Alternative Hair Typing Systems

Not too long ago, a lovely reader brought to my attention a hair typing system that did not succumb to the common flaws I’ve pointed out in the simple charts that told most of us that we were 4a or 4c. I had to take a look for myself, and got to thinking about alternative hair typing systems that actually give you useful information about your hair.

Green Beauty Complete Hair Typing System

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Green Beauty’s Complete Hair Typing System takes into account 5 characteristics:

Curl Pattern is characterized by letters, but not a-d. Rather, the I pattern indicates more straight hair, the S pattern indicates hair with waves, the O pattern indicates hair with curls, and the L pattern indicates hair with bends.

Texture is more characterized by how your hair feels, and this ranges on a spectrum line of loose vs. tight. Straight and silky hair has no texture, whereas tighter hair textures feel more coarse.

Hair Density is a measure of how many strands of hair you have on your head. To measure, put your hair in a ponytail. If the ponytail is larger than a quarter, then it has thick density. If the ponytail is smaller than a nickel, then you have fine density. This measurement is best done on straight hair.

Thickness refers to the size of the individual hair strands. To test them, compare to a small piece of thread split into two.

Porosity, in Green Beauty’s opinion, porosity is the most important characteristic measured on a scale from 1-10. Three ways to test porosity include a strand test, float test, and the dry test.

On top of these 5 characteristics, Green Beauty places each metric on a scale and identifies which end of the spectrum is more fragile. More tightly curled, textured, less dense, fine hair with high porosity is the most fragile, so take care!

Carol’s Daughter True Reflection Consultation


During my visit to Carol’s Daughter Mirror Salon in Harlem last year, I received a consultation that included a thorough hair categorization method that not only includes texture and type, but also scalp health, density, porosity, and elasticity.

For texture, the stylists at Carol’s Daughter do use numbers 1-4, but they correspond to fabrics; for example, texture 4 corresponds to wool-like texture (that’s me!) and (if my memory serves me correctly) texture 3 is cotton and texture 1 is silk.

For type, the Carol’s Daughter system accounts for 8 hair types, also numbered. I don’t recall what numbers 1-7 meant, but number 8 means z pattern. This section is probably still too reliant on numbering from straightest to kinkiest, but at least several other factors are considered in the composition of a hair type.

For scalp health, Carol’s Daughter identifies whether the scalp is balanced, dry, or oily. This kind of information is useful in identifying whether you should be applying oils to your scalp during the week, or helping decide how often you need to shampoo. My scalp is balanced/dry just like my face so I don’t need to worry about oily buildup from my hair products.

For porosity, CD lets you know whether you have low, medium, or high porosity, which gives you insight on how fast your hair might dry and whether it will retain moisture easily. For reference, I’ve got medium porosity.

For density, CD checks whether your hair is packed together in a sparse, medium, or thick manner. For example, my hair is thick in the sides and back, and medium in the front.

For elasticity, CD sees how much stretch and spring back your hair has, ranging from low to medium to high. This kind of info is often a good indicator of the protein/moisture balance in your hair. If you’re low on protein, your hair might be too elastic and break before it can bounce back into place; if you’re low on moisture, your hair may seem to have low elasticity and not stretch at all without breaking. I have high elasticity all around, so I should probably be doing more protein treatments.

Most innovative about the density and elasticity categorizations is the distinction between the characteristics of the front, side, and back of your hair. People often complain that sections of their hair reacts differently to products, or that that one section grows longer or shorter, or is even a different hair type. While these are all quite possible, it is more likely that the density and elasticity of those sections of hair differ. If the front of your hair is less dense than the back (as is mine), it might lead you to think that you have softer hair in the front and thus a different curl pattern. Similarly, if the back of your hair is less elastic than the front, it may be more resistant to stretching and have you thinking that it’s not growing as quickly or that it is a tighter curl pattern.

Final Thoughts

The main reason I think these two systems give a more accurate look into the state of one’s natural hair is that they are both based on measurements and classifications that go beyond what the eye sees. Our hair is not as simple as a number and a letter, and both Green Beauty and Carol’s Daughter take this into account by providing more comprehensive hair typing systems.

Do you think these hair typing systems are more useful than the standard 3a-4c categorizations we typically see? Are there any other systems you’ve come across that are particularly useful?

P.S. In researching this post, I discovered that Nikki behind Green Beauty Channel is Nigerian!! Woot woot woot!! As you were…

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  1. The other systems here are useful when figuring out what products to use. However, I still like the traditional system when it comes to finding styles. A blogger can have the same porosity level and protein/moisture balance as me, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to benefit from her updated “How to define your Curls” tutorial.

    1. I totally get you, but I do think there’s value in getting style inspiration from people with different textures. How to Define Your Curls isn’t a style despite what bloggers will have you thinking!

  2. I watched most of the green beauty channels’ YouTube videos, and her videos on hair typing was most informant. Please post a link for the other viewers.

    1. The videos are hyperlinked in the article! I found them incredibly helpful as well. I don’t know if I will actually use the system, but it is a comprehensive and refreshing move away from others