
              • Why is it important? It determines how your curls present when doing styles like a Wash-N-Go.

                4. What’s Your Required Level of Commitment and Care?

                  Your commitment to managing your hair weekly and staying consistent with your products has a big impact on how easy it’ll be to keep your hair looking the way you’d like. Are you putting in the right amount of TLC on the front end to keep your hair looking gorgeous all the way through the weekend? 

                  • Regular haircuts are your friend: Trimmed ends mean your hair’s easier to comb and looks more polished.
                  • Haircare doesn’t stop when you leave the salon: Follow a routine at home of washing, moisturizing and styling that’s tailored to your specific needs.
                  • Protect your hair from damage to keep it looking its best: Sleep on a satin pillowcase or in a satin bonnet to cut down on friction while you’re catching some zzz’s.
                  • Life Happens: If you’re short on time and need a quick style to get you out the door in record time, try Urbanbella’s signature technique, the Wash-N-Go. You will have beautiful natural hair styles in 20 minutes flat... and they last for weeks!

                      5. Do Different Sections of Your Hair Require Different Styling Products?

                        Quality products make all the difference. If you have the right quality you will be able to get the definition you want for all of the different curls on your head. Have you found the right products for you?

                        • Really put some thought into what you’re using where: You’ll see your hair magically transform, look incredible and last like a dream. 
                        • Start with a great foundation: Washing with a high quality shampoo system will set you on the right path for a successful styling session. Try our go-to favorite, the Urbanbella Wash-N-Go Set.
                        • Adjust your products accordingly: Use products with plenty of hold factor on the more loosely structured curls on your head, like Urbanbella Neat Hair Gel XF, and reach for products that impart more moisture on the drier, tightly wound sections, such as our Urbanbella No. 34 Tamu Curls
                        • Mix ‘em up: Combining two different products together might be just what you need to achieve the perfect balance. Pro Tip: At Urbanbella Salon, we customize our combinations of products to achieve the perfect result for each client with awesome results. 

                          6. Where’s Your Head At?

                            Mindset is the biggest thing. You may have a combination of different types all within your hair, but no matter the various characteristics your mane has, remember this…

                            Your hair is beautiful, and what makes you uniquely you. Learning how to tame your tresses is a bonus, and a success story we can all share. But always keep in the forefront of your mind that your natural curls have their own character and will never be a carbon copy of anyone else’s… And if you think that’s something to be upset about, we sure hope we’re convincing you otherwise.

                            We encourage you to embrace your curls as they are. Let them be free and stop forcing them into your preconceived idea of what your "Natural Hair" should be. Anything else is the exact opposite of natural.

                            Don’t believe us? Join us for Part 2 of this article where we introduce you to some of our Urbanbella clients, their struggles and success stories over the years of being natural. 


                            What sort of unique characteristics do you see in your hair? Share with us in the comments, and drop us a line at the salon to schedule your appointment. We’d love to help you wrangle your tricky tresses! 


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