Everything You Need To Know About Natural Hair

by To All My Black Girls on June 27, 2024

 

If you're not used to afro-textured hair, the natural coils and curls of this hair type can feel intimidating and hard to handle. However, this common misconception is due to a lack of proper knowledge about natural hair. In this article, we're here to clear up the confusion and answer your most pressing questions about natural hair.

Read ahead to discover all you need to know about caring for natural hair.

What Is Natural Hair?

Natural hair refers to hair that has not been altered by any form of chemical substances such as straighteners, relaxers, or perms. Generally, this broad definition can be applied to any hair that grows out of anyone's head. But, in the context of black and mixed-race people, natural hair is used to describe curly/coily textured hair. Essentially, it is textured hair in its original or truest form.

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Is Afro Natural Hair Different From Other Hair Types 

Afro hair is different from other hair types because of its unique features. This difference is often very obvious and can be identified by the look and feel of natural curls and coils but the reason for this difference starts from the hair follicle itself.


See, the look and feel of every strand of hair is determined by the shape of the hair follicles they grow out of. Natural hair has a curved follicle which makes the hair grow out slightly parallel to the scalp. This growth pattern causes the hair to grow in tiny spring-shaped patterns that form curls and coils that love to fold into themselves. This is why natural hair seems to grow almost upward and out of the scalp instead of laying flat like straighter hair textures. It is also the reason why natural hair seems denser and does not feel as shiny or oily as straighter hair. 


Additionally, unlike other straight or wavy hair types that often appear shiny and smooth, the curl and coils found on natural hair make it difficult for the natural oils in the scalp to travel down the hair shaft and lubricate the hair. This is why natural hair often feels dry and not as smooth as other hair types. This affinity for dryness also makes it very easy for natural hair to get breakage.

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Natural Hair Types

A key feature of natural hair are its coils and curls but another amazing characteristic of this hair type is that those curls and coils can appear in several different ways. Natural hair comes in a spectrum that includes so many different hair types ranging from curly to wavy, and kinky. Sometimes, some people can even have a mix of curls and coils on the same head of hair. As a result, natural hair is often categorised into different groups to make it easy to identify all the different hair types.


Now, according to the hair chat used to categorise different hair types. There are four main hair types. Namely: type 1 (straight hair), type 2(wavy hair) type 3(curly hair), and type 4 (kinky/coily hair). Almost all natural hair types often fall within the type 3 and type 4 range but those two categories are also further divided into subcategories.


Type 3 Hair

  • 3A: This hair type tends to have very loose and thick curls that form “S” shaped ringlets with a wide diameter. 
  • 3B/3C: This hair type has densely packed curls that form a tight corkscrew shape. It is often moderately shiny but seems frizzy when it’s dry.

Type 4 Hair

  • 4A: This hair type has closely packed springy coils that are moderately spaced out along the hair shaft.
  • 4B: This hair type has tight Z-shaped coils that almost have a crimped appearance.
  • 4C: This hair type has very tight corkscrew-shaped coils that are very difficult to see unless you pull the hair. It is often very dense and can sometimes seem almost spongy when it dries.

How To Take Care Of Natural Hair

As we have already established, natural hair is prone to dryness and breakage. So, the secret to caring for it includes three main steps: hydration, gentle handling, and protection. 

Let's break down each of these steps in further detail.

1. Hydration 

This step requires infusing the hair with moisture as often as possible. Moisture is the secret to keeping natural hair happy. It makes it soft, less brittle and generally more manageable. Water is a great source of moisture but you can also use other liquid-based hair products like leave-in conditioners, hair milks, or hair sprays. 


Once you have hair properly hydrated, it's important to use a sealant to lock in that moisture so it does not evaporate too quickly. Hair oils and thick butter like shea butter are great for this purpose.

2. Gentle Handling 

Natural hair has fairly fragile strands that are easily susceptible to breakage when mishandled so it is very crucial to treat it like precious cargo. Whether you are washing, detangling or styling the hair, it must be handled gently to minimise discomfort and also make it easy to release any knots and tangles.

This is why it is best to always start from the ends and work your way up to the roots whenever you are handling natural hair as that is the best way to prevent damage and be as gentle as possible.

3. Protection

Protecting natural hair from environmental factors like harsh weather and friction is important for maintaining its health. You can do this by putting it in hairstyles that keep most of the strands tucked away. These are known as protective styles and they include things like braids, cornrows, and twists. Many black women also use wigs as a form of protective styling. Choosing to keep their natural curls tucked away while they experiment with different looks.


Additionally, nighttime protection is another key form of protection for natural hair. Covering the hair with a satin bonnet before going to bed can help prevent frizz and dryness while also preserving your hairstyle.


Natural hair care is a form of self-love and confidence for many people and it is increasingly becoming the default of many black and mixed-race women. Whether you've just gone natural and need to better understand your hair or you're completely unfamiliar with black hair, with details covered in this post, you can learn to care for natural hair without any confusion.

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